Choosing a College Major

Last spring I bumped into a dad I know whose daughter had attended the same middle school as my son. I asked him where his daughter would be attending college in the fall and he said: She’s going to a community college.

I was surprised because Rachel is a very bright girl. The dad explained, however, that his daughter didn’t know what she wanted to major in so he didn’t feel there was any point to start her off at a four-year school.

While this is an extreme case, I run into a lot of parents who are not pleased if their teenagers don’t know what they should select for a college major. To all those parents out there, I want to say:  “Chill out.”

It doesn’t matter if a 17 or 18-year-old has no clue what he or she wants to study. In fact, even if a teenager thinks she knows what college major she wants, she will probably change her mind once she gets to college and is exposed to all types of classes. It’s there that something will probably click.

College Major Resources

Of course, this doesn’t mean that teenagers can’t start exploring potential majors.  For teen, who are stressing about picking a major, here are three resources that I’d recommend.

College Majors 101

Wondering what you can do with a degree in dance? Or maybe business, psychology or sociology? This website offers lots of information about what careers are possible with dozens of majors, as well as what you can expect academically if you pursue these majors. You can find tons of videos on college majors from individual schools.

I also love the links for individual academic majors that can connect you to related student associations and publications. I think one of the best ways to research majors and schools that offer them is to read publications in that field and also sign up for relevant student organizations.

College Board Book of Majors 2011

This book  from the College Board  provides in-depth descriptions of 200 of the most popular college majors. The book explains how each major is taught, what preparation students will need, career options and employment prospects.

The Princeton Review Guide to College Majors, 2010 Edition

This fat book (weight 2.4 pounds) contains information on 370 majors. For each major you’ll find:

  • Description of the major
  • Sample college curriculum for major
  • Other majors you might like
  • Starting salaries

At the front of the book, you’ll find 500 careers and the potential majors that feed into them.

Stay tuned

I’m going to write more on majors in my next post. I want to thank a mom named Rita, who posted a comment on my blog that suggested I write about college majors. Great idea.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also blogs about college for CBSMoneyWatch and

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2 Responses to “Choosing a College Major”

  1. Thank you!! I am an academic advisor for undecided students and this is a message that we need to get out there. Being undecided allows a student to explore their options rather than starting into a program that they later realize isn’t for them (and potentially digging themselves into a GPA hole in the process). It gives students a change to take a course in anthropology, chemistry, math, and British writers all in the same semester. College is the chance of a lifetime to learn from a wide variety of educated people! Embrace it!

    Bravo to your post!

  2. Lynn says:

    HI Jillian,

    Glad you liked my posts on college majors. And I appreciate you adding your own observations about why it’s OKAY to start school without knowing what major to declare. Of course, I totally agree with you.

    Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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