By Lighthouse Counselor Sarah O’Brien – M.A.
Choosing a major is a major decision and it can be quite overwhelming especially if you feel as though your entire adult life is riding on that choice. It is true that it is a big decision but with the right preparation you can feel confident that you made the right choice. In choosing a major, there are many factors to base your decision on.
High school students are encouraged to choose a major before starting college to ensure on time graduation and career satisfaction. The college and career exploration process involves a great deal of research and exposure to new experiences. One must begin by learning about various career fields and assessing your values, interests, and skills.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Study what intrigues you or what you can imagine pursuing as a career. If you can’t think of anything, draw inspiration from visualizing your dream job.
- What do you value in work? For example, having a positive impact on others, working alone or in groups, helping society, working under pressure, stability, money, etc.
Get to know yourself
- What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What kind of skills do you have?
- Take a scientifically valid career interest inventory such as Holland personality types, which measures your strengths in 6 interest areas (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional).
- Pick a major in your areas of strength.
- Identify career and college majors that match your dominant personality types.
Be open to the unexpected
- Expose yourself to many different classes, you may find something you really love that you didn’t expect.
- Take advantage of any new experiences offered through your high school, community, service projects, local colleges, internships, etc.
- You might surprise yourself by stepping outside of your comfort zone.
- Consider going on a summer service trip.
- Start off this exploration process by narrowing your focus from all possible majors to a few areas of study that you can explore in great depth.
- Learn as much as you can about the majors and instructional programs you identify that fit your strengths.
- Then, research what you can do with a specific major. Learn about various occupations and study future trends.
- Assess personal interests and match them to careers.
- View job descriptions, salary, and other training information. Learn what you can expect in certain work environments.
Build Your Resume
- Formulate educational and career goals.
- Participate in various extracurricular activities.
- Partake in numerous volunteer opportunities.
- Challenge yourself to take on leadership positions in the clubs, organizations, and extracurricular activities you’re involved in.
- Complete an internship in the career field you’re interested in. Internships can help you find out how an industry works and if it is something you really want to go into.
Get Real-World Experience
- Talk to people in the fields that interest you. Discuss your questions and concerns with them. Ask them what training programs or college majors prepare people for their work.
- Plan College visits. During your college visit you can expect to go on a tour of the campus and sit in on an information session. But you should also inquire about attending a class, meeting with a professor, meeting with an admission officer, meeting with a financial advisor, attending a club meeting or a sports practice session, eating in the dining hall, and spending the night in a dorm.
- Job shadowing is a great way to learn about different jobs and help you decide on a possible career path. Spending a day or even a few days observing a professional on the job will give you an idea of what you like and also what you may not like. While observing someone on the job, you can ask yourself, “Can I see myself doing this?”.
College will introduce you to many new subjects and offer exposure to new passions. Although you might begin college with a clear path in mind, sometimes things change and we change our minds and that’s ok. It is advised to do your homework before entering college so that you don’t feel compelled to change your major. Having said that, do not operate on the assumption that your decided major is a life sentence. Just make it your job now as a high school student to continue broadening your horizons and explore many possible future career paths. Be as educated and prepared as possible for this major decision.
Throughout this decision-making process, be confident in yourself while continuing to grow as a person. Lastly, surround yourself with positive people who will inspire and encourage you to push the limits of your potential.