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Choosing a Major

Your choice of college major will influence the course of your college career and potentially your entire adult life. Intimidating, right? It's no wonder the majority of students change majors multiple times in college. However common changes of major are, they can still prove costly. Changing your major multiple times can delay your graduation date, sometimes considerably, and the process of finding out you're in the wrong degree program can negatively impact your GPA, not to mention stress you out and negatively impact your mental health. To avoid the trial-and-error approach to choosing a major, a little research goes a long way. So what do you need to know to choose a major?

How to Choose a Major

The basic process of choosing a major starts with reflecting on yourself, your situation and your goals. There are questions to ask yourself when you're choosing a major, and the process typically calls for an honest assessment of your interests, skills, and long-term plans. After you've gotten these ideas loosely together, then the research begins. You'll need to understand different careers and college majors, as well as how they work together and work with your life goals. There are countless career possibilities out there and a wide variety of majors that can lead you towards these goals. To choose a college major, you'll need to know what to ask yourself and others to arrive at the best possible choice.

We've come up with several things to consider before choosing your major. The first five things to consider are basic questions about your interests and talents, the career potential of the major you've chosen, and the location and costs of the schools you would have to attend to pursue this major. After these, if you're still not decided, we've got five more things to consider that involve digging a little deeper and doing research on the specific costs and benefits of the programs you find yourself wanting to pursue.

Popular and High-Paying Majors

If you're struggling to come up with ideas for possible majors and post-collegiate careers, looking at majors that are popular or lucrative can be a good starting point. Additionally, this information can help you choose between majors you may want to pursue (hint: when it comes down to it, engineering is most likely a better bet than English), especially if you're one of those lucky students who feel confident of their ability to succeed in a wide variety of lines of work.

We've compiled a list of the most popular college majors to help you in choosing a major. These majors are likely to be offered at the majority of colleges, so students who are tied to a particular geographic area or price range for their college choice can enter these programs without too much headache. Scholarship opportunities are also likely to be widely available for students in these majors because they're so well-known. Popular majors may create a great deal of competition for seats in classes (or may come with very large introductory sections of courses), as well as for graduate school seats and jobs down the road.

Another list to check out is the list of the highest-paying college majors. These degrees result in the highest average starting salaries. If you choose one of these majors, it's more likely that you'll receive a substantial boost in your standard of living once you start your career, rather than a significant reduction, as some of your peers in the lowest-paying majors may find. High-paying majors are no guarantee of high salaries, though, and many of these degrees are highly technical and skew towards math and science careers. If you're a writer at heart, you may find yourself ill-suited for a chemical engineering career, despite its status as the most immediately lucrative major.

Working With Your College Goals

The best advice for choosing a major is finding a way to align your choice of major with your college and career goals, beyond the basic goal of simply getting a degree. Your choice of major should never get in the way of working towards your college goals, and if it does, it's a good sign you've wound up in the wrong place. Make sure your major is preparing you for your dream career (sometimes, this can be misleading—for example, Pre-Law students are actually among some of the lowest scorers on the LSAT, the law school admissions test). Also, make sure it allows you to work on your other interests and priorities that you see contributing to not only your career, but also your life-long happiness. There is some room for compromise on this issue, and aligning all of your goals will result in the best college experience overall.

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