Dealing with the Major Decision from High School to College

With round one of college applications due in just a couple of days, the stakes suddenly feel higher than ever before. Whether you’re completing the final touch-ups for Early Decision applications or drafting your personal essay for the New Year deadline, there’s still that one small section that can raise some anxiety: deciding the prospective major.

It may seem unfair  that this section is even a part of the Common App. Even after finishing their first year of college, many students still have no clue what field to pursue, let alone what to major in specifically. So while it may seem like colleges might look at your grades differently if you mark down a particular major, know that this usually isn’t the case. For starters, college administration officers know that it’s too soon for you to have your life all figured out, which I should mention is completely fine! The selections are typically used to get a vague sense of what percentage of students might comprise each major within your cohort of applicants.

However, a decision on a major should generally  happen by the end of your sophomore year of college. For many students, this may still feel way too soon. However, the traditional undergraduate experience calls for four years of study, so the decision has to be made at the midpoint in order to graduate “on time.” So does this mean that shifting gears halfway through your sophomore year is going to throw you completely off track? Not at all! It may be tough to catch up for sure, but it’ll definitely be worth it if you decide you’re genuinely passionate about a different major.

So if you, a current high school senior, are still torn over what field to gravitate towards, know that a lot of people, even in their sophomore year of college, are still figuring that out for themselves.

For me personally, I’ve hit that point in my sophomore year where I’m beginning to question what I really want to spend junior and senior year studying. While I’ve enjoyed taking courses in the major that I’m currently pursuing, I’m not very sure that this is the sort of direction I’d like to go in to establish a career in the future.

A bunch of questions have been running through my mind as of late. Will I graduate on time if I switch from the humanities to a STEM major? Is it worth pursuing another major when I’ve taken so many classes for my current major? Sophomore year will be over in the blink of an eye; what if I don’t even like the classes for this new major I’m interested in? These questions are completely valid and will continue to press your thoughts until you’ve effectively settled in your niche.

So how will I be proceeding? Well, now that my classes for the fall semester are locked until December, I’ve taken this time to do a bunch of research. I’ve started off researching the major and concentrations on my school’s website and talking to students who are pursuing that major with the concentrations I’m interested in. Moreover, I plan on discussing this in depth with an advisor for the major, and maybe even dropping by the career office to figure out how this major might play out in the future.

And if you have more than one area of interest, be sure to look for ways that you can combine them, since interdisciplinary studies are beginning to be more and more common these days. As a high school senior, you’re likely to have some other majors in mind, perhaps some that you didn’t have the space to indicate on your Common App. I would certainly recommend exploring the programs offered at all the colleges you’re applying to, so that you can reassure yourself that there’s always an opportunity to pursue an alternative plan.

At the end of the day, most people don’t have their entire lives planned out accordingly. Honestly, I feel just as conflicted as I was two years ago when I was scrolling through all the fascinating majors for each college’s application. And truth be told, I’ve met many students who continued to change their major/concentration during their junior year and still managed to graduate by the end of their senior year. The main thing to remember is that college is a place for self-discovery and that the first two years of your undergraduate experience can just be a bunch of intro classes for majors you’re interested in (those credits will still be useful for general education requirements!)

Don’t sweat over what you want to pursue just yet. Really, colleges are only interested in knowing if your mind is open enough to new possibilities and if you’re ready to put in the hard work to pursue these goals.