How to choose the best major for you

Choosing a major is one of the most significant decisions you can make in college. It influences a large number of the classes you take and sometimes can even impact your career post-graduation. Because it’s such a big decision, I knew I wanted to write a post about it. However, I only have so much experience with it and I really can’t speak for a lot of majors. I decided to get around the narrow field of my experience by doing what I always do when I need help — asking my friends. I’m lucky enough to have friends with a huge variety of interests and experiences and some of them were willing to share with you all!

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

Keep reading to hear experiences, thoughts, and advice from my friends and me. Leave a comment down below and share your own experience! I’d love to hear what you think about choosing a major.

Emily Chaumont (me!)

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

I figured I’d start off with myself, since y’all already know me. As you probably know if you’re a regular Honeybee Joyous reader, I’m a senior double majoring in English and Gender, Sexuality, Women’s Studies (GSWS). I’m also enrolled in the fifth year master’s program at my school of education, so next year I’ll be getting my M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education.

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

loved English in high school, so I just naturally gravitated toward English classes and the English major. As for my GSWS major, I took the intro to gender, sexuality, women’s studies class my freshman year and loved it. And then I realized that tons of classes I was interested in taking were cross-listed with GSWS, so that major was just a no-brainer. As for elementary education, that was a kind of epiphany I had over the summer. I’ve always loved working with kids and after doing a good bit of substitute teaching, I realized that I wanted to teach elementary school.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Yes and no. My undergraduate majors kind of fell into place for me, but not because it was an easy, conscious choice. It was more like one thing led to another and I suddenly found two majors in my lap. My elementary education master’s, however, was a much more difficult choice because it’s something I put a lot of thought into. Deciding whether or not to go to grad school deserves its own post because it’s a truly huge decision, but for me, after weighing all the factors I decided it was the right choice for me.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

I think the most important thing is to major in something you’re interested in. If you’re studying something you hate, you probably won’t do very well in your classes and you’ll have a hard time getting yourself motivated. That being said, I know that not everybody is able to major in something where the post-grad career path isn’t so clear. It’s a privilege to be able to double major in English and GSWS. Even before I decided to get my master’s (which made my career path a little clearer), I knew that I could afford to do things like unpaid internships. Not everybody has that option and I totally understand that not everyone can afford to “do what they love.”

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

For English, I love to read so that’s obvious. I also love the wide variety of classes offered in the department so I can learn from the experiences of many different professors with many different areas of expertise. For GSWS, I love that I get to (have to, actually) take classes in all sorts of different departments. And for Education, I love that it’s setting me up for what has become my dream job!

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

I wouldn’t have dove into my major so quickly. I love both of my undergrad majors, but I’m not sure English was actually the best choice for me. I wish I would have taken more classes in more departments my freshman year. There are tons of departments (like Sociology or American Studies) that I have only found out about after I was already too deep into English that it wouldn’t have been worth it to switch. Yeah, so if I was doing it all over, I would have spent more time exploring.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

Take classes you’re interested in and your major will follow. For a large number of careers, your major doesn’t actually matter, so just do your best to study what you’re interested in!

 

Sarah Ruiz

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

Sarah is a senior and she is the executive editor on The Flat Hat, which makes her my counterpart on the paper. I oversee news + sports and she oversees variety + opinions. She is super cool and designed her own major in science communication (partially out of spite).

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

The way majors work at this school is really archaic in my opinion. They go to a lot of trouble to talk about interdisciplinary majors as this big new thing, when in reality there are very few majors that draw only from a single discipline (ex. Classics, Government, any of the languages, Art History). Because of this way of thinking about things, Environmental Science is considered a “secondary major” which is just BS (not bachelor of science, the other abbreviation) and students who want to study environmental science must double major. Because of this and some limitations (the amount of credits I already had and classes only being offered on occasional semesters) I decided to create my own major. Also I frankly wasn’t interested enough to do any kind of capstone experience in any one thing that the college offered, so designing my own major was pretty much the only option.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Picking a major was excruciating. I had turned down Northwestern’s journalism school but was still pretty sure I wanted to do journalism after college. Unfortunately the college doesn’t offer journalism or communications as an option here (*cough cough* archaic *cough*) so I was trying to find an area of study that I was interested enough in. I was hoping to be able to specialize in something that could inform my writing later but, after environmental science, there wasn’t much else left to choose from and trying to double major was becoming a huge area of stress for me (I was taking 16-17 credits each semester). Eventually there was a point where I just said “screw this, I’ll major in what I want,” and I combined a bunch of classes from Environmental Science, Film Studies, Creative Writing, Biology, etc. to create my major.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

