What should students do over the summer to help them decide what they may want to major in? Should they look for an internship in a certain field? What about students that have no idea what they may want to major in?
First, students should not be looking to narrow down a major! Rather than narrowing their choices, students should be expanding their options as much as possible. On average, students change their major five times while they are in college, and sometimes the five changes happen all in the same semester! Also consider that the most popular “major” for first-year college students is undecided. So for now, students should participate in summer activities that give them broad exposure to professions, occupations and areas of interest. This exposure should help students to broaden their interests, not to narrow their options or eliminate areas from consideration. Students should participate in summer activities not to decide what they may want to major in, but to have exposure–plain and simple. When you think about the items that were not in everyday use 40 years ago (microwave ovens, cell phones, color TVs, FAX machines–not to mention IPADs, Blackberries, etc), the possibilities for the future are hard to imagine. A student should not try to predict their college major or career; the best plan for the future is to keep options open. And parents, that means not asking young adults “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If a student has no idea what they want to major in, that is great. This means that the student will be open to participating in a broad array of activities and to taking a broad array of classes once they are in college. For now remember that students should participate in summer activities that they enjoy and that give them exposure; they should not participate in these activities thinking that it will lead to a college major or a life-long career.
Doris is an internationally recognized admissions professional with over 30 years experience working in undergraduate admissions at Ivy League schools and other elite universities. She specializes in providing campus tours of Ivy League schools as well as forums on applying for admission to elite universities. As an educational consultant, she works with students and secondary schools all over the world and regularly travels to Asia.
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While some students have known their whole lives that they want to be neurosurgeons, others enter college unsure of what they want to study. Either way, it’s ok! Part of the fun of college is its flexibility–schools offer a wide variety of majors, so you can look into a few before choosing one. You can even double- or triple-major if you can’t decide on just one.
However, colleges do like to see that applicants have some sense of direction–whether it be a specific academic or career interest. Particularly if you are applying to a very competitive school or program, it’s important to express some concrete interests within your application.
But even this does not mean that you’re locked-in by your choices. Once accepted, it’s very common for students to change majors at least once before graduating. To make your life easier, though, you should narrow down your list of potential majors somewhat. For instance, even if there’s only a slight chance that you want to be a political science major, it would be a bad idea to attend a school that doesn’t even offer political science. Try narrowing your focus to a few majors that you can seriously explore, and be sure to attend a school that offers those programs.
To help you choose, take a step back and really explore your own abilities and interests. Which classes or extracurricular activities have you enjoyed the most? What is your strongest subject? Are there any careers that interest you? Everyone has their own strengths and preferences–once you understand yours, you’ll be well on your way to discovering a major (and career) that is best suited for you.