SELECTING YOUR UNIVERSITY MAJOR
A COMPLETE GUIDE
Are you in the process of applying to universities and preparing for college life? Are you having trouble deciding on the major that suits you best? You are probably bombarded by questions, such as:
How can I find a course that suits me? What are some things to study at the university? How can I choose a major in university that suits me best? What are minors? Do I need to apply to those too?
College Life is here to provide some clarity to these questions and help you choose a major in university that caters to your passions.
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Before you begin looking for majors, it's important to understand what higher education is all about by looking at the qualifications it awards.
Types of Qualifications
You are most likely aware of the 3 types of qualifications that you can earn by enrolling at an institution of higher education:
- Bachelor’s (undergraduate)
- Master’s (postgraduate)
- Doctorate/PhD (postgraduate)
College Life will break them down for you, so you can understand them beyond their titles.
A bachelor’s is a degree awarded by universities for an undergraduate programme that lasts from three to six years. Ideally, it is for students with no previous university education. These students are most commonly recent high school graduates. However, anyone can enrol at a university and do a bachelor’s programme at any age. Bachelor’s degrees are common prerequisites for postgraduate degrees. The most common degrees are Bachelor of Arts (BA) & Bachelor of Science (BS or BSc).
A master’s is a degree in postgraduate programmes. It usually takes one to three years to complete, depending on your field of study. You can enrol at the programme part-time or full-time. You can get a master’s degree from a completely different field of study than the one you did for your bachelor’s (with some exceptions). For example, you can choose to do a master’s in Media and Culture, even if you did a Bachelor’s in Business. As a student with a master’s degree you are equipped with advanced knowledge on a specialized field that is gained through independent learning and research.
A doctorate, or doctor's degree, is an academic or research degree, and the most advanced degree you can earn. This degree qualifies you to teach at university level, or to work in a specific profession. The most common doctorate is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). It is awarded in various different fields, from humanities to sciences. On average, a doctorate degree typically takes about four to six years to complete, depending on the programme.
As a fresh student, you are expected to enrol at an undergraduate programme. From this point on, you will need to choose your major in university.
Criteria for Choosing a Major
There are plenty of criteria for someone to choose a major in university. This varies greatly according to each individual. However, College Life is here to lay out some of the basics for you!
Your personality comprises who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and what things you value the most. If you are a logical person with a passion for mathematics, then to answer to which major you want to aim for. However, this isn’t always crystal clear, because individuals share more than a single character trait. You are not defined or reduced to one aspect, and you shouldn’t assume that, either. What you should do, though, is acknowledge your passions and combine them with things that you are good at.
Your personal goals might not always align with your financial status. If you are fresh out of high school, you are more likely to depend on your family and your savings, which can either be extremely beneficial or comprising, depending on you and your family’s financial status. In this case, becoming a working student can be a good idea.
The opportunities that are available to you could be limited by the location you are based in. For instance, there are more options in the universities and colleges of metropolitan cities rather than those of smaller towns. If you have the financial benefit and you feel independent enough to move to another city or country (or even continent), the location may not affect your decision as much.
The Future Job Market
You might be the kind of person who doesn’t mind what type of job they do, as long as it has a promising future. That’s when you decide to go for a major that is expected to give you a fruitful career. Remember that alongside the future jobs, there are also a few future skills that employers are already searching for. At the end of this guide, you can find the complete overview of majors for which there will be jobs in the future.
COOL TIP! Take online quizzes from university websites, such as Loyola University Chicago’s Major Quiz. Try to avoid ones from BuzzFeed and other internet media. Don’t assume that the result is the answer! Take everything with a grain of salt.
Now that you are more conscious of your personal needs, it’s time to look at your options for majors! Remember that your options will always be restricted by your choice of university. Some universities or colleges may offer majors that others don’t. It is important to look for institutions that accommodate your choice!
There are plenty of majors that you can pick from, and making an entire list for them can be quite overwhelming. However, College Life has shortlisted some of the students’ top picks by laying out the most common majors:
- Business Administration
- Elementary Education
- Computer Science
If you wish to know the rest, you can check out all 25 most popular majors of 2021. Moreover, don’t forget to download the overview of majors for future jobs at the end of the guide!
COOL TIP! Take online quizzes from university websites such as Loyola University Chicago’s Major Quiz. Try to avoid ones from BuzzFeed and other internet media. Don’t assume that the result is the answer! Take everything with a grain of salt.
