Selecting the perfect major for your undergraduate study: A difficult choice

Increasingly, Indonesian students are eager to study overseas in preference to local universities despite the sizeable financial investment.  The opportunity to decide courses of study and to be taught by passionate professors, meet intelligent and inspirational peers from around the world will broaden any student’s horizons.

Living in any new country, interacting with another culture and a chance to gain mastery of a foreign language is a positive and enhancing experience, which also encourages independence and resourcefulness needed to be self-sufficient in a foreign country.

When it’s time to starting making solid decisions about enrolling in college, many students have questions about how to choose a college major. This is a personal decision that requires time reflecting on goals, likes, dislikes, skills, and aptitudes. You have to not only look at your interests, abilities, and goals, but also what you’ll need to be happy in the future.

Choosing a college major can be a big, anxious deal. Some students get to college knowing exactly what they want to do; others aren’t so sure.

And guess what? A majority of students in all colleges and universities change their major at least once in their college careers; and many change their major several times over the course of their college career.

‘It’s an artful balance of synthesizing interests, skills, and personality strengths while acquiring experience outside of the classroom—in the first four semesters, if possible—that will lead to a more informed major choice,’ says Riana, educational counselor.

Many of today’s majors didn’t exist in the 1970s and ’80s and with a choice of over 200 majors; it can be an overwhelming task to decide from astronautics (the design of spacecraft), informatics (the study of computer systems and how they’re used by groups) or viticulture (winemaking and vineyard management.

Students should follow their hearts, not simply choose a major that betters job prospects. Some questions to consider when selecting a college major include:

  • What type of career can you see yourself in?
  • What type of work do you enjoy?
  • What are your interests?
  • Which subjects did you enjoy studying the most in high school?
  • If you completed a career assessment in high school, what did the results indicate? (If you have never taken such an assessment, consider taking a college major test before selecting a program of study.)
  • What type of skills do you have?
  • Do you have any hobbies that you would like to pursue as a career?
  • What did you learn about what you like and dislike from any past work experience?

It is a journey toward discovering the ideal career path for you. But it is a journey, so make sure you spend some time thinking about it before making a decision. And don’t be discouraged if you still don’t have a major the first time you take this journey… your goal should be narrowing your focus from all possible majors to a few areas that you can then explore in greater depth.

Most colleges even have double majors and some even some triple majors, if you are ready for the hard work.

Keep in mind: your major in college is important for your first job after graduation, but studies show that most people will change careers — yes, careers — about four or five times over the course of their lives — and no major exists that can prepare you for that!

Take advantage of: High school students can and should take advantage of resources available to them in their family and friends, teachers and academic advisers and counselors. The college course catalog is a wealth of information from required courses to specialized majors and tracks. Even classmates, especially upperclassmen, who are studying their major, use them as a resource to gather more information.

Financial Incentives: Some attractive financial aid incentives are associated with specific majors. If this is one of your primary concerns, look into majors that will help you pay for college. This may sometimes require you to commit to working for a couple of years within the specified field.

Look at the Career Options: Check out the job placement success statistics of others who have pursued this degree, if a specific career is your reason for choosing this major.

Selecting a college major is an important decision, and it is not one that should be made lightly. It is important to remember, however, that declaring a major is not an irreversible decision. Set college goals, keep an open mind, and be honest with yourself and you can choose a college major that will steer you down the path to success.

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