Choosing a major

Tips to help students figure out what they want to do when they “grow up”



By Renna Sarafa

“I want to be an actress,” is what I wrote when my third-grade teacher asked our class to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. To say the least, that is not the case today. However, that day my friend sitting next to me wrote down “I want to be a doctor”. She is now a pre-med student at the University of Michigan.

Some people are extremely lucky to know what professions they want to pursue for the rest of their lives when they are very young. Even those who know what they are going to major in when they graduate from high school are blessed. During my senior year of high school, I knew of many Chaldeans in my class who knew what job they wanted to have after college or were already admitted to a specific program where their profession was almost guaranteed.

Although this may be the case for some, most high school students don’t know what they want to study when they go off to college. I was one of those students who had no idea what I wanted to do before I began classes at Michigan State University. When my orientation advisor asked me what I would be studying, there was no easy answer. I felt like I had to decide what I was going to do for the rest of my life right in that moment.

Thankfully, I talked to many older students and wiser adults who told me otherwise. They helped me remember that I was still only 18 and that the rest of my life is supposed to be about figuring out who I am and what I love. I began to feel more at ease and comfortable with the idea of seeing which direction things took.

For any soon-to-be college students who do not know what major they want to declare, here are some tips that might help you plan:


●       Go through a process of elimination - If you don’t know what you want to major in, go through a list of the majors your college or university offers and eliminate those you know you would not want to study. For example, when I was going through MSU’s list of majors, I immediately crossed off engineering because I did not enjoy my physics classes in high school. This process of elimination was what led me to my final decision to apply to MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business. Not only does crossing off these majors shorten your options, it also allows you to realize what you might be interested in learning about.


●       Reflect on what you are interested in - Once you have narrowed down your list of options for your major, you can assess which academic pathway you might want to pursue. Most universities offer brief descriptions on their websites of the classes within a certain major. These sites provide students with a sneak peek about what they will be learning in the class, how it is set up, and what the expectations are of each student. You may not like all the classes that your major offers. However, remember that each class you are required to take for your major will be beneficial for you in your long-term career path. Eli Broad’s College of Business requires all its students to take two accounting classes. Even though I do not plan on ever pursuing a career in accounting, those classes taught me more about business than I ever thought I would understand. These tools are convenient for those who are undecided like I was.


●       Gain experience with work - The best way to figure out what life is like after college is to gain experience with jobs and internships. Working when you are young provides many benefits you will use throughout your lifetime. It is the only way to get a clear understanding of what you get out of knowledge you gain in school. Throughout my teenage years, I worked in many different industries to expand my horizons. Each internship I had helped me conceptualize what I want to do in my professional life. It was not until my internship this summer that I decided to declare a finance major from MSU’s Business College. Working also allows you to build a strong personal resume. I have found that having a solid resume communicates to employers that you are credible and that you have multiple skill sets. Finally, working teaches you professional behaviors and communication skills that you will use your entire lifetime.


●       There’s always time to change - As I previously mentioned, it was not until this summer going into my junior year of college that I decided I wanted to focus on finance in school. Originally my major was human resources. It is very common for students to switch their major during their college years, even more than once. If you are not content with what you are currently studying, talk to your advisor about other major options that might be more interesting to you. It is also common for people to change their career path. If you declare a certain major you are not required to practice within that field until you retire. Even the most successful people did not start off what they are doing now. For example, most of us know Ken Jeong as the hilarious comedian from movies like The Hangover movie trilogy and Dr. Ken TV series.  It was not until I recently went down a Google rabbit hole that I found out that before he became a professional actor and comedian, he was actually a medical doctor. No matter what major you choose, remember that nothing is permanent and change can be a good thing.

The list of decision-making factors for choosing a college major could go on and on. At the end of the day, your undergraduate major does not tell your life story. It is how you tell the story of what you learn from your studies and your work that defines you. Reflect on the choices you are faced with. Pray for guidance and divine wisdom. Decide for yourself without trying to please others with your decision. It is your life, so do what makes you happy. As Walt Disney said…  if you can dream it, you can do it!