When it comes to selecting a major, your child has a variety of factors to weigh before reaching a decision. Here are five simple tips to consider as they finish high school and enter their first year at college.

  • Find something you’re good at. While it may sound overly simplistic, knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a fundamental part of choosing a major. To start, have your son or daughter try brainstorming a list of skills. These may include things as specific as certain high school subjects, or broader life skills such as public speaking or organization. Perhaps they are a great debater and excellent writer – studying rhetoric just might be their niche. Or, maybe they’re particularly skilled with numbers but struggle with theory-based concepts – a major in applied mathematics may be the solution.
  • Build universal skills. These are skills that are interdisciplinary (meaning they can be used across many different careers). For example, the ability to write persuasively and analytically is essential regardless of whether you’re a surgeon, politician or small business owner. Others such as speech, problem-solving and leadership are skills that are similarly important across a variety of occupations. The more of these skills they can develop, the more flexibility your child will provide themselves in switching a job or career altogether.
  • Find a challenge. No matter what major they ultimately decide on, make sure that it will challenge them intellectually. A challenging workload and curriculum will teach invaluable lessons in time management, hard work and collaboration.
  • Forget the career, initially. While certain specializations (pre-med, for example) will require a career-oriented plan from the get-go, the majority of freshmen should avoid getting bogged down with how a potential major relates to a career. Their early years of college will allow them the flexibility to explore a variety of subjects. Be open to subjects outside their comfort zone and don’t feel rushed to declare a major during year one. As all parents well know, a student’s interests, career aspirations and goals will change constantly throughout college and beyond.
  • Don’t be afraid of change. When first selecting a major, many students feel as though the agreement is binding. If they find themselves unsatisfied or unchallenged by a major, switching during their early years is certainly manageable. Make sure they communicate with their academic advisor and stay on top of course requirements during this period of transition.
About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

Join an upcoming webinar
Download a resource guide