Last Updated: Jul 11, 2019
Many students enter college with a pre-chosen major (though some do not). But the first major you pick is not always the one you will graduate with.
In high school, there’s a lot of pressure to have your career path picked out and outlined, defined by the college and major you choose to pursue––even though some high school graduates aren’t even legal to vote yet! It’s stressful to be expected to make life-changing decisions when you’re still technically a kid, but let me lend you a word of advice: picking a college major doesn’t have to be the apex on which your entire adult life rests.
Instead of listing a billion ways on how to choose the major that is perfect for you, how about we start a bit easier? Let’s go over some reasons why you should not choose a college major—because even if you don’t know what’s right for you, you may be able to tell what’s wrong.
Related: Deconstructing Majors
Do not pick a major just because:
It sounds cool
Maybe you think being an engineer sounds awesome, except for the fact that you hate math...it probably isn’t the best idea to pursue an Engineering major. If you have absolutely no experience in a subject area—or worse, if you have negative experience—consider doing some volunteer work to see if you really want to dedicate four years (or more) to a particular field.
It will eventually make you a lot more money
Money is important, let’s be real. But the best lesson I learned about college majors and money was through a family friend: He works as a lawyer and makes bank, but he hates every single minute of it. He hates his job and is admittingly miserable. You know how sad that is? To be able to afford great vacations and a nice house but not be able to enjoy it because your demanding career sucks all the passion and joy from your life? Uh-uh. Don’t pick a career that makes you hate life. It’s not worth it. You, on the other hand, are worth happiness.
Your parents say you’ll love it
You can certainly listen your parents’ suggestions, but they may not know exactly what you want. Take their opinions into consideration, but remember, they are opinions.
Your teachers tell you to
Teachers also don’t know you much outside of the class they teach. Sure, you can excel in their course, but maybe you hate it. Teachers are great sources for advice, but again, it’s advice, not orders.
Your friends are doing it
Peer pressure is more real when its subtle, unnoticed, and not even intended. If all your friends are going into Pre-med but you hate science, you don’t have to compare yourself to them and go into a field you’re not totally in love with (even if those medical TV shows make that life seem desirable).
TV or movies portray it as the best
Like those medical shows, media dramatize all sorts of careers and lives. If you’re inspired by those stories, great! But before you dive into a fantasy, get some real-life experience under your belt. I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor, for example, based off of TV. But you know what? I hate hospitals. I don’t like that clinical atmosphere. I don’t even like biology. Should I be a medical doctor? Probably not. I can still watch episodes about that life though!
Your university has a great program for it
Maybe your college is world-renowned for its Philosophy department. This can be a great opportunity, but if you don’t even know what philosophy is, start with some general education courses (GE’s) and then decide if you want to think about thought for the next four-plus years.
Because you have no idea what to do
It’s okay to go into college as “undecided.” It’s also okay to switch majors after starting college. Yes, it’s better to figure that out before your second year, but that’s where GE’s come in. Get those done and figure out your major in that time.
You think you could force yourself to like it
Let me say it again: You are worth happiness. If you absolutely, positively end up hating every class you take in your chosen major, my educated guess would be that it is not quite right for you. No one gets an award for how well they can force themselves to persevere through something they hate when you just don’t have to do it.
Individuals are geared toward different interests. If you hate painting, drawing, sketching, and crafting, but you push yourself through a semester of voluntary Art, well, it’s likely that while your peers might empathize a bit, they’re more likely to say, “Dude, why didn’t you just drop the class?” If it’s a GE, well, I suppose you sort of have to push through it. But if it’s your major? Pick one that you enjoy, not one you have to work twice as hard to get through purely because you hate every moment of it.
Related: How to Choose Your Major (or Not)
Overall, just because a major is good doesn’t mean it has to be good for you. You pick it based off who you are, and who you are at the end of high school may not (and likely won’t) be who you are at the end of college. Change is good! So don’t feel behind if you don’t know where exactly you think your life is headed when you step onto campus the first day.
Majors don’t define your entire life, and while they do guide the next four-or-so years, those years fly by quickly! Build who you are and find a college major that doesn’t get in the way of that. Work toward success, but don’t forget that happiness impacts the type of success you’ll find.