Choosing a College Major: A Comprehensive Guide for the Busy Student
Choosing a college major is exciting. For many students, it’s the start of a brand new journey. It’s molding plans and dreams into tangible, achievable goals.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy. Choosing a college major comes with its own challenges, hurdles, and stress factors. Unless you’ve known the career you want to pursue since you were a child, you’re likely one of the students puzzling over which major to choose.
What’s more, choosing a college major is difficult because of the challenges you’re already facing as a student. According to CNBC, eight out of ten students hold jobs to help them cover expenses. If you’re one of them, you’re already struggling as you juggle the hours at work, time attending lectures, and the assignments you need to complete.
Right now, you’re asking yourself serious questions. Questions like: Which major will fit in with my busy lifestyle? Which major will be worth my time and effort?
If this sounds like you, read on. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to pick the right college major.
How to Choose a College Major That’s Right for You?
Here are five things to consider when choosing a college major.
1. Your Time: Can You Work on Your Chosen College Major While Working?
Working and attending college at the same time is a huge challenge. If you’re already loaded with a tight schedule, choose a college major that’ll give you the most amount of free time.
For instance, if you’re already working 35 hours per week, it’s not a good idea to choose hard college majors like chemical engineering and architecture. While your skill set might be a good match for these majors, you’ll find your road to graduation extremely difficult. Both require intensive study, around 20 hours preparing for classes each week, and extensive homework and projects. In the middle of the course, you’ll burn out and lessen your chances of earning your degree.
On the other hand, if you pick a major like marketing or computer science, you’ll have more free time per week. You can use this time to catch up on work, do your homework, or focus on self-care. The less stressed out you are, the higher your chances of graduating.
Here’s a list of college majors based on difficulty and free time.
2. Your Goal: Are You Choosing a College Major That Matches Your Goals?
The next question to ask yourself is, why are you going to college? Is it to give yourself better career opportunities? To qualify yourself for your dream job? Or is it mainly because all of your family members are college graduates?
Think about where you want your degree to lead you. For example, you already have a part-time job at a hospital. You want to get a promotion but the job you want requires you to have a degree. In this case, you’d select a major related to medicine.
However, if the job you hold is a temporary position to support you through college, take the time to carefully consider which industry you’d be interested to work in once you’ve graduated. Which industry matches your current skillset? What kind of job will keep you passionate and excited years after you’ve started working?
Here are four pointers to consider when choosing your major based on how you see your future.
- Consider your current skillset. Which college major would improve and polish your talents?
- Think about whether you’re happy working in the industry you’re in now. Would you like to get a promotion and continue working in this industry? Or do you want something completely new?
- Think of the kind of career you’ll be happy with in the future. Once you successfully choose your career, it’ll be easier to narrow college majors down to a short list.
- Do extensive research. Sure, you’re already familiar with the most popular college majors. However, there are more majors out there than you think. Doing enough research will help you dig deep and find one that’s the perfect fit.
3. Your Personality: What Major Inspires You?
Pursuing a college major that matches your personality will lead to better success. When your major is in tune with who you are, you’ll get better grades, feel satisfied with what you’re doing, and have higher chances of graduating on time.
So how do you choose a college major that’ll inspire you?
First, consider your unique personality. Are you a creative who loves independence and originality? Are you a friendly and extroverted individual? Do you love to work with things you can touch? Are you adventurous, or do you like working within conventional structures?
Based on your answers to these questions, you can narrow down your college major choices. Here’s a list of five personalities and what defines them.
4. Your Reality: Filter Your Dreams Through a Realistic Lens
Of course, we all dream of pursuing a career that’ll have us dancing to work every single day. We want to be passionate, inspired, and proud of what we do.
But life doesn’t always support such aspirations. There’s the reality to think of, and it includes costs, location, and time. So before you jump in and grab that college major you’re thinking of, take time to look at your dreams through a realistic lens. This includes weighing in the requirements for each major and the time you have to earn your degree.
1. What Are the Requirements of Your Major?
For example, do you dream of becoming a marine biologist? If so, consider the requirements. You’ll need to work closely in the field and study in a specific location to earn your degree. Can you afford this? Can you deal with the flights, the cost of living in the state or country you’re going to study, and the tuition itself? If you miss out on some details, you’ll find yourself dropping out before you earn your degree.
2. How Much Time Do You Have to Complete Your Major?
You need to consider how much time you have to complete your degree. Maybe your student loan will only cover your expenses for two years. Even with a part-time job, you can’t afford a bachelor’s degree without getting another loan. If this is so, you might think of earning an associate degree first. This will help you with better employment, and you can think of getting your bachelor’s degree in the future.
Here are 3 pointers that’ll keep your feet on the ground when choosing a college major.
- Consider how much you’ll spend as you pursue your degree.
- Make a list of the requirements you need for the major you want to take. For instance, do you need a special certificate for English proficiency? Do you need to go out-of-state for your major?
- Determine how long you have to earn your degree. Only six out of ten students graduate in six years. Even fewer students graduate in four years. Can you afford to put yourself through college for four or even six years?
5. Important Details
Keep in mind that every single student is different. What will work seamlessly for someone else might turn out to be a disaster for you. So before you jump into the most popular course in your college, take a while to go into specific details. Here are three to consider.
1. How You Like to Study
What are your study habits? Do you thrive on hands-on application or theory? Does working in groups suit you, or do you like to work individually? Are you good at verbal presentations or written reports? Getting into the details of the way you study will help you choose a college major to fit you.
2. The Features You’re Looking for in a Course or College
When shopping for a college course or college, come up with your own list of criteria to judge each one. You can consider the research facilities, student support, traveling opportunities, and social life. Make a list of the top features you want to find in a course or college. This will help narrow your choices down and make it easier for you to select the right major.
3. Take Details into Account
Don’t be generic. Early on, you might have chosen engineering as a course you want to pursue. Now, get into the details. Do you want to build bridges? Deal with computers? Study chemicals? Go specific and choosing the right major will come naturally.
Making Your College Major Dreams Possible with Credit-by-Exam
The big question is, what if you’ve found a college major you’re passionate about but it doesn’t fit other criteria? What if the major you want will take four years, but you can’t afford to study that long? Or what if the tuition is too expensive?
The answer is to be innovative. For instance, consider credit-by-exam. Exams like CLEP, DSST, and UExcel allow you to earn college course credits in less time, for less money. It’s a smart way to make traction on your chosen college major.
Choosing the College Major That’s Right for You: The Basics
Your college major will define your future life. This makes it important for you to think carefully before jumping in and choosing one.
Think of what gets you inspired. What you love doing. The way you work. The kind of personality you have. Then, factor in how much you can afford, the way you study, and how long you have to complete your course.
If you ever find yourself lost on the path to graduation, we at Achieve can help you figure out the next step.