Practicality in terms of “will I be able to make money on this?” Absolutely not. I have done so many things that make me attractive to the employers I want to work for, and only a few of those were related to my coursework. What matters is not that it says “Biology Major” on your diploma, but rather that you have all the important skills for the job you want on your resume. That being said, don’t major in Philosophy if you know you want to work in a Chem lab. Do what makes sense.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

There are no classes that I don’t want to take. I take what I want to and change my major requirements if a certain class doesn’t work out.

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

Take prereq classes for any major you think you might be interested in as soon as possible. you’ll avoid having to play catch up. I personally also would have given self designing a major more serious thought at the beginning.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

“Picking” a major just means you turned in a form. You have some leeway to change your destiny after the fact so don’t let  “declaring a major” scare you too much. Also don’t lie to yourself about what you are interested in. Morning classes are already hard enough to wake up for. Its even harder when you don’t care about the class.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Still salty about the environmental science thing. I never won’t be.

 

 

Talya Stanke

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

I know Talya from freshman hall and we were roommates our sophomore year. She’s a senior majoring in international relations. Like me, she’s also an RA on our campus. She also has two giant dogs that are fluffy angels.

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

I had a hard time narrowing down my various academic interests, so International Relations ended up being a great fit for me because it’s an interdisciplinary major, which means it allows me to take courses from numerous fields (history, economics, government, etc.) all counting toward one major. I also love studying languages, and the International Relations program at my school definitely focuses on that as well.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Picking my major was relatively easy, but deciding to stick with it was a little more difficult. Taking upper level economics courses was quite challenging for me to adjust to (something I’m still working on today), so I definitely considered changing my major to avoid having to take the high econ course load required for IR. When I thought about other potential majors, the lack of global perspectives frustrated me, so I decided to stick with my major. I’m really happy I did, because even though I still struggle with econ, I’m able to take some of the most rewarding classes of my college career that I simply wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

I come from a privileged background, so I can’t speak to everybody’s experiences. However, coming from my own experience, screw practicality. If you aren’t pushing yourself to expand and grow in college, you aren’t receiving an education. Take subjects that challenge your assumed perspectives, that excite you enough to maybe actually participate in class. If you’re interested in what you study, it will reflect onto whatever you decide to pursue. Besides, extracurricular experiences/summer opportunities are often more valuable in “employability” than what you chose to major in.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

I love how my major provides an avenue for exploring different subjects across departments. I take classes with different types of students and professors each semester. There’s never monotony in my daily schedule–I can be discussing exchange rates in international finance in the morning and examining post-colonial Orientalist theory in Middle Eastern history during the afternoon.

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

If I could do it all again, I would tell myself to relax about getting the majority of my major requirements done as quickly as possible. Looking back, I fully recognize that had I waited to take a couple classes until I was older, I think I would have gotten more out of them in the long run.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

If you’re stressed about picking a major, consider creating your own (if your school allows you the opportunity to do so).

 

Megan Croom

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

Megan lived on the same hall as me freshman year and she’s a senior majoring in neuroscience with a minor in mathematics. She plays percussion in pep band, is president of Colleges Against Cancer, and is one of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing!

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

Ever since elementary school, I knew I would study science. The specific flavor of science I favored changed several times over the years (marine biology > geology > environmental science > chemical engineering > chemistry > neuroscience).

When I was 16, I learned that I have a neurological condition called synaesthesia, which causes my senses to blend together and be experienced concurrently. I became super interested in the biology behind this condition and did tons of research online. Then, one morning at 5am during a sleepover with my best friend, we were discussing synaesthesia (she has it too; what are the odds?!) and I said to her “I wish I could be paid to learn about this stuff!” Her response was, “wait — you can!” At that moment I realized I was going to study the brain for the rest of my life.

