What is a Major?
Majors represent a specific subject area you will specialize in within your classes. Depending on the school and major program you choose, your major requirements will be a mix of lower-division and upper-division courses, mostly within your department but often including courses across multiple departments. Students sometimes opt to double-major, minor, or both based on their academic plans. Some schools even have the option to create your own major.
Though it sounds fancy, “declaring a major” basically means you’ll meet with an advisor or department head on campus to submit a course plan detailing your progress so far, as well as your future completion of, your major’s course requirements. Sound familiar?
This usually happens before the end of your sophomore year, which means you’ll have plenty of time to explore classes and decide on the right major for you.
How to Choose a Major
But how do I know that I’ve found the right major? We hear this question all the time. The existential crisis of the college student--we get it! Choosing a major can feel like a lot of pressure, and we’re here to help. You can, and should, talk to any of your coaches about choosing a major, but first, it’s useful to ask yourself the following questions:
What do I like? And why do I like it?
So, you ask yourself again: what do you like? What have you liked in your classes in college so far? Write it down. Separate the idea of the major from the reality of the major. Reflect. Be curious. Be open-minded, and talk to your coach.
Other things to keep in mind when choosing a major:
Classes: Which classes make you feel most excited? Do you prefer lecture-based learning and exams? Do you require hands-on experiments and labs? Are you drawn to seminar-style discussions and argumentative writing? Different major programs will have very different course styles, so make sure you’re choosing a program that best reflects your learning preferences.
Departments: What does the major department feel like? What are the professors like? Do they make themselves available for students? Do they encourage independent research? What are students saying about the culture? Do students support each other? We strongly encourage students to attend academic fairs on campus to hear directly from the professors and students representing each department.
The Experience & Opportunities: Does your major require or encourage study abroad? If not, does it offer you the flexibility to add that to your plan? Does your major encourage other outside learning, like fieldwork or internships? Will your major give you access to lab research or self-designed fellowships? The best way to find out is by talking to a professor or department representative.
Linking Careers to Majors
We get this question all the time. What major should I choose if I want to work in x? Vanessa Velasquez '17 put together this grid of Eastside alumni, their majors, and what they went on to do after college. Check it out below!
Spoiler alert: there is no direct correlation between your major and your career. We have this conversation all the time with our students. Less than a third of college graduates end up working in a job related to their major. The reality is, the outside world doesn’t function like a perfectly organized academic institution. Careers don’t fall under perfectly organized categories of “Social Sciences” and “Quantitative Reasoning”. New disciplines, industries, and job roles are being created at a rate much faster than universities reflect. So how should you link your major to careers?
Majors can prepare you for a career through topic specialization, skills development, and other interesting experiences that make you stand out as a job applicant. For example, if you want to explore careers in Business Consulting, studying Economics seems like a good place to start as it will require you to take classes like statistics and econometrics. But it’s important to understand that consulting requires more than these quantitative skills, and a History major coupled with these courses as electives could actually make you a more well-rounded candidate with more diverse research, analysis, and argumentative skills. Or, if you’re planning to apply to a highly competitive medical school program, did you know that a nontraditional major in the Humanities or Social Sciences, coupled with the necessary premed requirements, would make you a more competitive candidate?
If you find yourself choosing a major based on an idea or assumption of what career it might lead to, talk to your college and career coach about it. Also remember, you can always combine interests with a double-major or minor.
Making Changes to your Major
Changing your mind about your major is normal. As college coaches, we can tell you it happens more often than you hear about. Trust us, it’s better to take a little more time to find the right major than it is to force yourself through a major that doesn’t make sense and is likely hurting your academic record. Obviously, the sooner you realize you want to change your major, the better it is for planning, but you should never force yourself to stick to a major because you feel like it would change your plans.
Finding the right major will make you a happier and more successful student. Take a minute to go through your school’s What-If Degree Planner. If you find yourself curious about changing majors, or just need help thinking through a plan, reach out to your college coach.
What do you like?
After a year and a quarter in my college career I recognized that the sciences were not my strengths, and most importantly not interesting enough to spend 4 years of my effort. I found that, "sure I may want to be a med school candidate, but I definitely did not want to be a med school candidate with a low GPA and burnt out once I graduate!" Through research I found most med schools don't require you to actually be a science major, but rather follow through with specific classes that virtually anyone of any major can take. So my next goal was picking a new major.
Knowing myself I knew I had a passion for human evolution and sociocultural behavior so I took a risk and started a path in Anthropology without taking a single class beforehand. It wasn't until taking my first cultural anthropology class that I found the field to have most, if not all, of what I was interested in when it came to human beings. One thing's certain out of this entire experience, I am the happiest I've been since I switched over and that's what matters the most. A degree is a degree, the costs and hardships are more than bearable if you study what you love
-Jose Sainz '17