Guide to college majors
Your roadmap to discovering the perfect college major
Colleges to find your perfect match
Subject areas to explore
College majors to discover
What is a college major?
As a high school student, you've probably heard the term “college major,” but maybe you don't fully understand what it means. Simply put, a major is the subject area that you choose to specialize in during your time in college. It determines the classes you'll take, the skills you might develop and ultimately the career you may pursue after graduation.
When you declare a major, you commit to taking a certain number of courses in that subject as well as completing any necessary requirements or prerequisites. Having a college major can help prepare you for a career in a specific field or several different fields after graduation. While most students will only have one major, you can also choose to pursue multiple majors if it fits your interests and career goals.
How to choose a college major
Choosing a college major can feel daunting for many high school students because it can seem like a big decision that will determine the rest of your life. However, it's important to remember that a major is not a permanent decision. Many students end up changing their major or pursuing a career in an entirely different field than their original major.
The decision doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are some steps you can take to choose a major that's right for you:
- Identify your interests: Think about the subjects you enjoy and the activities you find fulfilling. What do you like to do in your free time? What subjects do you excel in at school?
- Consider your career goals: What kind of career do you think you might want after you graduate from college? What are your long-term professional aspirations? Researching careers that align with your interests and strengths can help you identify potential majors.
- Talk to people in the field: You can talk to family members, friends, teachers or professionals in the fields that interest you. They may have valuable insights and advice to help you make a decision.
- Shadow professionals: Spending time with someone in the field can give you a better understanding of what the work entails and whether it's a good fit for you.
- Try out classes: You can take introductory courses in the majors that interest you to get a feel for the subject and see if you enjoy it.
Do I have to choose a major when applying?
No, you don't! Many students enter college undecided, meaning they have not yet chosen a major. It is completely normal to apply to college without knowing what you want to study. However, you will probably need to know your general area of interest as some colleges require you to apply to a specific school, like Arts & Sciences or Engineering.
Even if you plan on choosing a major during college, it's a good idea to research potential majors you might choose before you arrive so you can start taking classes that might be required for the major. At most colleges, students must declare a major by the end of their sophomore year.
How to choose a school based on your major
If you decide on a major (or majors!) before you apply to college, you can find a school that's a great fit for it. The right college can provide a supportive community, opportunities for hands-on learning and access to resources and experts in your chosen field. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a school that offers your major:
- Program quality and reputation: Research the colleges that offer your desired major and compare their programs based on factors like curriculum, faculty and student outcomes. Look for schools that have a strong reputation in your field and offer relevant courses and experiences to help you achieve your career goals.
- Faculty expertise: Choose a college with faculty members who have a strong background in the field and a history of producing successful graduates. You might try reaching out to current students or alumni to get a sense of the quality of the faculty, the support they provide and their experience in their classrooms.
- Resources and facilities: Ideally, your college will offer resources and facilities to support your major, such as access to specialized equipment, research opportunities or internships. Consider the location of the school and its proximity to relevant organizations, businesses and research facilities in your field.
- Career prospects: Think about the job market and earning potential in your field, and choose a college that will provide you with the skills and connections to succeed after graduation. Look for schools that have strong career services and a track record of helping students secure jobs in their chosen fields.
- Fit: Finally, choose a college that feels like a good fit for you in terms of location, size, campus culture and extracurricular activities. You will likely be spending a significant amount of time at school, so it's important to find a place where you feel comfortable and engaged.
Can I change my major in college?
Yes, you can change your major in college. In fact, many students do change their major at some point during their college journey. This may happen for a variety of reasons, such as discovering a new interest, realizing that their original major isn't a good fit, or because their career goals have changed.
If you find that you no longer want to pursue your chosen major, you can talk to your academic advisor and explore other options. Changing majors can be a big decision that alters your degree requirements and timeline, but it can be a positive one if it allows you to pursue your interests and achieve your career goals. While the specific process may vary by each school and program, switching majors is a common and acceptable part of the college experience.