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What Is A College Major, And How Do I Choose One?


Sometimes you have to start with the basics.
Often we ask our kids, “What would you like to major in while you’re in college?”
And all we get is blank stares.  Why?  Our kids don’t have any idea what a major is, much less how to choose one.  So, kids, here are some facts you need to know before you open your mouth to answer that question we adults pose so often.

Is this the kind of “major” you were looking for?

  1. If you pursue a BA degree, about 25-30% of your classes over four years will be in your major. The other 70-75% will be roughly equal mixture of general education requirements and electives. If you pursue a more specialized degree (e.g., BS, BM, BFA, BBA), 50-60% of your classes will be in your major field.
  2. Your major should be a reflection of both your academic interests and your academic strengths: you want to enjoy the subject and do well in the courses offered.
  3. In researching majors at particular universities, be sure to consult the catalog or bulletin, where you will find all the details of what that major department requires.  You can also find the range of courses offered, course descriptions, and information about the faculty in the catalog and on the departmental homepages of the college website.  And if you have a chance to visit a campus, be sure to meet with a professor in your preferred department(s).
  4. It is perfectly fine not to have strong preferences as you enter the university.  Remember that a majority of students changes major at least once in their college careers, and many change their major several times.
  5. Few employers or graduate schools require specific BA majors for entry-level positions or for admission to business, medical, or law schools.  Religion majors can go to med school, art history majors can be admitted to business school, and chemistry majors can become excellent lawyers.  Even to become a teacher, it’s generally better to major in an academic discipline than in education. No matter your educational or professional path beyond college, your overall performance while you are there will matter much more than the major you choose.

So there you have the basics.  Now it’s time to start evaluating yourself:  what are those subjects you know you like already?  What are the things you don’t like so much, or really aren’t your academic strength?  What are those subjects you have never been exposed to that you’d like to explore?
Put on that thinking cap, and start informing yourself.  Still puzzled?  Have a look at this related post that gives you more of the basics of choosing a major.
Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant


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