For high-school students looking to study further or even college freshmen, there is one decision that is both scary and exhilarating to make. It hinges around family debates, pro and con lists, and multiple hours of sleepless thinking. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating and you didn’t need to do any of this. But whether eternally confused or single-minded in pursuit, choosing a major is the most important decision in any student’s life.
But how do you go about choosing a major? What should you keep in mind and what should you avoid when making the choice? Here are my 7 tried and tested tips for choosing the right major for you:
- Study what you love
There can be no simpler advice to give, but it is surprising how many people disregard this basic truth. If you’re not interested in what you’re studying, you are not going to be happy, guys. And considering that you will be working for the next 40 or so years of your life, do you really want to wake up unhappy to go to work every day?
- Don’t give in to parental/peer pressure
The main reason students don’t study what they love is because their parents or people they know discourage them from that field. Parental and peer pressure is a difficult thing to fight, but stay strong and put forth well-reasoned arguments as to why you want to study a particular field. Parents only want what they think is best for you, and are most often swayed by persuasive arguments. However, if you really don’t have a choice, try to minor in what you like in addition to your major. Or, like a resourceful friend of mine did, double major. Ultimately, it’s you who is going to be studying and working, so pick what YOU want to study, not what others want.
- Know your aptitude
Ask yourself what you’re good at. It is all hunky-dory that you love something, but are you really cut out for it? One good way to find out is to take an aptitude test when you’re in high school. Usually, these tests are done by career-counselors, and involve testing various areas such as verbal intelligence, mathematical intelligence, abstract reasoning, etc. Based on your results, counselors give you a set of careers you may be good at. More importantly, they might be able to tell you if your strengths match your field of interest. I have taken this test, and from personal experience, I can tell you it’s definitely worth it, especially if you’re not quite sure about your capabilities.
- Keep the future in mind
When picking a field of study, you need to have a rough idea about what kind of a career you want. If you are supremely ambitious and want to become a CEO, English Lit is probably not the best major for you (no offence, Lit majors). If, for example, you want to get into teaching and academia, there is no harm studying Chaucer and Shakespeare. Another important consideration is money. Some careers earn more than others, so if your bank balance is very important to you, factor this in to your major selection.
- Research, research, research the field
Just like when writing a paper, there is no substitute for good solid research when picking a major. Hearing about the field is not enough. You need to research it in-depth so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. I know way too many people who expected their major to turn out differently that it actually did. Don’t be one of them.
- No major is easy – don’t make that a criteria
There is a common misconception among students that some subjects are “easier” than others. This is complete nonsense. Different subjects require different skills, and are all just as hard in their own ways. Be careful not to choose a major because you think it’s easy, instead, be aware of the differences among majors and choose accordingly.
- Don’t be afraid of change but do it quickly
It is a part and parcel of college life to realize that you have picked the wrong major and want a change. Even if you do the most thorough research, it sometimes takes a few classes to get the real feel of the subject. There is no harm in changing majors if you believe it’s the right thing for you, but a word of caution: go with your gut early. Don’t suppress the feeling as a freshman, because it’s going to come back and haunt you as a junior when the courses get tougher. The longer you wait to change majors, the more time you end up spending in college, and the harder it is to adapt to your new major.
Picking a major doesn’t have to be so stressful. Use both your heart and head wisely, take an occasional peek at this list, and wow others with your focus and ambition. But whatever you choose to study, remember that the most important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing.