College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

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College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Cutekitty on Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:07 pm

I'm a freshman in college, and it seems that pretty much the standard question on campus is, after asking for one's name, "what are you majoring in?". Lately, I've been asking people a lot about how they went about deciding what to major in and why, hoping that doing so would give me some ideas, because right now, I still haven't got it figured out and, although I know I've still got time to decide, it's driving me BANANAS. So, everyone who's gone through the major selection process for undergraduate studies, what did you pick, and how did you decide? Why did you decide on what you decided on?

In my case, as I've said before, I'm still thinking about it. Based on my own beliefs about the goal of education and the feedback I have gotten from discussing this issue with others, I think I should major in something I'm not only good at but also really enjoy, which means anything involving writing about things and ideas that interest me is a contender (because I enjoy writing both creatively and analytically, and multiple professors have indicated that they think I write great essays). That's why I'm thinking of English literature, since I also like reading books and stories, and those deal with all sorts of different ideas and perspectives related to human psychology, morality, social issues... all sorts of stuff, really, which I find intriguing to think about and discuss. I'll get to take an English class next quarter, so I'll see how I like that. But I'm also thinking I should dabble more in some other humanities as well, and I have also always done well in math and science (and, in high school at least, particularly enjoyed learning about the latter), so I've been contemplating picking up an English-science double. I was considering physics because when I took AP algebra-based in high school, it was so new to me and interesting, I rocked at it, and I loved the understanding it gave me of how the universe around me worked. But now I've gotten to college, and the calc-based class... I'm still good at it, but I'm not enjoying it. I don't know how much that has to do with the fact that it's an intro-level class and how much it has to do with the concepts not being totally new anymore and how much... just has to do with how much or little the subject itself appeals to me.

I think I need more data--more experience with more college-level coursework, more information on different options available, etc.--before I can make up my mind for certain. But in the meantime, what are your thoughts on the subject of major selection? Also, and this is more of a question for Ms. Natalie specifically, how did Cat, Ronnie, and Dawn pick their majors? I'm guessing that in Cat's case, it's because art is something she loves (she works on art projects in her free time, after all), in Dawn's case, it's because a business major can lead to lucrative career opportunities, and in Ronnie's case, she said explicitly in that arc where we got introduced to her job at Gulp-n-Go that she wants to teach others about healthy living, so again, it's something she's passionate about--which may be partially due to her diabetic father, or that may have nothing to do with it, for all I know. Are these conclusions accurate?


Last edited by Cutekitty on Sun Mar 17, 2013 4:22 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : grammar)
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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Latrans on Sun Mar 17, 2013 6:54 pm

Keep in mind that I lost interest in college and never graduated with any kind of credentials so what I say may be just a little jaded.

First, consider how much money you're wanting to spend. This is important because it'll determine if you're able to take a variety of classes to see what appeals to you, or if you'll have to just pick something and stick with it. If you've got the money, don't be afraid to experiment. Also, ask some of the professors if they mind sit-ins. You won't get any credit for taking the class, but it doesn't cost anything and you can find out if it's something you'll want to indulge in more seriously.

As for how I chose my major, I went with something I thought I'd enjoy: mechanical engineering. Two and a half years before the math finally got so oppressive (University Calc III) and the teaching so specialized (vectorized airflow over uneven surfaces) that I knew it wasn't for me. I like building things and knowing how they work, but that was just too much detail. An automotive mechanic's class from a tech school would have been much more my speed.

Ultimately, I went on to attend a university because it's what was expected of me, rather than because it was something I honestly wanted to do and it bit me both in time (two and a half years) and money (thousands of dollars in tuition and living expenses).

But please don't take this as a horror story to dissuade you from going yourself. I only provide it as a suggestion that before you commit to anything, make sure it's what you actually want.

I hope that helps.
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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Cutekitty on Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:19 pm

Money is not a concern for me because my situation is basically like Cat's insofar that my parents are paying for all tuition and living expenses. But sitting in on a few classes without actually being registered for them sounds like a good idea. I might ask around about that... Maybe it's something I can discuss with my freshman advisor or a couple of other professors. I can ask some of my dorm mates about sit-ins too.

