There’s nothing simple about choosing a college major.
From balancing your natural skill set against your future career trajectory, to walking the fine line between what you want for yourself versus what your loved ones expect from you, the decision can be nothing short of agony. In many cases, it may be tempting to simply select the first option that’s available to you, just to get the whole thing settled and done with.
This is exactly where a bit of self-awareness comes in handy.
Discovering your Myers-Briggs personality type may help you avoid one of these all-too-common pitfalls that your type tends to make when declaring a major. In short, let the mistakes of others like you, lead YOU to academic success.
Don’t: Sign up for a four-year degree based on an interest you’ve had for three weeks. I know it’s ridiculously cool that you can take an entire degree in occult studies. But if you only learned the word ‘occult’ this morning, you might want to consider how enthusiastic you’re going to be about this program in three years. Or in 10 years, when your entire career is based around it.
Do: Consider which topics have captivated your interest long-term. Though you have a varied intellectual appetite, there are certain subjects you routinely find yourself circling back to. Whether it’s creative writing, psychology, astrophysics or performing arts, you need a program that provides you with variety and ongoing challenge. Don’t set yourself up for a failure by keeping your focus too narrow!
Don’t: Ignore who you are in favor of who you’d like to be. The ideal ‘you’ who lives in your head may be the next Jane Goodall or Barack Obama. But if you aren’t interested in learning about anthropology or political sciences, your ideal self isn’t going to do the studying for you. So it’s best you start thinking a little less about who you’d like to become in the future and a little more about who you are today.
Do: Consider what inspires you right now. When it comes to engaging with your passions, you’re unstoppable. Harness that creative energy by considering which topics you’d feel excited to pick up a textbook about today. Your life will be comprised of a series of day-in-day-out habits, so make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by choosing the habits you love.
Don’t: Try to save the whole world overnight. You’re hell-bent on making a difference and you don’t want to waste time getting started. You’re likely drawn to programs that will put you in the direct line of service—whether it’s medicine, social work, political science or education. And while there’s nothing wrong with any of these subjects, take a moment to ask yourself: will you enjoy the process of studying them, or are you simply attracted to their application?
Do: Remember that above all else, the world needs your energy and joy. ENFJ, you are a people magnet. Others are drawn to your charismatic yet compassionate nature, which means you’ll be a leader in whichever field you choose. Rather than focusing solely on where you’re needed, consider which topics genuinely captivate your interest. Once you devote your life to doing what you love, you’ll light up other’s lives with your enthusiasm.
Don’t: Let your predictions of the future prevent you from studying what you’re interested in right now. The future is happening rapidly and you want to make sure that whichever degree you choose will still be applicable 10 or 20 years after you graduate. While this is a pragmatic consideration, it shouldn’t be the only thing you take into account. The skills you hone through studying a topic you love may end up taking you further than the degree itself does!
Do: Consider your role in creating the future.
More likely than not, the industries you’re interested in won’t disappear—they’ll adapt. And in the process, there will be a high demand for creative, future-oriented thinkers such as yourself to help push those industries forward, into uncharted territory. Don’t become so preoccupied with predicting the future that you forget how great a role you might play in creating it!
Don’t: Pour all your money into the path of least resistance. You’re a critical and independent thinker, but you also tend to procrastinate making long-term decisions. When it comes to choosing a major, it may be tempting to just select whichever program your family or guidance counsellor recommends for you. You’re not certain you NEED a formal education anyway. However, passively choosing a major is an expensive path-of-least-resistance to walk down.
Do: Consider which skills you need to hone, in order to blaze your own path. You’re a master at finding effective short cuts, which means you may not end up in a traditional career path. Instead of focusing on what job you may secure from your education, focus on which skills you might hone that will allow you to take a creative approach to your job hunt in the future. You’re a systematic thinker, so pour your investment into the process, rather than the eventual outcome.
Don’t: Try to learn it all (at once). Your interests are eclectic and wide-ranging—there’s very little that is not of interest to you. As a natural jack-of-all-trades, you may be tempted to take a triple major or switch your course of study multiple times. While this is certainly an engaging way to learn, it is not the most linear (or financially responsible) method.
Do: Select a flexible curriculum. Your intellect isn’t going to be satisfied with studying only one topic—so select a minor that fascinates you just as much as your major, or a major that allows for a wide range of electives. You work best when you have a lot of balls up in the air, so don’t fight this tendency! Indulge yourself in a variety of courses that capture and keep your interest.
Don’t: Lose sight of your future career path. You’re sharp, excitable and present, which means that a wide variety of courses are likely to peak your interest. But before you pick the shiniest-looking degree (whether it’s the thrill of performing arts or the prestigious allure of medicine), consider whether you’re going to enjoy making a steady career out of the subject in the future. You’re a practical person at heart, which means you’ll be kicking yourself if you’re at a loss for job prospects down the line.
Do: Select a practical subject that you can make fun. No one is asking you to give up your enthusiasm in exchange for an education! Rather, pick a topic that engages your natural talents and will allow you to build a career that you’re well-suited for. After all, if there’s anyone who can take a practical position and make it lively and engaging, it’s you!
Don’t: Let others’ perceptions of you stand in the way of your passion. You’re highly aware of how others perceive you and in general, you’re eager to please. But when it comes to your education, it may be time to step outside of what’s impressive to others and think about what you want to study for the sheer love of it. You’re going to spend a LOT of time engaged with whichever topic you choose, so it’s important that the main person who enjoys it is you!
