January 12, 2007
Choosing a college major can feel like
an overwhelming decision. Teen Ink asked Duke
University Career Center's Sheila J. Curran to give
some expert advice. Here's what she had to say:
Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, friends. As
soon as you reach high school, they're asking you
where you want to go to college. Their next
question, invariably, is "what are you going to
major in?" The answer is supposed to come tripping
off your tongue, but your likely reaction is to want
to bury your head in the pillow. The reality is
that most teens are confused about their direction.
Colleges provide plenty of majors that aren't even
available in high school. And what you are good at
in high school may be very different from where you
excel at the college level. To help you figure out
the right major for you, here are some questions you
should ask yourself.
Are you sure you want the subject matter of
your major to be your career? If you major in
accounting, employers will assume you want to be an
accountant. A pre-professional major can be helpful
if you know exactly what career you want to pursue
when you graduate, but it can also pigeon-hole
Are you truly interested in a particular subject?
If your passion is history, don't be put off by the
fact that you can't associate history with a future
job title. If you study a liberal arts subject,
you'll be gathering plenty of job-related skills,
like research, communication and problem-solving
ability. And if you study a subject you enjoy,
you're likely to work harder and get a better
Do you need to decide now? Many colleges allow
you up to two years to declare a major. This gives
you time to try new subjects and explore where they
may lead. The vast majority of students change
their minds about what to study -- often several
times -- between the time they start college and the
time they declare a major.
When you get to college, you'll find
plenty of advisors who are willing to help you plan
your education, and tell you how to reach your
educational and career objectives. So unless you
have to commit to a particular course of study prior
to going to college, tell your family "I haven't
decided on a major. But I'm sure I'll figure it out."
Sheila J. Curran is the Fannie Mitchell
executive director of the Duke University Career
Center. She is an academic advisor, and coauthor of
the book Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads:
Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career, published in
2006 by Ten Speed Press.
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