10 Tips and Things to Ask Before Choosing Your College Major
1. Do you like the classes? This is the obvious one and the one you’ve most likely heard before from every advisor and upperclassmen you’ve talked to. Despite how often this advice is given out, I’m still surprised at how many people are taking classes they don’t enjoy just because they “want” to be a certain major.
2. Do you like the people in the classes? This is something that I wish I had taken into account a little bit more before choosing my major. Would I have chosen a different major- possibly. At least at my University and in my major, you have to work in groups on many projects. Maybe this is a just a small-liberal-arts-computer-science-major problem, but I have had classes that I had to work in small groups or with a partner and it didn’t go over so well.
3. Talk to people who have a degree in the field you are thinking about – Often times people don’t realize what a job for someone in their major really looks like. I was hesitant to go after computer science at first because I knew I didn’t want to be sitting at a cubicle programing a computer game for the rest of my life. A little talking to my advisor and some graduates helped reassure me that there were many more options than what I was picturing.
4. What is the student lounge(study area) like – Okay hear me out on this one… At first, when I saw the computer science lounge I thought it was great. It has couches, a whiteboard, tons of books and magazines related to computer science and even a fridge (small liberal arts college-okay?). It wasn’t until my junior year when I had to pull an all nighter with my chemistry major friend that I realized how inefficient the space was. While the chem lounge seemed boring and dull, it was a much more tailored to studying. Grated there was no fridge with leftover pizza, but there were multiple tables, a whole wall of whiteboards and comfortable chairs at the table and sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
5. What support system is in place – This could be anything from tutors available, to clubs related to that major. Not only have I met some of my best friends in computer science clubs, but also people who are available to help me when I inevitably run into a bug at 1 am the night before my code is due.
6. The professors – If you haven’t heard it yet, you will. Quite frankly, there are just some departments that are better than others. You will have to take many classes in your major, and if 7/15 professors are notoriously unfair graders, your GPA just became a game of Russian roulette. Conversely, if many of the professors are known for having helpful office hours and engaging classes, then you’re not only more likely to go to class, but you’re more likely to enjoy it.
7. The internships and study abroad opportunities available – It is generally accepted that there are more internships available to econ majors than there are to art history majors. It’s just a fact of life. This does not mean that you can’t get a slam dunk internship just because you’re an art history major or that you can’t get a terrible, useless internship as an econ major, it just means the art history major might have to work a little harder. Same thing goes for study abroad. A lot of times certain majors will have a hard time finding classes that align with their curriculum abroad (I’m looking at you biochem), so if you really want to study abroad, it is best to check in with your advisor before you sign the papers.
8. Requirements outside of regular classes – I realize this can vary from school to school but it is definitely worth checking out. For example, as a computer science major I have to complete a senior project(picture app), virtually by myself in order to receive my degree. My roommate, who is a econ major has to take comps, which is a huge test over basically everything in the econ department. My other roommate is a biochem major and in addition to her comps, she has to attend a certain number of lectures her junior and senior year.
9. Relevant grad school or professional school – If you want to go to med school, you don’t have to be a hard science major but you have to take so many prerequisite classes that you might as well be. Law school on the other hand attracts a wide range of majors. It is also worth finding out if most people in your field go on to grad school. If you absolutely cannot picture yourself going to school for another 4 years, but everyone applying to entry-level job in your field has PHD’s I have bad news for you.
10. It’s not permanent until you graduate – If you were reading this and you developed an alarming sweat that you were in the wrong field, have no fear! You can always (almost) change your major. It may mean you have to take classes over the summer or stay an extra semester depending on how far along you are, but if it’s really something you want to do, most of the time advisors and professors are willing to work with you because in the end they really just want to see you succeed.
By Rachel Stewart