I don’t think I ever really considered factors of a major. I made the decision to do neuroscience when I was 16, and stuck with it ever since.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

Call me a pragmatist, but I definitely think practicality should be considered. Passion is equally (if not more) important, but if you choose a major that has little to no applications in the post-college world, you’ll flounder. You need a solid base to be successful in any field.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

My favorite thing about the neuroscience major is how interdisciplinary it is. It’s basically a triple Biology-Chemistry-Psychology major and it gives you a strong foundation in each of those three disciplines. This makes it applicable to a slew of graduate programs as well as career paths (medicine, research, therapy, pharmaceuticals — you name it).

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

If I could go back and do it again, I think I would do the same thing. Obviously from time to time I question my decision (just last week I wished I had been a geology major — I really love rocks and minerals, man). Every time I panicked and wondered if I made the right choice, I always found some reason to convince myself that I did.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

My advice would be that you can always change your major. Once you declare, it’s not set in stone. If you change late, you can stay an extra semester or year to finish your program. You’re not legally obligated to stick with one thing for your whole life!

 

Meilan Solly

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

I also know Meilan from my freshman hall. She’s the one who got me interested in journalism by convincing me to join The Flat Hat. She’s a senior English major through our school’s super cool William and Mary/University of St Andrews Joint Degree Programme, which means she spent her freshman and senior year at W&M but her sophomore and junior years in Scotland. Meilan is one of the most talented people I know and has written for publications like Kiplinger and Smithsonian Magazine.

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider? Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

As a student in the Joint Degree Programme, I had to commit to a major during my senior year of high school. The programme only offered four majors — English, history, international relations, and economics — but I still struggled with the decision. History was my favorite subject throughout high school. I’d recently taken econ and thought it might be my ~life’s calling~. Still, I picked English for a variety of reasons: I love writing and reading, I’ve wanted to be a journalist since seventh grade, and I’d heard scary rumors about math-heavy econ courses at St Andrews. To be completely frank, the College wasn’t my top choice. I only enrolled after I was accepted into the JDP, and I spent most of senior year dreaming about Scotland while ignoring the prospect of life in Williamsburg. Northwestern had been my dream school for several years, and when I received a rejection letter, I felt like my journalism career prospects had disappeared. English seemed like the most practical pathway (ironic considering most people’s thoughts on an English major) to journalism, so I committed.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

It depends on what you want from college. I would’ve hated a “practical” major like business, math, or biology, and that would’ve had an adverse effect on my entire university experience. I haven’t always enjoyed my English classes, but I’m happier as an English major than I’d be as a practical major. You have to find a balance between studying what you love, what will lead you to your dream career, and what will lead you to money. Ultimately, though, if you hate the subject you’re majoring in, you aren’t going to succeed.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

Tbh, I hated my major for a very long time, I’ve grown to love it, though, thanks to some brilliant professors and engaging course materials. I will forever be indebted to my English major for introducing me to Virginia Woolf, Renaissance executions’ relationship to fears of impurity, Edward Bond, and Victorian stunt reporters. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to research an interdisciplinary honors thesis.

During your “honours” years at St Andrews (3rd and 4th ), you take two modules per semester — and they have to be in your degree concentration, a.k.a major. I was NOT EXCITED about a year of JUST ENGLISH, especially after I’d just discovered my true loves (anthropology and art history). Honours turned out amazingly, though, because of the small
class sizes and weird British super in-depth structure. Also, British professors basically assign readings, lecture, and throw you into the library without any extra guidance — no hand-holding here, which I loved. If you try to take a draft of your paper to a St Andrews tutor, they will slam their office door in your face. Independence is fun!

