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How Should I Choose a College Major?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 17, 2024
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Since choosing a college major is a key decision that can influence career possibilities as well as determine a student’s college success, it’s a decision that should be given due attention. While some students enter college already knowing exactly what they want, for other students the choice of a college major is not a foregone conclusion.

Possible majors is a good topic to consider when choosing a college or university. While no one would suggest that all students should be set on their futures when they are seniors in high school, finding a school that is a good match depends on the choice of majors offered as much as on the general ranking, the tuition, the atmosphere, the financial aid, and other factors. For example, if you’re likely to want to pursue a career in a highly technical field in which laboratory research is essential, you may want to choose a research-oriented university rather than a small liberal arts college.

The official choice of a college major, called “declaring a major,” is usually not made until at least sophomore year. This way, students have the opportunity to take classes that may help them in their decision. While students whose advanced high school classes have already put them on their career path can continue building on that foundation, other students can test the waters in a variety of areas. These explorations, in addition to previous experiences, such as AP courses, specialized courses in the arts or technology, or extracurricular experiences, may be helpful in choosing the major.

College advisers and professors can be helpful resources when a student is undecided about a college major. They may be able to help a student reflect on the choices available and how those choices fit with the students innate abilities and performance in college.

There are two other important options to keep in mind when choosing a college major. One is the double major, in which the student actually graduates with a bachelor’s degree in two different areas. These areas may be very closely tied or complement each other. Another possibility at some institutions is a student-designed college major. This typically involves a proposal from the student for a unique way to combine the school’s resources into a substantive degree. Planning a self-designed major is generally undertaken with the support and assistance of a faculty sponsor and approval must be obtained from the institution.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for WiseGeek, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
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Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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