Taking Your Time Picking Your Major

The single most important academic aspect of college is your major, the field in which you will concentrate your studies for the duration of your college career.  Many people come to college with pre-conceived notions of exactly what they want to study, either because of their own interests or pressure from family members, teachers, etc.  It is indeed good to start out with an idea of the path you want to take.  And it is also a good thing to be so driven and passionate about something that you know exactly what you want to study.

Nonetheless, it is not a bad thing to come to college with no clue as to what you want to major in.  One of the reasons that many colleges make you take courses from a wide variety of disciplines is to make you a well-rounded person.  Another is to help you figure out what you are really interested in so that you can make an informed decision when you finally decide your major.  Some colleges do not even allow you to declare a major until your sophomore year or later.

If you really know what you want to do, you may see this as unnecessary.  Since there is nothing you can do about it, you should take the opportunity to take as many different classes as you can.  Take science classes, math classes, literature classes, history classes, performing arts classes, or anything else you have to in order to fulfill any general education requirements your school might have.  If you get as many of those requirements done as possible before you have to pick, you can spend most of the rest of college just working on your major.  Even if your school has no general education requirements, you can use this time to discover an interest you never knew you had or to confirm your passion for whatever you already think your major should be.  It is perfectly possible that you could believe that you enjoy a subject in theory but that you discover that you absolutely hate the actual classes.

Most schools do require you to tell them what you believe your major might be so that they can pair you up with an academic advisor relevant to your potential interests.  Advisors are just there to help you figure out how best to discover and fulfill your academic goals.  If they are unable to give you information on a major in which you are interested, they will be happy to point out to you someone who can help.  Most professors or teaching assistants will be perfectly happy to talk with prospective majors about their field.  You can also consult seniors and juniors who are majors in the field you are interested in, as they can provide information about the concrete experience of being any given major at your specific college.

If you know what career you would like to eventually have, you may not even necessarily have to major in the corresponding field.  If you want to be a doctor, so long as you take the prerequisite undergraduate chemistry and other science courses, you can be a music or literature major.  Alternatively, if you want to become a history teacher, you could still be an area studies major, so long as you take enough history courses that you have the skills needed to go into a graduate program.  You will also still be able to take courses in other fields; you are not restricted only to classes in your major.  Therefore, you are not closing other doors when you finally have to choose.

All of this aside, it is still very important to take care when picking your major.  A major can provide you with a lot of the skills you may need in your future education or in your chosen career.  And if you pick a major without really thinking about it, you could end up impossibly confused or spectacularly bored by the material.  Since you have all of these resources available, and you will likely be unable to decide your major your freshman year, do not rush your decision.  As you take a bunch of different courses, think long and hard about what you really enjoy and what potential goals are actually feasible.  If you take your time and are honest with yourself about your interests, you will make the right choice when you must finally officially make your choice.

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