10 Considerations to Make When Choosing What to Study in College
Figuring out what to study in college requires some careful thought, but entering your first year of college without knowing isn’t that much of a detriment. Most applications will ask you to indicate a major, but most universities have an official process for declaring your major after one or two years of study. That means entering undeclared or choosing an initial major won’t impact your college career that much. Here are 10 considerations to make when choosing what to study in college.
1. Follow your passion
You may be wondering “how do I choose a college major?” The decision seems pretty important and weighty. Deciding what to study in college can happen immediately if you follow your passion. Many people grow up knowing exactly what they want to do.
They identify singing or geology or law as their intense obsession, and this motivates them when choosing their college major. Ask yourself if there is something that you have a deep and lasting passion for, and this can guide you as you select a major. Doing this can help you to fulfill the adage that “if you do what you love, you will never work a day.”
2. Check out college and university offerings
Another way to pick what to study in college is to check what the colleges on your list offer. Each university may have different colleges that offer different majors. Some majors may be available at some schools and not available at others, like pre-medicine and pre-law.
These majors are not always offered at universities, so if this is a route you are planning, you’ll want to make sure the school has those majors listed. If you want to attend a school that does not offer a major you have your eye on, think about choosing a related major or working with other students on campus to get the major started. This requires a level of advocacy that we have seen with African American and Mexican American studies being added as majors at universities.
3. Listen to career advice
As you apply for college, you will get advice from a variety of sources. Your parents will have definite ideas about what major they’d like you to choose. This may be based on them wanting your to carry on a family legacy or secure a firm financial future. Besides your parents, you may get advice from a counselor or admissions expert.
A high school counselor will have access to all four years of your academic record, so they can give you a clear sense of observations made about you from teachers and administrators. This may even include assessments taken to determine a best career fit based on your personality and aptitude test results. A counselor can give you helpful and neutral career advice. Working with a college admissions expert is another great way to get career advice that could lead to helping you pick what to study in college.
4. Take personality tests
There are numerous personality tests you can take that can give you some direction with choosing a major. Personality tests like the Myers-Briggs 16 personalities test will produce a four to five letter acronym that tells how you rank in terms of introversion and extroversion, intuition and sensing, thinking and feeling, and judging and perceiving.
Besides this personality test, others include the career Strong Interest Inventory, which is based on the Myers-Briggs. These assessments can give students a sense of their strengths and weaknesses and their professional disposition. This information would be useful for students to gain a greater idea if they are wondering, “how do I choose a Bachelor’s degree?” You can choose a Bachelor’s degree through personality tests if you need external insights.
5. Undergraduate vs. graduate vs. doctoral
When choosing a major, you’ll want to think about the long-term educational requirements. Wanting to major in pre-med or biology in order to become a doctor will require many years of college. You will want to think about this when making your choice.
Other majors besides medicine that require additional years of schooling include law, social work, and psychology. If you plan on being licensed and certified in some fields, you’ll need as many as 12 years of schooling after high school. Think carefully about this when choosing a major.
6. STEM vs. Liberal Arts
The rise of tech jobs has inspired many students to seek out STEM careers. This includes subjects like chemistry, civil engineering, and mathematics. These subjects can lead to prosperous careers that allow you to work in innovative fields expanding the digital age.
At the same time, there are issues with gender disparities, so there tend to be more men in STEM programs than women. Initiatives to increase women and minorities in STEM have helped to generate interest. But, liberal arts majors are still just as valuable for building those knowledge and skills that can apply to a wide variety of careers.
If STEM is not your passion, then don’t force yourself to choose this major because its trendy or popular, and definitely don’t pick it because of pressure from others. Choosing a major is a very personal and independent decision, so only choose STEM if you feel confidently in your ability to see it through or deal with failure if you end up switching.
7. To minor or not to minor
Many degree programs offer a minor option, so students will also have to ask themselves “How do I choose a major AND a minor in college?” Unless your program requires it, there is no major reason to choose a minor unless you have multiple interests you want to explore. A minor is a great way to supplement your interests and combine your passions.
If you want to focus on finance for a future career in banking, then you might minor in art history to learn more about historical art periods. A decision to major in business may give you the option to minor in advertising, as a supplement to your future career in marketing.
