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7 Tips to Help You Choose What to Study in College

By Donna Jo

Many young people finishing their first year of college find themselves struggling to choose which major to declare for the following year. They worry about how it will affect their future career, whether they will enjoy or be any good at the topic, and frequently find themselves facing pressure from family, friends, and society to select particular fields of study. Here are some tips to help with this decision.


Although this seems like a big decision that will alter your life path forever, it actually isn't that big of a deal. Most college graduates end up working in fields that seemingly have nothing to do with their college major; some studies estimate that only 27% of college graduates work in a field directly related to their major. Employers want to employ graduates who have good communication skills, good reasoning and planning skills, and the ability to think logically. Specific skills related to specific jobs can be learned during internships, on the job, or in graduate school programs. Thus, the major you select in college is not a make or break deal with regards to your future.

Pick something you enjoy studying

You will be more highly motivated to work hard and get good grades if you select a major you enjoy. If discussing grammar and reading classic literature makes you rapidly fall asleep while solving equations or fiddling with computers fills you with joy, well, use these desires to guide your choice.

choose classes

Take a variety of different classes

Related to the previous point, you can't determine what subjects you really enjoy studying until you actually try a few. During your Freshman year, consider taking a variety of subjects to help you narrow down which ones you like. If you don't want to invest the time in an entire class, try watching a few on-line videos of lectures on various topics and see which topics put you to sleep and which enthrall you to learn more.

Consult others

Most colleges provide academic advisors, counselors, and career guidance advisors that will be happy to discuss your choices with you and provide guidance. It might also be helpful to consult self-help resources that can help you clearly define your goals in life and allow you to picture what you want to be doing in the next 10 years. In some cases, talking to your parents about your choice can be helpful, but make sure it is your choice, not some career path your parents have been dreaming about you following since you were an infant. It is your life, not theirs. Similarly, try to avoid letting your friends' decisions about majors influence your choice. Sure, it might be more fun to take the same classes as your best friend, but that is not really a good basis for making this important decision.

Choose something general rather than specific

You are most likely to come across as a stronger candidate in the workforce if you choose a more general major that teaches a broad range of skills than if you try to specialize too soon. For example, good basic majors like English, Mathematics, History, Biology, Chemistry, and so forth might work out better than selecting majors in Bag-piping, Fly-fishing, Mortuary science, or Toy design (yes, these are all majors offered by real colleges in the US).

Research what majors are desired in various fields

If you do have a strong interest in a particular area you want to pursue a career in, do some research into what majors are actually preferred by that field. In some cases, the answers may surprise you. For example, law schools really like Philosophy and History majors while business schools like Statistics and Mathematics majors, and while it might seem like a no-brainer to take a Biology major if you want to get into medical school, in actual fact graduates with English and History majors have a higher acceptance rate to medical school than biology majors (46.2% versus 38.9%).

If you are still stumped, consider IT

IT and everything computer related is clearly the wave of the future. Every job in every field is going to require workers with strong computer and IT skills, and acquiring a degree in these fields may help you stand out from the other candidates during job searches. In addition, being computer-savvy can lead to many entrepreneur opportunities in the future and even the possibility of starting your own business; for example, helping customers set up, troubleshoot, and repair their new smart security systems has suddenly become a new profession that needs skilled workers.

And always keep in mind you can change your major if you realize you made a mistake and are miserable or have suddenly realized your dream job lies in a different direction.

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