Choosing a Major

“What are you majoring in?” is the first question college students hear wherever they go.

The major is the academic area that they focus on during college. Students take  courses of increasing difficulty and specialization in their major, sometimes culminating in a thesis or capstone project senior year.

All schools, large and small, offer a wide range of majors. Majors may be very specific, with the goal of preparing students for a certain profession — for example, hospitality management, elementary education or aerospace engineering — or they may be more general, such as history, economics or biology.

Choosing a major can feel daunting; naturally, your student wants to be employable after graduation and may feel their entire future is at stake. However, given the ever-shifting landscape of 21st century career fields, and the multiple job changes that we know future professionals will make, students (and parents) are wise to recognize that completing a particular major won’t necessarily equip them for a lifetime of work. Your student’s choice of major is important, but most majors can prepare your student for a variety of possible careers.

Learning more about majors is a great way to support your student and to help take a little stress out of this decision.

Things to know:

Students do best in classes they enjoy. They will spend a lot of time in their major classes. They should study what they love.

Early in college is a good time for your student to explore subjects they didn’t take in high school as well as subjects they are considering for a major. Your student might discover a passion for psychology, architectural design or creative writing. Watch to see a spark igniting!

There’s nothing wrong with being undecided for a while, though your student should pay attention to deadlines for declaring a major (often the second half of sophomore year).

It’s common to change majors once or twice.

Your student’s academic advisor, and counselors at the campus career center, can help your student learn more about majors.

Start a great conversation!

  • “What class do you like the most?”
  • “What’s the most interesting paper or project you’ve done this semester?”
  • “When you think about the future after college, what do you dream about?”
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Jo Calhoun worked in Student Affairs for over 30 years, most recently as Associate Provost for Student Life and adjunct faculty member in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. She also held administrative positions at Grinnell College in Iowa, the State University of New York at Binghamton, and Broome Community College in Binghamton. Her specializations include first year programs, academic advising, career services and parent relations. In her retirement, she is a freelance writer.