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Unravelling the Mysteries – How Do You Choose a Major?

Every time you’re on break from school, someone hits you with that most common question asked of college students: “What’s your major?”

For months, you’ve been able to get away with responses like “I’m not sure,” or “I’m keeping my options open.” But now — thanks to your parents’ incessant nagging or even your own impatience — you’re forced to make a choice, and you don’t know what to do. So, it all boils down to: Are you in the “I have to choose a major and ‘now what’ mode?”

But first things first: stop thinking that picking a major is the same as picking a profession. It’s really not, with the exception of specialized fields like nursing, engineering, and accounting. (And even then, no choice is set in stone.) The funny thing about majors is that they’re generally way more flexible than they seem. But whether you have a major picked out, you’re trying to decide between a few, or you haven’t got a clue about the confusing streams, there are plenty of ways to tackle this decision.

Self-Introspection

You must know your strengths and weaknesses. Which subjects were you strongest in at school? Which subjects did you struggle with? Where does your aptitude lie? Knowing yourself well is very important before you choose a major that will be most satisfying to you. But a word of caution here: your marks may not always be a good indicator of your actual strengths and weaknesses. This is because often the assessment criteria at school and junior-college level are geared towards gauging our memory power and ability to retain large swathes of information, and not so much on our analytical skills and creativity in solving problems. So, think wisely and make a calculated move.

Explore Career Options

This is where the expectations of a fat paycheck and peer pressure will kick in! By all means, choose a major that is most rewarding both in terms of salary and perks. And there is no shame in this – students and aspirants have always gone in for the most rewarding and stable careers. But explore your options nevertheless. If you’re very good in a slightly unconventional branch and passionate about it, then go for it. This is especially true if your chosen branch in your college of choice has a good faculty and great resources to conduct an in-depth study.

Meet with a Campus Career Counsellor

Your school’s career counsellors know majors well, and they have a good general sense of where those majors might take you with respect to your career. Perhaps more importantly, many campus career centers keep detailed statistics on the types of jobs their schools’ graduates have landed with various majors. Typically, these statistics appear in the career center’s placement report, which you can ask for and then read to find out where different majors might take you in the future.

Talk to Professors and Students in Various Majors

Start by asking your friends and acquaintances what they’re majoring in and why. What do these students like and dislike about their majors? And what can they tell you about the courses in their majors and the careers their majors might lead to?

Similarly, ask professors in various academic departments to briefly describe their majors. Tell them you’re interested in learning more about what previous students in the department have gone on to do, career-wise. Professors will gladly tell you in most cases, if you ask.

Your Desired Lifestyle Matters a Lot

Quite often, students choose a major because they love the topic without really considering if it will fit in with their life plan or not. The career you choose should fit into your lifestyle, not the other way around. Think about the lifestyle you want to live and the career you’re considering. Find people in that career, and compare their lifestyles to the one you’ve dreamed up. The career doesn’t always permit your desired lifestyle.

So, you need to do a reality check! Tackle the questions about your expectations from your work. How do you see yourself in the larger context of society? Would you like your work to impact society directly? Are you happy working in small groups, or do you seek an affiliation with large groups at your workplace? Do you have it in you to work long hours at stretch almost in isolation and with uncertainty about the kind of results you will produce?

For example: If you want guaranteed financial security, travel, and vacation time, art wouldn’t be the best fit for you as a major. An artist’s financial security isn’t guaranteed, and you could very well end up working around the clock year-round with no vacation to make ends meet.

Remember that all the advice and suggestions that you get are meant to provide you with some clarity about your ultimate decision and not to constrain you or confuse you. Perhaps, you’ve already decided which major you will take, or you haven’t got a clue. In either case, this article is supposed to help refine your thought process and flag some important concerns that you must pay attention to.

If you are looking for specific ideas on which branch and IIT to choose, click here. We wish you all the best for your career, and hope you make the best out of your talents!

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