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January 12, 2007

"Major" Decisions

    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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