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Thread: College Majors

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    College Majors

    As I've mentioned before, I'm a first-year student at an American university. I entered last semester as a declared communication major, but realized that this was not right for me and switched to undecided.

    I have to decide by the end of next semester (Fall 2012) because I came into school with advanced standing credit (thank you, APs ) and need to declare by the end of my sophomore year.

    I just have NO idea what to declare. Like, I've spoken to advisors, adults I trust, my sorority sisters...I just don't know at all. I've considered a lot of different programs, but I haven't truly found anything that makes me want to spend an extended period of time devoting my studies to that field.

    I know what I'm passionate about, but it's not something I'll be studying in college. So I need to pick a major, and I just have no clue where to start.

    So I guess I have a bunch of questions here. For those of you who went to uni, how did you pick you major or field of study? What advice do you have for someone who's completely clueless about what to pick? And (this is huge) what part of this field (if any) did you just have to "slug through"?

    If anyone wants to know where specifically I go to school (if that changes your answer or something, I don't know) feel free to private message me.

    Thank you all!

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    Maybe you could say more about what you've studied so far, what you've liked, what you haven't, what particular aspects of courses/fields you've enjoyed so far, and the particular aspects of courses/fields you haven't enjoyed, and what you would like to do career wise in the future.

    Also, forgive me--I don't remember when you are from. But your expressions indicate you perhaps went to high school outside the US. Where did you do your high school work, and what was your focus there?

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    A few questions back at you:
    - Do you have to choose just one major? Is it possible for you to do a joint major, a major and a minor, or some other combination where you're not limited to focusing on just one field?
    - Are there majors or some other form of focused study that might not relate directly to your passion, but which would help you pursue it? (e.g. management courses if you like working in not-for-profit organizations)
    - And finally....and don't take this the wrong way, but.....if you have to decide what you want to major in, but nothing really appeals to you, why are you in university? Why not take some time out pursuing what interests you, and then come back when you have a clearer idea of what would match your interests or help you do what you want to do? It seems like it could be a huge waste of your time and $$$$ if you complete a degree in something you're not really interested in, just because you "have to".
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    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    A few questions back at you:
    - Do you have to choose just one major? Is it possible for you to do a joint major, a major and a minor, or some other combination where you're not limited to focusing on just one field?
    Yep--look into majors that sound a little vague, maybe. My grad school had a department called American Studies (it was one option for our academic concentration for the Museum Studies degree.) It had a mix of history, material culture, folk life, anthropology type courses. Heck, Museum Studies was available for undergrad majors--we got a mix of our academic cores (I did interdisciplinary, with American Studies, Slavic Studies, and Anthropology/Achaeology) and specialist classes in museum studies, including business management courses geared to non-profits. The undergrad program was basically the same, only starting with 100 level courses.

    - And finally....and don't take this the wrong way, but.....if you have to decide what you want to major in, but nothing really appeals to you, why are you in university? Why not take some time out pursuing what interests you, and then come back when you have a clearer idea of what would match your interests or help you do what you want to do? It seems like it could be a huge waste of your time and $$$$ if you complete a degree in something you're not really interested in, just because you "have to".
    I understand coming in, declaring a major, and then deciding that's not what you want to do, but yeah, if the deadline is coming up and you're still at a complete loss, see about a year off, maybe? Unless you have a lot of gen-ed credits to fill, you'll be spending a lot of money and maybe not getting the courses you need.

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    1. agalisgv-sorry, I was simultaneously discussing this with you guys and a British friend who is younger and always refers to it as "uni," so I've taken to her habit. :p I'm from California, and I've always studied in the States.

    But anyway, I haven't really been crazy about my college courses at this point (mostly GEs, with the occasional "potential major/potential elective" thrown in).

    2. overedge-maybe. I'm not 100% sure I'll be able to fit in two majors and still stay within SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress) units for financial aid. But a major and a minor is probably a possibility, and I know that, if I can fit one in, I want to minor in screenwriting (my school doesn't offer a BA in screenwriting, or I'd probably just declare that, since I know I want to minor in it). Nonetheless, I still need to pick a major.

