Five Steps to Selecting a Major

Step 1: Assess Yourself

Your first step is to do some self-assessment. The more you understand yourself, the clearer your life goals and the ways to reach them will become. Asking yourself the following questions will give you some important clues:

  • What do you truly enjoy? Consider the classes, subjects, and activities that you have liked the best. What did they involve? Why did you enjoy them? Consider what you enjoy reading, talking about, or studying. Why do you enjoy them? There are careers related to every interest you have!
  • What are you good at? Identify your skills and abilities. What types of things do you seem to do well? Are they technical, adventurous, intellectual, involve helping or influencing others, etc.?
  • What is really important to you? Is enjoying your work more important than prestige? Is creativity more important than security? You want your choice to be compatible with your values.
  • What are your motivations? Why might you be considering a particular major and/or career? Are outside influences such as family, friends or your perception of the job market shaping your decisions?
  • What is the coolest job you can imagine? Describe it as specifically as you can. Try to locate and contact one or two people in this area and ask them how they got there.

Visit the Career Center to utilize a variety of online Internet based career decision-making tools.  These assessments will assist you with discovering more about yourself and aid you in the decision making process.

Step 2: Gather Information and Explore Options

  • Examine the majors available at universities.   Use the transfer pattern section of Saddleback College’s catalog and make a list of those majors that interest you. Eliminate those majors that do not interest you. Read about the majors remaining on your list.
  • Mark the courses in each major that most interest you, match your abilities, and share your values. This should help you further shorten your list.
  • Review additional information about the majors on your short list. Read each university catalog and read print materials they offer.
  • Discuss your possible majors with a variety of individuals, including counselors, faculty, students or friends currently in the major.
  • Visit the Career Resource Center and check out the Career Library. Take a particular look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance.
  • Talk with a counselor and develop an academic plan that keeps your options open while you are exploring. Discuss taking introductory courses in the majors that you are contemplating. You can also learn valuable information by glancing through required textbooks.
  • Consider enrolling in courses that will help you to explore, such as Applied Psychology 140 and/or 160. The more information you find, the more informed your final decision will be.

Step 3: Evaluate and Make Your Major Decision

  • It's time to put together the information you have collected. Consider what you have learned. Weigh the pros and cons of each option. Be sure that the major(s) you are considering fit with your academic strengths and abilities. If you haven't already, narrow your list down to two or three majors.
  • Consider the feasibility of a second major, choosing an alternative major or making one of your options your minor.
  • Talk with an counselor who can help you to evaluate the information you have collected, suggest additional resources, and guide you through the decision making process.

Step 4: Take Action

  • Remember that you cannot expect that the right major will just come to you or fall into your lap. Choosing a major requires your active participation. You must be proactive!
  • If you haven't already done so, sample courses in the majors you are considering.
  • Meet with a counselor and discuss what specific prerequisites, preparation for major and other admission criteria which are required for admittance into the major. (A prerequisite is a course which must be satisfactorily completed before another course can be registered.) Discover if there is a Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement for admission. Learn what the admissions process is. Discuss when you are ready to apply to the major. Determine if there are internship or practicum requirements. How about research opportunities?
  • Choose student activities, internships, volunteer work, and/or part-time employment that can help you further develop your skills in areas that interest you.
  • Talk to people who work in the career fields you are considering. Ask them about their major and how it helped them.  This can be an excellent resource for learning more about the realities of specific career fields.

Step 5: Go For It! Apply For Your Major!

  • Once you are admitted to the major, remember to meet with your departmental advisor at the university for advisement at least once a semester until you graduate.



Adapted from Mary Lou Taylor, Choosing Your Major.

Adapted from Buffalo University