Many students enter college unclear which major is best for them. In fact, many students graduate from college unclear which major is best for them. How can students be more confident in their choice of major? Let’s explore…
Generally, students choose a major based off limited information and one of a number of considerations. They might have a dream career in mind. They might excel in a particular subject matter in high school. They might have received encouragement to pursue a certain path from any number of well-meaning people in their lives. They might have had an epiphany one afternoon, or a single class they thought was fantastic. Any one of these reasons, and others, for choosing a primary area of study might be endlessly practical or terribly misguided.
What should students do to help them gain confidence and clarity with their choice? The answer is really quite clear. The best way to become confident in most every pursuit is to gain familiarity, wherewithal and ability through experience. Experience gained over decades takes too long for students making decisions about their future.
For this decision, students benefit from experience gained through focus. Think about young athletes who are fantastic at young ages. They are the poster children for experience earned through focus, and confident abilities are the telltale sign of their mastery.
Choosing a few areas for focused exploration is the key to making decisions for the one future students have to live.
Middle school is not too early to dig a little deeper. Sometimes, students quickly discover that an area of focus isn’t what they thought it was cracked up to be. Ultimately, focus may reveal a pursuit to be happily enjoyed for years to come. Students shouldn’t lose sight of broadening their horizons through trying new things, but spending some time to unravel the mystery of what to do next is critical. After all, starting with the end in mind is not possible without a meaningful understanding of the eventual target.
There are many ways to explore a potential area of study, starting in middle school, if not earlier. Here are a few possibilities:
- Build a list of college majors. This site can help: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors-careers
- Ask the local librarian for a few good books that explore some of your favorite potential areas of study.
- With help from mom or dad, call a small number of local colleges and ask them if they can facilitate a limited number of meaningful connections. It is not difficult to find professors, students and alumni eager to help.
- Find summer camps that explore specific topics.
- Identify other students who share your area of interest and start a club, or at least a friendship.
- Connect with the relevant local high school teacher to get their take.
- Discover which trade associations support your interests. Send them a letter to let them know you’d like their help exploring the industry. Sign up for their newsletters. Check their event calendar.
- Send a letter to companies, who could be potential future employers, and see what they might have to offer to help better understand what a career path might entail.
- Explore job postings to see the descriptions of real jobs that might mark points along your future.
- Talk to friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who took the intended path before you, or know someone who has. Maybe you can job shadow, intern or volunteer.
- Ask the guidance counselor, or local librarian, if they have access to career inventory quizzes. These quizzes do not contain the answer, but they may provide some clues.
- Document your discoveries and create a list of pros and cons.
What additional ideas can you come up with to dig a little deeper?
Obviously, a student would not pursue all of these activities in a short period of time. A reasonable game plan, sensible to the student, encourages small steps one after the other. One of the ideas above could be pursued every other week. In no time, the student will further their understanding of future options. It’s perfectly acceptable to change direction along the way, doing so from a framework of understanding is less stressful and considerably more productive.
Starting early with small consistent steps is key. It shouldn’t be a burden. Most students are eager to engage in this sort of future discovery process. Start today and, when college rolls around, you’ll be well on your way to bringing success home for decades to follow!