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10 Things to Consider Before Choosing Your Major

What is Your Passion?

Too often this basic question is ignored in the college planning and college application process. At times, it can seem as though the people around you have a clearer idea of what major you should choose than you do. The esteem with which your family and friends regard you likely pushes them to insist that you would make a great lawyer or a brilliant physician. What they fail to consider, however, is whether or not the position is right for you, and whether you are working toward your college goals by pursuing this major. If you are bent on painting for a living, then by all means obtain a fine arts degree.

What is the Earning Potential of Your Interest?

Don't disregard factors like salary potential or job opportunity, as they will affect your future, but weight them against your desire and commitment to pursue your passion. Choosing one of the top ten highest paying college majors may seem like a good idea, but it is not your only option for paying the bills. It is also possible to channel your passions into paths that might in the end be more successful. If you aren't so committed to painting or a band that you are willing to regularly bypass your evening meal, consider finding another outlet for your creativity. Writing or teaching majors can offer an individual with a natural artistic ability a chance to use his talents without committing himself to a life littered with unpaid bills and skipped meals.

What Schools Offer This Major? Where Are These Schools Located?

This question is pragmatic, but important. If you have your heart set on a specific university and a specific major you just might want to ensure that the school of your choice offers a degree within that area. The availability of your chosen major in your preferred geographic area can have a profound impact on your college search. If you have selected a fairly uncommon major and cannot afford to or do not want to relocate, it is important to verify that local universities offer your selection.

How Much Will it Cost?

If you choose an uncommon major that requires you to relocate, be sure that you consider all of the expenses involved with this process. If you pursue a degree that is only offered at a few private colleges or even state universities in other states, expect to pay more. Tuition is typically higher out of state, and the living expenses associated with relocating can be a burden. Keeping in mind the difficulties involved in balancing work and college, can you afford to move for a major? Additionally, if you are planning on entering a field that requires an extensive amount of education beyond the first four years, like medicine or law, pursuing such degrees is considerably more expensive and requires a greater amount of commitment on behalf of the student, especially when it comes to funding your education. While financial aid can often help offset costs, your choice in major can play a big role in minimizing student loans.

Determine in What Areas of Your Life You are Most Successful

The areas of your life that you are most successful in may be in stark contrast with your passions, but usually this is not the case. Look at the courses you have taken. Did you excel in any? Did you participate in an advanced placement (AP) program? Teachers can also be good at identifying aptitudes within their students. If you are uncertain about what area you perform the best in, ask one of your teachers. It is likely that they can provide you with valuable ideas and point out a direction that you had not previously considered. Additionally, if you pursue a major that compliments your strengths you are more likely to distinguish yourself within your field. If your major doesn't support your strengths, you will probably find that the curriculum within your area of choice is more difficult than you anticipated, which could make it more difficult for you to succeed.

How Will You Pay For It?

There are variations between the scholarship opportunities and the financial aid incentives for different majors. If the amount of financial assistance you need can for whatever reason possibly prevent you from attending college altogether, you may want to consider a major that has financial aid incentives attached. Scholarships and incentives vary by state, but it wouldn't hurt to look into career fields that are in need of people to fill them as there are often grants or other incentives attached for those who pursue a major within the field.

What is the Work Load Like?

The work load involved with a specific major may be of importance to you if you have to work and attend school at the same time. Some majors are more time consuming than others, especially if the major you have chosen does not compliment your natural abilities. If you are looking for a major with a work load that is light enough to allow you to work and pursue other interests, consult with your guidance counselor either at your high school or at your university to determine which options will be best for you.

Talk to People who Have Obtained the Major You are Considering

If you already have a major in mind that you think is a good fit for you, you might want to consider chatting with someone who obtained a degree in that field. They can probably answer your more specific questions better than a guidance counselor as they have had first hand experience. Additionally, they can provide information about the curriculum, the work load, and tell you about their experience looking for work after graduation. You might find that different degrees have impacted the graduates very differently when they pursued opportunities after graduation. For some, the degree they chose made finding a position easy, for others their degree was their greatest obstacle.

Look at the Career Options Available Within This Major

Not all majors are created equal. Yes, they all offer a diploma upon completion, but they don't guarantee a job. When you are choosing a major, it would be wise to check out the job placement statistics of others who have pursued this degree. There is no reason why you should be the guinea pig; if a specific career is your reason for choosing this major, investigate the success of others. If you want to avoid a data entry position, check out all of the opportunities available and your chance at landing one of those positions after graduation.

Financial Incentives

This suggestion is self-explanatory. There are some attractive financial aid incentives or tuition reimbursement programs that are associated with specific majors. If financial aid is one of your primary concerns, look into majors that will help you pay for college. If you choose to take advantage of one of the incentive options, expect that they may require you to commit to working for a couple of years within the specified field.

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