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Choosing a Major: What's Important?

There are a couple of factors to take into consideration when deciding on a major: your career and your soul. If you’re lucky, you can pick a major that’s good for both of them.

Satisfy Your Soul: What Do You Like To Study? What Interests You?

Where I went to college, the truism for picking a major went something like: "This is such a good school that all people will notice is your degree. Therefore, you can feel free to major in anything you like. When you go out to look for a job, the fact you went to school here will be more than enough." If you attend an institution with a similar philosophy, you will be encouraged to follow your passions when choosing a major, to forget about practicality and applicability.

There are many benefits to choosing a major based solely on what you like to study and think about. First, you will be happier than picking something more practical that you hate. Secondly, if you are studying something that really lights your intellectual fire, you’re bound to do better academically, which, in addition to being its own reward, will bring even more rewards down the road. Finally, while a college education should help you get a job, it is also an end in itself. Knowledge is its own reward. Besides, when you use the time in college to study something you’re passionate about, you will develop your intellect because you’re engaged with the material. Your critical thinking and analytical powers will grow more rapidly if you’re applying them to material that fascinates you. As for the future: every prospective employer and graduate program wants excellent thinkers.

What Can You Take With You to the Job Marketplace?

Before you begin chasing your intellectual bliss, a word must be said about the world beyond college. While it might be nice to think that good grades from a good school automatically equal a good job, not all degrees are created equal. This doesn’t mean that some fields of study are worse than others, just that it’s easier for students to find their place in the post-baccalaureate world if they are pre-med or economics majors as opposed to drama or English majors. Does this mean that if you love English or want to be an actor that you should still major in Econ? No. But a discussion of how to pick a major should bring up the practical side as well. You will absolutely get more out of your academic experience if you’re studying something you love.

However, if you’re hyper-concerned about your career beyond college, you might want to do some exploration of the applicability of various degrees before you hand in your major selection form. Visit the career services office; contact alums who have jobs you’d like to get and see what they studied, and spend some time thinking about what you really want. Choosing a major isn’t the most important decision you’ll make in life, but it could be the most important one you’ll make in college, since it will determine your course of study once you’ve made your choice.

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