Advice on Selecting a College Major
How do you select a major (or even majors!) when in college? What should you consider? How much flexibility is there to change majors? We've compiled some expert advice on how to select a college major:
Brooke Paulsen, Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising at Cornell College
Don't limit yourself to the majors you have heard of or you've been told you should do. Use the Ingenuity Core Curriculum to your advantage and explore academic areas of interest in your first year here to learn more about your strengths and interests as a student on the block plan. You may surprise yourself with what ends up being the best fit!
One great thing about a liberal arts degree from Cornell College, no matter which major you select, is that it can launch you into so many different career paths or future graduate or professional schools that you are not limited in choices once you declare your major.
Megan Hicks, Registrar at Cornell College
When selecting a college major, give yourself time, don’t rush into a decision. Students at Cornell do not need to select a major until December of their second year, and that is because we want you to explore and take a variety of courses first before picking one path. Keep in mind that students change majors too, and sometimes they change multiple times! So if you still don’t feel quite sure at major declaration time, that’s ok. Pick something for now and we can always change it later.
Think about or even ask your close friends what they think your interests, passions, abilities, and values are. Talk to your advisor about how to connect those areas of passion, ability, and values to a particular academic discipline. You will eventually be in some upper-level seminars in your major, so you want to find a subject that has some topics or sub-areas that you can geek-out about.
And remember, a huge part of being in college is to earn a degree and develop major life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, oral and written communication, and leadership. So your specific major is just one part of your overall college experience.
Jill Heinrich, Professor of Education at Cornell College
Not sure what to select as your academic major—not to worry! You have ample time to make up your mind, and here are just a few thoughts to consider when selecting your first year’s classes:
Listen to your instincts and consider your comfort level: Everything in your world has changed, and that can be somewhat disconcerting. To ease the transition, take classes in disciplines that you did well in and enjoyed in high school. Learning is easier and certainly more enjoyable when you have the background knowledge and interest in the subject.
Strike a balance by exploring new subjects that are of interest and that you might want to major in: At Cornell, you don’t declare a major until December of your sophomore year, so you have plenty of time to explore! For instance, if you think you want to major in business, take an economics class early on but give yourself permission to enroll in other classes that seem just as fun and interesting and that have nothing to do with your intended major. Although the majority of your coursework will be completed in your intended major, you’ll have plenty of time to take classes in other disciplines as well. Use this time wisely by taking classes that truly interest you, and, in doing so, you’ll graduate with a well-rounded liberal arts education!
Jodi Schafer, Senior Director of the Berry Career Institute at Cornell College
Choosing a major can be daunting. There tends to be a sense that if you don’t choose right, you may not be qualified for a career you really want in the future. While some majors like education and computer science provide a clear path to specific careers, others such as history and English lead to a wide variety of opportunities. If you know you want to work in a field that requires a specific major, you should do your best to learn about the requirements of that major early so you can take the pre-requisites that might be necessary. It will also be important to try an introductory course in that major to make sure it’s truly a fit for you.
If you’re undecided, think about the things that excite you, you’re skilled at, or you’d like to learn more about. If you’re passionate about your major, but still aren’t sure of the career it might lead you to, get involved in activities that allow you to explore possible careers; you’ll discover what you were meant to do along the way. And, if you’re willing to make adjustments there’s always time to switch gears, add a minor, or even double major if you find another field you might like to try. The college experience is a time for discovery, so taking the time to learn what you don’t want to do is often as important as figuring out what you do want to do.
Lauren Williams, Cornell College Class of 2022, a double major in sociology and politics
Selecting a major at Cornell can be difficult; there are so many options and you get the chance to explore different programs during your first year. My advice for picking is talking to your professors and advisors and using the Berry Career Institute to help explore the different career options associated with the programs you are interested in. This helped me as I started to think about how my major will reflect my next step.