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Choosing College Majors

Choosing College Majors

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For many students, deciding to go to college is easy. Choosing between college majors? Not so easy. The College Board, the organization that creates the annual SAT college admissions exam, details over 600 majors offered in the United States. To make the majors easier to browse, they’re organized into 38 categories ranging from the technical to the artistic.

One of the first things a student can do when choosing between college majors is to simply look over the list and see what interests him. It will probably be easy for most students to narrow their choices dramatically this way. This list shows a small sampling of the 38 categories of college majors:

  • Architecture and Planning
  • Arts, Visual and Performing
  • Communication and Journalism
  • Construction Trades
  • Education
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences
  • Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics
  • Math and Statistics
  • Natural Resources and Conservation
  • Philosophy and Religion
  • Security and Protective Services
  • Transportation and Materials Moving

Several organizations have developed aptitude or interest questionnaires to help students determine which college majors match their personal interests and life goals. Along with answering questions about his or her favorite subjects in school, the student will be asked to rate preferences regarding working alone or in groups, working indoors or out, and being given explicit instructions or freedom to develop projects independently.

The student’s unique answers are used to provide a list of around five college majors that may be suitable for him. The results may just help the student make a final decision.

Choosing Between Two Similar College Majors

Students don’t need to select a major before entering college. In most cases, it isn’t necessary to declare one until the end of the sophomore year – especially at a liberal arts college where the first year or two can be filled exclusively with general studies courses.

What happens if a person reaches decision time with an idea of what interests him but with difficulty choosing between two similar majors?

  • Some students choose to declare a dual major. If the two are very similar in their required courses, this may be the best route. If they are very different – Account and Computer Programming, for example – the extra required courses could cause the student to need an additional year or more to complete his degree.
  • If one of the majors is more general and the other is specialized, it can be best to declare the general major. This keeps a wider variety of career opportunities open for the student and, since the required courses for both majors may overlap, the more specialized major could be declared later on.
  • Taking two or three upper level courses required for each of the majors can help a student to decide which one more closely matches her interests.

Once a major is declared, it’s not set in stone. Changing majors can be done at the student’s discretion simply by notifying the college and possibly filling out a form. Changing majors early, during the freshman or sophomore year, usually doesn’t cause any difficulty. If a change is made later, though, it may mean that the student has already taken courses required for a different major.

Choosing between college majors is not always a simple task, but it isn’t a decision that any student should rush into. The courses taken and the life experience gained during the first years of college can help to solidify long term goals and make declaring a major easier.

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