Tips on Selecting a Major

Tips on Selecting a Major

Do Some Thinking

The place to start is to think about your interests, activities, values and personality. Ask yourself what you enjoy and what is most important to you. Think about whether you want to work in an office environment or in an outdoor setting; whether you want stability or constant variety; to be rich or fulfilled.  

Test your Personality

Your guidance office should have tests that you can take to get feedback on your areas of interest, personality, skills, attributes and values. These tests will match your personality type with professions in numerous fields, helping to point you in the right direction. During the process, you’ll most likely be introduced to some fields you might never have considered on your own.

Research your Options

Once you find some jobs that interest you, take advantage of the many resources available for career planning. The internet is an excellent place to investigate careers – look for professional groups or organizations and view their resources page or ask to speak to members. Libraries have many books written specifically for students considering a major in specific fields and your guidance office has many print resources to investigate potential careers. And don’t forget to use your best resources for research: talking over careers with family, neighbors, teachers and other adult acquaintances is extremely helpful because these people know you best.

Attend Career Events

Make the most of career days, career fairs and college fairs to learn more about what appeals to you and what doesn't. Make note of events with speaker panels sponsored through professional organizations and find out if students can attend. These are great opportunities to talk to people in the field and learn what challenges these professionals face.

Interview Professionals

Talk with professionals in occupations that interest you. Ask friends and family if they know anyone in these fields and get an introduction. Use your guidance office to get referrals or find them via the phone book or internet. Once you have a name, call and explain you are a high school student considering a career in this field and ask for a brief appointment to interview them. Use these opportunities to get some real insight into the job – ask people what they like, don’t like and use that to determine if it’s still interesting to you. Most people will be happy to help in any way they can but be conscious of their time and be sure to follow up with a thank you note. You never know, they may end up being a valuable contact for your career.

Try Work Shadowing

One of the best ways to learn what a job entails is to spend some time watching a professional at work.  Go a step beyond just talking to a professional in a field and actually try 'a day in the life' to learn more about a possible career choice for you. Ask one of the professionals you’ve met with if you could shadow them at work – leave it up to them if it’s for a couple of hours or a whole day. You'll want to spend enough time in the field to either confirm your interest or scratch a career off of your list. 

Take a Few Classes

If they are available in your school, sign up for one or two classes in a field that you might want to pursue. If they’re not offered, browse college course catalogs and read the descriptions of classes to see if they match up with your expectations. If their contact information is available, talk to professors at colleges on your list and discuss career options with them.

Most Importantly, Take your Time 

Choosing a major is not a decision that should be made quickly. Frequently, students find the sheer number of options to be overwhelming, which makes it easy to postpone the decision until well into college. Putting off your decision for too long can delay graduation and increase your expenses.

Once you've narrowed the list of majors and careers that seem interesting, try each of them on for a while.  If you're not excited by the subject matter or can't see yourself in that type of career, then move on. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with picking Undeclared as your initial major!

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