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

English was the best fit for me out of the JDP’s four majors. If I hadn’t enrolled in the JDP, I would’ve wanted to study art history and anthropology — then again, St Andrews introduced me to those subjects, so who knows what I would’ve done? On a more serious note, I shouldn’t have been so anti-English for the first two years of college. English majors get to read incredible works of literature.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

Follow your gut, basic as that sounds. I love econ, but I knew that my math skills weren’t strong enough to cut it. Now, I listen to my econ major friends’ rants and thank my lucky stars that I don’t have to solve impossible problem sets and learn econometrics (whatever that is).

Just because you major in English or neuroscience doesn’t mean you’re limited to that subject. As I’ve mentioned, I’m obsessed with art history and anthropology, and even though the JDP has strict course requirements, I’ve been able to take a decent number of art history and anthropology courses. Branch out! Take a Buddhism class! Learn to dance!

 

Emily Knoche

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

I know Emily because we were on the same RA staff together last year. She’s a junior double majoring in Global Studies and French/Francophone Studies and not only is she an awesome RA in the French House on campus, she’s also involved with two different dance organizations, and also makes time to be an amazing friend!

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

I always intended to major in French because I have always loved the language and culture. During my freshman year, I had planned on double majoring in computer science because I had done well with it in high school and was strongly persuaded to continue with it. I ended up really hating all the math and computer science classes I was taking, and eventually I realized that there was no point in pursuing a degree for something that made me miserable. I realized that many of the classes I had already taken or wanted to take for fun, including my French classes, aligned very well with the Global Studies major. I am so happy with that decision!

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Once I admitted to myself that the most important thing is to follow your interests, it was easy to decide. It is difficult though to to ignore the people who say things like “You’ll never get a job with humanities degrees,” but you get past that.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

No, I do not think “practicality” is important. People act as if STEM majors and business majors are the only ways to get stable careers, but that is so untrue. My parents majored in humanities and social sciences in college, and both of them have careers that are not only stable, but also fulfilling and enriching. Every major offered on this campus corresponds to careers in real world. I am not worried about never being able to find a job, and maybe I won’t make as much money as someone with a STEM degree, but I know I am going to be doing something that I really enjoy and that leads to a fulfilling life.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

I absolutely love learning languages, and this combination of majors allows me to really explore other languages! In addition to French, I am currently studying Italian and Spanish.

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

I think I would have just not let myself be convinced by people telling me that computer science would be a “smart move.” It would have saved me a lot of time (and tears) to have not taken math and computer science classes.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

I can’t emphasize enough how strongly I believe in focusing on your strengths and following your passions.  You will be so much happier, and in my opinion that is the most important. You will find a job, so don’t worry about that. Seriously, do what you enjoy.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would encourage people to avoid saying things like “you won’t find a job” or “you won’t make enough money” or “you’re going to need to go to grad school with that major.” These kind of comments are so hurtful, and they can in many cases (including my own!) cause people to feel pressured to follow a path ill-suited for them. You can learn so much from people studying different things, so be open-minded and respectful!

 

Claire Seaton

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

Claire was my roommate freshman year and she helped me make friends with all our hallmates by going around door to door with M&Ms. She’s a senior who self designed a major in Communications and also has a minor in Sociology. She’s involved with our campus environmental activist group, sings in an a cappella group, and has a job at the media center on campus.

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider? Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

I was originally thinking about studying Theatre and English when I came to college. I wanted to create plays that could change the way people saw the world. I took “Performing Arts for Social Change” for my freshman seminar, and was so inspired that I considered joining a small cohort of folks who’d self-designed a major of the same name. I’d been inspired by the way media and film, especially documentaries, can do the same thing, and the thought of self-designing a major to include all the facets of media, social change, and performance that I wanted to address seemed incredible. However, Performance Art and Media Communications for Social Change is a long-winded name for a major, and I’m glad my ambitious sophomore-year self realized that would be trying to cover too much ground. So I ended up deciding on just Communications, and folded Film & Media Studies, Speech, Creative Writing, and Theatre classes into the major requirements. And since the Sociology classes I was taking addressed the social change aspect, I decided to minor in it. It was a bit of a roundabout process, and it took more work than someone declaring an already-established major, but the professors I consulted and my advisor were incredibly helpful and encouraging the whole way through.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

I think you should choose the major that’s most going to give you the perspective and tools you need to successfully enter a particular field. So absolutely, choose the major that’s most practical for what you want to do, not because somewhere in the world someone decided that an Economics major is of higher value than a Graphic Design major. Your major is your road map for the years ahead — so choose the map that’s going to guide you where you feel most called.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

My favorite thing about my major is that it’s allowed me to explore the many ways of telling stories, and it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone when I needed it!

