Choosing a major by asking the right questions

A college major is one of the most impactful aspects of a person’s life, laying the groundwork for their education and dictating their daily life until they’re finally able to retire.

The truth of the matter is that choosing the right major, and consequently the right career, is an incredibly complex process and one that is frequently underestimated. Making the correct decision involves deep introspection, foresight, a consideration of societal and familial influences, monetary factors, an understanding of market demands and trends and, most importantly, an understanding of what makes one happy.

George Church, a Harvard scientist known as a leading pioneer in personal genomics, opined that success in life is enabled by a deliberate and personally crafted strategy. Many of the world’s most successful people owe their achievements to identifying a need or deficit in the market and creating a solution. The common thread between them is that they observed the current state of affairs and reacted to opportunities where they saw they could make an impact. They understood themselves and what they wanted first and then applied that knowledge to the real world.

While in college, the single most important element of choosing the right major is asking oneself “Why am I doing this?” That may sound silly or obvious, but it is surprising how many students plow along for four years without ever addressing it properly.

Major choice generally stems from an idea of where one wants to spend the rest of their working life and what they want to spend it doing. This often changes throughout the four or five years of college, but having an idea of the positions one seeks to fill in the workforce allows for research that can paint a more realistic picture of themselves.

College is a highly idealistic environment and often times learning about a subject such as a career does not necessarily translate well into doing it. As such, it is important to seek out as much information as possible on the day-to-day routine of a desired job and consider whether or not the prospect remains appealing under greater scrutiny.

Ultimately, the only way to confirm this is working the job first hand, but there are a host of resources that allow one to make an informed guess. Youtube, Wikipedia and Google are great starts and can outline the scope of a professional position.

Reaching out to professionals and securing internships can provide deeper insight. Summer internships are especially lucrative in this sense as they provide insight and resume boost; they also offer a low risk opportunity to test the waters in a new field that could be of potential interest.

Tunnel vision is an unavoidable byproduct of any lengthy process, but by recognizing that, it becomes easier to combat. From time to time, it is important to take a step back to consider those big questions anew: “Why am I doing this?” , “Where do I want this to take me?”, “Do I enjoy doing this?” These questions may reveal new answers about whether the path ahead is desirable or if changes need to be made.

Tech is a stressful place, and being burdened by an ill-fitting major can make it borderline unbearable. Rather than switch midway through and waste valuable time and money, students can avoid future hassle by simply honing in on what they want and determining what their realistic and tangible aspirations are in the working world. By targeting these, fulfillment in both the classroom and the workplace is virtually guaranteed.