The 6-Step Guide to Choosing a College Major

Choosing a college major can feel like you’re tying yourself to a set path for the rest of your life. If you’re not one of those people who’s been dreaming of a specific career since they were in preschool, you might not even have any idea what you want to do with the rest of your life. 

Choosing your major doesn’t have to be a big deal, though. With a few simple steps, you can choose the perfect major and feel confident in your choice.

Identify your interests, passions, values and abilities.

What do you love doing? What are you good at? What’s important to you? What intrigues and interests you? 

Assessing your interests, passions, values and abilities can help you see where you might have some natural inclinations toward a few majors. It can often help you eliminate some options, at least.

Consider the future.

Majoring in underwater basket weaving might sound fun, but before you declare that as your major and dive into the pool, you should consider the future. 

At a minimum, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will I still enjoy this in 5, 10, 20 or 30 years?
  • Is this a major that is employable?
  • Does this major have a future, with a clear path for advancement?

What sounds like a great major right now could turn into a major regret if you discover down the road that you hate doing it, can’t find a job, or have no way to move up in your career.

Ask for help.

Ask good friends, parents, siblings, and advisors for their guidance, advice and suggestions about your choice. Friends and family are excellent for offering you personalized guidance based on who you are and what they know about you. Advisors can assist you with the practical side of your choice, determining the future of your major and what your course load might look like. 

You might also reach out to people who chose your major and are now in the working world and upperclassmen who have your chosen major. Ask how they feel about their choice now, and what advice they would offer to someone thinking of choosing the same major.

There are excellent resources on the web as well, has an excellent guide to finding your career path.

Look for disadvantages before you choose.

Every decision in life has disadvantages. A college major is no exception. Take the time to look for the disadvantages of your possible major before you make a decision. 

Look for disadvantages now, such as a heavy course load or needing to take additional classes you hadn’t planned on. But make sure to look for disadvantages in the future, such as being limited in geography, employers, or career advancement. 

Talk to people who chose the same major and ask for their thoughts on the disadvantages. Hindsight is 20/20, so getting the scoop from those who are ahead of you on the path can help you avoid their mistakes.

Narrow your choices down.

After assessing yourself, assessing the future and disadvantages of your choices, and asking those around you for their thoughts, you should have a shortlist of possible majors. It’s time to narrow down that list even more.

You may have already crossed some choices off your list as you realized you wouldn’t enjoy them in the future, they had significant disadvantages, or they didn’t have much of a future. Now it’s time to look at what’s left. 

Cross off those that you feel only mildly drawn to. Eliminate anything that someone else suggested but you don’t have any interest in. Narrow your options until you only have those you can really see yourself doing.

Remember your major doesn’t define your career path.

People change careers often throughout life. The major you choose today may or may not have anything to do with the career you ultimately settle into. So don’t put too much pressure on this decision. 

Choose something you feel drawn to, see a future in, and believe you’d enjoy. But don’t feel like you’re locked into a set path that can never be deviated from. A little research can show you plenty of people who chose a particular major and later found success and happiness in a completely unrelated career. 

Choosing a college major doesn’t have to be an ordeal. With these steps, you can make a choice that is both logical and intuitive. Best of all, it will be a choice about which you feel confident.

Lewis Mitchell

Lewis Mitchell is a freelance writer from the U.K. who specializes in technology and Internet niches.