3 Steps to Choosing a College Major by the Process of Elimination

High School Student

May   2016



There are many ways to choose a major. Perhaps you enjoyed a psychology class so much in high school you knew that was the subject you’d love to pursue in college. Maybe you have always dreamed of working in the medical field and nursing seemed like a natural fit. Or maybe you’re still unsure about what to major in—and that’s okay!

Choosing a major isn’t always an easy decision. For me, I found that the process of elimination worked best. Whether you have some ideas in mind or you’re just browsing a school’s course catalog, this method can help you narrow down a long list of potential majors and discover yourself along the way. Here’s how:

1. Eliminate the subjects you dislike

What classes do you dread in school right now? At the college level, subjects become more in-depth. So if you don’t enjoy the content in high school, it’s likely you won’t enjoy it in college. I was able to take general education courses in science through dual enrollment and I have grown to tolerate this subject much more than I did in middle school. However, science is still not my passion, and I’m not really interested in STEM career paths. Perhaps you’re the exact opposite of me or somewhere in between, and that’s perfectly fine. Knowing what you dislike can help you rule out the majors that would make you unhappy.

2. Eliminate the subjects that don’t fulfill you

What are your passions? What do you enjoy doing in your free time? If books are your life, eliminate the majors that don’t give you time to pursue reading. If you enjoy a hands-on approach to learning, cross out majors that revolve around theory instead of active participation. I enjoy listening to music, writing, and learning about history. I wouldn’t absolutely hate a business major, but it doesn’t really interest me either. Bottom line: don’t settle for a major unless you’re sure it fulfills your passions and interests.

3. Research the remaining few

This final step is probably the hardest. By now your list of desired majors has dwindled down to a select few, and if your list is anything like mine, these remaining majors are very closely related. Now you need to research your final choices. Is this major or subject available at your school(s) of interest? What does the course load look? What career fields will these majors lead to? What do graduates have to say about their experience with the major? You can find a lot of this information on a college’s website or by contacting your department of interest. And for descriptions of common majors and career ideas, check out CollegeXpress’s Majors and Academics section. [Thanks for the shout-out, RaeAnn!]

Related: What Can I Do With this Major?

Last year my top two major contenders at Cedarville University were Applied Communication and Broadcasting & Digital Media. After attending a high school event and talking with faculty in the Communication Department, I realized that Broadcasting & Digital Media would better prepare me for a career in radio, which is ultimately what I want to pursue. The more you find out about your remaining majors, the more you’ll see which ones align most with your career goals, learning style, and interests.

Have you used the process of elimination to declare your major? What advice do you have for students when it comes to selecting a major? Feel free to post your comments below!

Note: Did you know you could win a $10,000 scholarship for college or grad school just by registering on CollegeXpress? This is one of the quickest, easiest scholarships you’ll ever apply for. Register Now »

About RaeAnn Jent

RaeAnn Jent

RaeAnn is a senior at Ohio Virtual Academy, an online high school. She loves taking dual-enrollment classes and everything about the college search process. She enjoys writing, listening to music, bowling, and volunteering at a local history museum. After graduating high school, she hopes to attend Cedarville University and major in broadcasting and digital media with a minor in creative writing. Be sure to check out her personal blog.