New to college? There are many decisions to make, and all the choices can feel overwhelming. You may be deciding whether you’ll take classes on campus or online (or both), whether you’ll live in an apartment or a dorm, or even what school you’d like to attend. Choosing a major can feel like one more thing to stress you out, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While choosing a major is an important decision in your college career, you don’t need to feel pressured to make the perfect decision right now. Let’s take a look at ten myths and realities related to choosing a major.
1. Myth: If you don’t declare right away, you’re wasting your time.
Reality: If you’re not sure, give yourself a year and explore.
When you start college, you may have an idea of what major you’re going to declare, or you might still be thinking through different ideas. There’s a lot to consider – highest paying majors, careers with the highest satisfaction, and the best majors for future job market can all play a role in your decision. Believe it or not, studies show that the happiest college students don’t declare their majors right away. They take their time to get to know their options, take some classes that interest them, and decide on the best things to go to school for after spending some time in the classroom.
If you’ve always known what you want to do, that’s fantastic, but if not, don’t stress. The most useful majors for you aren’t only the most in-demand majors – they’re the fields of study that make you excited to go to class. Take your time, learn more about majors that interest you, and trust that you’ll come to a decision that makes you happy in time.
2. Myth: Once you choose your major, you’re locked in – changing majors is a waste.
Reality: Jumping willy-nilly between majors may be a waste, but making a thought-out, smart change is better than sticking with a bad fit.
One of the biggest fears of even the happiest college students is choosing a major that isn’t a good match for their interests and future. Many people dive into choosing a major based on a list of careers with highest satisfaction, or by reading statistics on the best college majors for the future. If you choose a major that doesn’t end up being a good fit for you, you’re not stuck. Your academic advisor at your school will be able to help you change paths to something that’s a better fit. At the beginning of your college career, many of your classes will be in the general education category and apply to other majors. If you’re not sure of the best things to go to school for in your situation, but you’ve already chosen a major, don’t worry. You can switch it up without losing too much ground.
3. Myth: Choosing a major is the same as choosing a career.
Reality: Every major offers multiple career options, and you may not even end up in a career directly related.
In the ever-changing corporate world, the list of most in-demand majors is evolving each year. Choosing a major is vastly different from choosing a career, as corporate, non-profit, private, and public sector jobs all have changing needs as their worlds evolve. The most useful majors five years ago are no longer the most useful majors today. Choosing a major does not lock you into one career path.
Don’t simply choose a field of study based on a list of highest paying majors. Employers consider much more than whether you’ve chosen one of the most useful majors, including your internships, course load, grades, personality, and more. While you may want to know the best majors for future job market, the list is constantly changing.
4. Myth: Employability is the most practical way to choose a major
Reality: The job market is always changing; what is employable today may not be in 10 years.
You’ve probably heard words of advice from many people who have your best interests at heart, telling you to look for the best majors for future job market, the majors that lead to careers with highest satisfaction, or the best college majors for the future. Truth be told, the most in-demand majors changes constantly, for all career paths. While employability is an important consideration, it’s also important that you choose a major that interests you. The happiest college students enjoy their classes and are excited to learn more about their field.
Don’t choose a field of study just because it includes the highest paying majors. You’ll have more success in your field if you choose a path that interests you. When you’re curious about your classes and are eager to learn more, you’ll do more research, make connections with professors, and show a drive that employers will value.
5. Myth: Make your favorite subject your major.
Reality: It’s an obvious win – do something you love! But that doesn’t mean just because you enjoy psychology you’ll enjoy being a psychologist.
Of course, you want to be one of the happiest college students. It can be hard to decide whether you should simply choose to spend the majority of your time studying your favorite subject. While this can work out well, it’s a good idea to consider what you want to do down the road and if your favorite subject lends itself to what you want for your professional life. For example, if you love English, you may consider being an English major to become an English professor. It’s key to consider all of the responsibilities of an English professor. While the spend plenty of time reading and writing, they also have to develop course materials, meet with students, create lesson plans, grade essays, and more. It’s also important to consider the job market; only a fraction of English majors end up English professors.
Talking with someone in the career you’re considering is a great way to find some guidance in choosing your major. Whether you’re looking for one of the careers with highest satisfaction, or you already have a concrete idea of what you want to do, talking with someone in the field can help you get a better sense of what day to day life is like in the career you want to learn more about. Job shadowing is a great way to learn more about careers that interest you.
One of the best ways to learn more about the best things to go to school for you is to shadow several people in their workplace. Talk with your academic advisor at your school to learn whether your school offers a shadowing program. Many schools offer such programs for people who are still trying to decide which major makes the most sense for them. If your school doesn’t have this type of program, talking with your school’s alumni association may be helpful. Alumni are a great resource in learning about what future jobs could be like for you.
6. Myth: Business majors are where the money is / Business Majors are overhyped.
Reality: You’ll hear both, and neither is true – the reality is more complicated, and being successful with a business major depends on how you use it.