    My parents (who are very generously assisting with my education) and I have discussed the potential for semesters off, etc. multiple times, but we always come to the same conclusion: there is no advantage to me taking a semester off unless I have something else to do. If I do, that's great, and I would pretty much guarantee that I'll take a semester off, but at this point, that's not the case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    And finally....and don't take this the wrong way, but.....if you have to decide what you want to major in, but nothing really appeals to you, why are you in university? Why not take some time out pursuing what interests you, and then come back when you have a clearer idea of what would match your interests or help you do what you want to do? It seems like it could be a huge waste of your time and $$$$ if you complete a degree in something you're not really interested in, just because you "have to".
    This is a good thing to consider. I'm in university as well, and I know some students who are about to graduate with a degree in a field that doesn't really interest them, won't get them a job, and will be difficult to pay for. It's not a good place to be in. Taking a year off from school may not sound appealing, but it can be worthwhile. I spent a year taking a few gen-eds at a community college, working part-time, and living at home. By doing this, I saved money and figured out what goals I had and how I would achieve them. You say you know what you're passionate about, but it's not something you can study in college. Is working towards what you're passionate about instead of being in college a possibility?

    A few people have told me that the most important thing is figuring out what you want to do for a career, not just what major looks interesting. College is a few years, but you're going to have to work in your field for most of your life. Thinking about what kind of job you'd like and how/if college will help you get it might help.

    And best of luck. I know figuring out what to do in life can be really difficult sometimes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RockTheTassel View Post
    This is a good thing to consider. I'm in university as well, and I know some students who are about to graduate with a degree in a field that doesn't really interest them, won't get them a job, and will be difficult to pay for. It's not a good place to be in. Taking a year off from school may not sound appealing, but it can be worthwhile. I spent a year taking a few gen-eds at a community college, working part-time, and living at home. By doing this, I saved money and figured out what goals I had and how I would achieve them. You say you know what you're passionate about, but it's not something you can study in college. Is working towards what you're passionate about instead of being in college a possibility?

    A few people have told me that the most important thing is figuring out what you want to do for a career, not just what major looks interesting. College is a few years, but you're going to have to work in your field for most of your life. Thinking about what kind of job you'd like and how/if college will help you get it might help.

    And best of luck. I know figuring out what to do in life can be really difficult sometimes.
    My parents and I have gone back and forth on this. I've already been working AND doing school full-time. It's tough, but I get why I'm doing both.

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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriaheidi View Post
    My parents and I have gone back and forth on this. I've already been working AND doing school full-time. It's tough, but I get why I'm doing both.
    You asked for advice but you don't seem very open minded about anything anyone has to say.
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriaheidi View Post
    My parents (who are very generously assisting with my education) and I have discussed the potential for semesters off, etc. multiple times, but we always come to the same conclusion: there is no advantage to me taking a semester off unless I have something else to do. If I do, that's great, and I would pretty much guarantee that I'll take a semester off, but at this point, that's not the case.
    Well, with all due respect, it seems that you're boxing yourself in. You don't feel strongly enough about anything to major in it, but you don't feel you can take some time off from school if you don't have "something else to do". Isn't taking a semester off and figuring out what you REALLY want to pursue "something else to do"?

    Your world is not going to fall apart and your future career is not going to be derailed forever if you take a few months away from school to consider your options. FWIW spending four years and however many $$$$ majoring in something you don't really care about is going to be a lot more damaging to your future progress.
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

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    Quote Originally Posted by milanessa View Post
    You asked for advice but you don't seem very open minded about anything anyone has to say.
    I'm sorry, I'm sorry. That really isn't my goal. The thing is that I can't take time off. Let's just leave that option off the table for now. I just need to keep digging, I guess. I don't know. I really don't know what to do or say, so I figured I'd give this a shot, but I'm realizing that there aren't any easy answers here, and it's even harder when you're on a public message board and can't post all the information you want to.

    But thank you all. I guess I will just have to keep plugging along.

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    No need to be sorry. It's just hard for anyone to help when things are so vague. Hope everything works out for you.
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    It would be more helpful if you told us what you actually were interested in and what your skills were.

    For example, I was a math major. But that isn't a major that most people just pick up unless they are good at math.

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    I had no idea what to major in, but I took some classical studies courses and loved both the material and the professors. So I majored in it. What kind of job might you get with that? Don't ask me, but I liked it so I got good grades in it, and I got into law school. I wasn't one of a gazillion political science majors trying to get into law school, and I think that helped.
    I think I will have a snack and take a nap before I eat and go to sleep.

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    I knew from age 3 or so that I was going to major in music.

    If I hadn't, I had about 10 other things I was (and am) really interested in.

    But there are thousands and thousands of majors to choose from these days. I agree that it would be a lot more helpful if we had any idea what you were interested in.

    And as for the thing you can't major in but want to do some day - is there no college major that will help you in that vocation or field? I'm sure there has to be at least one that can make you more marketable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriaheidi View Post
    I know what I'm passionate about, but it's not something I'll be studying in college. So I need to pick a major, and I just have no clue where to start.
    Can you transfer to another college or a specialty school, i.e. Parson School of Design, that has a program for what you're passionate about? If not then how about a major that will indirectly benefit your future. For example, writing and oral communication are always transferable skills, regardless of what your future job might be.

