What I Wish I Knew About Picking a College Major

The following is a guest post written by Tiffany Sorensen, a tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors.

There are a few points I wish someone had shared with me before I agonized over picking my college major. In hindsight, what felt like an impossible choice at the time was really not such a life-or-death matter. Here are three things you should know about picking a college major:

1. It is not the biggest decision I will have to make

When the time comes to pick your college major—whether you are a high school student filling out college applications or a college student nearing the end of sophomore year—you should realize that this is not the biggest decision you will ever have to make. It may feel like it, but there are other significant issues you will encounter as well in your academic career, such as deciding whether or not to go to graduate school, whether you wish to stay at your current school or transfer, whether you wish to study abroad, etc.   

During my senior year of high school, I had trouble deciding which major to select on my college applications. I had such an array of interests—history, languages, education—so I finally opted for “undecided.” I was troubled by my own inability to settle, but I became pleasantly surprised once I finally got to college and learned how easy it was to change majors; it basically just involved filling out a form from the Registrar’s Office and obtaining a signature or two. Switching majors is often a relatively painless process (though it ultimately depends on your school’s policies), so long as you are not too close to graduating when you wish to make the switch.

[RELATED: What I Wish I Knew When Graduating High School]

2. My major does not have to dictate my career path

You may think the only way to secure a job in finance, for example, is by majoring in finance or business. A finance or business degree can make you a more qualified candidate for a job in finance, but it may not always be a necessity. Oftentimes, employers will gladly accept a degree in a related field—in this case, perhaps mathematics, management, etc.—or relevant internship experience, instead of a very specific degree.

If this information is surprising to you, speak to some working professionals whom you know. Ask them about their higher education. You may learn that a practicing lawyer completed her undergraduate degree in biology, or that your English teacher first studied ceramics. It is extremely common for people to begin one career path and have a change of heart later on. Even if you feel set on one particular major, you may dabble in a class outside your program that inspires you to take a new direction. Be open to the possibilities!

[RELATED: Is it Important to Declare a Major Before Starting College?]

3. I will have to take many courses outside my major, too

Did you know that maybe only around one-third of the courses you take in college will be directly related to your major? This is because colleges require you to take general education classes as well, which are meant to enrich your mind in a variety of areas and increase your overall outlook. Do not think that just because you selected chemistry as your major that you will only be studying chemistry for the next four years. In fact, you may only get to take one or two chemistry classes your first year.

No matter their major, college students must take classes in the sciences and in the humanities; usually, the only exception is AP scores (and other analogous test scores) from high school that count for college credits. However, try to see general education requirements in a positive light. You can explore unique courses, such as “Ancient Egyptian Art” and “Freudian Psychology,”  and learn about other fields you did not even know existed.

To fulfill a math requirement, I took a class called “Applied Statistics” my sophomore year. Even though I was initially unexcited about having to take a college-level math class, I ended up learning a great deal and even developing a love for statistics. You never know until you try!

Now you know: selecting a certain major is not an irreversible action, your major can be slightly unrelated to your eventual career, and you will still be able to take classes outside your program. Hopefully, this information will relieve some of the anxiety you may be experiencing about selecting a major.

Check out Tiffany’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.

Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at blog@varsitytutors.com.