Major DecisionsMajor Decisions

Major Decisions

You've got the diploma in-hand and you're heading for college in the fall. You aren't sure what you want to study once you get there? Not to worry. It's perfectly natural for high school students to not yet have decided on a college major. Now's the time to start giving it some thought.

NJnextstop.org did a little digging, consulting the college experts involved with such organizations as the Ventures Scholars Program, a national nonprofit membership program designed to promote access to higher education for young adults interested in pursuing math- and science-based careers, and came up with some of the most important questions to ask yourself when choosing a college major.

1. Assess your interests. What types of things excite you? What careers appeal to you? Keep in mind that you will likely have access to a wider variety of courses in college compared to high school. Your high school and/or your new college career center should have self-tests to help in your assessment. You can also visit www.njnextstop.org and check out the "My Career Builder" tab on the homepage to draw connections between knowledge and careers by going through the 3 easy-to-follow steps.

2. Examine your abilities. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your top skills? Take a look at the subjects you took in high school and note where you excelled and what you enjoyed. Always remember, too, that college can be a fresh start. Sometimes we get stereotyped in high school: ‘Oh, he's a math type,' or ‘She's best at English and math isn't her thing.' If people say these things often enough, we start to believe them. It's OK to challenge yourself in college with something you may not have already tried, or that you want to try with renewed enthusiasm. The results may surprise you.

3. Figure out what you value in work. Do you like to help society? Do you work well under pressure? Do you want to travel? Talk with your parents and/or as many people who have been in the workforce as possible to begin to understand some of the characteristics that help define jobs. But don't limit yourself if you lack certain skills. For instance, don't rule out a job that requires public speaking just because you hate speaking in front of groups. Your skills will evolve as you mature. You will amaze even yourself!

4. Keep an open mind. College is a time of change and personal development. Many freshmen enter as one person and emerge four or five years later much wiser and more mature. Perhaps you will enter college with a major in mind and then become inspired by an amazing professor and take an entirely different direction. That's OK! Be open-minded, seek mentors, utilize resources and explore options. You'll find your niche and have a whole lot of fun along the way.