I can remember, almost 7 years ago, lying on the floor of my parent’s living room, working on college applications. As I worked my way through the biographical information, thought about who to ask for recommendation letters, and wished I didn’t have to fill it all out…
…one question really made me stumble: What major did I want to apply for? For most people this question comes with a lot of pressure, because it will impact your career trajectory. It’s my desire to relieve some of that pressure and provide you with some insights from my own college major decision process, as well as some of the things I have learned through my years in the Grove City College Office of Admissions. Let’s start by asking a few questions:
I am a strong believer that doing something you’re passionate about will help you lead a successful life. Seriously though, if you have a job that you love to do, work stops feeling like work. I prefer to measure my success, not by how much money I have, but how much happiness I have in my day to day life (though it doesn’t hurt to make money in the process!). So I think it’s important to take time and think about things you enjoy doing and consider majors that involve those things.
Remember our last post on self-assessment? Now would be a great time to put that to use! Think about the things you are passionate about. Are there social justice issues you feel strongly about? Do you love the arts? Do you get excited when learning about how the human body works? If you’re not quite sure how to answer this question, then a good place to start would be to consider what extracurricular activities you’re involved in. Are you part of a school club? Have you been playing an instrument since elementary school? Are you on the debate team?
Another clue is looking at what you choose to do in your leisure time. Do you enjoy being physically active? Do you like building things? Are you an artist? What you enjoy doing in your leisure time can give you insight into what career fields may be a good fit for you. You don’t necessarily have to make a career out of these activities, but they can offer insight into your personality that will be helpful in selecting a major. Keep this in mind as we talk about the next question. Combining the answer to this question with the answer to the next question will help you come up with some concrete ideas for a major.
Hopefully this is an easy question to answer! Often the things we are good at are also the things we enjoy spending time doing. An easy place to start is to look at your school work. What subjects in school come naturally to you? What classes do you get the best grades in? If you grasp math and science concepts easily, you may want to look into careers within those fields. If you can easily analyze the meaning of a piece of literature, maybe you would do well in a communications or english field. Maybe studying another language comes naturally to you. Perhaps you’d like to pursue a career in international relations or translating.
Another thing to consider is what role you play in your extracurricular activities. Are you the leader of a club? Maybe you’d enjoy a career in management. Do you prefer to plan and organize events or meetings? Perhaps you would do well in an administrative or coordinator role. Are you good at explaining ideas or concepts to your peers. Maybe you’d make a great educator.
It’s always best to try and first answer these questions for yourself, but I get that sometimes you just don’t know! Don’t forget the value of resources like your parents and friends who know you well. Ask them to help identify your strengths, weaknesses, and interests.
There are also a lot of great self-assessment tools out there. CAUTION: these are just tools. They can’t tell you everything about yourself, so don’t allow the results to “box you in”. Two resources I believe can be helpful in assessing your personality, skills, interests, and values are the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Strong Interest Inventory. The MBTI assesses personality while the Strong Interest Inventory is more explicitly focused on career planning. Both can be used to help understand what careers may be a good fit for you. If you need help interpreting what your results mean, I’d recommend this site.
A helpful tool for translating your skills into a major is o.net. This site offers career suggestions based on your skill-set.
So maybe you already have a career in mind, but do you know much about it? I have seen a couple of my friends, who have entered college with a particular career in mind, switch majors after finding out that the career they thought they wanted, wasn’t really what they dreamt it would be. One thing that can really help you get a better idea of a particular career is job shadowing. I realize you may not have a lot of adult friends to ask, so I would recommend starting with your parents’ network of friends. Ask them if they have any connections within the field you’re interested in.
Job shadowing can give you an insider’s perspective on the career and can even lead to a great mentor or internship opportunity down the road. If job shadowing isn’t an option, maybe you can schedule a lunch with someone in the job field or retired from the job field, just to get some questions answered. Be sure to prepare for a shadow experience or career interview with thinking of some good questions to ask. I like this list of seven questions.
If you have a career in mind but aren’t sure what to major in, a great resource for researching what jobs are available for any given major is http://whatcanidowiththismajor.com/major/. This website, while not the end all be all, will allow you to select a major and see what kinds of careers people who have this degree tend to get in to!
Being unsure is okay! The older I get, the more I realize that there are very few people who are 100% sure of what they want to do with their life. Here at Grove City College (and most other schools), you have the option to apply as “Undeclared”. This gives you the opportunity to sample a few different classes from different majors and see if anything “clicks.” All the while you will be paired with an advisor who will help you try to sift through the information and identify the major that is the best fit for you. At Grove City College, we are blessed to have a Career Services Office that is in the top 20 in the nation. The CSO has all kinds of different assessments and counseling options for students who aren’t sure what career path they want to take, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
*picture found at this site