Believe me, I am trying to make sure that what I commit to is what I actually want. That's why I can't seem to get the issue of what to major in out of my head; I so very badly want to make sure I pick as good a fit for me as possible. ^^; I'm pretty sure college is the right place for me for right now because I love to learn and am most comfortable in an academic environment, so it's a good stepping stone into adulthood for me as well as a place to shine and indulge in my scholarly curiosity. I would be lying if I denied that everyone around me just assumed it was the path for me to take (parents who both have master's degrees, college prep high school... yeah, I basically grew up in an environment overwhelmingly in support of higher education), so I pretty much did as well, but... so far, I'm glad I came here and am enjoying the experience, so hopefully I made the right decision in that respect.

Thank you for your advice, Latrans. It's clearly well-thought-out, and it did help some. Smile
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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Kynos argos on Sun Mar 17, 2013 9:38 pm

I had a very hard time choosing a major so I decided to start checking into everything I had ever been interested in. Unfortunately I also went to a community college so the furthest I could go there was my associate's. I took classes on a variety of subjects and talked to people who were in industries related to each class and learned about what their jobs actually consisted of. From there I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what I liked and disliked about each field. A lot of this consisted of the feasibility of finding a job actually related to the field. I mention this specifically due to the fact that I have a love for the social sciences and the humanities. The problem I found with them is that while it is very feasible to get a degree in them, it is not easy to actually find employment in them. In general most of the people I talked to stated that the majority of their classmates ended up working in an office as a paper pusher. I have heard that this is incredibly common with English majors as well. It is something to take into consideration. Another thing to keep in mind is that your undergrad does not decide what you do in grad school. Diversity is a huge factor in grad school applications. While race, gender and socio-economic status decide a lot of this, there is another huge factor. That factor is the major of your undergrad studies. Think about how many med school students apply with a bachelor's in biology. Now think about how many apply with a bachelor's in music. One is able to take pre-med courses while majoring in music and is much more likely to get into the med school of their choice.

So I guess my advice in the matter would be that if finances aren't an issue, take classes in everything you are interested in. Make sure you have fun while doing this too. Oh, and remember that your undergrad courses do not decide a whole lot in life. So take the English course, the physics course, the humanities course, and any other ones you think you might like (Heck, I took a few architecture courses). At the least you will have knowledge outside of your field. At best it will help you find who you are. I never would have thought that I would enjoy nursing, but after all of my studying here I am with my CNA waiting to get into a nursing program. I honestly would not have chosen this path if I hadn't kept an open mind and tried lots of courses.

Oh and as a total side point, you really may want to consider an English major. You have a great talent for writing from what I have seen. Even if you don't decide that English is for you, keep writing! Good writers make the world a much more bearable place.

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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Ellen-Natalie on Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:19 pm

Well, for the most part you have the FE Girl's reasons spot on-Cat doesn't know what kind of career she wants, but artwork makes her happy so she keeps taking art classes. Ronnie gained an interest in physical fitness and health when learning about her father's diabetes, so she's learning about different careers in that field. Dawn wants to run her own business someday, and to take the business classes she's interested in requires a business major.

Personally, I ended up with an art major because if I didn't keep my GPA above a 3.5 I'd lose my Honors scholarship-and I kept excelling in art classes. While I'm not sure I'm the best resource to help you decide your major, I can offer some pieces of advice.

First, use your electives to learn about potential fields you're interested in. It'll help give you a taste of what you'd be required to study in that major. Regardless of what major you choose, make sure each semester you register for a class you enjoy-whether it's in or out of your major. It's important to have something to look forward to among your classes.

And finally, if you're not happy with the major you've chosen, don't be afraid to change it. My husband was a philosophy major for years-it was difficult work for him, and he was often very unhappy with what he was studying. However, he was also convinced that college was supposed to be this way. It's not. college is a time to discover what you truly enjoy, and learn how to make it a part of your life. When my husband switched to a Communications major, he was amazed at how his college experience changed from a chore to something enjoyable. Now he's even applying to Grad schools to study further his favorite subject. (Religion ^^ )

Hopefully that advice is helpful. ^^ It's an important decision, but a happy one, too. Don't forget that.
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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Cutekitty on Mon Mar 18, 2013 6:16 pm

