In college, you’ll be influenced by at least 6,000 other students and their ideas. It’s tempting to follow the crowd and declare a major that everyone else is picking.
But what’s the best choice for you? If you want to be a happy graduate, it’s essential to know what you want from your college years.
Don’t be afraid to go with your gut—and consider these 8 prerequisites as you weigh your choices.
1. Think About Your Career Goals
Not all degrees will lead to lucrative careers, so you should look at the earning potential of each degree before signing up for it. If you’re interested in pursuing a master’s degree later on, choosing an undergraduate major that has direct ties to that field might be helpful.
2. Do Something You’re Good at and Enjoy
If you’re going to spend four years (and maybe more) working on a major, the subject matter should interest and engage you. If it doesn’t, then there’s no point in pursuing it. You’ll just end up feeling discouraged and frustrated.
It’s also vital that the major aligns with your natural talents. This will help ensure success and make learning easier.
Both of these criteria must be met before you can pick a major. Simply loving a subject isn’t enough to make it a good choice.
For example, if you love art but have no talent for it, pursuing that subject will only lead to disappointment. And if you’re great at math but hate the classes, choosing this degree will lead to an unfulfilling college education.
3. Find Out What’s in Demand
Before you choose a major, it’s important to think about what the job market is like for that field. Is it a growing field? Will there be job opportunities when you graduate?
You should also consider the unemployment rate for the degree you’re considering. If there aren’t enough jobs available, then it might not be worth pursuing that particular major right now.
4. Consider Your Financial Capabilities
When looking at tuition costs, keep in mind that there are other expenses associated with attending college. Course materials, transportation costs, and miscellaneous expenses like laundry services can add up quickly.
If you can’t afford to cover these costs, it might be worth considering a degree program with lower tuition rates. Alternatively, you can apply for student loans or financial aid.
Because student loans carry such high interest rates (5.8% on average), financial aid is usually the better option.
5. Look at the Success Rate for This Major
If you’re thinking about pursuing a degree in education, for example, and want to know how difficult it will be, look up its success rate. You’ll learn the percentage of students who graduate with an undergraduate degree in that field.
If lots of people are graduating from this program every year, you’ll be able to pass too! But if there aren’t many graduates, the program is probably more challenging than most people expect. Don’t choose this major unless you’re ready to work hard.
6. Consider Your Personality
People have different strengths and weaknesses, so consider how your personality affects your learning process. If there’s something in particular that makes studying difficult (like procrastination), then maybe a masters degree in education isn’t right for you at this point in life.
Consider whether you’re better at the theoretical side or the practical side of education. If you’re more of a creative thinker and less organized, then maybe a master’s degree in art history or psychology would be better for you.
7. Don’t Worry About What Others Think
Your parents, friends, and colleagues may have an opinion about what you should do with your life. They might think you should get a degree in business administration or become an accountant. Some might not see the point in going to college at all.
In reality, though, it doesn’t matter what other people think. The only important thing is what YOU want to do with your life and how that fits into your long-term goals.
Instead of listening to them, focus on what makes you happy and fulfilled. The idea is to find a career where you can be happy for the next few decades.
When you start feeling anxious about disappointing others, remember that many people are too busy worrying about their own lives to worry about yours.
8. What Do Past Students Have to Say
It’s important to consider what successful students in your field have to say about their experience. You may want to know what others think about the classes, teachers, and facilities. Ask if the lessons prepared them for their careers.
You could ask someone who works in the field whether they think getting this degree is worth it. Some careers require intense on-the-job training. In those fields, earning experience is better than spending four years in school.
Find out which personality types succeed in that particular major. If you’re an introvert, choosing social majors like film and drama might not be a wise decision.
Declare a Major That Leads to Fulfillment
Before you declare a major, ask yourself what you want to do with your life. Determine whether the goal is a high salary, a tremendous impact on the world, or both. Ask yourself if you would be happy working in this field for the next several years.
If you don’t know, that’s OK. Keep exploring our blog and see what interests you. Whatever topics speak to you the most will probably be the right ones to pursue.
Don’t worry about making the wrong choice. The world is constantly changing, and many degrees are more flexible than they used to be.