A Guide to Choosing the Right College Major

By Kelly Boyer Sagert · August 22, 2023 · 8 minute read

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A Guide to Choosing the Right College Major

After spending months researching and applying to colleges, you’ve finally decided on a school.

You should be proud of this achievement. But weighing and comparing schools isn’t the only decision you’ll be faced with. At some point, you’ll also need to choose a major.

Many college freshmen haven’t settled on a field of study, so you’re not alone if you’ve been wondering, “What should I major in?” Choosing what to study at college can feel nerve-racking, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are steps you can take to make an informed decision you’ll be happy with. One tool that can help you narrow your options? Taking a college major quiz.

Read on to learn more about choosing a major, take our college majors quiz, and then discover the strategies that will help you pick the right major.

When Is It Necessary to Declare a Major?

Schools usually require that you declare a major by the end of your sophomore year. Generally, there’s not a particular rush to declare. What’s more important is that you take a variety of classes if you’re still trying to figure out “what should I major in?,” to find the subjects that interest you most.

Just be aware that if your chosen field requires sequential classes, you may not be able to take quite as long to shop around for a major. For instance, it’s easier to switch out of being a science or engineering major than it is to switch into that field.

Why Choosing the Right Major Is Important

Your college major is the first stepping stone to your career. It won’t decide your entire career path, just as your first job won’t determine your entire career, but it will launch you on a particular trajectory and help you develop certain skills you’ll need to be successful.

Practically, you’ll want to choose a major with college program costs you can afford, that will pay you the kind of income you’re looking for, and has good employment prospects for the future.

On a more personal level, some of the most important considerations are: Is it something that truly engages you? Does it set you up for a career that you’ll enjoy? And does it suit your personality?

It seems obvious to say that you should choose a degree based on your interests, but it’s a consideration that you should respect. True engagement in a topic can have numerous ripple benefits. For instance, you’ll probably be more motivated and committed to lifelong learning and less likely to feel burnt out in school or later in your career.

College Major Quiz

Now that you understand why the right major is important, take this college major quiz to help answer the question, “which college major should I choose?”, and find the right area of study for you.

Satisfaction Survey Results

How do college graduates feel about the majors they chose? BestColleges.com conducted a survey to see how happy college graduates were with their choice of major. The survey asked numerous questions, with results tabulated for each question from each of the following generations: Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation.

Here are three key findings:

•  61% of respondents would change their major if that were possible.

•  About 26% of participants would change their major to reflect their passions.

•  About 30% of the Millennials who participated said they should have chosen a major with better job opportunities.

It’s important to remember that this survey focused on people who graduated and were looking back at decisions they’d already made about their majors. As a current college student, you still have the ability to make the right decision.

6 Steps to Choosing Your College Major

Here are some key steps you can take to find the best college major for you.

1. Exploring

What’s tough about making a decision about which major to choose when you’re a teenager is that you haven’t tried a lot of things yet. The first year or two of college is a fine opportunity to explore, even if you think you know what major you’ll choose.

To begin, think about what you enjoy and what you’re good at. In addition to subjects, include skills such as leadership or organization. Next, consider the majors that match up with those interests. Branch out beyond the same subjects you took in high school.

Sign up for academic or pre-professional clubs—they’re a great way to learn more about career possibilities, create a support network as you’re enrolling in classes, seek out job-related opportunities, and meet people who share your interests. If you plan on working while you’re in college, find a job in a field you’re interested in.

2. Talking to People

As you’re thinking about, what major should I choose?, speak with other students, professors, and guest lecturers about their career experience. You’re likely to learn more about what a career is like by talking to someone with real-life experience.

Find a career counselor at your school who is willing to discuss with you options for majors and career opportunities.

It’s also no secret that we can have very skewed opinions of ourselves. Often, we’re too hard on ourselves or don’t recognize our own talents. It can help to have conversations with the people in your life (family, friends, teachers, coaches, and so on) whom you know will provide constructive observations and advice. It’s entirely possible that you’ll learn something about your strengths you never knew before.

3. Thinking About the Money

While no one expects that you have money figured out, you should have a general idea about how the decisions you make in college will affect you later in life.

First, investigate the starting salaries for different majors and entry-level jobs. This is an especially important exercise if you have student loans. As you’re choosing a major, it’s helpful to understand the basics of student loans and what they cover.

For instance, you’ll need to be aware of when you need to start putting money toward student loans, and how much your payments might be. Your loans can affect your financial future for many years, so make sure your major and career of choice will allow you to cover what you owe.

Even if you don’t have student loans, having a realistic idea about salaries, job availability, and cost of living in the area where you expect to live is important. Find a major that works within your budget and schedule.

It’s also important to look ahead. Is a career of choice expected to be in demand in the future? Is the demand expected to actually increase?

Recommended: Private Student Loans Guide

4. Getting Granular

At this point, it may be obvious to you which major is best. If not, and you’re still asking, “what major should I choose?”, a good strategy can be to create an in-depth list that includes:

•  Your strengths

•  Your weaknesses

•  Activities you enjoy

•  Tasks you dread

Also ask a college counselor if you can do aptitude testing. Are career fairs that you can attend coming to your school? Do some volunteer work or see if you can secure an internship in an area of special interest. Spread your net wide and take all you’ve listed and learned to make a choice that’s right for you.

5. Post-graduate Plans?

Is a bachelor’s degree what’s needed for the career you’re considering? Or will more schooling be required? Before finalizing your major, it makes sense to be clear about how much education you’ll need for a particular job.

If a master’s degree or more is required, is this something you’re interested in pursuing? And can you afford it?

And again, it makes sense to think about your student loans and the repayment terms they have. One thing to know is that you don’t necessarily have to stick to those terms if they won’t work for you. Refinancing student loans could help you get a more favorable rate and term, and possibly make your payments more affordable.

When you refinance, you replace your current loans with a brand-new private loan. It’s important to explore the advantages of refinancing student loans as well as the disadvantages.

One thing to know is that refinancing federal student loans makes them ineligible for federal programs and protections, like income-driven repayment plans. If you think you’ll need access to these benefits, refinancing may not be the best choice for you.

6. Filling in the Gaps

Once you choose a major, you might also want to select a minor. Having a minor opens up another academic discipline and can provide you with additional skills that can help you pursue your ideal career.

If, for example, you want to become a psychiatrist, it can make sense to have a business minor if you want to open a solo practice.

Whenever possible, it makes sense to choose a minor at the same time you declare your major. This allows you to strategically schedule classes so you can graduate within the planned time frame.

In the end, no matter what major and minor you decide on, know that your flexibility, creativity, and passion for life-long learning will have much to do with your success.

SoFi Private Student Loans

As you’re determining your major and also thinking about paying for college, student loans can help you cover some of the cost of college. If you’re exploring student loan options, shop around for the best rates and terms. SoFi private student loans have low fixed or variable interest rates and no fees. It’s easy to apply online and you can add a cosigner in just minutes. Additional benefits include exclusive member discounts and the flexibility to choose from multiple repayment options.

Students are encouraged to explore their federal student loan options before applying for any private loans. Federal student loans come with benefits that may not be offered by private lenders. Private student loans can also be more expensive than federal student loans.

If you have student loans and you’d like to lower your monthly payments, refinancing might be one way to do it. SoFi offers loans with low rates, flexible terms, and no fees. And you can find out if you prequalify in just two minutes. Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Bank, N.A. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.

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