For many high school students, the thought of selecting a college major seems daunting. How, at the age of 17 or 18, are you supposed to choose a field of study that will lead to a career you may have for years to come?
First, it’s important to note that at most colleges, you don’t have to declare a major until the end of your second year. Typically, students spend their first two years taking general education classes in a wide variety of subjects. It is often through these classes, which offer exposure to many different fields, that students come to decide on a major.
Although you likely won’t have to declare a specific major until your sophomore year, you may have to make some broad choices about what you want to study before you arrive on campus as a freshman. That’s because many universities require students to apply to a specific school or college within the university when they apply for admission. For example, you may have to decide whether to apply to the business school, the college of arts and sciences, the school of engineering, etc. Choose carefully, because depending on where you go to, transferring from one school to another within a university may not be easy.
Therefore, it’s wise to have some general ideas about what you might major in before you apply to college. Fortunately, there are a number of surveys and assessments, many of them free or low-cost, that can help you identify majors that would be a good fit for your personality type, interests, and skills.
- Do What You Are: This is based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a widely-used, longstanding personality test. In addition to identifying your personality type, it recommends majors and careers that would be a good fit for your personality. Do What You Are is available through Naviance, a college planning platform for high schools. If your school uses Naviance, log into your account and look for the Do What You Are assessment. (This is an add-on that not all schools pay for, so you might not see it.)
- AchieveWorks Personality: If your school doesn’t use Naviance or its Naviance subscription doesn’t include Do What You Are, you can take the same assessment online (under the name AchieveWorks Personality), for $9.95.
- TypeFinder Personality Test: This is another Myers-Briggs based personality test. Although you can take it and access your results for free, the website will prompt you to pay for a full report that includes careers that fit your personality type. However, there is a workaround so that you don’t have to pay: on the website, click on “Myers Briggs Types” at the top and select your type. Then, click on the “Careers” tab to see a list of careers. Click on a career and then scroll down to the “Education and Training” section, where you will find majors related to that career.
- Find My Spark: If you are a Discovery College Consulting client, we will have you take a personality test called Find My Spark. This is available on a platform called Guided Path, which we subscribe to and make available to our clients at no cost to them. Like the above personality tests, Find My Spark is based on the Myers-Briggs and provides a list of majors and careers that match your personality type.
- MyMajors: MyMajors asks questions about your interests, both academic and extracurricular, and then produces a list of ten majors that align with those interests. Discovery College Consulting’s students take this survey and can access all ten majors through our company’s account, but if you’re taking it independently, you initially will see just five majors. In order to see all ten, click on “My Report” in the “My Plan” box and then add at least one major, one career, and one college to your favorites. The full report includes descriptions of each major on your list, as well as potential careers that correspond to each major.
- There are aspects of MyMajors that I don’t like — for example, some of the majors it recommends are so obscure that you’ll only find them at a handful of colleges — but I’ve searched the web for other assessments and can’t find any I like better. Therefore, MyMajors is the only one I’m including in this blog post.
- YouScience: This is a series of aptitude tests or “brain games” that assess such skills as vocabulary, numerical reasoning, idea generation, and spatial visualization. After completing the brain games (which take about 1.5 hours total but don’t have to be done all at once), you will receive an extensive report that explains your strengths as related to each aptitude and suggests careers that match those strengths. You can then read more about the recommended careers, including seeing related majors. Discovery College Consulting provides YouScience to our students at no cost to them, but if you’re taking it on your own, it’s $29.
- As with interest inventories, I’m only providing information about one skills assessment because I think it’s the best one available.
While surveys and assessments are a great place to begin your consideration of potential majors, they are by no means where you should end. Stay tuned for a future blog post that explains how you can use survey results to further explore possible majors.