The Do’s and Don’ts of Choosing a College Major
It’s #2 on the list of the first three questions you’re likely to ask someone new on campus. (In order of likelihood, “What’s your name?,” “What’s your major?,” and “Where are you from?”) And this isn’t the first time you’ve heard the question either. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had interested family, friends, or church members asking you what you’re going to study in college many times over the last several months.
Add to this that the question isn’t as simple as asking yourself what you want to spend time on over the next four years. There’s a lot of pressure to have your major tie into your long-term career, so “What do you want to study and learn more about?” quickly morphs into “What career do I want to pursue for the next 40 or 50 years?” Suddenly, instead of making a decision about your courses, you’re making a decision about the rest of your life.
Wow. That’s a lot of pressure all at once. Is it any wonder that choosing a major is one of the biggest stressors for students? This isn’t just the case for freshmen. Going into my senior year, I still have friends reconsidering their major choices and even making changes from one field to another. Many of those who don’t make those changes still wonder if they’ve chosen correctly.
You might be reading this, rolling your eyes as one of those students who’s known exactly what you want to do since you were 5. If you’ve got it all figured out already, congratulations! I’d still strongly encourage you to keep reading. While this article is meant to reassure those of you who don’t have it all figured out just yet, there will also be ways to use the following tips to confirm a major choice you’ve already made.
Do: Put First Things First
While deciding your major, it’s important to ask yourself what you want your life to look like after college. This isn’t to say that you need to have all the details figured out. If you can paint your life goals in broad strokes now, there will be plenty of time to fill in the details down the road.
This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. For example, as a Christian, I want my life to be characterized by love for God and others! This is such a basic idea, but it affects what I want my life to look like. I want to be deeply involved in a local church. I also want to pick a major that will help me serve others. On a more individual level, I want to be working for the rest of my life instead of retiring early. This means I’ll want to pick a field that has enough variety to keep me interested for a long period of time.
What goals do you have? Do you want a field of study that will be compatible with missions work? Would you like a career that will allow you to travel regularly? What are the first things in your life? This means big things like serving God, having a family, or meeting a need in the world, sure, but it also includes the activities and interests you’re really passionate about (see the next Do!).
Don’t: Feel Like You Need to Have This All Figured Out
This might be surprising to you, but even once you’re on campus, the major choice isn’t sealed and put away. I’ve had friends change their majors during every year I’ve been at Cedarville so far. Probably more than half of the people I know have changed or seriously considered changing majors at least once. While there might be a bit of a taboo around changing your major from people outside of college, it’s not at all looked down on or even considered abnormal on campus. It’s a pretty regular part of better understanding yourself and what you want to pursue.
The curriculum is also built to give you some time to explore. Usually, you will be taking a lot of general education classes during your freshman year. This gives you time to try out college classes in a variety of fields. It also means you don’t need to take major-specific classes for a couple of semesters if you need more time to decide.
All that to say, give yourself grace if you don’t have it figured out yet or if you end up feeling like you didn’t make the best choice the first time around. There’s always time to change and work toward something else, and many times, the experience you’ve gained in your former field will give you a unique perspective on your new studies!
Do: Follow Your Passion
All of us have things in life that make us come alive, communities or activities that we feel most at home in. For me, my first love is storytelling. As a kid, I wrote books in my phone notes document and read just about anything I could get my hands on! One of my fiancé’s loves is history. Another of our friends has a deep passion for math.
Whatever these first loves are, they’re an excellent place to start in figuring out your major or, if you’ve chosen one already, brainstorming the ways you want to use your major in your career and life. It’s okay if you don’t know what your passions are yet, but be sure to pay attention to what classes and activities you genuinely enjoy.
I’ve heard several people say that “when you do something you love, you won’t work a day in your life.” While this isn’t entirely true (after all, every job is going to have good and bad days), the principle’s a good one. On a normal schedule, you’ll be working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for as many years as your career lasts. The amount of time you’ll work in your life is likely significant, so it’s important to choose something that will make that time pleasant and fulfilling.
Don’t: Look for “THE RIGHT CHOICE”
This is probably the most important thing I can tell you. A lot of times, because we believe as Christians that God already knows the choices we will make and had laid them out for us, we feel like there must be only a single “right choice.” That’s not just the case with majors! We often feel the same way about jobs (which company is the perfect fit for me?) or relationships (which guy/gal is my soulmate?).
The thing is, this assumption is dead wrong. It’s not as simple as “one choice is right, and all the others are wrong.” Most often in your life, you will be making choices between two or more good things. When that’s the case, any of the decisions you make could be “right” ones!
God has ordained that we won’t know everything. We can’t look at our lives the way He does and see the exact path that He has laid out for us, as easy as that would make things. This lack can be a good thing; it doesn’t just give us a chance to practice wisdom, but it also helps deepen our dependence on Him.
So, when making a right choice (not the right choice), what are some good biblical principles for decision-making we can apply?
- Have you taken the decision to the Lord in prayer and asked Him to give you wisdom and guide you?
- Have you consulted other strong, trusted Christians in your life that know you well? What do they suggest and for what reasons?
- Are you making this decision in order to glorify God and in order to actively love other people?
If you can answer these with confidence, your decision is probably a right one. That doesn’t mean you will never go wrong or make a mistake, but when you are deciding with prayer, good counsel, and a desire to love God and others, it gives you room to have a lot of peace that God will use your best for His glory.
Do: Explore and Prepare
This one will probably look a little different if you’ve made your major choice than it will if you haven’t.
If you aren’t sure what you want to do yet, take this time in your life to explore all the options open to you. Take that extra class in something that piques your interest. Shadow someone from your church for a day if what they do intrigues you. Do independent research about what career options you can get with certain majors. If you decide you really enjoy multiple fields of study, you could even decide to double major or pick up a minor!
If you’ve already picked a major, the other side of this is researching how to succeed in your field of study. For me, as an English major, this might have looked like writing a little every day, submitting pieces for publication, or asking around if anyone needed editing help in my church or community. For you, maybe that means researching career options in your field, or reading research that interests you, or even just grabbing a coffee with someone in your field to ask them about their job! There are all kinds of ways to get involved in your major on campus too, so ask upperclassmen about some of these opportunities.
The major choice can be a source of so much pressure during the time leading up to college, but this doesn’t have to be the case! List your priorities, consider your passions, and use college as a time to explore. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have everything sorted out right away, and don’t assume that there’s only one right choice to make. These next few years will be an incredible chance for you to pursue your interests and expand your horizons by learning about all kinds of fields. I really hope you enjoy it!
Choosing your major might be overwhelming, but Cedarville’s Career Services can provide you with tools that can assist you with deciding your major, what to do with your major, and what job opportunities are available to you! They also provide other opportunities that can assist you throughout your college career!
So, are you trying to figure out what you can do with your major? Trying to decide what major is best for you? If that’s the case, follow the link below for a quick assessment to see your possible major and career path.
- To take this assessment for FREE go to www.myplan.com
- Click on the Account tab and select Create Free Account
- Complete the required fields and enter the following license code: N2WFAHD5
Student Life Blogger
- Majoring in English with a minor in Editing and Publishing
- Hometown: Hubbardston, MA
- Coffee Order: Affogato
- Favorite Bible Verse: 1 Timothy 1:5