Choosing your major is a crucial step in the transition from high school to university and should be well thought out. There are many factors to consider, such as the cost of the program, future career opportunities, your skills and aptitudes, and your interests and passion. Choosing the wrong major can lead to difficulties during your studies and decrease your chances of finding a good job. On the contrary, choosing the right major will definitely improve your chances of happiness and success at work and in life.
You may be one of those lucky ones who knows what to study, but it is most likely that your mind is like a sea of doubts: Should I follow my passion, or choose what will guarantee me more job opportunities? Should I follow the advice of my parents? What if I make the wrong decision? If there is something clear, it is that you are not alone. Your family, teachers, and counselors are there to help you decide your future. To do our bit, we have invited the School Counselor Marina Duque de Mulvihill, who has shared with us her experience working with students in choosing their study path.
The role of the educational professional
When choosing your major, there are several factors to keep in mind: the most important is to figure out what you want to study and then where. When working with students, the educational professional must listen to them, pick up on clues, and offer alternatives that they might not have thought about. There are some students who are clear about what they want to study, but others have no idea. In these situations, the counselor should have some suggested readings, teach the students how to look at degrees and the content, as well as encourage them to get some practical experience that will help them understand their preferences.
As in all key decisions in life, this process can cause stress. To deal with it, it is important to share stories and suggest alternatives, as well as put in practice the elimination process – deleting options whereby the possibility of an option being correct is close to zero or significantly lower compared to other options.
Follow your passion
The major choice is a process that begins in the last years of high school, and there are some clues that give information about the direction the student wants to take – passion for a subject, approach to the teaching, and experiences that the student might have. When the student loses track of time in a subject: it is a good sign. Interest and passion are the most important factors to pay attention to. When working with students, I always suggest studying their passion because they can also specialize in a master’s and they will be much better at what they like and enjoy. This way students will be much more successful.
Together with counselors or independent educational consultants, parents also play an important role in the process of searching for the major. They have a strong influence on their children and although their support is necessary, it is important that students consider their options independently. They can do so by exploring and getting some experience on their own.
Changing your major
Once the student has chosen the major, it may be the case that they have made the wrong decision. When this happens, there are several solutions. If working in the US system, they can switch majors; in other systems, they might be able to change to another degree and sometimes the subjects are compatible. If not, there is always the option of talking to students in new areas of interest.
I had a student that started with Liberal Arts and was very confused and not happy, he lacked focus, yet he started to explore further in many fields. In the end, he dropped his university, changed countries and moved on to Business, where he is much happier and more focused.
The reality is that many students change their majors. A report made by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that one-third of all US college students switch majors before completing a bachelor’s degree, and according to a study from the site BestColleges, 3 in 5 graduate students would change their majors if they could go back in time.
Therefore, there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. You may have made the wrong decision or maybe you just simply changed. The important thing is to explore, realize and act. In the end, the experience gained will always be useful whatever your career path.
Marina Duque de Mulvihill
With a Spanish father and an American mother, Marina has a broad international perspective. Having studied in Switzerland and Italy, high school in Spain, attended Georgetown University and FIT, broadening her business studies at IESE. She is certified in College Counseling by UCLA-extension. Marina’s interest lies in working with students to help them discover their passion and invite them to be exposed to new areas of study that will help them develop their full potential.