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Jul 11 2017
by Stella Henry

Stressed About Choosing A Major? Don't Be

By Stella Henry - Jul 11 2017
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At freshman orientation, there are three questions you'll likely be asked during those corny icebreaker sessions: "What's your name?" "Where are you from?" and, "What's your major?" If you're like most people, the first two questions are a piece of cake. The third one, however, might be a bit trickier to answer. You might not know what you're majoring in just yet, and even if you do, perhaps you're still uncertain about it. College majors are a subject of much debate these days, and with good reason. There's a prevailing sense that not choosing the right one will doom a student to a life behind the counter of a coffee shop.

It doesn't help that college tuition has risen much faster than inflation in recent years, which puts pressure on students to pick a field of study that has a good return on investment. But I'm here to tell you that although these concerns are valid, you shouldn't worry too much about your major (at least not yet). Here are three reasons why.

1. In most cases, students don't have to declare a major until the end of their sophomore (or beginning of their junior) years.

This will leave you plenty of time to decide what to major in. It also gives you time to change your major if you decide that you don't like it (almost three quarters of college students do this at least once). "But what if it takes too long? What if I don't graduate with my classmates?" Contrary to popular belief, even students that change their major three or four times can usually finish college in four years. You might be wondering, "What if I don't like any of the majors that are offered?" If none of the programs available appeal to you, many universities allow students to design a major tailored specifically to their individual interests and aspirations. Even if that option doesn't exist, you can always suggest the idea to someone in charge, like an academic dean.

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2. You'll most likely have to take several "core classes" before you can take classes related to your major.

Let's face it: Most 18-year-olds have no idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Colleges know this, which is why there are usually classes that everyone must take. This means that you won't be taking many subjects related to your major for the first year or so, even if you are already dead set on what you want to study. During this time, you might even discover an interest for something that you didn't even know you had. Who knows? Maybe English 101 will awaken a burning passion for 17th-century British literature. You'll also be able to kill two birds with one stone by counting some of the core classes toward your major later on. This way, you'll still be able to graduate in four years.

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3. Future employers probably won't care what your college major was.

Someone's college major might seem like a good indicator of his or her future career. Many times it is, but it's not the best indicator. Most philosophy majors, for example, don't become philosophers. Nor do most history majors become historians or math majors become mathematicians. Case and point: Think of older relatives or friends you may have. How many of them have a job directly related to their major? My guess would be very few. You might be thinking, "But it's been years since my parents/uncle/neighbor went to college. Of course their job isn't related to their major. Surely it makes a difference for at least the first few years after graduation!" And while that is true in some cases, the fact of the matter is that someone's major or what classes they took probably doesn't factor in as a major (no pun intended) reason for getting hired at a given company.

A survey of employers across the country revealed that experience in the field, such as internships and jobs during college, as well as professional connections, are far more important than whether a candidate studied psychology or business. There are, of course, exceptions to this. Majoring in economics, for example, does not translate well into a career as a nurse or an engineer. But if you change your mind, you can always go back to school after undergrad. The point is, what you majored in is only a very small part of who you will ultimately become.

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So, the next time you find yourself worrying about your major, remember that you don't have to declare a major right away, most college students change their major, you'll have to take basic classes your freshman year anyway, you'll still be able to graduate on time and future employers probably won't care what your major was. Ultimately, college isn't trade school. It's about getting to experiment with different interests in a way that you might not be able to later on. It isn't about trying to decide what you're going to do for the rest of your life. So go ahead, be a little crazy. Major in Chinese poetry. Change your major four times. Maybe pick up a couple minors. You'll be fine. I promise.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels


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Stella Henry - Fairfield University

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