The Graduate: Major Keys on how to pick a Major

It is true that some poeple have the wonderful blessing of “knowing” where their passion lays and what major they want to pick.

But for the rest of us mere mortals, picking a career at 18 is exactly as random as picking one when you are in kindergarten and your mom asks you what you want to be when you grow up.

Since I’ve been there 4 years ago, and I just graduated with a Bachelor in a major that I just “randomly” picked, and it worked out pretty well, let me share some major keys, DJ Khaled style:

🔑 You DO have an idea:

We all say that we have absolutely no idea, and that we wouldn’t mind getting a degree in Spanish, in dentistry, or in creative writing, but that’s not true. Deep down, you know you always liked animals or were always fascinated by psychology or whatever it is. You just need to be honest with yourself.
If you truely have no idea, a good place to start is to list the things you don’t like. I personally knew for a fact that I couldn’t deal with anything that involves electrons and wires. It’s just not something that interests me. I am just not curious about it. I didn’t like chemistry either but I picked chemical engineering, and that’s because of the next point.

🔑Do your OWN Research:

It’s good to ask around for people’s opinions. But they shouldn’t be your only source of information. Some people like Mr McGuire are just really obsessed with certain fields.


I remember a lot of people in my family were obsessed with Medecine, and wanted me to be a doctor because of (and I quote)” the prestige”.
So my point is you should do it yourself. You should get out there, shadow a doctor or lawyer or whoever, you should google the field, see what the job opportunities are. And more importantly, you should try to understand the kind of job you would be qualified to do once you graduate. I realize it’s difficult to do, but it is absolutely important to demystify what is behind the name, especially when the names can be so misleading.
Real life example: I was stunned when I learnt how little chemistry is needed to be a Chemical Engineer. It’s not even funny. It’s actually just process engineering, aka making stuff in an industrial scale. The chemists do their stuff in a beaker, I make a factory that produces the 1 million tons a year of the stuff. It’s a gross generalization, but it helps explain how non-chemical chemical engineering can be. But If I stuck to my first impressions, (cf part 1, about how I don’t like chemistry) I probably would have never picked it.

Another one

🔑Does it work with your personality:

It is true that during college you get to know yourself better, in a way that high school never prepared for, but certain broad traits of your personality must be clear to you. Each career requires a certain mindset. As a surgeon you are expected to be.. well.. surgical! You have to be precise, detail oriented. basically, you don’t want to leave the scalpel in someone’s liver! If it doesn’t sound like you, then don’t become a surgeon. Similarly, if you are a control freak, don’t pick investment banking and finance. You’re literally asking for a stressful life.
So this point ties up pretty well with the previous one. Do research on the kind of personality you have. I personally recommend the MBTI. Once you take the test, you can just google your type and the careers that you can thrive in because they are compatible with your personality.

🔑Don’t pick something you know nothing about:

A lot of people are tempted to start from scratch, and pick a major about a subject they never took before. I can see the appeal but you should be careful.  That initial curiosity can quickly fade away once midterms approach. Again, you should do your research first and be fairly knowledgeable about the field you are choosing.

🔑Do not take a gap year:

Unless you have a very well detailed plan of how to spend every minute of that gap year, Don’t take one. Even if you want to reapply to schools, and want to attend college in the next cycle, you should go to whatever B school accepted you. Believe me a hiatus doesn’t look good and whatever plan you had to backpack around Europe can just collapse for the most extraneous reasons, and before you know it, you’d be sitting on your bum watching TV all year.

🔑It’s OK if it’s not the right one:

It happens more often than you think. A lot of people end up switching gears entirely after their first year of college. Statistically, I can say that almost 30% of my graduating class either failed their first year (on purpose), changed majors, moved somewhere else, or dropped out of school to be a musician in Greenland, or whatever…. So don’t be too scared. If it’s not the right thing for you. You can get a second shot.

🔑Just graduate!:

You may get a second shot, but I don’t recommend taking a third. If it’s not the right major for you and you didn’t realize it until the end of the second year or if you didn’t do anything about it until then, stick with it. Sad but necessary. Believe me, you do not want to switch majors after the second year. You don’t want to be 25 without a degree. Stick with whatever it is that you last started and finish it. You probably heard this a million times but really your degree means nothing per se. It’s just a bunch of skills that you can apply to anything. Obviously this is more true to some majors than others: If you are a linguist, you can’t become a plumber over night. But the main idea is that you are in charge of how you utilize your degree, you can stick with your field or you can use the skills it gives you as a trampoline to something else you are more interested in.

 

I hope this helped at least one clueless person out there. If not, I highly recommend drowning your sorrow with some Simon & Garfunkel and why not (re)watch the movie.

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