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Picking a College Major? Your Guide on How to Select a Major in College

written by: Keren Perles•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 6/20/2011

In order to approach your education responsibly, it’s important to know how to pick a major in college intelligently. Read on for a step-by-step guide to help when picking a major in college.

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    Identify Your Interests and Abilities

    The first step in how to choose a major in college is to figure out what you are interested in and where your strengths lie. Some of your interests and strengths are obvious to you. After all, if you’ve always aced your math classes or always been interested in the sciences, you have some idea of your basic interests and strengths already. You’ll want to dig a bit deeper, though, to make sure that you aren’t overlooking any interests or strengths that you could capitalize on.

    One way to start doing this would be to look through your college’s course catalog. Are there whole sections that jump out at you as fascinating, such as music or philosophy? Since these are the courses you’d probably be taking if you majored in that overall subject, you may want to consider whether the subject would interest you enough to major in it. If you think it would, write it down. You can also think about whether you have any non-academic strengths that you’d like to develop, such as artistic ability, interpersonal skills, or the ability to work well with animals. Figure out which majors cater to these abilities.

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    Gain More Information

    After you know what you have to work with, it’s time to talk to other people for advice. Upperclassmen and professors can give you the details about each major, but make sure to take each piece of advice with a grain of salt, as everyone may have a different experience with the same major program. You can also discuss your interests and abilities with your adviser to see whether there are other majors that you should look into, as well as to compare the various majors for you. Your college career center is another great resource you should use to discuss your possible major and career options. Take advantage of any seminars and discussion groups that they hold that seem to relate to your interests.

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    Test the Waters

    Once you’ve narrowed down your options based on the information that you’ve gathered, it’s time to test the waters. Take a course or two from several different disciplines that you may be interested in majoring in. This is a time of exploration, so feel free to choose your course load based purely on finding out which major would suit you best. During your freshman year, you can also intern for companies and organizations that would relate to one of your possible majors. This can give you a glimpse into whether that major would lead to a career that would suit you.

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    Evaluate Your Options

    At this point, you’ve done all of your research and you have firsthand experience with classes and career environments related to each major that you’re considering. While you don’t have to decide on your major at the end of your first semester of college, it’s a good time to sit down and think seriously about how to pick a major in college with the information you have. If you’re not sure how to choose a major in college yet, you may want to consider a compromise: a double major! It’s more work, but it can give you greater options in terms of both classes you can take while in college, and the jobs you can get after graduation.