Steps for Choosing a Major

by UMaineCLASAdvisingCenter

» Experience General Education:  General education is your gateway to higher learning.  More than just requirements to “get out of the way,” these courses will expose you to a wide variety of disciplines and put you in a situation to meet other students whose interests may be quite different from your own, effectively broadening your education and your experience.  Through these courses, you can also learn about various majors that you may be interested in pursuing.

» Self-Assessment:  Do some inner-reflection, assessing your interests, values, strengths, dislikes, abilities, personal qualities, and skills.  Evaluate what you find most important for yourself.  Look at what you want.  Try to imagine the setting that enhances who you are, such as climate (hot, cold, dry, humid, etc.) or locale (small town, city, etc.).  The Career Center has assessment tools that can help you pinpoint some of these things.

» Cast a Broad Net:  Don’t think in terms of choosing a major or department.  Think of an area of study that interests you.  There are many jobs out there that you haven’t even thought of and some jobs that haven’t even been created.  Don’t limit yourself.

» Talk with Others:  Talk with your advisor, professors, and professionals in various fields, family, and friends about majors and how they match your interests and skills.  Talk with department chairs and faculty in departments you want to explore.  Talk with people in careers you want to explore.  Make an appointment and see a career counselor at the Career Center.

» Network:  It is never too soon to start building a networking system.  Get to know your professors and academic advisor.  Build relationships with students in your classes.  Join clubs and activities on campus.  Join a professional organization (student often receive discounts) in an area you find interesting.  Work with the Alumni Association on campus to hook up with alumni in areas that interest you or contact the Career Center to get involved in the Maine Mentor Program.  Go to a Career Fair (watch for announcements).

» Set Goals:  Focus on your main goal: graduating from college.  Your indecision about a major should not deter you from moving toward completing your college degree.  Set monthly and weekly goals, go to all your classes, and treat your college education as you would treat your career.

» Gain Experience:  Working in an area you are interested in is a great way of testing whether a job or major is right for you.  You can test your perception of a field against the reality of it.  Working also helps you discover your strengths, interests, and skills.  Don’t overlook the value of volunteering your time.  The Career Center has a job board and information on various paid and unpaid internships.

» Make a Choice:  It is fine to stay undecided for the first year or so of college.  But a point comes when you need to make a decision and work to make it successful.  Indecisiveness can create a lack of motivation and be a self-destructive cycle.  When you are indecisive, you don’t take action, when you don’t take action, you can become depressed and this can lead to missing classes, which results in more depression and inaction.

» Evaluate and Modify:  Get past the fear of making decisions by reminding yourself that few things in life are reversible.  Evaluate your decision as you go along.  You can always change majors again.  Bringing closure to your undergraduate degree in any major is better than going to school for years and living in fear of choosing the wrong major.  You can always go back for graduate work in another area of study.  By focusing on one area now, you can direct your energies.