Your minor choice should allow you to further explore interests you have that may not align with your career choice. The additional 15 to 20 credits you’ll need will add on to your time spent in college, so think about this as well when choosing whether you should choose a major and minor in college.
8. Salary potential
Even though people say you should ignore it, the amount of money you have the potential to make is an important consideration for what to study in college. The future salary potential of your desired career will determine if the cost of a particular major will give you a return on your investment. If you are majoring in an expensive subject that leads to a high-paying career, like medicine and law, the likelihood of getting a return on that investment is high.
Other majors are less likely to lead to high-paying jobs, like history and sociology. These subjects provide highly intellectual subject study that leads to understanding the complexities of the modern world, but they may not lead to high-paying jobs in tech. People who major in history are more likely to become high school teachers than CEOs. But, every major has the potential to spark an idea and lead to leadership and executive roles.
9. Earnings vs. enjoyment
At the same time, the need to earn a living should be balanced with the need to enjoy what you do everyday. So many people are caught in an endless loop of dreary days because they hate their careers and want to quit their jobs. Studying a major you are passionate about that speaks to something deep in your soul will help you to identify what will lead to more happiness than dread.
Choosing a major that has high earning potential and leads to enjoyment is the ideal win-win situation. This means thinking critically about the reality of the major you choose. You have the ultimate decision on what to study in college, so do research on future trends and what careers will be most needed as populations age, this includes both youth and elders. This should help you decide on a major that will help you develop in a way that continues to inspire you for a long time to come.
10. Switching majors
If all else fails, and you pick a major that you hate, you can change it. Most colleges give students the option to either wait to declare a major until their sophomore or junior year or to switch their major. However, students should not think that they have unlimited swaps.
Every time you change your major, you will need to meet with your advisor to discuss which classes you’ve already taken that will and will not count toward your major. Doing this too many times can put you behind your graduation goals and delay your ability to enter the professional world.
You should switch majors if you absolutely abhor a major after encountering a boring or uninteresting course or material that is too difficult for you to grasp. But, think about this failure as a way to redirect and find out what major is better suited to you.
Top 10 Best College Majors
Though trends change, some college majors are projected to grow and keep on growing. These are industries that are in very high demand and which see shortages of the workforce in the future. Here are the top 10 best college majors.
A degree in computer science will lead to a variety of careers in cool industries like robotics, artificial intelligence, programming, and gaming technology. Computer scientists work with software and hardware, helping businesses identify how technology can meet their needs. Computer science as a major allows students to practice those problem solving and analytical skills. Careers in computer science include:
- Software developer
- Business intelligence analyst
- IT support
- Web developer
- Network systems administrator
- UX designer
- Mobile app developer
- IT project manager
- Information security analyst
- AI engineer
Communications majors are usually people who value talking, including telling stories, being outgoing and witty, and having a personality that is always the center of attention. Communications involves studying how to write speeches and scripts, how to finetune messaging to an audience, and how to use verbal and nonverbal messages to convey something.
Communications is one of those universal majors that applies to almost every industry. There are communications roles in business, advertising, marketing, human resources, public relations, government, education, media, and social services. Careers in communications include:
- Media broadcasting
- Public relations
- Marketing and advertising
- Business relations
- Manufacturing and industrial relations
Government and political science are two majors that will give you the chance to study current events and perform statistical analysis on demographic data. This major applies to the study of American government as well as international governments, public policy, foreign affairs, and philosophy.
Political science majors will work on developing those vital critical thinking and communication skills that are necessary for roles in politics and government. At the same time, they will develop their reading, writing, and math skills through studying the actions of government actors. Careers in government and political science include:
- Museum director or manager
Majoring in business allows students to develop leadership skills and people skills. This means becoming an expert at problem solving and decision making, crunching numbers and communicating facts. Business can span a variety of theories ranging from accounting, finance, and marketing to economics, statistics, and human resources.
Business also includes the study of entrepreneurship an the basic skills of budgeting, organizing, planning, hiring, directing, controlling, and managing the diverse parts of organizations. A business major could feature a focus on start-ups or corporations with thousands of employees. Business is another major that can span several industries, like diversity initiatives, ethics, politics, and government. Careers in business might look like:
- Financial analyst
- Real estate agent
- Business operations specialist
- Human resources manager
- Benefits and compensation manager
- Insurance adjustor
- Sales manager
Related to business, an economics major allows students study the financial systems involved at individual level, a business level, a government level, and a national level. Economics will teach students to think critically and perform complex math functions regarding resource allocation and time and money expenditures.
