Picking a Major In College
How to Pick the Right Major for You
My trajectory towards finding the right college major has been a long one, to say the least. I want to give you some simple tips for picking the major that is right for you while saving time. But first, I want to start out by sharing my story on how I picked my majors in college.
At first, I started college with an interest in psychology and, to a certain degree, with environmental sciences. With that in mind, I enrolled in an introductory course in psychology as well as an intro course in environmental sciences. I liked both classes just fine, but towards the end of the semester, my psychology professor did me wrong by giving me a D on one of my papers. I was so bitter that I desisted from pursuing psychology any further. You should probably not be like me, though.
Since I wanted to focus on my A-G requirements, I did so by cleverly registering for courses that were both A-G requirements but also classes under the environmental studies major I had decided to keep exploring. By the first semester of my sophomore year, environmental studies was my official declared major. Out of curiosity, though, I decided to take a middle east politics class, which led me to take an international relations class. Soon after, I decided that I wanted to do an international relations major.
I think that ,at that moment, I was more in love with the idea of being an international relations major than actually wanting to pursue that major for my own personal and professional fulfillment. Those classes were chill but very hard for me to get an A in. I always did the readings and essays, but in reality, I knew I did not have the knack to disseminate international relations theory or to analyze all the complex social, political, and economic connections between different countries. If I would have come to terms with that sooner, perhaps I would not have put myself through some of the IR classes I took in case I did decide to formally declare the international relations major, which, in the end, I did not.
Meanwhile, I got involved with a health advocacy internship that focused a lot on policy my first two years in college. Thus, I decided to take a public policy course my sophomore year to learn more about what public policy is. I ended up really liking that class and was always excited about every assignment my professor gave. That internship sparked the interest in me to pursue a public policy major since there was no public health major being offered at my school at the time. Hence, I got to thinking that I could double major in environmental studies and public policy, finally ditching international relations.
There were a few electives under the environmental studies major that were policy classes and a few electives under the public policy major that could satisfy the environmental studies major. But I could not take courses and apply them to both majors. I would have to take different classes for each, leaving me with fewer classes to choose from in each major; classes that I was not really all that excited about. I could see that I was in a dilemma.
Things took a turn for the worse when I took a biology course that included a lab. I received a horrifying C-. This caused me to rethink the environmental studies major I was pursuing as the next three classes I needed to finish the major where very science-y compared to the more social science aspect of environmental studies that I preferred and did better in. I could not imagine myself going through an animal behavior course or a principles of ecology class with a lab. I didn't care much about the nitty-gritty science behind certain environmental topics, nor why squirrels behave the way they do. Just kidding, I never took those two classes, so I wouldn't know what the students learned.
What I really wanted to learn was how to solve environmental and other social justice problems through policy. I knew then that I would have to make a decision. Do I continue that double major and suck it up with those three final science courses that I would probably not do so well in OR just drop environmental studies altogether? Dropping environmental studies would actually accelerate my completion of the public policy major by a few classes because I could use some of the classes I had taken for the environmental studies major towards the public policy major. I know, right? I'm so very clever.
Not gonna lie, I mourned the environmental studies major for many months. Often, I would retract my word, but I knew that if I went back, I would be getting Bs in classes that I was not really interested in. If I was going to get a B, might as well be in a class I would actually enjoy. Since I didn't want to let go completely, I decided to keep environmental studies as a minor. That major had stuck with me through thick and thin and I wanted to honor that (Why am I so dramatic?).
But academic life does not give it to you easy!! In the Spring of 2017, my school created a public health major! I was shooketh. I had been interested in a public health major because of that health advocacy internship I had been involved with, but my school did not offer a public health major back then. At that point, I had been thinking about graduating early, which it seemed like I could. But my curiosity got the best of me, and this Fall 2017, I took an intro to public health class. Unfortunately, I loved it! I was sold.
Since I am practically almost done completing my public policy major, I decided that I would try and double major in public health. That is where I am now. When I think about the two majors I have chosen, there is calm within me. I know that both of these majors complement each other well, and offer a career that I am super excited to embark on. This is a career that is both personally and professionally fulfilling for me. That is what your chosen major should make you feel. To conclude, let's resume all my college major picking struggles into a bulleted list of tips:
- Start out by taking classes on topics or career areas that interest you within the A-G requirements you must fulfill at your college/university.
- Follow up with the major requirements from the classes that you would want to learn more about.
- Get involved with internships and attend career workshops at your school or elsewhere to learn more about careers you may be interested in. This could be a guide for what major you choose to pursue and which majors you for sure are not interested in.
- Research potential careers online and find out things like average pay, what a day in these career looks like, what you need to do to get there, and more.
- If when you are completing the major requirements, you realize that those classes do not excite you or that you cannot possibly visualize yourself in that job in the future, drop that major! Make sure you are not just in love with the idea of that major, but actually genuinely interested and invested in that major.
- Don't be afraid to switch majors many times. I sure did!
- Talk to students, professors, or network with people who have graduated with that major and/or are involved in that career and ask them questions. If you're a bit shy, email them. That's probably what I would do ;)
- Don't be afraid to make your own major if your school does not offer the major you are interested in.
- Often times, students graduate with a certain major and end up doing something else entirely with their lives. You have control of your life. Make with it whatever you like!