Choosing a Major
 
With hundreds of options, this task can seem overwhelming. Just remember that the decision is yours and there is no wrong choice, except the one that is not your own.
 
Our counselors and professional staff can discuss with you the pros and cons of each major and help you to decide how best to proceed.
 
Major Decision Guide - a step-by-step Guide to decision making (pdf file).
Strategies for Choosing a Major - Strategies & Tips to consider
One Way to Pick a Major - Tips from a student to a counselor
 
Strategies for Choosing a Major
 
Choosing a major is not necessarily the same thing as choosing a career. While certain majors like engineering, computer science, an accounting prepare you for specific careers, most majors—especially in the liberal arts, humanities, and social sciences—offer a wide variety of career options because their background preparation is so broad. A study conducted by Berkeley indicated that the majority of college majors are employed in fields not directly related to their academic majors.
 
A career is a lifetime sequence of occupations, activities, responsibilities and services you perform. Your career development actually started when you were a child. Experiences, games you played, and activities with family and friends all supported the choices you are making now and will make later if you change career paths.
 
There are 5 strategies that can help you make (or re-evaluate) a career choice:
  1. Know Yourself—the real you. What do you want—not what looks good to your friends or what your parents want you to be. What do you do well? What—with a little help—could you do well? What excites you—fixing things? Being with people and trying to understand them? Painting pictures? Think about and make a list of these interests.
     
    Now think about what you value. What is really important to you? What is your ideal? What types of people match that ideal? What do they do?
     
    What were some peak experiences in your life? What times do you remember that had you really charged? What were you doing? Solving a problem? Completing a project? Doing something so well that it astounded your parents or friends?
     
    Asking yourself these questions is an exercise in self-understanding. It is really hard for some people, but when you think of the people that go through life unhappy with their careers it may well be because they never really looked at themselves in regard to their career choices.
     
  2. Set Personal Goals. Besides your career plans, what other goals do you have? Marriage? Family? Financial security? Consider the impact of job and career on personal goals. If raising a family and spending a lot of time with them is important, then you don’t want to be a long haul truck driver or international sales person. There are a number of careers that allow you to balance work schedule and family. Many computer jobs, for example, allow you to work at home.
     
  3. Research. Study about occupations. Will the career you are interested in be there in 10 years? Could you easily cross over to another field that you would also like? Talk to people working in the field in which you are interested. Take career assessment tests like the Strong Interest Inventory to help you discover areas of interest. Discuss possibilities with a career counselor.
     
  4. Expect Lifelong Learning. You will no doubt be developing your career path throughout your life. This will require continual education, training, and retraining. You will reach a point where it is fun learning other things you are interested in—computing, dancing, ethnic studies, a foreign language, piano, or something else.
     
  5. Get Help. Career centers, teachers, and counselors are at any school you attend. Take advantage of these resources. There are many tools (books, videos, computer programs, assessment tests, workshops, classes) available.

Help Tips in Choosing a Major
Help Tip 1: While there are 20,000 different occupations out there, they all fall into one of 12 clusters: artistic, scientific, plants and animals, protective, mechanical, industrial, business, selling, accommodating, humanitarian, leading/influencing or physical performing. If you can decide on one or two clusters, it provides a good starting place to begin your career and major exploration.

Help Tip 2: Go through the list of majors in the UC application and cross off majors that you are not interested in.

Help Tip 3: After you have chosen several majors, take a look at the course requirements for that major and see if they are courses you might enjoy taking. If you really do not like math, then you might not want to consider engineering. (Remember, though, your passion for a career field can help you overcome difficulties in coursework.)

Help Tip 4: Think about personal, physical traits that would make certain careers difficult. If you have allergies, forget botany. If you have no ear for music—forget it!

One Way To Pick A Major
Foothill College provides online counseling service. Dr. Jerry Cellilo is usually the counselor who responds to questions. In the scenario below, Dr. Cellilo is writing to one of his T.A.s about a student he had worked with several quarters ago.

Dr. Cellilo said: Worked with a student with no clue for a career nor major and no desire to choose one. We worked for 1/2 hour and got nowhere. Total fear of commitment to anything.

TA reply: Ha ha! It's called being NORMAL Dr. Cellilo :-) As a student I can tell you that college can be very terrifying!! Especially if you're clueless about what you want to do with your life. You are suddenly faced with having to make decisions that will shape your future! That's enough to have a panic attack!

You already know that some students only register for college because it makes them feel like they are doing "something" even when they know that they are NOT ready for college. They feel that it's better to be in college & have no clue what they want to major in, instead of not doing anything at all & be seen as a loser! Of course they are NOT losers but when you're young & at that stage that's the 1st thing that comes to mind.

It's even more stressful when you're trying to choose a major. You start questioning everything!! What if I chose a major & it's not right for me? What if I spend 3 years working on a program & decide that I no longer like it? People will see me as a failure! I would have wasted my time! I will disappoint everyone. Sooooo sometimes we decide to IGNORE it all together to avoid failing.

This generation (including myself) will say that we don't care what others think, but the truth is that WE DO! We worry in silence & act tuff like we have everything under control! But it's all BS! Ha ha! We are as scared & confused as can be! Of course you have those students who loooove college & know what they want in life. i.e they knew they wanted to be Dr.'s since they were 5 & have their lives planned out until they are 60! But they are the exceptions.

I always knew I liked psychology & declared a psych. major from day one, but I also had a lot of other interests & that made me doubt myself. Made me wonder if psych was right for me. I actually started exploring early at the age of 14, the bad thing is that somewhere along the line I lost track of my goals. :-(

This is how I decided on my major:
  • I got a college catalog & crossed out all the majors I didn't like AT ALL! i.e., I would never major in history, yuck!
  • I made a little scale 1-10 & rank the majors depending on how big or small my interest was.
  • I explored classes that were in the majors I was interested in.
  • I researched the majors & what possible careers would come out of them.
  • I talked to people in those fields & asked a lot of Q's.
  • When possible I volunteered to see how the working environment was.
  • Finally, I sat down & asked myself if I could see myself working in something related to my major for YEEAARRRSS & still be happy doing so. If I even had a doubt in my mind, I crossed it off the list.
You seem to be a great counselor, so I'm sure you will be able to help that student who is afraid to choose a major. It won't happen in 1/2 hour but it will happen eventually. She doesn't have to decide overnight. Gen. Ed. has a lot of classes to choose from that fall into many majors. That's a great way to explore areas of interest while still completing GE requirements. S/he has to be ready & willing otherwise you two will have mannnny, many, counseling sessions!! :-)



Top of page February 01, 2013