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Articles / Admissions / College Majors: No Minor Decision

May 19, 2020

College Majors: No Minor Decision

Declaring a major is one of the most pivotal decisions students make during their college career. Yet, many make frivolous choices because they don't put enough thought or effort into assessing which college major is a good fit. You may recall my ranting about my freshman year as a business major. Yikes.

Other students (like I was) panic because they are afraid that they won't enjoy the coursework associated with the major or the career that it eventually leads to. It's not an easy selection process.

There's a new book on this topic that you might find helpful. Panicked Student's Guide to Choosing a College Major, Dr. Laurence Shatkin gives students the information they need to research their options, make practical choices, and overcome the anxiety associated with the college major decision. Shatkin explains that before choosing a college major, students should first consider the following factors:

- Time and expense required. “Some majors take longer than others to bear fruit as a career," says Shatkin. “Before you commit to a career goal, you have to be sure you have the determination and ability to go through the long preparatory process. College tuition keeps getting more and more expensive. Also, you need to be confident that you will enjoy the major itself, not just the rewards at the end of the road."

- Competition. According to Shatkin, “Rewarding careers often attract large numbers of job seekers. The competition can begin in college or, for some careers, even earlier. As part of the decision about a major and a career, you need to get a realistic sense of your chances of entering and succeeding in school."

- Personality type. “The most widely used personality theory about majors and careers was developed by John L. Holland. The theory rests on the principle that people tend to be happier and more successful in jobs where they feel comfortable with the work tasks and problems, the physical environment, and the kinds of people who are co-workers," explains Shatkin. “Holland identified six personality types that describe basic aspects of work situations: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional."

- Skills. “Part of a good career decision, which will shape your decision about your major, is matching your skills with a career's demands for skills. Your past experiences in school and work can help you understand which skills you are good at and enjoy using," says Shatkin.

- Favorite high school courses. According to Shatkin, “A good way to predict how well people will like college courses is to ask them how much they liked similar high school courses. In addition, most people earn their highest grades in college courses that are similar to the high school courses in which they did well. Your high school experiences can help you predict your satisfaction and success in various careers.


For more insights from high school students, current college students, and even parents (!), see these threads on the College Confidential discussion forum.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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