Why isn’t picking a major in college as easy as getting sorted into a house in Harry Potter? What I would have given for some magic being to tell me, “this is what you will do.” It would have saved me the stress from my first year of college. But then again, discovering what you want to study is a huge part of growing as a person. Or, at least for me, it was. Picking a major is finding a passion that you want to apply to your career.
College is supposed to be this place we go to study a specific subject to better our futures. But what good is that future if you are miserable at your job? I always think about the scene from We’re the Millers where Jason Sudeikis’ character describes what sort of haircut he wants. IFYKYK. Finding your passion should be the first step in picking a major. You can make money doing anything, but the money isn’t going to fulfill you. It might make life easier but being stress-free is not the same as having joy in your life.
Finding your passion in college is probably the most fun part of the whole college experience. There are very few times in life that you get to go out and try a bunch of different things and figure out what works for you with little to no consequences. I went into college thinking I wanted to be an engineer, partly hoping to get some affirmation from my dad (that’s a topic for another day) and because I enjoyed the CAD and engineering classes I took in high school. The last thing I thought I would ever do was get an English Lit degree. Life has a funny way of showing us what our strengths and passions are. I went from STEM to Humanities and never looked back.
I don’t have to spell it out for you. Some degrees make more money than others. But not everyone is cut out to work in finance. Yes, you can make more money, but can you sit in a cubicle and stare at spreadsheets all day? I would rather swim in a pool of snakes than work with numbers. I 100% believe that anyone can do anything if they put their minds to it, but will it fulfill you. Your future career isn’t dependent on your major but on figuring out how to apply your skills to a specific industry. Money can be made everywhere, so find the thing that won’t leave you miserable.
Picking the right school
Not every school is going to have the best program for your major. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to go somewhere with a horrible track record for your major, so make sure to do your research beforehand. Picking the right school goes hand in hand with picking the right major. If you want some tips on picking the right school for you, I wrote a piece giving advice. You can read it here.
Nothing is Permanent
Just because you declare a major doesn’t mean you are stuck there forever. The earlier you figure out your major, the easier you’ll have to plan out what classes you need to take and when. But knowing early is just a convenience. So if you try something and realize it’s not for you, then try something else. The rule of thumb is that you should know what major you want to declare by the end of your second year. Your first two years are just generic classes, and you won’t get into classes for your major until after those two years. There are exceptions to that rule, but when isn’t an exception?
At the end of the day
Picking a major is the biggest choice you’ll make in college, outside of picking what school you will attend. Honestly, get a degree in whatever makes you happy since college is more about learning skills and applying them in real-world scenarios. Only about 27% of people work in the field they majored in in college. An English Literature degree isn’t all that applicable to other jobs outside of teaching and writing on paper. But if you break down the skills I cultivated, such as articulating thoughts and editing, I can apply that to content creation and marketing. You’ll learn more about real-world skills once you graduate, but picking a major that suits your strengths is the first step to living a fulfilling and successful life. Collegeboard has a great blog about picking a major that breaks it down a little more.