Choosing your Major
Where Do I Begin?
Choosing a major is an important decision, one that should not be hurried. The time that you give to the PROCESS of making this decision will be well spent.
Making a major decision too quickly or without enough information may only lead to frustration, especially if you later find that the field bores you or that you don’t have the necessary skills.
For example, if you are thinking of majoring in nursing because you heard there is a high demand for this well paying job, and you like to help people, but you’ve done average or less than average work in science and math courses in high school and/or college, you may need to ask yourself if nursing is a realistic choice.
Making a hasty decision about your major may be more time consuming and expensive in the end if you go through too many changes later.
In order to make a major decision, you need three things: Time, Information, and Commitment.
- Time to consider all the options, to think about implications of your decision, and time to do the work necessary to make a decision.
- Information so your decision is based on your own experiences and you can compare statistics, data, knowledge and advice.
- Commitment to follow through, to make decisions and review your progress regularly.
What Do I Want To Study?
The question to consider is specific: “What do I want to study?” not “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Although the pursuit of a major can be related to the pursuit of a career field, they may not always be linked. Many times students feel stress or pressure choosing a major.
- What are my interests and what intrigues me?
- What are the kinds of activities that I enjoy participating in, reading, or studying?
- What hobbies do I pursue?
- What courses have I enjoyed the most? Why?
- When you fantasize about your future, what kind of activities do you imagine yourself doing?
Finding out what you are interested in will help shape your academic path and discover a job that is more enjoyable and a vocational calling. Discovering your calling is a journey that can lead to work you are more interested in doing and a more fulfilling and successful career.
Use the Interest Matrix to find out what possible majors would fit best with your interests.
Use the Wild Hope Center for Vocation if would like to talk with someone about some possible career options. The Center promotes and provides a range of opportunities to engage with, discern, and live out vocation. We accomplish this through Educating, Mentoring students, faculty and staff, Creating opportunities for the discernment of vocation, Developing resources, and Cooperative engagement through others on campus.
Who Am I Today?
Honest, objective reflection on your personal preferences and previous academic experiences are essential to the major decision making process. It is important that you evaluate the evidence available to you, so that your decisions can be as accurate and informed as possible.
Start by evaluating your academic progress. Use Banner Web to review your CAPP Report/Degree Evaluation. What is your Cumulative GPA? How many credits have you completed? Are you able to recognize any patterns? Is there a group of classes where you have done better/worse in the past?
Is your potential major a reflection of your interests, passions, and abilities?
- What are my values?
- Are my decisions and choices influenced by certain religious or philosophical beliefs and teachings?
- What are my motivations?
- Are outside pressures (from family, peers, or the job market) shaping and influencing my decisions?
- Am I choosing a major because I believe it will be easy?
- Is my primary motivation based on the amount of money I believe I can earn in a given field rather than interest in the field itself?
It is important to take careful consideration of your academic abilities. Is it reasonable for you to build strengths and skills in the areas necessary to be successful in a particular field of study? Try making projections for your success in certain academic areas: Will you receive higher grades in a natural science major than a humanities degree? If you have experienced poor academic performance in the past was it based primarily on lack of aptitude or lack of effort? If lack of effort, will you have time, money, and motivation to make up for the previous poor performances?
What Are My Options?
If you are having difficulty coming up with a list or have too many possibilities it probably is an indication that you ought to consult with Academic Advising. Circle or highlight course descriptions in the catalog that sound interesting. Do you find that a number of them fall into a particular major or two? Browse departmental websites for requirements and other information.
The Alumni and Student Connections at PLU has several assessment tools that can help you answer some of the questions posed in the previous section. These inventories help to identify your interest areas and personal traits, and then compare your preferences with the interests of people who report high levels of satisfaction working in various career fields. Assessments like these do not tell you which major is “the right major” for you, but the results can help you generate ideas about majors and occupations that are worth further exploration.
Does PLU offer the major(s) that you are considering, or would you have to transfer to another school? Do your interests, abilities, values, and motivations conflict with each other, or are they in agreement? Will you be able to meet entrance requirements and prerequisites on time, particularly in majors which require separate applications (nursing, business, education, etc.)? If you completed the majority of requirements for a major, would it make more sense to finish the major you have already started and pick up courses or a minor in an area you are more interested in exploring?
Interview a Faculty Member
Make an appointment to talk with a faculty member about the skills and areas of expertise you will develop in studying the disciplines they teach. Ask about employment of recent graduates in this area and internships that majors have completed or are completing.
Consult with a member of the Academic Advising staff about planning for your possible major. Meet with an advisor to review degree plans to determine the time line for completing major and General University Requirements.
Without thinking about a future career:
- Am I interested in a subject matter?
- Do I enjoy reading and learning about this field?
- Do I have or can I develop the skills necessary for success in this major?
I’ve Decided! Now What?
Congratulations! Choosing a major can be a confusing, involved, and exciting process. Now that you have made a decision, here are the next steps:
- Schedule an appointment with the Chair of the department.
- When meeting with the Chair, they will fill out an online form declaring your major.
- Congratulate yourself for choosing a major!
Additional Things To Consider:
Do you need to change Academic Advisors now that you have declared a major?
Are there internships or work experience that may fit well with your chosen major?
Does your major have an honor society you can join or campus events you can participate in?
At the end of your freshman year, you should have a fairly clear idea of what you want to major in. If you are unsure, that is okay! Make an appointment with your advisor, the Wild Hope Center for Vocation, and schedule meetings with some of your favorite professors to learn more about the major. You must declare your major before the beginning of your junior year, so use your time wisely to figure out your future plans.