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

If I could go back and do it all again, I’d get right to the point and just go with Communications, rather than taking the long way around to end up there. I also would have studied abroad first semester of junior year.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

Most everything in life is figure-outable. If you go with something and find out it doesn’t make your heart sing as much as you thought it would, it’s okay to do something different. Find out when professors in the major departments you’re considering hold office hours, and go chat with them. They’re going to offer a better perspective than your peers who are in the same boat will. If you know upperclassmen majoring in the things you’re thinking about, talk to them as well to get the inside scoop!

Anything else you’d like to add?

If none of the majors offered at your college strike your fancy, you can self-design one! Look at other colleges’ major requirements if they have that particular department, and create a similar plan with the courses available to you. Good luck!

 

Nandini Singh

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

Nandini is an absolute sweetheart and excellent RA. She’s a junior majoring in Kinesiology with a concentration in Public Health, and minoring in Economics. She’s on our school’s club swim team and leads Branch Out Alternative Break trips.

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

I knew that I wanted to go into the nonprofit field after college, but I wasn’t sure what would best complement that aspiration. I was originally completing an Economics major and a Public Health minor, until I looked at certain public health graduate programs and decided that that’s where I would ideally head after college. Considering that most of the requirements for these programs were covered by the Kinesiology/Public Health major, I switched to start completing my Bachelor of Science degree (words I never thought I would say in my entire life).

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

It wasn’t easy! I was constantly thinking about what would actually suit me best — given that I wanted to go in a more ‘managerial’ nonprofit direction, is taking technical science classes really going to benefit me? However, I’ve learned that many different majors make it into Public Health graduate programs, and later on into government/non-profit health jobs, so I’ve decided to stop worrying!

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

I think that completing a major is practical if you enjoy it — why would you spend so much time studying something you don’t enjoy? Maybe an Economics major would be more ‘practical,’ but I enjoy my classes more now and I know that I’m preparing myself for what I’d like to do after college.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

I love all of the different classes and subject material I get to cover! Right now, I am taking anatomy and anatomy lab, so I get to learn the body structure off of cadavers (which sounds terrifying, but is actually an amazing experience!) I also am taking a class called ‘Nutrition in Health and Disease,’ where I am learning about health sciences in a more applicable setting. I’ve taken classes with topics ranging from the social determinants of disease to epidemiology, and I’m looking forward to take classes like health ethics and human physiology!

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

I probably would’ve start all my major requirements earlier so that I could take at least one humanities-focused class a semester — although I didn’t decide to pursue English or History, I love those subjects and wish I had more time to continue learning about them.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

Everything I said above! Just like with the job you’ll eventually have, make sure you enjoy what you’re learning, and that you know what you’ll get out of it.

 

Isabel Larroca

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

Isabel is a senior majoring in Public Policy. She’s the editor-in-chief of The Flat Hat and she’s in a social sorority. She is one of the funniest people I know and you should definitely hit her up if you’re looking for some funny YouTube videos or TV show recommendations.

What led you to select your major? What factors did you consider?

When deciding on my major, I was mainly stuck between government or public policy. They were very similar, so it was hard to decide what path made the most sense. What I ended up doing was going to talk to the head of the public policy department (now my advisor) to ask her about what made the two majors different. She told me that public policy took more of an applied approach to government; rather than learning about how it functions in general, I would be learning about how policy is formulated and implemented, and what the effect of different policies could be. That was the deciding factor for me; an interest in politics/policy is what led me to the decision between a government or public policy major, and public policy was the major that was going to help me delve further into that interest.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Picking an area of interest was easy for me — I think that was mainly due to the fact that throughout high school I had played around with a lot of different activities related to different fields of work. Aside from government, I’m also very passionate about literature and history, but I knew that I didn’t necessarily want to work in those fields. So what was most difficult was deciding how exactly to pursue my interest in government.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

I think there’s a middle road on that issue — you obviously need to think about how you’re going to feed/house/care for yourself and plan for your future, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on an area of study that may not guarantee a high salary. If you love art history, philosophy, etc., I think you just have to be proactive about what you want to pursue in those fields. Work towards those majors with a career goal in mind, and be prepared to take on a job that isn’t in your preferred field at first if you have to.