If you’ve been researching the highest paying majors as you decide on what you’d like to study in college, you’ve probably heard a lot of conflicting information on whether you should consider becoming a business major. Majoring in business is a popular choice, but whether you’ll find success with this major is really up to you. Business majors are becoming more and more common in today’s universities, making it more competitive to score a job after graduation. If you’re passionate about business, don’t fear – there are plenty of opportunities to make business one of the highest paying majors for you. Ensuring that you have a lucrative future with a business degree can depend heavily on how you use your undergraduate career to set yourself apart.
For business majors, it’s important to get involved in learning activities outside of what’s required for your major. Classes can feel overwhelming, and many business majors are under the false impression that as long as they excel in the classroom, they’ll be competitive in the job market after they earn their degree. In most cases, this simply isn’t true. Employers want to see that you’re able to succeed in the real world, beyond the walls of the classroom. Some people shy away from internship opportunities since most are unpaid, but putting in the work during your undergraduate career can pay off in dividends down the line. Employers see that you’re willing to work hard. If you go above and beyond what’s required in your internship, you’ll likely walk away with a glowing recommendation letter from your supervisor. This is worth its weight in gold when it comes to setting yourself apart in the job market.
While many people say that business is one of the best college majors for the future, it depends on what you put into your degree. If you’re willing to go above and beyond what’s required, business can turn out to be one of the best majors for future job market.
7. Myth: STEM is where the money is.
Reality: STEM is not a license to print money. STEM is like any field, with a range of occupations; some are high-paying, but many are low-level and paid poorly.
You may have heard that the best college majors for the future are in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields – also known as STEM. While STEM fields can be a great way to affect change and get in at the ground floor with new corporations, it’s not necessarily the only way to go to be successful. Just like all fields, there are a range of different occupations within STEM. Some jobs within STEM are paid highly, while others do not make as much money.
Just like with majoring in business, it’s key to set yourself apart from the competition if you want to be successful in the STEM field. Taking research opportunities, doing independent study, or completing an internship can all show future employers that you know how to take initiative and get the job done. If you’re majoring in STEM, do it because you enjoy it – not because you’re expecting to make a fortune. In the vast majority of career fields, the money you earn has much more to do with your work ethic, drive, and talent, rather than what you chose to major in in college. While you can make a lot of money in a STEM field, majoring in STEM is in no way a promise that you’ll be rolling in dough after graduation.
8. Myth: Technical skills are more important than soft skills.
Reality: In the 21st century, technical skills will change – for a lifetime career, develop your soft skills like communication and especially adaptability.
As you begin to choose your college major, you’ll likely hear a differentiation between technical skills and soft skills. Technical skills are concrete (such as learning a chemical equation or a mathematical formula), while soft skills are harder to define (such as adapting to different situations or using communication skills to effectively manage a team). While some people believe that soft skills are not important, this is untrue, especially if you’re planning to work in a career where you interact with others. Even if you aren’t working in a customer service position, you’ll still need to work with people on your team. Soft skills are key to advancing in your career.
When you want to be successful at work, it’s key that you know how to interact with others. Not everything that you need to understand in your career will come from a book. Much of what you’ll learn comes from leadership training, working in groups, supervising others, and experience. When it’s time for a promotion, or you’re ready to make a career change, your soft skills will be just as important as your technical skills. Working on soft skills in college – including leadership, public speaking, communication, and more – is essential to your success down the line. Don’t skip over these classes if they’re optional in your major. It’s key that you relate to and communicate with others well.
9. Myth: Choose your major with graduate school in mind.
Reality: Many professional careers require graduate school today, but in many cases, your undergraduate major is less important for grad school than work experience, dedication, and other factors – many people choose a master’s in a different field.
When you’re beginning your college career, it can be tempting to map out a ten-year plan, complete with where you’ll attend graduate school and what masters or Ph.D. you’ll earn. While attending graduate school is valuable, it’s not necessary to think quite so far down the line, especially if you’re planning on working after you finish your undergraduate degree, rather than immediately attending graduate school full time.
Graduate school admissions is different from undergraduate admissions. While your undergraduate grades and major will be taken into consideration by the graduate school admissions staff, they’ll be far more concerned with your work experience, interview, and letters of recommendation. While having a career path planned out can be valuable, it’s key to be flexible. As you progress through your undergraduate career, you may realize that you’d like to choose a different route for graduate school. There’s no need to worry – that’s normal, and most college students find that something new piques their interest at some point during their undergraduate career.
10. Myth: Double majors and minors are too much work for too little reward.
Reality: Yes, it might mean an extra year of school, but a double major or minor also allows you to diversify on the job market and bring in-demand skills.
When you’re thinking about choosing a major, it can feel overwhelming to even consider majoring in two areas of study at once. While some people feel that it’s not worth it to double major, it may make sense for you, depending on your interests and goals. Some people who choose to complete a double major do so in two closely related fields of study. This means that many classes overlap, making the extra work minimal. When working in two closely related fields, you may be able to complete an internship experience that gives you on the job knowledge for both fields of study.
When you double major, you give yourself a leg up in the job market long before you graduate. You’re bringing two skill sets to the workforce, and many employers see that as getting two employees for the price of one. You may have more opportunities and be able to negotiate higher pay than someone who did not double major. While you may have to do some extra work or attend an extra year of school, you’ll likely find it was well worth it in the long run. If you’re curious about completing a double major, talk with your academic advisor about your interests, and find out how much additional work would be involved.