Five Steps to a Major Decision
Step 1: Assess Yourself
Your first step is to do some self-assessment. The more you understand yourself, the clearer your life goals and the ways to reach them will become. Several self-assessment instruments, including MyPlan, are available through UB's Office of Career Services which can help you to clarify your values, interests, and skills. 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 did they involve? Why did you enjoy them? Consider what you enjoy reading, talking about, or studying. Why do you enjoy them? There are careers related to every interest you have!
- What are you good at? Identify your skills and abilities. What types of things do you seem to do well? Are they technical, adventurous, intellectual, involve helping or influencing others, etc.?
- What sorts of things do you really value? Is enjoying your work more important than prestige? Is creativity more important than security? Who influenced these values in you? You want your choice to be compatible with your values.
- 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? Describe it as specifically as you can. Try to locate and contact one or two people in this area and ask them how they got there.
Step 2: Gather Information and Explore Options
- Examine the majors available at UB. Use the UB Undergraduate Catalog and make a list of those majors that interest you. Eliminate those majors that do not interest you. Read about the majors remaining on your list.
- Mark the courses in each major that most interest you, match your abilities, and share your values. This should help you further shorten your list.
- Review additional information about the majors on your short list. Visit each department's web page and read print materials they offer. Ask the department if they offer an e-mail listserv that you can join.
- Discuss your possible majors with a variety of individuals, including departmental advisors, faculty, instructors, students currently in the major, and program graduates.
- Read a variety of articles on the UB News Center and search the Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities website to learn about various UB professors and their fields of study and research.
- Visit Career Services and check out the Career Library. Take a look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Career Zone, and the Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance.
- Talk with an academic advisor from Student Advising Services to help plan an academic schedule while you explore, including aiming to graduate in four years. Discuss taking introductory courses in the majors that you are contemplating and consider shadowing upper level courses for additional information. You can also learn valuable information by glancing through required textbooks and reading course syllabi of classes required for a major.
- Consider enrolling in courses that will help you to explore, such as UBE 202 and CAS 101. The more information you find, the more informed your final decision will be. See the Resources on Choosing a Major page for more information.
- Attend the annual UB Majors and Careers Night (PDF) where you will have a chance to ask academic departments and UB alumni/area professionals questions (PDF) about their programs and careers and learn about the many options available to you at UB.
- Attend a choosing a major workshop offered by Student Advising Services.
Step 3: Evaluate and Make Your Major Decision
- It's time to put together the information you have collected. Consider what you have learned. Weigh the pros and cons of each option, including the likelihood that you can Finish in 4 years. Be sure that the major(s) you are considering fit with your academic strengths and abilities. If you haven't already, narrow your list down to two or three majors.
- Consider the feasibility of a second major, choosing an alternative major, or making one of your options your minor. Or look at an interdisciplinary major or minor. If your major interest cannot be fulfilled by way of UB's existing departmental majors, consider creating your own Special Major. Under prescribed parameters, this major can allow you to take classes selected from different departments that share some theme or career goal.
- Talk with an Academic Advisor and a Career Counselor who can help you to evaluate the information you have collected, suggest additional resources, and guide you through the decision making process.
Step 4: Take Action
- Now that you have gathered a lot of information, you need to narrow down your choices. Remember that you cannot expect that the right major will just come to you or fall into your lap.
- If you haven't already done so, sample courses in the majors you are considering. Remember to shadow upper level courses for additional information.
- Meet with an Academic Advisor and discuss what specific prerequisites and other admission criteria are required for admittance into the major. (A prerequisite is a course which must be satisfactorily completed before another course can be registered.) Discover if there is a Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement for admission. Learn what the admissions process is. Discuss when you are ready to apply to the major and if you can chart a path to Finish in 4 years. Determine if there are internship or practicum requirements. How about research opportunities?
- Choose student activities, internships, volunteer work, and/or part-time employment that can help you further develop your skills in areas that interest you.
- Talk to people who work in the career fields you are considering. Ask them about their major and how it helped them. Use the UB Mentor Network program through Career Services, which can be an excellent resource for learning more about the realities of specific career fields.
Step 5: Go For It! Apply For Your Major!
- Go to the department with a copy of your Academic Advisement Report or inquire with the department if you should apply online. Also, confirm with the department if there are specific application deadlines for your major and whether you can chart a plan to Finish in 4 years.
- Once you are admitted to the major, remember to meet with your departmental Advisor at least once a semester until you graduate.
Adapted from Mary Lou Taylor, Choosing Your Major.
Last updated: September 27, 2013 10:40 am EST