Close search
Parents & Family

Focusing On Academics: Choosing A Major

With the average college graduate changing jobs once every three years and switching career fields two or three times in a lifetime, your student faces a career marketplace filled with opportunity.

Your student may have already declared a major or still may be exploring options. Regardless of which stage describes your student, the following can be beneficial:

Undeclared Major? No Need to Worry

During the first two years, it is common for students to explore several academic areas before settling on a major. This process enables them to sample various fields of study while still fulfilling core requirements. At the end of the second year, students are asked to formally declare their majors and minors.

At one time, the status of being an undeclared major made parents uncertain as to whether their student was ready for college. However, today this viewpoint is no longer true. If it is done early, switching majors should have little effect on a student's anticipated graduation date. However, in some cases a student may have to delay graduation, attend summer school or take a few "heavy load" semesters.

If your student is struggling to pick a major, the 10 Biggest Mistakes in Picking a Major may offer important considerations.

Misconceptions about Picking a Major

  • Picking a major and a profession are the same thing.
  • Graduate school studies are based on undergraduate studies.
  • Certain majors are career limiting.

While the above statements may be misconstrued as truth by some individuals, it is important for students to view an undergraduate degree as being one component of career development. At BW, our arts and sciences programs help students become proficient in focused areas of study while gaining valuable skills that can translate to several career areas.

Similarly, a student's undergraduate major may or may not be related to graduate-level studies. While some pre-professional degree disciplines may have common undergraduate fields of study, a student should view an undergraduate degree as being a preliminary area of focus.

Finally, students are encouraged to pick majors and minors based on their aptitude, skills and levels of interest rather than on preconceived ideas of how marketable certain degrees may be or how popular they may be among peers. Studies show that within ten years of graduation, most individuals are working in careers that are not directly related to their undergraduate majors.

Important Considerations for Picking a Major

Working with an academic advisor and a career center advisor can help your student explore options. Regardless of whether or not your student has declared a major and minor, the following steps can be helpful:

Step One: Do a Self-Assessment

  • What types of subjects and activities interest and excite me?
  • What are my hobbies and co-curricular interests?
  • What aptitudes and skills do I have?
  • What do I envision myself doing in a job?
  • What would give me a sense of career fulfillment?
  • What type of work environment do I seek?
  • How committed am I to service initiatives, environmental sustainability and other issues?
  • Would I enjoy working alone or with people?
  • Is the current economy or job market influencing my decision of a major?
  • Is my choice based on the perceived easiness or rigor of a particular major?

Step Two: Explore Options

After reviewing self-assessment answers, a student should begin researching fields of study that best match interests, proficiencies, values, personality traits and other relevant issues. BW's Career Center has a wealth of resources that can help a student explore options.

Step Three: Meet With Others

An academic advisor and a career center advisor can help a student narrow and further solidify a choice. They can assist students in looking at the coursework needed and co-curricular activities that would complement a particular field of study. In addition, they can answer questions about graduate school and career opportunities.

Step Four: Make Plans

At this stage, a student is ready to make decisions and take action. However, your student should stay flexible and make changes as needed.