One of the biggest struggles that incoming freshmen have during their first year of college is choosing a major. This is understandable, since your major is a huge part of your future career prospects, making it a monumental decision. However, the mistake many freshmen make is declaring too rashly or too soon. To quote the great Treebeard of Fangorn Forest, “don’t be hasty.”
Even if you’re coming in completely certain about what you want to do, there’s no reason to declare right away. Most schools don’t require you to declare until the end of sophomore year. The best thing you can do is use your general education requirements to experiment with different subjects. You never know if you’ll fall in love with history or organic chemistry after a really awesome gen-ed class.
For those who have no idea what they want to major in, this is especially important! Shop around subjects, try new classes, meet the professors in different departments, and ASK QUESTIONS! There is no rush at all, so there’s no need to force it. Do what feels right. Find out the requirements of any majors you might possibly be interested in. The important thing is to learn as much about the major as you can before you commit to it. It is also worthwhile to stop by your university’s career center. Many schools have programs designed to help freshmen learn how to choose a major, or, at the least, have a counselor who can hear you out and give you some advice. You’ve already paid for their services in your tuition and fees, so you might as well take advantage of it!
The exception to this rule is medical school. While you definitely don’t have to major in a science to apply and be admitted to medical school, there are several classes that are required for admission and a good score on the MCAT. Therefore, if you are considering going to medical school, be sure to look up these requirements ASAP. While you may not need to declare your major immediately, you should highly consider incorporating the mandatory classes into your general education requirements wherever possible, and make sure to start taking them during your first year. That way, when you do declare, you’ll have time to finish your major requirements without also worrying about fitting in the medical school requirements as well.
The most important piece of advice I have to give is to do what you’re passionate about. So many people choose a major based off of job prospects and not what they enjoy learning about. This makes for not only a difficult and unhappy four years, but an even more miserable career and life ahead. In reality, only 27% of people end up in a career that is directly related to their major, according to a study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. There are thousands of careers that can be made available from any major. You just have to learn how to present your education to employers based on the job you’re pursuing. Many humanities majors, for example, have excellent research, communication, and writing skills that are less developed than science majors, thereby making them more appealing to certain employers. Don’t count out a major you love just because you’re worried that you won’t get a job with it. If you work hard enough and pursue all available opportunities, you can make it work. Again, talking to your career center can be an excellent way to find out which careers some majors benefit very well, if you’re not sure. In the end, it’s up to you to follow your heart and choose what you’re most passionate about. You’ll thank yourself for it when you’re actually enjoying your time at college instead of dying for four years of classes that you hate.