Yesterday I posted a definition of the word “major,” as it applies to an area of study, in the College Speak series. This got me thinking about the process of choosing a major. It also got me thinking about an earlier choice, one that’s coming up this spring for high school seniors: the choice between schools with different departments and programs.
It is pretty early in your life to have a firm idea of what you want to do for the next, say, 50 years. If you are unsure about it, you are not alone.
As such, it may seem a little bit wrong to have to choose between two schools that really you like based on the majors that they offer. To take a some of the pressure off of this upcoming decision, I encourage you to keep the following two points in mind:
The choice of a major is not all-important.
Your choice of a career has more impact on how much you earn than your choice of a major, and many careers are not tied to any particular major. In fact, it is pretty normal for graduates to actively seek careers that are quite different from their majors.
In college, your main goal should be to enjoy the learning process and do well; success in school leads to future success, regardless of major. You don’t want to suffer through a major—and perhaps get lower grades—just because you think graduates with that major earn more money.
One caveat is that certain fields do require specific majors. If you want to be a chemical engineer, for example, you should major in chemical engineering—there’s no way around that. That said . . .
Students change majors all the time.
You can always change your mind! Research shows that up to 50 percent of college students change their major at least once, and some change it several times.
If you are considering several different majors, it makes most sense to go to a school that offers all of them or at least as many of them as possible. If you ultimately decide that you’d like to study something not offered at your school, you will need to transfer to another school. (Think of all of the time and effort it took to apply to schools this year—you’d like to avoid doing it again, if possible.) However, if you do end up in this situation, you should take comfort in the fact that you will have plenty of company—about 2.5 million students transfer every year.