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• by Rebecca Long Pyper •

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Congrats, graduate! Now what?

Tips for selecting a college major


•   Rebecca Long Pyper   •

You’ve got the diploma and a tassel dangling from the rearview mirror. Now you’re off to college, where you’ll begin to choose the kind of work you’ll do the rest of your life. No pressure, though; you can select a major you’ll love with these tips from advisors at Idaho State University’s Pocatello Advising Center:


>> Take a good look at yourself. One of the first steps in declaring a major is pinpointing subjects or issues that resonate with you. Director JoAnn Hertz recommends asking these questions: What do you value? What are you good at? What do you dislike? And what is challenging?


Also, reflect on classes where you excelled or enjoyed yourself, and trust your gut. “When making a major or career choice use rational thoughts and intuition to make the choice,” Hertz said. “Carefully consider all the self, educational and occupational knowledge obtained; however, pay attention to areas of interest that ‘feel right.’”


>> Make time for exploration. Browse the university catalog, check out requirements for graduation and read course descriptions. You can also meet with a career counselor; these specialists offer assessments to help discover your innate abilities and which majors and occupations best match those. Remember job shadowing and internet research too.


>> Sign up for an introductory course. Don’t end up like the subject matter? Look at it this way: With one fewer option on your list, you’ll be one step closer to figuring out what to study.


>> Don’t sweat it too much. Just because you earn a degree in one discipline doesn’t mean you are pigeonholed. Graduating from college opens doors, and not all the same kind. “A college degree strengthens your competitiveness in the workplace, and in many cases the specific major isn’t as important as the degree itself,” academic advisor Nancy Goodman said.


Along those lines, extracurricular activities during college will comprise the bulk of a grad’s resume, “so while you’re deciding on a major, be sure to examine what extracurricular activities you want to be involved in as well,” Goodman said. “In many cases your extracurricular involvement will be more important to an employer than your specific college major.”


>> Check your work. “Learn as much as you can about the requirements of a major once you have selected one, and think long and hard if you are willing to take the courses it requires and if you have an aptitude for those courses,” academic advisor Susanne Forrest said. “Work to your strengths!”

Still a high schooler but looking to the future? According to academic advisor Mark Edwards, most high schools have a career information system and interest assessments available in their counseling departments; these can both start you on the right track toward major declaration, even before graduation. “Students should begin looking into possible degrees (and) career possibilities as early as possible … and continue to research throughout their time in high school,” he said.



Story and background photo by Rebecca Long Pyper.