What’s your favorite thing about your major?

I have three particularly favorite things about my major. First, the professors are amazing. So many of them have real-world experience that make what could be a boring class awesome, and they all have great stories. Second, the opportunities it offers you are far greater than I expected. There’s a real appreciation for bringing in younger people with a fresh perspective on policy issues, and the people I’ve worked with actually treated me like a valued, contributing member of the team, not someone who should just make copies in the back. Finally, my major has given me a more informed perspective on real-world events. I honestly feel like a lot of my thoughts and opinions on politics are now better informed by what I’ve learned in my classes.

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

I might have double majored, or done a different minor. I currently minor in history, and while I love my classes, I think I enjoyed English classes a bit more. If you want to double major, definitely start thinking about that decision earlier — that way you can spread the classes you would need to take over more semesters.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

Don’t panic if you don’t have a plan. My freshman year, I was surrounded by people who knew they were on the pre-med track and I thought I was so behind. Take your time, take a variety of classes, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Advisors are there for a reason, and I’ve never met a professor who wasn’t happy to give advice.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t treat college like a means to an end — it can be so, so much more than a degree if you want it to be (and employers love extracurriculars too)!

 

Lauren Bavis

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

Lauren is a lovely human with a fabulous sense of style. She’s a junior majoring in marketing with a minor in creative writing. She’s a copy editor for The Flat Hat, a member of a social sorority, and a member of a service fraternity.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

I didn’t decide on my major until my sophomore year, so up until that point picking just one was very stressful for me! I have always loved to learn and, going into college, I had trouble figuring out how to combine my vast academic interests under one roof. Luckily, William and Mary provided me with the perfect platform to really explore all of my options. I tried out classes in pretty much every domain, and it wasn’t until I began taking classes in the Business School that I truly found an area of study that appealed to my interests of writing and communication but that felt very concrete to me.

Do you think “practicality” is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

I strongly believe that all learning is useful learning that can be applied in unexpected ways throughout your life – it is all about what you do with it. To me, the combination of my Creative Writing minor (my “impractical” choice) and my Marketing major (my “practical” choice) gives me a way to productively grow my passions in a way that will benefit me in the future. I think that there is always a way to make what may be traditionally considered a less practical major practical, but it is extremely important to have that overall plan so that you can make the most out of your education and set yourself up for the best possible future.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

I would advise anyone worried about picking a major to take the time to explore rather than rushing into things because you feel like you have to have your life figured out. Again, all learning is useful in some way, and expanding your mind before settling into one major can help you become a more well-rounded person with a broader mind and a deeper understanding for the people and world around you.

 

Kayla Sharpe

Choosing a major is one of the most important decisions you can make in college. In this Q+A, real college students give advice on how to select a major. | HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MAJOR FOR YOU | HONEYBEE JOYOUS

I know Kayla from The Flat Hat, where we sat next to each other when I was Variety Editor and she was Online Editor. Kayla went on to serve as our very first Digital Media Editor. She graduated from William and Mary last year and she majored in Film and Media Studies and minored in American Studies. Kayla is now a super successful ~real adult~ with a super cool ~real job~ so I wanted to close out with her perspective!

What are you doing nowadays and are you ‘using’ your major at all?

I currently work for a journalism organization called the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. While my major has less of a technical influence on my work, it certainly influences my ability to think critically, convey complex ideas, and work creatively.

What led you to select your majors? What factors did you consider?

When I was applying to colleges, I wanted to study journalism. However, I decided to attend William and Mary, despite its lack of a journalism/communications program because I loved the academic environment and valued its many media-related resources. When I got to the College, I immediately began exploring how I might self-design a journalism major but was met with a bunch of red tape.

