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Steps to Choosing a Major

  • Step 1: Assess Yourself

    A good first step in the decision-making process is to assess your interests, skills/abilities, and values.  

    To assist you in this process:

    1. Consider the following questions…
      • What are the subjects in which you excel and find intriguing?
      • What activities do you especially enjoy--research, writing, performing, sports, hands-on activities, organizing, creative activities? What are your hobbies?
      • What skills do you believe you possess, i.e., leadership, organization, teaching, research, etc?
      • What do you value--service to others, accumulating wealth, happiness in your home, independence in work situations? What brings you satisfaction? What kind of environment makes you happiest?
    2. Meet with an Undeclared Program Academic Advisor to discuss your goals, interests, and challenges.
    3. Attend a Major Choice Workshop.
    4. The Career Center located in the Veitch Student Center, NW Wing offers a variety of assessments to assist you in examining your interests, values, skills, and personality.  Drop in and meet with a Career Counselor for their recommendation for which assessment(s) to take.  In a follow-up appointment a Career Counselor will review your results and assist you with interpretation.

    Other Online Assessment Tools
    Take a look at some other ways to benefit from knowing more about how your personality and careers line up.

    • The Career Key, by Lawrence K. Jones, Ph.D., North Carolina State University. Take a professional career test and identify potential job strengths.
    • The Keirsey Temperament Sorter - categorizes personality traits and shows how certain careers are in harmony with those traits.
    • California CareerZone: California CareerZone is a new way to explore exciting jobs and occupations that the Golden State has to offer and to learn about what career path interests you.
  • Step 2: Gather Information and Explore Options

    The next step in the decision-making process is to compare what you found out about your own interests, skills, and values with the majors offered in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

    • Establish a short list of 5-6 possible majors.
      • Use the list of majors to eliminate the majors that do not interest you.
      • Use the General Catalog and department requirement worksheets to explore the majors for which you have some interest or curiosity. Read the upper division course descriptions and the major requirements.

    Remember to think broadly about majors, as many majors relate to numerous career fields and prepare students for similar work environments and graduate programs.

    • Go to the department office and pick up their materials.
    • Browse the departmental website.
    • Know which majors are selective or require breadth courses to be met in a specific manner.
    • Discuss course selections with an Undeclared Academic Advisor that will keep your options open while exploring. 
    • Attend informational and pre-professional workshops.

    Ask yourself the following questions for each of the majors you are considering:

    • Does this major’s required coursework complement my interests and abilities?
    • Is this the best major to address my multiple interests?
    • Are there any prerequisite courses that may be particularly difficult for me?
    • Do the courses in this major match my learning style? 
    • How much freedom will I have to take elective courses?
    • Does this major require a lot of writing, quantitative skills, and foreign language courses?
    • What areas of research are the faculty engaged in?  
    • Are there other important considerations for me?

    The earlier you narrow your focus, the more options you will have available to possibly address multiple interests through a double major, a minor, electives, and off-campus educational opportunities such as Education Abroad, UC Washington Center Program, or UC Sacramento Program.

    Additional resources:

    What Can I do with a Major in. . .?

    "Five Signs You Should Change Your Major" via monsterTRAK.com

    Major to Career converter via MonsterTRAK.com

    THE MAJOR CHOICE CHECKLIST (adapted from the University of Buffalo)

    Keep in mind, that ANY major can, in theory, lead to ANY career. Take time to dig deeper using the following questions:

    1. Where have graduates of your program gone? What specific organizations have hired them and for what positions? Do any of these areas represent a good fit for my own needs and goals?
    2. What specific prerequisites are required for admission to this major? Is there a GPA requirement? What is the declaration process?
    3. What courses and experiences are required to complete this major? Are there internship or practicum requirements? How about research opportunities? Does the department offer a listserv that I can join?
    4. Which courses have I already taken that will apply to this major? Toward breadth requirements? Which further coursework will be required?
    5. What other programs does the department offer? Minors?  Which of these options fit my needs best?
    6. What skills and competencies will I develop through this major?
    7. What might I dislike about this major?
    8. Where do my strengths need to be to do well in this major?
    9. What is the department’s class size?
    10. Who can I contact with future questions?
  • Step 3: Narrow Your Focus

    Now that you have assessed your interests, skills/abilities, and values, explored possible majors and associated career options, the next step is to further narrow your focus down to two or three majors you are seriously considering.

    • Enroll in courses that introduce you to the major(s).
    • Set up appointments to interview departmental faculty and academic advisors. Speak to current students in the major.
    • Review the criteria to declare each of your possible majors.
    • Complete a Degree Check through GROWL using the “what if” function to determine how the courses you have already taken will fit into the majors you are considering.
    • Meet with an Undeclared Program Academic Advisor who can partner with you to evaluate the information you have collected, assist you in weighing the pros and cons of each option and clarify questions.
    • Be sure the major(s) you are considering fit your academic strengths and abilities. This may mean you need to consider an alternative major.
    • Determine if you can address your multiple interests by declaring a major and a minor, a double major or an interdisciplinary major.
    • Make it your goal to successfully transition into your major no later than the end of your sophomore year.
  • Step 4: Take Action
    • Choosing a major requires active participation. You must be proactive!
    • Be sure you are aware of the criteria to declare, your progress toward eligibility, and if you will meet the criteria in a timely manner. All students must declare their major in the quarter in which they obtain 90 units.
    • 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.
    • Consider possible internships and Career Center workshops
    • Once you are admitted to your major, your academic advisor is now your departmental academic advisor. Be sure to get acquainted and continue to discuss your goals and career objectives with your departmental academic advisor.