Kynos argos: Thanks for the advice! I will try to keep in mind what employment opportunities my major(s) might or might not entail, but I think my university's career services center is pretty good about helping students and alumni find work, so I might be able to do well with an English or other humanities major--at least, career services would probably be able to help me find a decent starting job, and I could get experience and figure out where to go from there. But you have a valid point; I can see how a major in, say, chemistry can relate more directly to more specific career options. As for grad school, that's good to know, although I have no idea whether or not I want to apply to grad school later on; I think I'd better figure out what fields I'm interested in entering for undergrad first. ^^;

And thanks for the vote of confidence! I will keep writing, even if it ends up just being here and in private Word documents on my laptop. Smile

Ms. Natalie: Yay, I guessed (mostly) right! So Dawn wants to run her own business someday? That's really cool and a somewhat more specific reason for pursuing a business major than I had originally guessed. Now that you mention it, though, I can see Dawn being an extremely successful business owner; maybe it's her liking for professional dress, or more probably it's her maturity level and ability to act as a mediator (between Cat and Ronnie especially), but I get the impression she'd be that boss who's always on top of things, networks well, and is both respected and liked by her employees.

Thank you for the advice; it is helpful. I'll definitely try to do some exploring in the classes I take, and I will try to take ones that I can look forward to. And thanks for reminding me that getting to choose a major is something I should be happy about; in all the preoccupation and worrying about making the right choices, I very nearly forgot that it's a cause for excitement and joy.
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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Mr Ed on Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:43 am

Hello Cutekitty!
I liked your initial post to this thread. As someone said above, you do write well. That post was a pleasant read and you explained what you wanted to quite well.

You talked some about becoming an English major and it sounded like you were thinking of it mostly for fiction writing. Considering how well you explained things in your first post (and other posts to the comic discussion threads!) AND your enjoyment of the more scientific things you've studied, have you given any thought to trying some classes related to technical writing? I read a lot of fiction and one thing I've noticed in the little author bio's is that a fair number of them spent time supporting themselves as technical writers while developing the skills to support themselves as fiction writers.

Just some thoughts from me. (disclaimer: I never went to college, just tech. school.)

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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Cutekitty on Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:06 pm

Mr. Ed: Thanks! You're right, I was primarily thinking of English for fiction writing, although I do also think it might be fun to write nonfiction articles--sort of like opinion pieces or brief informative essays--on topics I'm interested in. On technical writing: I've vaguely heard of that career option, but thanks for bringing it up; it sounds like something I might want to look into more. I am not aware of any courses at my university geared specifically toward technical writing, but then again, that does sound like more of a specific job than a typical area of study to me... and maybe I just haven't looked in the right places. I do plan on trying organic chemistry sophomore year, and that's supposed to have an intense lab portion to go with it that will require thorough lab reports (my intro-level physics course has a lab portion, but it's not nearly as intense; it's sort of a show-up-do-a-quick-experiment-and-scrawl-out-a-quick-report-in-two-hours thing), so would that... sort of count? Anyway, I think I might look into tech writing a little more. Smile
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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Hypērétēs on Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:41 am

Aaaand I post in another old topic. LIIIIIIIIVE, topic, LIIIIIIIIIVE! *lightning flashes, thunder rolls*

I've got to say that our culture drives me a bit mad. Most 18 year olds have lived in their parents house their entire lives, save perhaps summer camps and vacations. They've gone to public schools all their lives and been spoon-fed a state curriculum. How are you supposed to know what you want to do with the rest of your life until you've actually experienced a thing or two! Go out, work a horrible job, backpack through Europe, get a job that takes you places, join the Military or the Peace Corps. Meet some new people and do some new things. Figure out who you are, and if the things that you've been told your whole life are true or not. Go wrestle with God.

When you're done with that, and once you've got yourself figured out, go get your associate's at a community college (unless you're wanting a degree in Law, Medicine, Music, or other such directed program) to save a few grand. It'll also let you know if you can hack college. Then transfer your degree and credits into the school you want. Saves you the time of bouncing around in college, the money of getting a degree you can't use, or hate, and lets you be a little crazy while you're not tied down with responsibilities.

Not that there's anything wrong with those cats and kittens who know exactly what they want. I know plenty of pre-med and pre-law go-getters who are on the path to doing amazing things. But they tend to be the exception, rather than the rule.

