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Unsolicited Advice for Undecided Majors

This post provides advice for those who are coming into college or already in college with an undecided major.

Exploring your options

A lot of undecided majors think they need time to explore. Maybe they take a class here and there in a variety of areas. That’s great, it’s always good to learn stuff from all sorts of different topics.

But this is a terrible way to go about choosing which degree(s) you should pursue.

Taking a class or two in several areas is a very superficial way to go about choosing a major. Do you really think that Intro to Dance class is representative of all courses and careers in the theatrical arts? Do you really think printing Hello World in C is representative of all courses and careers in computer science or software engineering? No, obviously not. If you’re deciding your major based on your experience with a class or two then you’re choosing your major based on the following:

Most, if not all, of these factors will impact your overall experience and thus have a huge say in whether you enjoy a class. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate a class; one class can’t possibly represent any of the careers or opportunities in that area. Besides, it’s rare that someone enjoys every class related to their degree.

To determine which major to pursue, you need to spend a lot of time with it. So you might as well pick a major and run with it instead of superficially exploring.

Once you’ve accepted that the best course of action forward is to declare a major right away, the following question arises: which major?

Choosing a major

Before you choose a major, you should already have a list of potential majors that you’re considering. This list could be in your head, on a piece of paper, or in word document. But there must be a finite set of potential majors and the shorter the better.

From your list, there are three ways to choose a major:

  1. Your interests
  2. Job security and wages
  3. Roll a dice

Do you have a interest that relates to any of the majors on your list or could intersect with them? For example, if you’re interested in user experience design and you’re list consists of math, computer science, and finance then you would choose computer science because you could pursue research in human computer interaction (HCI) or use your knowledge about UX design when developing applications for humans.

If you don’t have an interest that intersects or relates to anything on your list, then just choose the major with the best career prospects. Does it open up opportunities in other fields? What’s the average salary of a new grad majoring in X? Do jobs in this field survive a recession? What sort of jobs could you obtain with this degree?

If you still couldn’t decide, then here’s the third way to decide: roll a dice. Roll a ten-sided dice if you need to. If you have lots of majors on your list, then shuffle a deck of cards and pick the one on the top.

After you’ve chosen your major, even if it was random, you should declare it. It might be tough because you don’t know if it’s the best choice. But there is no known best choice; there’s only a bunch of good and bad choices. No one knows if they are making the best choice because they would have had to go through all the other choices and evaluated each one, and it’s impossible to have a degree in each and everything. Also, it’s pretty common to switch majors or pursue a career unrelated to your degree. So just pick something and run with it.

Written by Omkar Konaraddi. Published on July 27, 2018.

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