Instead, I went with Film and Media Studies which was a new major at William and Mary at the start of my sophomore year (Fall 2014). The College combined Literary and Cultural Studies with Film Studies to create the new FMST program. I chose FMST because its basic description was closest to journalism or media studies programs at other colleges and as the program developed, the classes they offered allowed me to try my hand at documentary filmmaking, portfolio production, and editing — all things that would help me in my career.

I chose American Studies for two reasons. 1) The department had really great faculty and 2) it offered really great media-focused interdisciplinary courses. Throughout my minor, I produced two short films and papers on video game theory and studies the complex theories behind why modern digital society exists in its present state. Understanding these historical/cultural forces has really helped me analyze current media trends and how to address them in my work.

Was picking a major easy for you? Why or why not?

Once I eliminated self-designing a major or defaulting to English (not that there’s anything wrong with studying English), the choice was more clear-cut for me. What made it easy for me was really the faculty in both FMST and AMST. Several of them overlapped between departments and are the most supportive and engaging people/friends/mentors I’ve ever met. After I took one class in either department, I generally went on to take two or three more courses with the same professor. Getting to know me well allowed the faculty to challenge me semester after semester to try new projects and modes of thinking.

Do you think ‘practicality’ is an important thing to consider when picking a major? Why or why not?

To a degree, yes I think ‘practicality’ is important. It goes without saying but if you want to be a surgeon, at least one of your majors must be biology. During my freshman year, I began looking at job listings in public relations, communications, and journalism to look at what qualifications I would need upon graduation. Some jobs didn’t specify a required major. Others listed a few preferred areas of study. Oftentimes, journalism and PR jobs requested that a candidate study “journalism, communications, marketing, or related fields.” I realized that self-designing a journalism major at W&M would result in me taking the same combination of AMST and FMST classes that I did through my major and minor. The only difference would be the words on my transcript/diploma. To address this, I reached out to several alumni journalists and asked their thoughts and they said that most hiring managers would consider “Film & Media Studies” to be a “related field”.

Another “practical” aspect was to combine my academic background with really compelling extracurricular work. Nearly every organization at William & Mary has a social media/PR/marketing committee and since W&M didn’t have a formal communications program, I made sure to immediately seek out opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. I led the Public Relations committee for the Global Film Festival, worked as a Marketing Associate for Campus Recreation, and inaugurated the Digital Media Editor position for The Flat Hat. Not only did I get a ton of real-world experience from these positions but if anyone ever questioned my background in journalism/communications I could confidently argue that I was more than equipped to handle any internship or job.

What’s your favorite thing about your majors?

I appreciated how open professors in both departments were to using different methods of evaluation. While my friends were busy memorizing information for exams, most of my classes utilized final projects or presentations to determine our final grades because professors acknowledged that while an exam might properly evaluate a student’s comprehension of math or science, it won’t allow a student to properly convey their understanding of scene composition or racist stereotypes in the western film genre. Not only did giving presentations and producing films help develop my technical skills, but it helped me evaluate the best medium to convey my message which can often be overlooked in large projects.

If you could go back and do it all again, what would you have done differently (if anything)?

I probably would have aimed to upgrade my AMST minor to a major. At the end of the day, I practically completed a major but didn’t have a pressing need to submit more paperwork.

What advice would you offer somebody who’s worried about picking a major?

Connect with alumni in your desired field. They can give great advice about undergrad majors and graduate school options. LinkedIn is a great place to start your search.

If you’re studying humanities, take a look at the course offerings, not the name of the program/department itself. Three different colleges may define “media studies” differently so analyze what your school emphasizes in each department.

Keep track of your professors’ work. Newer associate professors, visiting professors, and lecturers seem to jump around between departments. Once you find a faculty member who teaches classes on a subject you want to study, try to take multiple courses with them. Not only will you more easily get overrides, but you may also ask them to be your adviser.