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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Cutekitty on Wed Aug 03, 2016 11:16 pm

Thread necromancy O_O Quite the timing, since I graduated a month and a half ago. College was--well, on the one hand, it was a valuable endeavor and I learned quite a bit about myself. I'm not quite the same person who started this thread. On the other hand, I burned out hard and never want to do it again. Aha... ha... I spent the first three years of college learning about what I did and didn't want, often the hard way (turns out I can dislike subjects and get tired of studying the same thing, and of studying in general), and for most of it had to negotiate between what I wanted, what I thought practical and responsible, and what I thought would make my parents happy and allay their fears, which became more apparent during sophomore year. Ms. Natalie was right--college is, at its best, supposed to be enjoyable. And in some ways it was for me, but I'm tired now. I was tired for years. I'm trying something new and feel better for it.

You're right, college straight out of high school isn't for everybody and the pressure some folks face--to know what they want to do with their lives after doing nothing but school for twelve-odd years, and to forge on with school whether they like it or not--can get ridiculous. That being said, I've a few counterpoints to details in your post:

AP classes in high school can be almost as good as community college in terms of course credits and rigor preparation. Depending on the college and how you do on the AP exams, APs can net you a year or more of college credits right out of high school, and if you can handle APs, you should be able to handle college. Some of the APs I encountered were more rigorous than much of my freshman year coursework at my university. I've never taken IBs, but I'd hazard a guess they're similar.

For those who get a full ride from a) scholarships, b) grant-based financial aid (as opposed to loans), or c) full financial backing from parents, the difference in cost is less of a concern, and four-year institutions can have advantages over community colleges. For one, they have more resources dedicated to research, so if you know you want to try out research, it's easier to get into it early on. You also have more time to find and get to know an advisor or mentor figure if you're at the same school for all of college. I met my two favorite mentor figures in the fiction department, and they're awesome and their support made a world of difference--and I can still reach out to them even though I've graduated. I got to know one of them over the course of three years, and the other over two. I'm glad I had the three years for the one. The years forged the bond stronger.

As for trying a job, it seems like a lot of interesting and/or well-paying positions are looking for people with college degrees... I dunno. I do know that my physics major netted me some street cred that helped me get my job, and my job has nothing to do with physics. A horrible job sounds almost as bad as a horrible college experience--an opportunity cost and a miserable time. It costs less financially in most circumstances, though, I'll grant you that.

But for some people--especially those in the aforementioned full ride situation who also have retained their enthusiasm for school--college can be a better, more enjoyable place to mess around and learn about themselves than a horrible job. Colleges are hubs for clubs, educational events, internship and networking opportunities, et cetera. They've got some interesting people too.

Backpacking across Europe sounds awesome. I would've liked to do that after high school, and I still want to do that at some point. Alas, it requires money. I'm working on that little detail.

Lastly: unfortunately, some people are tied down with responsibilities by the time they exit high school, so they don't get the chance to be a little crazy whether they go straight to college or not.

/end counterpoints

I have a friend who just finished his associate's at a community college for the exact reasons you listed--finances, time to get a better idea of what he was interested in... but mostly finances--and yes yes yes for a lot of people it's a solid idea, two thumbs up. Just not for everyone.
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Re: College people: how did you pick your undergrad major(s)?

Post  Hypērétēs on Thu Aug 04, 2016 10:00 pm

Indeed, very little is for everyone. It's nice to know that schools have progressed since I was in high school. The year I graduated, the school I attended offered for the first time two AP classes: one in advanced math, the other in physics. It's definitely a great idea to take full advantage of all your high school has to offer, especially foreign exchange.

It is interesting to see how the different classes deal with college. There's an anime which I've just finished on Netflix called "Silver Spoon" that addresses this, among other topics. I come from either a very lower middle class or fairly upper lower class farming family. My siblings either got athletic scholarships or are many thousands of dollars in debt to pay for their education. Or both, I don't really dig into their finances. Me? I worked through my first degree to avoid the debt, and I used benefits from a former job to pay for my second degree. We'll see how I manage my masters.

I will say this, I'm much more happy with my college experience now than I was ten years ago when I first tried it out. I was still learning who I was then, and while my first experience taught me a great deal about life and people, I'm far more satisfied that I've got my moneys worth this go-round.

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