Choose a Major

How to Choose a College Major

“You are KIDDING, Right?  I’m not ready to choose a major.”

The answer is YES and NO.

NO. You don’t need to make a final choice about a college major. You usually do that sometimes University of Northern Coloradobefore your junior year in college.

YES.  You really should start thinking about it. In fact, most kids start thinking about it when they are old enough to talk. “What do you want to be little boy, little girl?”   The answer might be fireman, spaceman, president,  football player, zoo keeper, a ballerina, a daddy, or all sorts of imaginative things: a dog, a hamburger, Spiderman, or even a Prince or Princess.

The University of Northern Colorado in Greely, shown in the picture, looks like a pleasant place to go. Of course, you really cannot choose a college by looking at pictures or driving by and looking at the buildings. These college pictures, however, should give you a glimpse of how different colleges can be.

As you get a little older, these dreams of the future become a little more realistic. Some students, by the time they are in middle school have made up their minds what they want to be. At least they think they have. No one will be upset if you change your mind, but it’s good to keep thinking.


Students who want to be artists should go ahead and try out various areas of art and see if they really enjoy it and if they have any talent. When they get to high school, they should take as many art classes as they can, along with exploring other areas.

Students who think they’d like to be doctors should understand how hard it is to get into medical school. In high school they need to take as many science and math classes as they can, and they want to get really good grades. They should also think about studying now for SATs or ACTs so they get into an excellent college.

Future football players can play middle school sports – any kind.  They should watch football games and learn the rules. They should begin playing football, learning to through and catch the ball, and learning to run fast. They should also eat healthy food and get regular exercise.

Future musicians can take music lessons and practice a lot. Future ballerinas can take ballet lessons and practice a lot. A future zoo keeper might practice caring for his own pets and learning about all kinds of animals.

Thinking about your future means making early decisions about what classes you should take in high school and what kind of grades you will want to make.

When you’re in High School

Now it’s time to think more carefully about your goals. You might want to be a major league football player (or play in some other sport) but you just aren’t big enough to even play high school ball. Sure, you might have a growth spurt… or you can think of something else you’d like to do.

Or perhaps you are big and fast and already a star player. You still can’t count on playing pro ball. You might be great compared to the other players in your school, but there are many other kids with dreams like this. You might not make it…. or you might be in an accident and told you’d never play again. Do you have some back-up ideas?  And then, even if you do go to college on a football scholarship, you still have to take classes. You still need to major in something.

My son decided he was going to be a famous author. One year he wanted to be a famous author like Stephen King. The next year, it was a famous author like Tolkien. I said that would be great, but I asked what kind of work he’d like to do before he got to be famous and could spend all of his time writing great books.

Another Big Reason to choose a Major – tentatively

If you are going to be or do something IMPRESSIVE so you’ll be accepted at a top school or to help you win scholarships, you need to choose what sort of thing you like to do impressively, and it would be nice if you did something related to your field of study.

Sure, nothing’s going to be permanent. The college might assume the student doing impressive research in that lab is going to study science of some sort. And they might start college planning to study science and then take an art class that they love and decide to be an artist.

The great saxophone player might not plan to study music at all. He might enjoy playing in the college band but decide to major in math. You never know.

The main idea is to just start thinking

The more you explore potential careers and a wide range of interests, the easier it will be for you to make a real decision about your major once you’re in college.

Another secret. It’s not unusual for students to get a degree in one subject and then decide to work in another area. I majored in philosophy and became a teacher.  Other people major in education and after a few months of teaching know they made a mistake. They might find they are much happier working for a large corporation or starting their own business as a florist.

There are NO permanent choices. The situation changes. The economy changes. You change. And with these changes you will try to find a way to make a living doing something you enjoy doing.

The next page:    College or NOT

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