Choices About Your Major

The choice of specific topics to study in college can be overwhelming. Don't worry, you are in good company. It is estimated that 80% of college freshman are undecided about their major or future career goals. In addition, 50% of college freshmen will change their major at least once during their time in college. In an attempt to help you make your major choice, let's demystify what an undergraduate major is and offer some suggestions on how you should go about the process of selecting a major.

What is a Major?

The purpose of an undergraduate degree is to provide individuals with a broad base of skills that they may apply in a vocational setting. Within your degree, you will narrow your focus to a specific field of study. A major is an area of specialization that you choose to devote a significant part of your undergraduate degree studying. It is an opportunity to examine in-depth one specific field from its fundamental concepts through advanced theories. Which major you choose is a personal decision that should take into consideration your interests, skills, values, and abilities. It should fit with your personal and professional goals.

Major Misconceptions

One of the traps of selecting a major is the myth of the "practical " major. Students often look for a major that will ensure them a good job when they graduate. Most employers hire based on skills or ability to learn, not on a major. In many cases, your future occupation may relate more to your personal interests, values and skills than to what you choose to study. Keep in mind that many educational paths can lead to the same goals.

Choosing a major and choosing a career are NOT the same thing. Just because you major in a specific area does not mean you will end up working in that field and visa versa. If you know what academic subjects interest you, you might want to make the decision of a major first. However, if you have a career direction or a professional goal, you can explore which major(s) will best prepare you for that field. Professions that are more technical in nature (such as engineering or pre-med) will require you to complete specific educational requirements to work in such fields.

Selecting one major does not mean that you have ruled out all the other choices. There are a variety of ways for you to combine interests. You could choose to minor in another discipline or select a double major or double degree. And there's always graduate school. One word of caution, do not choose to double major just to make your self more "marketable." Focusing your education on your personal interests or on a specific educational or professional goal will make you appear more decisive to any future employer.

How do I choose a major?

There is not a single proven approach to selecting a major. Keep in mind that choosing a major is a process of self - growth and discovery. You must become actively involved in this decision making process.
Get to know yourself:

  • What are your interests and values?
  • Does a specific major reflect your worldview?
  • Are you looking at majors that you would enjoy studying?
  • Do you find the subject matter interesting?
  • Have you researched your career goals?

Evaluate your academic strengths and weaknesses:

  •  Do you enjoy problem sets or writing papers?
  • Are you technically oriented?
  • What classes do you enjoy and perform well in?
  • In what classes do you struggle?

Identify your professional goals:

  •  Do you want to work with people? Work with your hands?
  • What type of environment do I want to work in? Corporate? Non-profit? Structured?
  • Do your professional goals require specific training or certification?
  • Will you need additional education (i.e. graduate school) to achieve your goals?

Use the Seattle University resources

Visit the Premajor Studies Program office. They can provide the framework, programming and resources necessary to help you make informed decisions about choosing a major.

Visit the Career Development Center in McGoldrick and take some interest inventory assessments such as the Strong Vocational Interest Inventory, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Career Path and the Business Careers Interest Inventory.

"Interview" your family, friends and acquaintances about what they studied in college. You can also interview people about their careers, what they do and how their educational background helped them get there.

Review the complete list of Seattle University majors. Cross off those majors you are certain are not for you. Narrow the list to 3-5 possibilities.

Visit the departments that you view as prospective majors. Review the degree requirements and course descriptions in the catalog. Ask to attend a course lecture.

Take a course or two in your prospective major. Some departments, such as electrical engineering, nursing, and business, have introductory courses designed to inform you about that field of study. In other areas, you may be able to take a course in subject area that will also allow you to satisfy a core curriculum requirement.

When should I choose a major?

Seattle University does not designate a specific time frame in which you need to declare a major. During your freshmen year, explore the academic options available to you. Visit departments, attend programs and ask questions.

Some majors-particularly in the science and engineering area-have course curriculum that is sequential in nature. Due to the structure of these majors, it is in your best interest to decide as early in your freshmen year as possible, if these are areas of interest for you.

Other majors allow for more flexibility in their curriculum and you can spend your freshmen year exploring your options. It would be in your best interest to have a strong preference toward your academic program by the end of your freshmen year.

How do I change my major?

You will need to formally apply for a Change of Major once you choose a major. The decision to be admitted to a specific program is generally based on your academic performance. GPA requirements will vary from program to program and may be found in the Academic Catalog. You can request a major change by calling admissions or indicating your request on the Registration Response Form.


Mara Rempe, Ph.D.


Carly Darcher, M.Ed.


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