University can be daunting. Options may seem endless and you can end up feeling a little lost. Thankfully, choosing a major does not dictate your entire future. I know physics majors who have become lawyers and music majors who become doctors. The world is your oyster! That being said, here are a few things to keep in mind as you ultimately decide what major to pursue.
Choose something you enjoy
This may go without saying, but don’t pick something that you hate. If you hate math, engineering is not right for you. If you hate reading, best if you do not plan for a career in law. Make a mental (or physical) note of things you enjoy doing, both academic and otherwise. You want something that plays to your strengths but will also help you improve on your weaknesses so as you embark on your career you have acquired both the hard and soft skills to help you become successful.
…but don’t forget to be pragmatic
University can be a big investment and passions don’t necessarily translate into practicality. When thinking about a university major, don’t forget to think about the future and what is most important to you. If your goal is to be debt-free coming out of university, maybe you decide that you want to pick a major that provides lucrative options upon graduation. Or maybe you know right away you want to pursue a graduate degree in psychology so you decide to explore that interest by taking as many psychology classes as you can before graduation in order to cement your decision. Although you cannot plan for everything in life, try to plan things so that you can keep your options open.
Keep an open mind
That being said, many majors are able to accommodate a myriad of strengths and interests. For example, perhaps art and design are your passions in life, but you hesitate to pursue an art major. Maybe you’ve also realized that you have a keen mind for problem solving. Instead of restricting yourself to just pursuing art, maybe you try combining art, design, and problem solving and pursue a major in architecture to help you incorporate your multiple strengths.
Also, don’t write off the “impractical” majors just yet. There is a misconception that some majors have no function. Quite the contrary, many of these majors incorporate critical thinking, writing, and communication skills that many employers find valuable. As mentioned before, choosing a major isn’t a do-or-die situation. It is all about how you apply the skillsets that you have acquired.
As a side note, while you may ultimately decide that what you are passionate about doesn’t become your major, it doesn’t mean that you give up what you love. There are plenty of clubs/extracurricular activities at many universities that will allow you to explore your passions. And if they don’t, start one!
Explore potential career options in your field
If for example you decide to go into music, make sure to think about the sort of career options that you could have. You have to be very honest with yourself and your capabilities. Are you good enough to be a soloist or in a top orchestra? Or are you passionate about teaching? The sooner you can make these sorts of differentiations the better. The decisions you make could determine whether you choose between a major in music performance versus a major in music education. By understanding where your strengths lie and where you have viable career options, you can better plan for the future.
Remember, a lot of universities allow you to switch majors. Even if you choose something that you end up hating, there’s always room to change!
Adrienne has her PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Wisconsin and her MPH in Toxicology from the University of Michigan. In her spare time, she enjoys playing cello, reading, attempting photography, and volunteering at the humane society.