Deciding your Major
You want to choose a major in university, but you don’t know how to decide between the options you have laid out for yourself. Ask for advice, but keep in mind one important thing: you are at the center of what you want to do with your academic career. It is essential that your decision caters to your needs, and not others.
Do your Research
What are your priorities? Which one of the majors that you have picked for yourself does not cater to most, if not all of them? Which major has the fewest chances of employability? Do research to see which major accommodates your needs the most, and which majors do not.
Identify Pros & Cons
The best thing you can do when trying to choose between majors at various universities is to eliminate a few options, based on your preferences.
Along with your research, keep a list of pros and cons next to you, and add to it each time. Remember that it’s not always about the quantity of the components on each column of that list - it’s more about the quality.
Talk to Friends, Family, and Advisors
Asking for an outsider’s perspective can be beneficial. Friends and family can certainly identify the strengths that you have and might not be conscious of them. Meanwhile, advisors can provide you with additional information on each of the majors that you have chosen.
You are already familiar with majors, but have you heard about minors? What are they? Do you need to have one? What are the pros and cons? This chapter answers these questions for you!
What they are
A minor is a secondary academic discipline next to your major. If you have multiple interests, doing a minor is ideal for you! The best part? Your minor doesn’t need to be directly connected to your major! It can be from any other field! However, many students minor in subjects that support their major for additional academic advantage.
There are a lot of perks to having a minor. These include:
- Specialisation: If you choose to do a minor that is similar or supplementary to your major, this gives you a huge advantage in the future job market. For example, if you are a Business major, you may choose to have a minor in Marketing.
- Impressive resume: Minors are most suitable for students who enjoy studying. This leads future employers to acknowledge that their candidate is hardworking and can handle additional workload.
- Bonus form of experience: If your minor is something different from your major, you showcase that you have extended knowledge of more than one field! Thus, you allow yourself to open up to more possibilities that go beyond just your major.
There is a reason why minors are not as commonly promoted at university as majors are. This is due to the drawbacks that discourage many students from pursuing a minor:
- Extra workload: Doing a minor is essentially doing two degrees at the same time. The workload is immense, and the dedication that it requires is great. Minors are only suitable for students who genuinely enjoy studying.
- Higher cost: Taking more classes necessarily means that you will be paying more money.
- Late graduation: It is very likely that you won’t be graduating the same year as your peers who do not have a minor. This is due to the workload and the extra courses that you must finish before getting both your degrees.
Of course, these drawbacks are extremely subjective. If you are someone who doesn’t mind the extra work or graduating a semester or a year later, then you should definitely consider doing a minor!
Having doubts about your major is a lot more common than you think. As long as you face the problem responsibly, you won’t worry about it too much in the long run.
If you have already noticed the signs when entering your second year, it is best to drop out of the wrong major as soon as you can. As soon as you have made peace with the fact that you are unhappy with your current major, you can move forward to choose another!
There are 4 simple steps to changing your major:
- Choose your new major: If you haven’t already decided what your new major is going to be, retrace your steps and review your passions and aspirations. Make use of your college’s career counseling center and career assessment tests to help you choose, as well. Alternatively, go to the next step.
- Consult your academic advisor: Your advisor is the most ideal person to help you figure out everything without being discouraged. They will guide you through all the steps more thoroughly, and go through the application process all over again with you. The best part is that you can consult an advisor from your intended major, or you can just visit your current academic advisor.
- Review the academic requirements: At most colleges and universities, the admission requirements are the same as outside students who are seeking acceptance into the school. This means that you are not a priority to them, and you may not be admitted to your new major. Discuss your options with your academic advisor.
- Submit all your paperwork: You will eventually reach the final step, where you simply submit everything. Remember that the process of switching majors differs from university to university. Your application will likely need to be approved by the department chair and college dean of your new major. Your academic advisor will let you know about everything.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you picked the wrong major at first. The most difficult thing is acknowledging it.
Now that that’s done, you can look ahead by starting over. Start fresh, and look forward. Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand the choices involved in choosing a major at university. You are now equipped with everything you need to consider when making this major life decision.
Are you ready to take the next step and kickstart your international student life? Watch the video below and learn about 10 things students living abroad wish they knew:
FUTURE MAJORS OVERVIEW
Download the 2-page comprehensive overview of the top university majors for the future that you can shortlist.