M is for Majors

Ahh, selecting majors. Such a great time. It’s what you’re here for at UVa, right?

Selecting a major is a weird thing, a tough thing, and a really great thing all in one. You select the one area of academics that you’ll study for the next few years, and then you come out of college being so much better prepared for work in that one area. It’s limiting, but at the same time, it’s expanding. It’s hard work that makes your future hard work easier. It makes you know less about other things to know so much more about one thing.

It’s time to step outside of that well-rounded, high school bubble that got you into UVa. It’s time to choose.

Now, how do you go about this process? That’s very much a personal matter. But to start, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What do you never get bored learning about? This is key because you’ll be studying what you choose for years. Sure, you’ll get bored in one class eventually, but if you’re never bored about what you’re studying, you’re setting yourself up for something great.
  2. What are you passionate about? Passions are hard. And you might not have any yet that line up exactly with an academic major (I am passionate about cheese…but there’s unfortunately no major in “cheese”). But what I more mean is similar to the above question – what interests you in ways that are hard to explain, but you just want to learn and understand more about?
  3. What careers really interest you? Maybe your parents hold the coolest jobs you’ve ever heard of, and you want to follow in their footsteps. Maybe you had a really awesome teacher, doctor, or mentor, and you want to give back in the same way they did. Maybe you just read something online that makes you want to drop everything and do that thing forever (I once read about how being a merchant marine was one of the coolest careers ever, and I wanted to drop everything I had just done for the past four years to do that because it sounded so great). Whatever your experience, if you’re able to think of a job that you’d love to see yourself in, use this experience to guide your choice in major.

 

After figuring out the answers to these questions, it’s often helpful to talk to students and peers sharing your same interests, seek out professors involved in the areas you’re looking out, and, as in any situation, doing a quick Google search can’t hurt.

Screenshot 2014-04-17 12.51.07

Many will tell you something to consider when choosing a major is future earnings and a return on the investment of college. But I disagree with that logic. I think money is important, sure, but I don’t think it should be the determinant in making you choose one major you’re less interested in over another that you love. Choosing a major should be about doing what you love. If you choose a major that you aren’t dedicated to, you could end up in a job you dislike even more. It’s better, and more effective, to choose something you love over something that will get you a lot of money.

Next consideration: whether to double/triple/some-high number major. It’s your call, but from my experience, don’t. Don’t have more than one. This makes it so you can’t dedicate yourself to your field of study nearly as much. Your time will be much more limited. Selecting classes becomes even more challenging. I, personally, would never recommend that anyone double major unless absolutely necessary (or easy…I’ve heard stories about people majoring in one thing and only needing two or so other classes to grab a second – so sure, in that case, go for it).

Your major is a big deal. I understand the challenge in selecting one. I looked through just about every interest I had in high school, and then I ended up majoring in something I strongly disliked in high school, interestingly enough. I had a poor teacher who made me think the entirely wrong things about my field. Luckily, I had amazing professors in college who showed me the way, and I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do in my life. I hope you get to have that same moment.

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