Did you know that the average college student changes their major at least once before graduating?
Sometimes students fall readily into a major that fits them well. Often, however, it takes some research, exploration, and experimentation to settle into that academic plan that feels right. Once you reach your sophomore year, it is important to focus on major selection, if you have not done so already. And if that initial major turns out not to be a good fit, do not hesitate to re-select using the methods below. Here are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for choosing majors and minors.
"Do’s" for the Major & Minor/Certificate Seeker
1. Become familiar with all the majors, minors, and certificates
available at UMBC.
Indeed, some academic fields may be completely unfamiliar because they were not taught in high school or your prior college. Interdisciplinary Studies (the “build your own major” major), Health Administration and Policy, Ancient Studies, and Business Technology Administration are interesting majors students may not have been aware of prior to arriving at UMBC.
2. Narrow the list to 5-8 possibilities based on your interests and aptitudes and then do more in depth research.
Read the entire catalog sections, all the course descriptions, faculty bios, and any other information about these majors available on the Department websites. Visit the bookstore and take a look at the 300 and 400 level books and materials required in various majors. If there are concentrations within the major, which would be most appropriate? How many credits are required? Are there any entry requirements (such as gateway courses or a portfolio review)?
3. Use your “general education” courses to experiment with potential majors.
Choose your general education courses thoughtfully so you can test your reactions to potential majors by taking an introductory course. Sometimes it is necessary to take that first course in order to know whether a field is truly of interest or not.
4. Talk to people, network and attend events.
Talk to friends, attend Council of Majors meetings, or discuss the major with professors in the field. Also seek out related extracurricular activities and “major” related presentations sponsored by student organizations and various offices on campus.
5. Consider minors and certificates as interesting options for diversification.
Did you know that UMBC offers 34 minors and 24 certificates? Minors and certificates can provide a structured way for you to explore additional academic interests, develop specific transferable skills, or even “repurpose” courses from a previous major.
6. Think about your career goals.
If you already know what you want to do as a career, this is a great first step. Thinking about what skills or knowledge you need for that career can help guide you in to a major and potentially a minor.
A Few “Don’ts” for Major & Minor/Certificate Seekers
1. Don’t let anyone else choose your
academic program for you.
Friends, parents, siblings all have ideas about what you should major in. It is very important that you listen to what they have to say with an open mind, but then make your own individual choice. You are the student and you are making decisions that could affect the rest of your life.
2. Don’t assume that a college major will necessarily lead directly to a specific type of job.
Many of the skills acquired in college are of a general nature and can be applied in many different professional settings. The workforce is full of people whose undergraduate majors bear only an indirect relationship to the positions they hold. A degree in a specific area does not necessarily mean you are only limited to jobs in that field.
3. Don’t stick with a major when it is clear that you are performing poorly in the required courses.
If your grades are low in your major, this may be an indication that it is not appropriate for you. Be open to other options in which you can be more successful.
4. Don’t assume that difficulty choosing a major is a sign of weakness or failure.
Some of the most intelligent and creative people have many strong interests and difficulty choosing a primary focus. Combining a major with a minor or certificate program may prove to be a good solution.
5. Don’t just wait to be inspired.
Willingness to take action is often the most important factor in moving forward with a thoughtful decision regarding a major. Getting involved in a community service project, internship, research opportunity, alternative Spring Break, or even pursuing a study abroad opportunity can provide different vantage points from which to consider academic interests and future career directions.
6. Don’t pick a major based on how much money graduates make
Picking a major based solely on potential salary earnings is a bad idea. This can lead you to something that you do not enjoy or may not be good at. Realistically, potential salary earnings could be a factor in picking one major over the other, but do not make it the primary reason. Click here to find out more about all of UMBC's majors, minors, and certificates! We also recommend you consider reviewing four year graduation plans for all majors via UMBC's Academic Pathways resource. If you are really stuck on figuring out a major or minor to pursue, the Self-Directed Search (SDS) and the FOCUS are offered by the Office of Academic and Pre-Professional Advising and Career Services, respectively. These are both useful tools to help guide you in the process.
Four Steps to Choosing a College Major (New York Times)
EXTRA CREDIT DISCUSSION QUESTION If you have declared a major, what strategies did you use to make your decision?