Look for compelling courses in unexpected places. Again, some of the best media courses I took were not in the FMST department. They were in AMST, English, Writing, and Sociology.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Your parents are great people who love and support you but you have to acknowledge that unless they work in your desired field or in human resources, they might not know the current state of hiring. Both of my parents have very successful careers but haven’t actively been on the job market for over 20 years. I appreciated their willingness to give me advice and proofread my resume/cover letters, but when it came to my major-based career choices I have to take their advice with a teensy grain of salt. This is where alumni advice comes in. Try to get a mix of insight from both recent grads and established alumni to figure out how things work in your desired field.
 

{Y’all, I have some of the coolest friends ever! I’m so glad so many of them were willing to participate in this blog post and I hope you enjoyed their perspectives on how to choose the best major for you. Leave me a comment down below and tell me what you thought of this style of post. If somebody’s story resonated with you, let me now in the comments and I’ll pass the message along!}

  • Naomi Gruber

    What a super interesting article! I love that you included so many perspectives.

  • Brendan Doyle

    This is so cool!! I’ll definitely be able to use this advice in my life.

    • Aw yay! I’m so glad it resonated with you Bren. Thanks for reading!

  • Miss ALK

    So interesting to hear so many different people’s college stories! I knew what I wanted to major in back in high school, but I still went into college undeclared and took classes in lots of fields freshman year just to make “sure”!!

    xoxo A
    http://www.southernbelleintraining.com

    • That’s definitely a good technique! It’s always good to go into a new situation with an open mind.

  • I love how you got the perspective of so many people with different majors! I ended up changing my major my junior year and it was the best decision I made!

  • Love seeing how everyone chose. I wish I could go back and do it all again. I would probably have chosen to major in Animal Science. I always wanted to be a vet. I actually got to watch a hip replacement on a beagle and it was so cool! Definitely didn’t follow my childhood aspirations.

    • That sounds so cool! There are just so many cool things to study, it’s hard to decide on just one or two.

  • Sydney Power

    I chose Hospitality Management because I knew it was the best option to learn the industry I wanted to focus on!

    • Definitely important to pick something relevant to what you’re looking to do! One of my friends at another school is a hospitality major and it seems awesome!

  • Tori Dunlap

    I dual degreed in Organizational Communication and Theatre, and I was one of those weird kids who never changed my major!
    Tori || Victori Media
    https://www.victorimedia.com

    • Wow that sounds amazing! What is organizational communication all about?

  • Nicole C.

    I loved seeing everyones stories! I am a sophomore in college now and have some friends who are still figuring out what their major or minor is. It’s definitely a learning process but so exciting.

    • Yes I definitely agree! Such an exciting time and such an important decision.

  • Amy

    This is so helpful!! Wished I read something like this when I was deciding my major in college. I ultimately went with marketing and even though I did enjoy it, I also wondered if I was ment to go down a different path

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! Totally feel you on wondering if you were meant to take a different path. I wish I had taken more courses my freshman year to really get a feel for what options are out there.

  • Such great insights! I changed majors from psych to PR/adv and I am so happy I did!

    • I know a lot of people who have totally changed majors! You never know what will happen in college and what course you will take that will inspire you.

  • Loved reading everyone’s stories! I started out a Biology/Pre-med and ended up switching once before I settled on anthropology. Thankfully my end-goal didn’t change all that much!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! That sounds like a big switch! I’m so glad it worked out and you were able to follow your interests.

  • Such amazing tips and insight!! I need to save this post!!

  • What a great article! Choosing a major can be so stressful but I love this guide you have created!

    • Thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • What a fabulous post and such great insight! I’m adding this to my newsletter for college & career advice 🙂

    • Thanks so much Paige! I’m so glad you found it useful. I think I’m going to do a similar post about careers sometime soon, so keep an eye out!

  • Allison Ellzey

    I wish I had these tips when I was in college! I changed my major SO many times!

    • Nothing wrong with changing your major! I hope you landed on something that was right for you.

  • Um, I SO could have used this tips when entering college– this info would have been so useful! I was going to change my major from journalism to business/marketing but ended up sticking with it and focusing on public relations… which is marketing related but without all the math classes 😛

    • Thanks for reading!! That’s a really cool path and I would have done the same lol I avoid math at all costs.