If you ask any student what they plan to study in college, you’re likely to induce a full-blown panic attack.
Considering the array of options, and the fact that many students believe their major is an exact determinant of where they’ll end up, narrowing down on one area is oftentimes the biggest challenge. But it doesn’t have to be.
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Between guidance counselors and academic advisers, students have plenty of people to turn to for career guidance. At the end of the day, “these are professionals who have helped countless students before you navigate the same questions of what they want to study in college,” says Elwell. They probably have ideas for things that you might want to pursue.”
Friends and family are also great sources to tap into, he explains. “They know a lot about you, and might have insights that you haven’t even thought of, so just sort of talk to them about your [potential] major and see what they have to say.”
Explore your options
The best thing for students to do is test out the waters before they declare, says Elwell. For high school students, that means making it a point to sign up for AP classes. If you’re interested in computer science, take AP computer science principles, says the expert. “You’re going to get a better sense of whether that’s a field that you ultimately want to pursue in college.”
College students should also get their feet wet, he explains. Because most schools don’t require them to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year, those first two years are the perfect time to explore new interests. “And you never know. That interesting class description that you saw in the course catalog might turn out to be your college major.”
Do your research
The internet is a great place to begin learning about different majors, and College Board’s “Big Future” tool is a smart place to start. Students can plug in keywords to find specific courses that might be helpful for certain majors, and even watch videos from other students who had to navigate the same situation.
Perhaps even more helpful, however, is exploring leaders in a career path you’re considering, says Elwell. If you’re interested in graphic design, look for someone in that field on LinkedIn— and then reach out to them for information, says the expert. “They could give you some insight as to how they got there, what they studied, and hopefully, could help you when you’re making your own decision.”