Choosing a college major isn’t something you have to do the second you step out of high school, but knowing what you want to do helps you choose a college that’s strong in your desired field. Though it can be daunting, breaking the process down into steps will help you get where you want to go without feeling so overwhelmed.
Find Your Passion
Write a list of the things that you’re passionate about. If you love animals, children or music, write those things down. While there are exceptions, the things you enjoy the most are likely those that play to you strengths. Frustrating activities, on the other hand, highlight your weaknesses.
Try to also balance your passion with a bit of practicality as well. Sometimes what you envision as your dream job ends up being very difficult to break into or may not have many available positions. Consider having backup plans. If you are a musician, for example, you may want to get an MFA at some point, and you likely want to be a musician as your profession. It may be a good idea to add some sound engineering or teaching courses to give yourself some backup options in the industry you love.
Check Your Passion
Quite often, the activities you enjoy most use skills you’re good at. Unfortunately, there are exceptions. The world is full of people who love music but can’t carry a tune. Once you’ve listed the things you’re passionate about, take an aptitude test to confirm that your skill matches your ambition. If, for example, you want to be an engineer and have the aptitude for it, applying to the top engineering colleges could be a great fit for you. Your academic career there might be overwhelmingly frustrating, however, if your skills and passion aren’t aligned.
Looking at yourself through an unbiased lens is difficult, so ask those who know you best for help. Find out what others think your strengths are and ask them to label you using them. Write down the answers you get and study them, looking for traits others see but you overlooked.
It’s great to also find people in the industry you are considering, and ask them what to expect from that type of occupation. You should ask questions such as how much they make, how hard it was to break in, and how to get your foot in the door.
Do Some Research
Once you know what you’re good at and where you strengths lie, research some careers you think might interest you that utilize your strengths and aptitude. The library is a good place to start learning about different careers. It’s also wise to talk to and interview someone who works in that field. Online, turn to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. There you will find average pay rates and the expected need for workers in certain careers over the coming years. The organization also lists the skills needed to do well in a given profession.
Take a Test Drive
Once you’ve done your research and narrowed the options, try to shadow someone in the industries you’re considering. Volunteer at a related organization, look for internship opportunities and ask local companies if you can follow one of their employees for a day. Getting your hands dirty and seeing the actual work you could be doing will help you choose the right major.
This process provides a methodical approach to making a big decision. Take things one step at a time and try not to panic if you don’t have it all figured out just yet. With a little time and the right help, choosing your major is easier than you think.