    So I guess I have a bunch of questions here. For those of you who went to uni, how did you pick you major or field of study? What advice do you have for someone who's completely clueless about what to pick? And (this is huge) what part of this field (if any) did you just have to "slug through"?
    I think you still have some time to take classes outside of your current major that might interest you. Do that and see if it sparks any interest. Some students immediately know what they want to major in. Some picks the "Hot" majors because of potential financial reward. Others have no clue and are just in college because that's expected of them. There can be so many reasons why one pick to major in something. I hope you do find something that not only you're passionate about but also it can translate into an actual job.

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    VH, from your description of the situation, I think you need to try some linear thinking. You know what you're passionate about, so it might be useful to think about the people who have been successful in that. Who are they? How did they get where they are? Is there any common thread among them? What did they study? If it turns out that the road to your passion works best without a specific college degree, there's more to this than being stuck choosing a major.

    Parental dynamics being what they are, you might have to have an adult to adult sit down with them. Show them your research. Is it worth staying where you are knowing it might not get you closer to where you'd like to be? Is it worth the money? If they won't be happy with you taking time off or dropping out altogether, what's their biggest concern? Sometimes, parental concern is wrapped in family or cultural expectations, and you'll need to work through those before you can get unblocked. Reading between the lines, it sounds as if you "have to" get a degree to keep peace. If that's the case, choose the easiest major and get done with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Theatregirl1122 View Post
    It would be more helpful if you told us what you actually were interested in and what your skills were.

    For example, I was a math major. But that isn't a major that most people just pick up unless they are good at math.
    Yup. I was a biology major, but it also isn't something you can just "pick up" at the end of your sophomore year because you will have had to had prerequisite classes starting from the very beginning.

    Well, I did have a friend who switched from business to psychology (and being premed) in her junior year. It can be done, but certainly NOT when you have a job too!

    If you're really not sure and a lot of things would suit you just fine, picking a major for its relative usefulness isn't the worst thing in the world, IMO. My aunt basically sweet-talked her son into majoring in biomedical engineering. He wasn't SUPER-passionate about it, but he liked it enough and he was good at it.

    Keep in mind that your major isn't the be-all end-all of your adult life. Most people I know (and I graduated from a prestigious liberal arts college), don't work in the area they majored in, and I'm only 5 years out. But they do use the skills they gained along the way.

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    Does you college offer a General Studies degree, or a design your own major program? LSU did--you could design a major if what you wanted wasn't offered or you could get three minors (concentrations they were called) that would add up to a degree.

    It might not be advertised per se, but most colleges have some option for students that are truly undecided or the college doesn't have the major they need. I think the first thing you need to do is pin down a college advisor and lay out your concerns. Since we don't know your college or you and you don't seem to have a good grasp on what you do want, your best bet is to talk to an expert.
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriaheidi View Post
    I know what I'm passionate about, but it's not something I'll be studying in college.
    What are you passionate about? If you tell us, that might give us a better idea of where you might be headed in life.

    Quote Originally Posted by victoriaheidi View Post
    But anyway, I haven't really been crazy about my college courses at this point (mostly GEs, with the occasional "potential major/potential elective" thrown in).
    Can you be any more specific? At least tell us what departments these classes were in.

    Quote Originally Posted by victoriaheidi View Post
    I want to minor in screenwriting (my school doesn't offer a BA in screenwriting, or I'd probably just declare that, since I know I want to minor in it).
    You should think about majoring in something that will feed into and inform your screenwriting: English, Philosophy, and History would all be good choices. A good liberal arts education can would be an excellent foundation for you if you want to be a writer (of any kind).

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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriaheidi View Post

    But a major and a minor is probably a possibility, and I know that, if I can fit one in, I want to minor in screenwriting (my school doesn't offer a BA in screenwriting, or I'd probably just declare that, since I know I want to minor in it). Nonetheless, I still need to pick a major.
    Very few of my friends who are screenwriters actually majored in "screenwriting". Some did major in creative writing, some in theater, some in film. One actually majored in nursing. Another in engineering. Another didn't go to college at all (he was a standup comedian at first, which is one of the key entry points for comedy writing.) So if you think you may want to be a screenwriter, and your college offers a minor in that, take it. And for your major, either major in something that supports that, such as English, creative writing, theater, film, etc., or else major in something that could be your "day job" while you try to make it as a screenwriter.

    Your campus's career center should offer a test called the "strong interest inventory", which might help. It's a test that matches your interests and skills up with potential careers. You can then investigate those careers, and potential majors that relate to them.
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