An Undecided’s Master Guide to Finally Declaring a Major

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Many of us start college off the same: having no idea what the hell we want to do with our lives. We could go into medicine, law, journalism—you name it and most colleges offer it. Your major has the potential to bring you happiness or make you suffer during the rest of your college career, as well as your professional pursuits thereafter (no pressure). If you declare a neuroscience major and realize that you completely hate all things that have to do with the brain, it might be difficult to jump ship depending on how much time you have left in school. Choosing a major may not be an easy feat, but once you learn a little bit about yourself, declaring what you love will come easy (getting through the coursework will be the real problem).

Majoring 101

Time is Tickin’

When you enter freshman year, you feel like you have the world at your fingertips. You have roughly four years to play around with academics and extracurriculars, and to really figure out where your passions lie. But don’t let that clock wind down too quickly—you might find yourself in your junior year with no option but to declare the first major you can think of. The pressure to declare weighs heavy on all student’s backs, so making a distinct deadline for yourself should be your first order of business when entering this new college world.

Turn Your Academic Advisor into Your BFF

You’ll hear “my advisor sucks” often from your peers, which may or may not be true, but sometimes you’ll find a gem that can completely transform your major search. This advisor will give you the inside scoop on programs that you can’t even find on the school’s website, and how to use them for your own benefit. Remember to always be completely open and honest with your academic advisor—this is vital to cultivating a successful relationship between you two. If you hate math more than you hate your mom’s Thanksgiving dressing, let her know (your advisor, not your mom). Your advisor will point you to the right department and cut your search time down a couple of semesters.

The More Research, The Better

Any question you have about any major and its possible professional opportunities can be discovered by doing some good ol’ research. Yes, I’m talking Google. Not to mention our expert major guides found on CM (self-promotion FTW). Don’t know what kind of hard grind your prerequisites will entail? Totally searchable by visiting student boards and department websites. Worried that your chances of landing a good job in a major is slim to none? LinkedIn can become your best friend when you realize that Mary, Tom and Joe all have awesome jobs and happened to have declared that major. With just the right amount of digging, you’ll cut the surprises down to zero and won’t be constantly running to your advisor crying because you want to switch majors.

What Am I Most Passionate About?

This should be the first question you ask yourself on your journey to major declaration. Do you enjoy helping others? Do numbers and science excite you? Do you spend your free time sketching images? These sort of introspective questions should run through your mind in classifying who you are and what you like to do. Through this arguably simplified categorization, your search should narrow to a certain academic department, and from there you can find your home.

What Strengths Do I Have?

Choosing a major involves figuring out not only what you enjoy doing, but also what you are meant to be doing. Some of us may love playing video games, but there’s no way in hell we can figure out all that coding that goes into making one. That means you need to figure out what skills you have that can flawlessly align with a certain major. Even though you may love a certain area of study, that love doesn’t mean you’ll find success in it if it becomes too much of a struggle throughout your college career. Steve Jobs may have loved his school’s musical theater department, but luckily he stuck to what he excelled at and eventually changed the world. But, of course, joining a musical theater club helped in keeping his passions alive.

What Weaknesses Do I Have?

Similarly to determining your strengths, spotting your weaknesses should be equally important. Don’t pretend you are a math wiz for the sake of getting an engineering degree. Don’t be on the pre-med track if you faint at the sight of blood. However, if you find yourself struggling in a certain subject area, but your passion remains strong for a major, find a tutor to help you out. If we were meant to be experts, we wouldn’t be in college, now would we?

What Opportunities Can This Major Bring to My Career?

This is where that research work comes back into play. After looking up all that a major comprises, you need to determine what kind of career does this major lead to. The tricky thing is not all majors directly align with one commonly-held career path. You may know a couple of sociology majors who’ve found careers in social justice, sales or even law. If you haven’t had your life planned out since you were 10, and still may be figuring things out, choosing a major that offers this sort of breathing room may be the best bet.

What Kind of Salary Do I Desire?

For some, money isn’t everything. For others, the green is all they see. Dollar, dollar bills, y’all. While some majors, like those in the engineering and economics fields, traditionally lead to jobs that pay phat bank, you can still find ways to make money and have a meaningful life as a psych or environment major. Ensure that you realistically plan out what kind of goals you have for yourself in the future, which will then help determine if choosing a certain major will help you achieve your dream life.

Top 3 Declared Majors

1. Engineering

  • Starting salary: $51,000–$97,000
  • Forbes’s most In-Demand Career with approximately 1.6 million engineering jobs and growing
  • Variety of career opportunities: mechanical, IT, biochemical, civil, communication and more

2. Computer Science

  • Starting salary: $56,000
  • Specializations in mobile and internet computing, artificial intelligence, software theory, and more
  • Growing job market

3. Business

  • Starting salary: $41,200–$70,700
  • Classes focusing on purchasing, logistics, marketing, accounting, financing and human resources
  • Strong alumni network

Top 3 Major Twitter Handles

1. College Majors 101 — @collegemjrs101

What this twitter name says is basically what you get, kids. With up-to-date figures on salaries, article links on growing major fields and general advice to staying on track, @collegemjrs101 gives out the major key alerts as to what you need to do before you check that declaration box.

2. Admissionado — @admissionado

If you’re a high school senior who’s completely stressed about what to major in during college, let alone which college you should attend, @admissionado will be your saving Twitter grace. This account hosts live-tweeting sessions where students ask Admissionado professionals college-related questions that can lead to some direct and personalized responses, which may traditionally be a little difficult if you haven’t set foot on your campus yet.

3.  @careervillage

Having trouble defining your career path? @Careervillage is a nonprofit whose goal is to offer guidance to college students on ways to travel down that path of success. With a Twitter account that targets students with certain specialty interests, and tweets that ask college experts if a degree in a certain field is really worth it, you’ll figure out what your next steps should be before your sophomore year is over.

Still Can’t Pick a Major? Read on for More Advice

The Undecided’s Guide to Choosing Classes

Why Picking a Major is Majorly Stressful

Why Declaring a Minor is Majorly Awesome

Erika is a senior Communication Studies major at the University of Michigan. She enjoys reading, photography and binge-watching A Different World on Netflix.

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