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How to choose a college majorChoosing a college major is tough. It's also scary, intimidating, and can cause a sense of impending panic. That's because choosing a major is the most important decision you will make during your college career, and probably one of the most important decisions you will make throughout your lifetime.

But finding a major you are happy with isn't impossible, and it doesn't have to take years. There are strategies for choosing a college major, and smart techniques you can use to narrow your field of choices -- or discover new options you might not have known about. With these tips and pointers, choosing a college major can be a relatively painless process.

Finding a major is hard

Every year, a few lucky high school students graduate with a crystal-clear idea of what they want to do with their lives, where they want to go to college, and what they want to major in. For the rest of us, these options aren't so transparent. Most college students change majors at least once during their college career, and many change their majors several times. But that's what college is for -- figuring out what you want to do. If you set aside time to think about what interests will influence your future major, the process can become easier.

Things to consider when choosing a major

What classes have you been good at so far? What subjects did you enjoy? There are many factors to consider in choosing a major. Some things you might want to think about are:

  • What classes do you get good grades in?
  • Which classes do you find most interesting, and why?
  • What majors do your friends have, and what are they doing?
  • What productive things do you do in your spare time?
  • What careers have you imagined for yourself?
  • What careers do your older friends or parents' friends have?
  • How important is income versus enjoyment?

While you're choosing a major, consider your own values, skills and interests. It helps to take a major assessment test or quiz, as they can help you discover aspects about yourself you may not have realized. To try a short college major quiz, click here.

Your major is most likely going to be a springboard into your future career, so it is also smart to consider career options while deciding on a major. (Try a quick career assessment quiz by clicking here.) However, these days it is common for people to change careers entirely up to four or five times during their lives, so your major doesn't have to be seen as a ball and chain.

Techniques for choosing a major

There are a few different techniques you could employ to help you decide what major would be right for you. Some are as follows:

The department tour

Choose a few stand-out majors from your college's course catalogue and go to each department head with a list of interview questions. Ask what areas of the major the school is most known for, what the courses cover, what the transfer rates are like, and what the department's graduates have gone on to do. (For a list of popular majors and the different careers each can lead to, click here.)

The exploratory semester

Once you have most of your general education courses knocked out, take one semester and try an introductory class from a few different subjects that interest you. If you're sure you like the humanities, try journalism, English, theatre and philosophy. If you like numbers, try accounting, math, science and business. You can narrow down your direction by figuring out what aspects of each area appeal to you.

The senior survey

Whenever you find yourself in a social situation with upperclassmen, ask about their majors and their future plans. You may end up talking to someone who is a lot like you, whose lead you can follow. Seek out ideas for majors wherever you can, it will pay off in the long run.

Hopefully, your search will lead you to a college major you both excel at and enjoy. Your major will play an important part in your future, so take your time and choose wisely.

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References

Choosing a college major: How to chart your ideal path

Rutgers: College majors and career information

About.com: College major quiz

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