Choosing Your Major

Making a thoughtful decision in choosing a major is important. While you are not deciding on a single path for your future nor making decisions that cannot change at later points in life, it is critical to recognize that many majors enable you to develop the necessary skills to prepare for similar careers, work environments and graduate programs. Before you consult the recommended steps to choosing, first explore the common myths and realities that often influence students when selecting a major.


The Myths and Realities of Choosing a Major

Adapted from Ten Myths of Choosing a Major, Loyola University Chicago.

Myth #1: Most students enter college "decided" about their major.

Reality: Colleges and universities nationwide reveal that up to 80 percent of entering college students admit that they are uncertain what they want to major in, even if they have initially chosen a major. Additionally, over 50 percent of first-year students change their majors at least one time before graduation.*

*Major Decisions, Pennsylvania State University, by Michael J. Leonard
Myth #2: There is only one major that will allow me to reach my goal.

Reality: There are over 100 majors available at UB. Many similar majors can enable you to develop the necessary skills to prepare you for similar work environments or graduate programs.

There are also several UB degree options for students to combine their interests. For example, students may pursue the Special Studies major, double major, joint major, double degree, or a combined degree. In addition, UB offers over 60 minors and several certificate programs, which can be completed along with a major.

Myth #3: An academic major ties you to a specific career path.

Reality: While some majors strongly relate to career options (e.g., nursing, engineering), other majors are less related (e.g., history, political science, sociology). Remember that the principal qualities employers are looking for in potential employees are skills, rather than subject matter. In college, it is important to acquire marketable skills, such as problem solving, written and oral communication, interpersonal communication, the ability to work in groups, and knowledge of other cultures and languages.

Myth #4: Students majoring in the arts, humanities, or social sciences are either not qualified for any job (e.g., what do you do with a degree in philosophy?), or are only qualified for careers in those specific areas (e.g., philosopher).

Reality: Liberal arts majors can find meaningful work in business, research, human resources, teaching, the military, and various other occupations. Liberal arts majors can also prepare students for many graduate or professional schools (e.g., law school, medical school). The specific skills that you develop may be more important than particular degrees. When choosing a major, it is best to consider what skills your undergraduate education will help you to develop.

Myth #5: I’ll just take all of my UB Curriculum (General Education) Requirements first.

Reality: While the UB Curriculum (General Education) Requirements allow students to explore a variety of fields and disciplines, it is not recommended that students solely concentrate on completing these requirements first. Not every UB Curriculum (General Education) Requirement is applicable toward a possible major. Additionally, the requirements do not necessarily provide students with the opportunity to take courses in majors that they are thinking of pursuing. Every major at UB also requires that students complete a prescribed set of courses (pre-requisites) to gain admittance into the major and students need to have a plan as to how they can get these courses completed. Therefore, it is important to meet with an academic advisor to develop a course plan.

Four Steps to a Major Decision

Step 1: Assess Yourself

Begin your exploration process by taking a self-assessment. The more you understand yourself, the clearer your life goals and the ways to reach them will become. Several self-assessment instruments are available including MyPlan through UB’s Office of Career Services.

Asking yourself the following questions will also give you some important clues:

  • What do you truly enjoy? Consider the classes, subjects, and activities that you have liked the best.
  • What are you good at? Identify your skills and abilities.
  • What sorts of things do you really value? Is enjoying your work more important than prestige? Is creativity more important than security?
  • What are your motivations? Why might you be considering a particular major and/or career? Are outside influences such as family, friends or your perception of the job market shaping your decisions?
  • Take a minute to envision the perfect work day. What would it be like? What is the coolest job you can imagine?
Step 2: Gather Information and Explore Options
Step 3: Evaluate and Make Your Major Decision

Put together the information you have collected:

  • Consider what you have learned, weigh the pros and cons of each option.
  • Is it likely you can finish the major in 4 years?
  • Are you considering majors that fit with your academic strengths and abilities?
  • Narrow your list down to two or three majors.

If you have more than one option on your list consider:

Speak with an academic advisor and career counselor to help you:

  • Evaluate the information you have collected.
  • Suggest additional resources.
  • Guide you through the decision making process.
Step 4: Take Action & Apply to Your Major

Narrow down your choices and apply to your major.

  • If you haven’t already done so, sample courses in majors you are considering. Are they a good fit for your interests and strengths?
  • Meet with an academic advisor to discuss the prescribed set of courses/requirements (prerequisites) to gain admittance into your major and/or upper level courses.
  • Learn what the admission process is, when you can apply to your major, and the minimum grade point average (GPA) required for admission.
  • Determine if there are internship or practicum requirements.
  • Ensure you can chart a path to:

Go for it! Apply to your major.

  • Once you have decided on your major, it is important that you formally apply. Gaining acceptance to your major and completing all major requirements is required to graduate from UB.
  • Once accepted, your HUB Student Center will be changed to reflect your Approved Major status.
    • Note: A HUB Intended Major status simply illustrates an intention to pursue a major; the Acceptance Criteria (pre-requisite course(s), minimum GPA requirements, etc.) are in progress but not yet completed.

Once admitted to your major:

  • Meet with your departmental advisor at least once a semester until graduation.
  • Discuss with a career counselor the importance of your networking plan.

Last updated: April 06, 2017 11:08 am EST

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