Do: Take your passions into deep consideration. Though others may be urging you to pick the most practical path that’s available, you know that you shine the most brightly when you’re living in alignment with your passion. Choose the degree that inspires you and you’ll be more likely than ever to exceed other peoples’ expectations for you.
Don’t: Automatically write off the subjects you do not excel at. You’re as practical as they come, which means you may be quick to sign yourself up for the first degree that fits with your existing skill set. While there’s nothing wrong with doing what you’re good at, college is a great opportunity to open new doors and develop a wide range of skills. Don’t sell yourself short by pigeon-holing yourself!
Do: Consider which skills you’re interested in growing.
Rather than asking ‘what am I already good at,’ ask yourself, ‘which complementary skills would bring my existing set to the next level?’ Seek out opportunities for development and challenge, in order to take your academic standing from ‘great’ to ‘exceptional.’
Don’t: Pick the first enticing option without considering the alternatives. You like things settled and decided on, which may incentivize you to throw down a deposit on the first degree that matches your skill set. Slow your roll here, ESTJ. This is a decision that will affect the rest of your life, so it’s worth taking some extra time to make it.
Do: Be thorough and systematic in your decision. Write down which factors are important to you in an education and cross-reference programs to determine best fit. Trust your powers of logical deduction here—you thrive when things are clearly laid out and there’s no reason you shouldn’t take a similarly thorough approach to determining your major.
Don’t: Pick a major that will lead to an ambiguous career path. You’re a practical-minded person with a creative heart, which means you may be drawn to programs that will nurture and encourage your artistic side. While there’s nothing wrong with studying what you love, make sure you’re setting yourself up for future success by selecting a program with a clear-cut career path. Academically you may be explorative but in the workforce you thrive on structure—keep this in mind before you land on a general arts degree!
Do: Gain insight from teachers and mentors. Find someone whose job you admire and chat with them about how they got there. By working backwards from the end goal, you can gain a better understanding of which degrees you ought to be pursuing, in order to end up in a position that inspires you! Need/ a mentor?
Don’t: Let your family or peers dictate your decision.
You’re a naturally social person, who takes the opinions of their friends and family seriously. While there’s nothing wrong with listening to other’s input, don’t let yourself get carried away trying to please everyone. At the end of the day, you’re the one who’ll be immersed in whichever topic you pick for the next four years… so the #1 person who ought to love what you’re studying is you.
Do: Consider which problems you enjoy solving. Rather than considering which title, consider which challenges you naturally enjoy rising to. Are you more mathematically inclined or more artistic? Do you enjoy interacting with data or with people? Choose a major that will represent the career you someday want to have, not just the title you’d like to claim.
Don’t: Pursue a niche interest with little flexibility. You have a LOT of offbeat interests and you may be tempted to dive deeply into the study of just one. While there’s nothing wrong with specializing, remember that your learning style necessitates variety. Pick a course with enough flexibility to keep you engaged for the next 4+ years, or you may quickly find yourself fantasizing about greener pastures in a non-academic environment.
Do: Remember that nothing is set in stone. The thought of picking just one topic to focus on for the next four years might make you feel mildly claustrophobic—but don’t panic. Remember that your educational trajectory isn’t solidified the day you sign up for your degree. There’s plenty of time to take elective courses, engage in extra-curricular studies and even switch your major down the line if need be.
Don’t: Neglect the non-academic benefits of attending college. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and you may not see college as a necessary investment. While it’s true that you’re able to teach yourself just about anything you set your mind to, consider the non-academic benefits you may reap from college—the habits you form, the connections you make and the credibility you’ll have when applying to jobs in the future. Consider not just what you enjoy studying but what you may want to make a career out of, and which degree you’ll need as a prerequisite.
Do: Remain flexible in your approach. If you’re certain that full-time study isn’t for you, consider earning/ your degree online or going to school part-time. You need to balance the benefits of your degree with your personal learning style and no one understands how to do that better than you do. Pick a major that allows for a varied and flexible approach to learning.
Don’t: Attempt to set the next four years of your life in stone. You’re a natural planner and college provides ample opportunity to set yourself up for future success. When selecting a major, you may be inclined to narrow your options down quickly and begin formulating a long-term plan around whichever subject you pick. But don’t forget to account for the unknown! Many people change their course of study within the first year or two of college and you may not be an exception. By clinging too tightly to the plans you’ve made, you may miss a better option that comes along.
Do: Keep your options (at least somewhat) open. In your first year of college, select at least a few electives that aren’t directly related to your major. You may find that a different subject is more conducive to your learning style than the one you originally selected—and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give yourself the option to explore it if so.
Don’t: Look at post-secondary education as an all-you-can-eat buffet. You’re a hopeless academic at heart, which means you’re probably having trouble narrowing down your options to land on just one major. From medicine to psychology to nuclear engineering to ancient mythology, you want to learn as much as you possibly can, in as much depth as you possibly can. Just don’t get so carried away with your lust for learning that you end up deciding on four degrees that you’ll finish back to back. Your mind may be bigger than your wallet here.
Do: Consider your future career options. Help yourself narrow down your options by considering what you want your future career trajectory to look like. If it’s law that captivates your interest, maybe ancient mythology is something you can study independently, on your own time. Invest your money in the education that will give you the career outcome you desire, and your spare time in the education you pursue for the sheer love of it.