For most students, picking a college major is the most stressful part of the college process. There are hundreds of jobs out there and just as many majors. Tack on the uncertainty of the future and the high cost of college and the decision becomes very burdensome. That's why it is important to know that you can always change your mind. In fact, over three-fourths of college students change their major at least once with many doing so several times before graduating.
Even so, the pressure to pick the right major may still be high. The best way to combat the anxiety and uncertainty is preparation. When picking your major, you want to make the most informed choice so that you are confident, comfortable, and successful on your path to a degree. The following topics will help you successfully pick the best major for you.
The best place to start your career research is inward. Take the time to perform an assessment of your goals, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Start with goals and interests and try to visualize yourself after graduation. What would you like your life and specifically your career to be like? What would you enjoy waking up early in the morning every day to do? What activities do you know you would put in the hard work to learn, grow, and succeed doing?
Next evaluate your strengths and weaknesses on both an academic and personal level. This may be difficult at first, especially if you find it tough to write about yourself. Reach out to others like your parents and college counselor and ask for their input. Remember to focus on being objective and avoid beating up on yourself.
Review and update your self-evaluation over time. It will come in handy when considering careers and majors. Also consider taking an assessment. There are numerous assessments available that will help you understand your personality, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Some of them are free while others are administered and evaluated by professionals so choose accordingly. Understand that assessments are just one tool to help you learn about yourself and guide you in your decision.
Use Your Time Wisely
Make sure time is on your side by starting the process sooner rather than later. It is to your benefit to fully research and experience what is available to you when going to college and preparing for your future. Most colleges don't require a student pick a major until their sophomore or junior year. Including high school, this gives you up to six years to research, evaluate, and experience your career interests. Carve out a little time each day or week to continue learning about what jobs are out there, the industries they are in, and what appeals to you.
There are many valuable resources out there but the most comprehensive is the Occupational Outlook Handbook produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This handbook details the job, education or training needed, pay, future outlook, and much more on roughly 800 occupations. It even has employment and wage information broken down by state and metropolitan areas.
Some of the best research may come from talking with people you know about their majors and jobs. Even if their career isn't in a field you are interested in, their opinion about what they studied in school compared to their job history can still help.
Remember that sometimes we just don't know what we really want until we have already started on our path. Even though your first choice may not end up being your final choice, going through the preparation the first time will help you be more confident when evaluating alternative paths in front of you.