In a previous blog post, I described several surveys and assessments students can take to help them identify potential college majors. But identifying possible majors is only the first step; in order to make an informed choice about your college major, you also need to research and explore different options.
- Majors Research: After Discovery College Consulting’s students complete assessments to find majors that match their personality type, interests, and skills, we ask them to choose at least two majors they want to research and learn more about. We then have them research each major at two different colleges so they can compare and contrast the programs. Our students look at the courses required for each major of interest to see if these courses sound appealing to them or not. Some students become more interested in a specific major after completing this research, whereas others are less interested after learning what a particular major entails. Although you won’t know exactly what it’s like to take courses in a certain major until you get to college, examining the requirements ahead of time can give you a good idea of what to expect.
- Career Research: Along with researching majors, it’s wise to investigate what kinds of careers you might be able to pursue with a given major. YouScience, which I described in my previous post, provides a list of careers that are a good fit for your aptitudes and includes information about each career’s job responsibilities, core tasks, education required, and state-specific salary and job opening information. MyMajors, also described in my previous post, indicates potential careers that correspond with each of the majors it recommends. On the MyMajors website, you’ll find information about a wide variety of careers, including job responsibilities, education required, skills needed, and average salaries. Other websites that are useful for researching careers are College Board and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.
- Informational Interviews: Doing an informational interview with someone in a career you’re interested in is a great way to learn more about that career. See this blog post for tips on informational interviewing.
- High School Classes: Once you’ve identified a major of interest, find out if your high school offers classes in that subject or a related subject. For example, if you’re interested in political science, take a U.S. government or civics class. If you’re considering marketing, look for courses in business and/or economics. If you’re thinking about studying engineering, take physics and the highest level math you can handle. Some high schools also have engineering courses.
- Activities: Even if your school doesn’t offer classes in a subject you’re considering as a possible major, there may be ways to gain experience with that subject through an activity at your school or in the community. (And, if your school does have classes in that subject, an activity could enable you to further explore it.) Sticking with the political science example, you could run for student council, join the debate team, and/or do Model UN. Outside of school, perhaps your city or town has a teen advisory board or youth commission you could apply for. Political campaigns are always looking for volunteers, even if you’re too young to vote.
- Summer Opportunities: Summers provide a chance to dig even deeper into a field of interest. If your school doesn’t have any relevant classes, you could take a class at a local community college or participate in an academic program at a four-year college. (Many such programs include housing and meals on campus, so they are also a chance to experience college life.) Again, if you are interested in political science, many elected officials offer internships for high school students. Boys State and Girls State programs are available in every state, giving students an opportunity to learn about how government works by engaging in mock government activities.
While research and exploration can help you make an educated decision about a major, you may still change your mind once you’re in college. However, changing your major multiple times can result in you taking longer to graduate, thus costing you and your family more money and delaying your entry into the workforce or graduate school. Furthermore, a change of major may require transferring to a different college or school within your university, which may be difficult, or it could mean transferring to another university altogether. Therefore, the more you can research and explore potential majors before starting college, the better off you’ll be.