General Education

Freshman Guide to Picking a College Major

Freshman Guide to Picking a College Major
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Emma Yenko August 5, 2014

Some students have figured out their college major in high school, and some can't decide until the deadline to pick a major is almost approaching. You don't need to be in either of these situations to know which major is right for you.

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For many fresh high school graduates, choosing a college major may seem like a Herculean task. How many 18 year olds really know what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives? You have to make this decision eventually, and below are some thoughts to help you get started.

Know Yourself

A good place to start when choosing a college major would simply be with you. What are your strengths and interests? What kind of personality do you have? What activities do you enjoy doing most?

Discover Your Motive

Why do you want to go to college? Your answer to this question can also help you decide on a college major. Are you going to college so you can land a high paying job after four years? Or do you have a passion or a talent (acting, painting, music) that you want to hone in college?

It’s important to be completely honest with yourself when you answer this question. If earning a six-figure salary is your reason for going to college, by all means research the majors that will most likely give you the skills to achieve this. staff writer, Jenna Goudreau, has a good round-up of the college majors with excellent income potential after graduation.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at college as an opportunity to pursue a life-long passion, don’t let naysayers or know-it-alls prevent you from chasing your dream. There is great wisdom behind the words of Amy Rees Anderson, another contributor. She writes: people who are “[…] truly passionate about the work [they] are doing, will have the greatest chance of achieving financial success."

You Can Change Your Mind

Even after you have given this matter your full attention and careful consideration, you may still discover after a year or two that you want to change your major. Don’t despair; you are not alone. Jeffrey Selingo, editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education, states that “by the end of their first year, a quarter of all freshmen change their minds about their field of study."

Go to your career counselor and review your options and choose the path that will allow you to graduate on time with your newly chosen major, or as close to four years as possible.

College is an opportunity to grow, to discover who you are and to learn new things about the real world you will soon be entering as a full-fledged adult. Expect your understanding and views about yourself, life, relationships, and your future to undergo fundamental and dramatic transformations. If you remain the same person after graduation as you were as a freshman, what good has college really done for you? Changing your college major will certainly compel you to take stock and make a few tough decisions; but this is all part of your journey to adulthood. Go easy on yourself.

After making the best and most informed decision you can about your college major, throw yourself – heart and mind, body and soul - into college life. It may be many years before you get another chance to experience so many opportunities for change and growth again. Embrace it!


Anderson, A. R. (2013, March 27). Does being passionate about the work you do increase your chance for success?.

Bolles, R. N., & Christen, C. (2010). What color is your parachute? For teens: Discovering yourself, defining your future. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.

Goudreau, J. (2012, May 15). The 15 most valuable college majors Web log message]. [

Hansen, R. (2007). The complete idiot's guide to choosing a college major. New York, NY: Alpha Books. How to choose a college major. (n.d.).

Mayfield, J., & Mayfield, K. (2013, February 20). Take 5 steps before changing your major. USNews

Selingo, J. J. (2013, April 29). Does the college major matter? Not really. The New York Times

10 things to consider before choosing your major. (n.d.).

Top 10 highest paying college majors. (n.d.).


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