Image from Stocksnap.

Image from Stocksnap.

It’s ubiquitous, yet it strikes fear into the heart of the most capable college student. Wielded by parents and friends alike, it can stun in a second. It’s a simple question, innocently spoken:

“What’s your major?”

Even colleges are in on the conspiracy. Before you step foot on campus as an admitted student, before you can even submit your application, you have to answer the question. What high school senior knows what they want to study for the next four years and what to do with the rest of their life? But maybe you’re one of the lucky few who already know. Maybe you have it exactly what you want to do you know exactly where you want to study it all planned out.

Hold on there buster.

While it’s great to know your subject of interest in advance, your major shouldn’t play a major role in determining where you go to college. (See what I did there?) The future can be volatile. You might get to school and realize that your intended major simply isn’t feasible now, for whatever reason. You might arrive and fall in love with a major that’s new, different, and totally unrelated to what you thought you wanted to do. The subject you love today can be the subject you loathe tomorrow, due to overly challenging classes, shifts in perspective, or random flights of whimsy.

In fact, if you’re dead set on going to a specific school for a specific major, you might become blinded to the school’s other qualities or compromise on aspects of your college search that are important to you. For example, if you know you want to go to school somewhere warm but the school with your dream major is in Alaska, you might want to look elsewhere. If you ignore what you want and go anyway, and you end up hating or switching your major, be ready to invest in a sturdy winter coat and make friends with polar bears.

Perhaps that example is far fetched, but you must remember that your major is just one aspect of your college career. It’s not worth compromising on intangible qualities you really want, like a solid academic reputation, simply for the sake of your major. If you’re considering other schools, see if they have similar majors. In fact, at some schools, you can create your own major. Some schools are more accepting of proposed majors than others, so make sure you do your research to see if it’s worth the effort. Sure, it may prolong your college search, but it’s worth it so you’re fully educated about all of your options.

Finally, if you’re completely set on your intended major, you might miss out on opportunities to learn about other things. If your school has general education requirements, embrace them. Instead of seeing them as a necessary evil, use them as an opportunity to learn about something you might not ever have the chance to again (like underwater basket weaving or the life cycles of aquatic creatures!)

Of course, there are perks for starting college completely sure of what you want to do. It’s easier to plan ahead and check yourself to make sure you’re on the right track, and you have a solid answer to the dreaded question, “What’s your major?” But if you only want to go to the University of X to major in architecture of pre-medieval Europe, you might be limiting yourself in the long run.

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