How I Chose My Major: 5 Students Share How They Did It
The question of “how I chose my major” is one that every college student must grapple with at some point before they head off for freshman year. If they still haven’t thought about it, there’s some question whether they should even go. And some students choose not to, at least not right away. Things like gap years or going into a trade that allows one to work full-time while taking college classes are good ways of clarifying the path.
In the following article, we look at five students from well-known colleges and universities who explain how they reached their decisions. As you read through each one, note the thoughtfulness and considerations they’ve placed into those decisions. Also, think of the possibilities that each major brings with it — for jobs, for research opportunities, for personal fulfillment. Let’s begin!
The path toward my major was not without winding. When I was in grade school, I wanted to be just like my mom and work in a medical profession, but over time, my interests shifted toward math, physics, and engineering. So when I applied to Notre Dame, I applied as an aerospace engineering major. My thought was that rocket science must be the hardest of them all, so if I make it as an aerospace major, then I can probably switch around if need be.
Thankfully, my first-year advisor had more sensible major discernment plans than simply switching around. Through her guidance and through the College of Engineering’s first year program, I learned more about my goals and what different engineering disciplines looked like. I recognized that my life goal was to help people while doing challenging work that excited me. Civil engineering captured my attention with its grand bridges and impossible skyscrapers. I am proud to be a Notre Dame Civil engineer.
…don’t be afraid to try things and take classes that might not make sense in the moment! If I hadn’t taken a semester to explore something else, I would still be doubting a major that didn’t entirely suit me. Without the support of my parents, who patiently listened to my panicked phone calls, and my advisor, who graciously dealt with my indecisiveness, I wouldn’t have been able to switch my major and feel good about that change.
Through this process I learned that it’s okay to not have all the answers about my future. I still don’t have a perfect answer as to what I want to do with my degree when I graduate, but I know that I’ll have good options and that whatever it is, I’ll be doing what I love — and that’s enough!
When it comes time to choose a major, and even a university, listen to what your gut is telling you. Are there times that I wish I was a creative writing major instead of a communication major? Yes. Are there times that I’m glad I did choose communication over creative writing? Yes again.
The most important thing, in my opinion, when it comes time to decide what your major will be, and ultimately what you’ll be doing for probably the next 10 years of your life if not more, is to know yourself and to be open. If you know, like me, that you’re a creative individual, look for a major that would lead to a creative career path. If you know that you’re an introvert or an extrovert, look into careers and majors that work accordingly.
Being open is another important aspect of choosing a major. Be open to what your support systems say. Family, friends, professors, and advisors may see a spark inside you that could work in another discipline.
I was honestly terrified of choosing a major come time for college applications. I sat down and really thought about what my hobbies were, what i’m good at, and what makes me happy. With all of that in mind I decided that my hobby is filmmaking, i’m good at communicating and planning, and working with other people makes me happy. So I decided why not explore the film production major at Emerson College. Emerson offered other options within that major so if I changed my mind or wanted to also take other classes not related to filmmaking I could. So looking at schools with my major in mind and a backup plan was how I went about the process of deciding on a major.
I love that math is everywhere. Whenever people tell me they don’t like math, I know there’s a type of math out there for them. They just haven’t found it yet. You start out with doing Calc Sequence, and then you do linear algebra and deferential equations, which is personally my favorite math class I’ve ever taken. You kind of have free reign to do whatever you want with the major, and that’s why I love it. It’s just because there’s a lot of flexibility. Last summer, I participated in research through a research experience for undergraduates at Michigan State University, where I improved automated methods for cell identification in calcium images, and then this summer, I have the opportunity to go to Boston for another eight weeks, this time doing research at MIT, Harvard, and Tufts University studying the mathematics behind gerrymandering. So, there’s a lot of research opportunities within math.
Answering the Question of How I Chose My Major Can Help Bring Clarity
The question of “how I chose my major” isn’t an easy one to answer. And it’s okay if you don’t get the answer right right away. The important thing is to give it deep thought and not take the decision lightly. Best of luck as you grapple with this question and develop your own reasons. Now it’s your turn! What helped you the most when picking your major? Sound off in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Flickr Creative Commons]