5 Steps to Choosing Your College Major

Bashar Hanna
4 min readFeb 24, 2023

So, you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to get a college degree. Now what? Well, have you thought about what you want to study? You can expect that this choice will take some research and deliberation as well. However, there are a few steps that will help you keep things in perspective and determine what major you want to pursue. Here are five steps to consider.

1. Ponder your passions

Start by thinking about how you like to spend your time and what activity makes you happiest. For example, do you love being outside and learning about the natural world? Maybe reading up on new scientific discoveries excites you, or perhaps you feel energized when you’re helping others.

Take some time to go over your interests and what inspires you and see if you can line that up with a particular area of study. When you think about it, you’ll spend a considerable portion of your life working after you graduate from college, so you might as well find a career that feeds your passions if you can.

If you’re having some difficulty coming up with what drives you or you’re interested in an industry you don’t know much about, do a little detective work. This could include volunteering with an organization or shadowing someone for a day in a particular profession. Even sitting down and interviewing people about what their job involves and what they like about it can be valuable. If no one in your immediate circle works in the career you’re curious about, your friends or family may have the right contact.

2. Assess your skills

Closely related to finding your passions is assessing your aptitude. Chances are if there’s something you love doing, you’re probably good at it too. Perhaps you’ve had summer work or part-time jobs that have promoted certain skill sets. This could have resulted in pay raises, praise from employers, or possibly a glowing performance review. By exploring any feedback you’ve had and taking a close look at how you’ve grown in a position, you can get a reasonable handle on your level of expertise.

Reviewing your grades in high school is another excellent way to see where your competencies lie. Adding this information together, contemplate the types of college programs that may provide you with the best opportunity to further develop these abilities and lead you to a fulfilling career.

3. Examine your values

College is a time for thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your life. Exposure to a range of diverse experiences and academic pursuits typically inspires students to examine their values more closely.

Making room for this self-exploration is important, however, as is giving some thought to your basic core values when enrolling. For instance, how do you want to make a difference? What would you like your legacy to be? Is there a specific compelling social or environmental cause that motivates you to make a positive contribution? Picking a major that’s in line with your values can set you up to work in a field that will allow you to exercise those beliefs and devote your time to something that you feel strongly about.

4. Consider emerging careers

It’s always a good move to look at the future of work. While we cannot know definitively what will happen, there’s a fair amount of intelligence available about which industries and market sectors are experiencing growth. Science and technology are sure bets for career expansion and job creation.

With the considerable time and financial resources you’re putting into college, it stands to reason that you should examine where your chosen occupation may be in five or 10 years. Are there prospects for long-term work in your area of study? Will your college major offer a decent foundation for transferring your skills to related positions that may emerge?

Understand the potential earnings

Lastly, find out what you can about the earning potential that comes with your favored major. This should certainly not be the least of your considerations since you will want to receive adequate compensation in your chosen profession. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a major that will lead to some of the highest-paying jobs either.

Where you fall on the continuum of the salary you desire is a personal decision, so don’t make it lightly. Your lifestyle will be impacted by your earning potential over the long haul, and there may be limited room to secure a better-paying job in a related occupation.

In closing

Remember, choosing a major is a little more complicated than just studying what you love. Following these few steps will help guide your decision.

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Bashar Hanna

Dr. Bashar Hanna has spent nearly four years as the president and chief executive officer of Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University.