Knowing how goods are produced, distributed, and consumed gives insights and becomes an invaluable tool for decoding the complexities of the modern world. Students in economics may go on to work in law, public policy, and international studies. Some careers that are built on economics as a major are:
- Data analyst
- Financial risk analysis
- Investment analyst
- Financial planner
- Securities trader
- Compliance officer
- External auditor
English Language and Literature
Studying English language and English literature in college is a dream come true for readers and writers. You will do a ton of reading and writing in this major. English courses may be organized by form, such fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Or they may be organized by time period with a focuses on Elizabethan or Post-Colonial literature.
Other English courses are built around types of literature, like romance or historical fiction or even fantasy. Still other courses might focus on authors, like Japanese literature, or subject matter, like epistolary books written through letters. Business plan examples
English majors will have the chance to analyze the works of the most intelligent and creative people throughout history and use what they uncover to develop their critical, emotional, creative, and moral disposition. English majors may go on to work in careers in law, journalism, publishing, education, or even further graduate study. Some careers in English include:
- Marketing associate
The psychology major is great for people ho enjoy learning about the brain and how biology impacts psychology. If you enjoy analyzing people and why they react in certain ways in different situations, then psychology will give you the option to focus on the human mind, how it learns, develops cognitively, builds intelligence, follows motivations, interprets emotions, perceives the world, shapes personality, experience mental health disorders, and how all of these are shaped by genetic dispositions inherited from parents and the result of nurturing received in their environment.
Psychology major may have specializations that include educating different ages of people, communicating with different populations, and helping to resolve problems caused by errors in human behavior. On the job market, psychology major might find jobs as:
- Child development specialists
- Social workers
- Mental health counselors
- Research assistants
Nursing majors tend to be people who are compassionate and resilient in the face of dealing with some pretty traumatizing events in the medical and healthcare fields. Nursing majors learn how to evaluate, diagnose, and treat health problems. Nursing is highly specialized and hands-on with students participating in clinical rotations at hospitals and medical facilities in areas of interest, like pediatrics or geriatrics.
Nursing majors also take certification exams that are required in order to obtain licenses to register for and work in the nursing field. Nursing majors have the most ways to specialize including going into neurology, oncology, podiatry, ophthalmology, and so many other fields related to health problems in different parts of the body. Nursing majors may go on to work in:
- Registered nurse
- Nurse anesthetist
- Nurse midwife
- Clinical nursing educator
- Radiology nurse
- NICU nurse
- Rehabilitation nurse
- Plastic surgery nurse
- Public health nurse
Chemical engineering majors combine the worlds of engineering, chemistry, and biochemistry. Chemical engineering majors study molecular structures and develop chemical processes to produce or refine chemicals, oil and petroleum, foods and food additives, and pharmaceuticals. Chemical engineers study the processes involved with building and operating industrial and manufacturing plants that are used to chemically alter raw materials into finished produces.
A new wave of chemical engineering majors may study ways to make different chemicals environmentally safe and produce less hazardous waste, like paper, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, plastics, oil and gas, and many other processes, like energy production. Chemical engineerings may find jobs working in:
- Process design engineer
- Environmental engineer
- Plant process engineer
- Process safety engineer
- Environmental waste management
- Petroleum engineer
- Water treatment engineer
- Aerospace engineer
- Nuclear engineer
The final major in our top 10 list of best majors to study in college is biology. This major is the foundation of all of the areas related to life in the world. The biology major is the study of humans, plants, animals, and the environment in ecosystems of interdependent living that are connected at the cellular level.
Biology majors work to cure diseases, identify new pathogens, and develop innovative technologies that can be used in other fields, like health and medicine. Biology majors may find jobs working as:
- Environmental conservation scientist
- Forensic scientist
- Disease researcher
- Occupational therapist
AdmissionSight Produces Results
Students who work with AdmissionSight receive expert advice and guidance on the entire college application process, from selecting colleges to apply to identifying majors to enroll in. Choosing what to study in college is one of the most important decisions a new college student will make. Schedule a consultation with an AdmissionSight expert to find the best college major for you.