Choosing a Major or Degree for University in the USA
What do you want to be when you grow up?
This is one of the most common questions we ask children year after year. Once graduating from secondary school is near, this question becomes an important part of your university search and decision.
Many university deadlines are quickly approaching or have passed, and students are awaiting decisions and getting ready for the next step - choosing a university and a degree program.
But where do you start?
Do you dream of writing the next international best-selling novel? Of operating on brains to save lives? Of designing buildings as tall as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai? Do you have a career or job that calls out to you?
Or do you have family expectations that you must study medicine or business and follow in your parent’s footsteps? Do you feel like a path is already laid out in front of you?
Perhaps you have no direction at all, and your family is supportive, but you find yourself bouncing from idea to idea, not sure what kind of job you would be best suited to you. That is probably the most typical answer because you're a teenager and shouldn't know it all yet...
Studying in the USA is an excellent choice because you have the flexibility to change your mind.
Remember the benefit of a liberal arts education is being able to sample different classes and get a well rounded education with 21st century skills that will help you be successful in your career.
Keys to consider when choosing a major:
Career – Determine what type of job you can do with the degree/major you are thinking about
Earning Potential – what is the earning potential either in the USA or in your home country? Look up the annual salary to see what kinds of jobs you could get and how much income that would provide you in the future.
Passion – what subjects do you love to study or what hobbies do you love that could turn into a degree or career?
Who can help you decide?
Blogs like this one! Doing research is always a good idea!
Professors - professors are often experienced in the field they are teaching. They may have worked in the industry you are considering for many years. You can ask your university admissions counselor to introduce you to a professor before you are even committed to attend. Take advantage of the expertise of professors to decide if you are selecting the right major.
Advisors - many universities assign first year advisors to all new students. This person can be a huge help in deciding the pros and cons of both classes and careers in university.
Career Tests - taking a personality or career test is a great way to learn more about what you might be good at that you don’t even realize!
Three of my favorite are:
Myers Briggs Type Indicator - Career Test
And if you still can't decide...
In the USA, you have the excellent opportunity to enter university undecided. This is great because you can take some time to explore different subjects and courses that interest you, while hopefully fulfilling some undergraduate degree requirements that you will need for the major you’ll declare.
For example, you might take a Nutrition class your first year of school, but you might realize this isn’t the right field for you and you decide to be a History major. Even the history degree will likely have a health and wellness requirement that you can use the nutrition course for. This is the awesomeness of a liberal arts education!
Results of Changing Majors:
If you change your major too many times, you may have to stay an extra semester or year to complete your bachelor’s degree
Most universities charge by semester or by credit hour. If you are being charged by semester, then having to stay an extra semester (or two) could be quite expensive. If you are being charged per credit hour, then you just have to pay extra for each class you take to complete your degree
Many degrees have advanced coursework for the major that have prerequisite classes, or classes you need to take before the advanced class.
For example, if you have been studying history for two years, and then you want to study biology (and perhaps later apply to medical school), just know that it may take several semesters to complete prerequisite courses so you can study the more advanced biology courses
Benefits of Undecided
You can start university studies as an undecided major and explore different tracks. Many universities allow students to enter undecided and have up to two years to declare a major. Another benefit of a liberal arts education! As always, feel free to comment questions below...
Until next time!
The Savvy International