Originally Posted: May 26, 2016
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2021
From conducting self-assessments to attending career workshops to sitting your family members down for a career plan heart-to-heart, we put together our top 10 tips for choosing the right college major for you (even if you're still in high school). And if this list doesn't lead you to the perfect major, it should help steer you toward exploring, undecided, or undeclared majors.
- Conduct a self-assessment of your core interests, values, skills, and personality type. This process can be formal or informal. Formal methods involve using things like personality and aptitude tests, available at most college career services offices. Informal techniques might include asking yourself the following questions: Which activities do I find fun and satisfying? What am I good at? Which adjectives would I use to describe myself? What’s really important to me in a career? What kind of work environment would I feel most comfortable in? And—even though it's totally cliché—what makes me happy?
- Read your college’s course catalogue. You'd be surprised how well you can get to know a major by reading up on its required classes. So flip through your college's course catalogue (most schools make them available online) to check out classes in the majors that intrigue you. Simply asking yourself, “Does this class sound interesting or not?” is a great first step.
- Ask questions! Talk to family, friends, and faculty about their careers. These are some of the people who know you best and may be able to make suggestions based on who you really are.
- Develop organizational and study skills. Learn effective reading, writing, and note-taking techniques—all portable skills you can apply to basically any major—and career—out there. (Here are a few of our favorite study tips too.)
- Register for a variety of required core classes freshman year. Expand your horizons! Skip the fancy electives for now (no matter how appealing that Beyonce class may be), because they’ll only delay graduation if you swap majors down the road. Instead, take a range of gen ed classes that can be applied to multiple majors.
- Attend résumé-writing and career-planning workshops and career fairs at your college. You should take advantage of your career services center and website from your first semester on campus. They'll have plenty of information on careers and deciding on a major. You might also glean some useful insights by talking to industry reps at a college career fair.
- Determine which of your skills are the most marketable. Are you persuasive? Great at chatting up new people? Creative with pictures or designs or words? Patient about teaching your friends new things? Everybody's got their something. Next, draft your first résumé to highlight your findings.
- Get a part-time or summer position or internship. Not only will you get to preview a "real-world" job—and determine whether it's a good fit for you—but you'll develop transferable professional skills you can use at other jobs.
- Join campus organizations. You'll develop teamwork and leadership skills, and become an active member of the campus community (good for grad school, job apps, and scholarships). Oh, and you'll probably have fun too. Speaking of which...
- Have fun with it! This may sound cheesy, but if you can find classes and work that feel more like play, then you’ve found a subject that will keep you interested and happy throughout your professional career. And that's what it's all about, isn't it?
Now you know how to explore majors. Want to explore colleges too while you're at it? Get started with our College Search tool.