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Articles / Applying to College / What's the best way to choose a major?

Feb. 11, 2002

What's the best way to choose a major?

Question: What's the best way to determine the best major for me?

If you're not sure what you really want to do with your life's work just yet, don't worry. You're not alone. Ask your mom or dad what they knew about their futures when they were 18 years old. Chances are they didn't have a solid idea either.


One of the great advantages of going to college is having the opportunity to discover who you really are. Obviously, you don't have to go to college to find that out. College, however, is a special place that allows you to experience a wonderfully diverse set of classmates, teachers, classes, and events. If you're going to a four-year college, you'll also have the advantage of being in that stimulating environment from age 18 to 22, a very formative period of your life.

There are several ways you can explore your attitudes and preferences while still in high school, though. One way is to find someone who can lead you through an assessment process called the

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is a psychological instrument administered and interpreted by qualified professionals. The purpose of the MBTI is to measure your preferences about life and determine the way you like to live. It measures various aspects of your temperament and personality such as how you direct the energy of your life, how you take in information about the world around you, how you make decisions, and how you structure your life.

The end result of the MBTI is a set of numbers and letters that tells you which one of four main temperaments and 16 personality types you are. With this information, then, you can access information that will tell you what kinds of jobs would most likely bring you success and happiness in life. Your school psychologist should know how you could take the MBTI.

Another assessment tool is Strong's Interest Inventory which measures various aspects of your interests in life. The result is various reports that tell you about which types of professions would be well suited for you. Both Strong's Inventory and the MBTI can be a big help in answering your questions about what kinds of careers you may wish to pursue. Check with your guidance counselor for more information.

One last thought. Even if you go to college without a clue as to what you want to do, relax. Take advantage of the services offered by your academic advisor. He or she will give you good advice. Ask hard questions. Persist. Remember, when you have a question, don't hesitate to get the answer.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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