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How to Pick Your Major and Make a College List in 9 Steps

Choosing a major is one of the biggest decisions rising high school seniors and college students make, yet, many wish they could have a second chance. A survey showed that 61% of college graduates would change their major if they could go back in time.

So how do you decide which major is best for you? If you, too, are trying to find the right college and the right major, here are some suggestions:

1. Choosing Your Major

Evaluate your skillset

First, list your strengths and interests. When you're done, ask your close friends and family what they think of you. Sometimes, we need a third party to remind us of overlooked talents and skills.

Include any subjects that you've always been interested in but never pursued fully, as well as things you used to be good at but haven't done in a while.

Research Potential Career Paths

After listing your interests and hobbies, see which jobs match those interests. For example, if you're interested in music, you could work as a music teacher, a club founder, or find a job at a music-related nonprofit.

After listing potential occupations, consider reaching out to people who have already held them so you can get a sense of what the job is really like. Observing how things actually work can better help you determine if you're genuinely interested.

Estimate Future Earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks career growth for most occupations. Visit the site and select the career group you are interested in, and from there, you can see what job opportunities are available in each field.

The fastest-growing occupations for 2021-31, source: BLS

Once you have a list of jobs that interest you, you can use this site to see which jobs have positive growth rates and income that fit your desired lifestyle. While future income should not be the only motivation for choosing a career, it is an important factor to consider. Knowing this information can help you decide how much money to invest in your education.

Also, think about the lifestyle you want to live after college. For example, if you wish to live in a big city, travel around, or start a family, you will need a job that will cover these expenses.

Determine the Length of Education

Not all majors are of equal length. Some programs, such as law, require more time than others, so consider how much time you can devote to studying.

Also, research what degree you need to earn to work in your field of interest. If you need to pursue a professional degree or a master's degree to achieve your career goals, consider the additional time and money required before finalizing your bachelor's degree major.

2. Find the Right College for Your Major

Now that you've chosen a major, it's time to find the best colleges for that major. Here are some ways to help you narrow down your list of schools:

Check out Program Rankings

You can easily find comprehensive university rankings online, and you can also filter schools by location, setting, school size, and more. Beyond that, you can find specific rankings for majors like business, engineering, and computer science.

Source: The Chronicle

These publications' rankings usually only include certain undergraduate programs, so you may have to do your own research to find the best schools. For example, if you are interested in becoming a teacher, do a Google search for "best education programs" or "best education colleges," cross-reference the gold stars of the search results, note the colleges that come up most often, and add them to Your College List.

Talk to a Counselor

Your counselor or advisor can make school selection recommendations based on your interests and will match you with the colleges with the best chance of admission.

Stanford University, for example, has one of the top business programs in the country, but the application process is highly competitive—the school has an acceptance rate of about 4%, and advisors can help you decide how to choose the best school for your grades and experience.

Find a College that Meets a Variety of Interests

If you are interested in several different subjects, choose a university that offers good teaching in all of them. This way, if you want to change your major to another option, you can receive a quality education without having to transfer schools.

For example, if you're interested in learning Spanish and marketing, look for a school with a good language and business program.

Consider Your Budget

Some careers require a degree beyond a bachelor's degree. If you need an advanced degree, consider prioritizing an affordable school at the undergraduate level, minimize the amount of student loan borrowing, and be sure to apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible.

Source: Network

In-state public universities are often the best bang for your buck, and many of them are highly ranked. But you should also consider private colleges, especially if your family income is low, and many private schools offer substantial scholarships or grants to students with financial needs.

Be Flexible

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 33 percent of undergraduates change their major at least once. About 9 percent changed majors two or more times. Other data showed that more than half of students changed majors at least once.

After going to college, it is normal to find that you are not as interested in this major as you thought. Keep an open mind and don't push yourself to stick with the degree path you chose out of high school. You'll probably spend about a third of your life at work, so don't force yourself to stay in a major you don't like.

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