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Where Do I Start When Deciding a Major?

March 1, 2021

Deciding on a college major can be difficult if you’re not sure what you want to do in the first place. A major is a specific area of study that is required for college degrees. There are many options out there and it is critical that you pick the right one for you in order to get your dream job. But what steps should be taken in declaring that major? We interviewed Ashley Larson, a Student Services Advisor at the Idaho State University College of Business, to give helpful advice on what students can do in their journey of deciding a major.


Where do I start with my decision?


Deciding on a major can often be a difficult task for students, because there are so many potential options in today's world of Higher Education. … When advising students, I encourage them to start their major exploration early, and by early, I mean even before getting to college. If students take some time to research their interests, strengths, career aspirations, etc. early on, it can save them the time, money and stress that often comes with switching majors after they've already started on one path in college. 


I encourage students to seek out opportunities like internships or job shadowing, as a way to get an insiders look at potential career opportunities. Oftentimes people think they know exactly what they want to major in or where they would like to work, but once they start spending some time in that field, they may find out it's not what they thought. ... I also encourage students to utilize the Career Counseling services offered through our Career Center. … Realistically to be on track for a 4-year graduation timeline, deciding on a major in the freshman year is ideal.


Why should my major correlate with my future career?


As more and more people are obtaining college degrees, the workforce is becoming more and more competitive. So if you want to work in Finance, but you have a degree in Theater, you will likely not be competitive with other potential employees who do have a degree in Finance. While there are plenty of careers that are just looking for someone who has completed any kind of college degree, it's becoming more and more the case that employers want someone who has a skill set specific to their organization. 


I often encourage students to start "job hunting" as practice, early on. Sign up for websites like Indeed or the Idaho Department of Labor, and just look at and explore job postings for careers they'd like to apply for one day. If you look at 15 job postings for careers in finance, and see that 13 of the 15 postings require a degree in Accounting, then you know that you likely need to earn an Accounting degree to be eligible for those jobs. 


Should I do more than one major?


This is a difficult question to answer, because it's very dependent on individual circumstances. Students hear terms like "double major" and they automatically associate that with being more successful academically. However pursuing double majors, or majors and minors, does not necessarily always enhance one's opportunities for jobs. Also, pursuing double majors can sometimes extend the length of time it takes to graduate. Although in the College of Business we have the Flexible BBA program where students can double major in Marketing, Management, Finance or Economics for little to no extra classes, this isn't going to be the case with all majors. 


Some students just want to learn about two different topics because they're both interesting. Some want two specialities to increase their chances of gainful employment. While others do it because they think they "have to." What's most important is that a student is having this discussion with their advisor who can provide information on the requirements for the various majors, help them build a degree plan to see the length of time needed to complete both, and who can help the student make sure they're pursuing things for the right reason, and not just because they feel like they have to. 


How do I change my major if I have already declared it?


Changing one's major is actually a really easy process. Students should contact the department they are interested in majoring with, and the advisor in that area will submit something called a Curriculum Change Request. Once an advisor submits that request, the student then has to approve it through their Bengal Web, and then within about 24 hours the change is officially made on their record. If a student is unsure of who to contact, they can always start with the general Office of Academic Advising found on the 3rd floor of the Museum building, and one of their advisors can help connect the student with the right department/advisor for the major they're interested in. 


Students should always update their major as soon as they know what they want. The biggest reason for this is to make sure the student is connected with their new advisor, who can make sure they're on track for the degree they want. Also, there are some scholarships available for students in particular majors, so if someone hasn't declared their major or changed it when necessary, they may be missing out on financial opportunities.


As a college student, it is very important to pick a major that is right for you based on your interests and your career. If you haven’t decided yet, do not stress too much. Take the time to do research to determine what intrigues you the most. You can also try taking a career aptitude test, which is a short assessment that provides you what career might be best for you depending on your personal attributes. However, this test should not be taken too seriously and be the only factor that leads you to your final decision. Also, it is a great idea to speak with your advisor to get helpful tips and more information so that you can successfully come up with a plan.