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We’ve all heard it before: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The reality is, your answer at age 18 will likely be very different from your answer at 14. However, your response at age 18 carries more weight! You’re off to college in the fall, facing the question of what your college major will be.

While some students enter their freshman year knowing their exact path for the next four years, understand that you don’t have to decide right away. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80 percent of students end up changing their major at least once. The average number of switches is three! In this blog, we present five steps to help you get the decision process started before your first year.

Step 1: Explore Potential Directions

The easiest way to start this process is to eliminate majors you know you’ll never pursue. If you hate math, a teaching degree in that subject is likely out of the question. In addition to narrowing down your possibilities, you might start to see a theme emerge among the potential paths you’ve chosen. Many colleges offer the choice to double or triple major, as well as a minor, you don’t have to feel limited.blog-Major

Step 2: Assess Yourself

Be honest with yourself and ask:

  • What are my interests?
  • What are my skills?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?

Answering these questions will also help to narrow the field. In the process, you could discover a passion that you didn’t realize you had based on an interest or skill set.

Step 3: Determine Your Values

Your values should be more than the estimated salary and benefits of a particular career. You should also be happy and enjoy your work.  Think about whether you:

  • Like helping other people,
  • Thrive in group settings,
  • Enjoy working under time pressure.

Certain career paths may suit your skills to a tee, but very few will stay that way. Career paths in many businesses change every decade. Also, you should not assess a career by the workplace environment of one firm. In almost every career, there is room for the hard-charger or the laid-back person. In almost every career there’s room for the individualist or the collaborator. And in almost any career there can be high earnings – it depends on what you make of your skills. For example, a school teacher’s salary might appear to be limited by state and union wage negotiations, but a good school teacher can teach privately, and  even found her own school.

Step 4: Research Related Jobs

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential career paths or industries you may want to work in, explore jobs! Let’s say you’re interested in anthropology. You might not have realized that someone with a degree in human behavior could become a paralegal. Understand that many majors are not restricting and that on average, your career will change four to five times. Life could take an anthropology major from curation to law to archaeology and education.

Step 5: Be Real

At the end of the day, your choice of major need not be about want to do in life.  No graduate school program restricts students from a certain major.  No employer requires a certain major for an interview.   Many will want SOME background, but that can be achieved with two or three courses outside your major, perhaps even via online learning through another college.

Never feel pressured about what others want you to pursue or the “popular” major that pays well. It is important to consider what you can and can’t afford, but there are many federal resources available, as well as the financial aid package from your school.

Our final piece of advice is not wait too long to choose a major! That can often turn into additional semesters of undergraduate schooling. And remember, Ivy Bound is your home for college-level tutoring if you ever find yourself feeling you are not keeping up, not competing well, or not understanding what a professor wants.