For Love or Money: How to Choose a Major
Choosing your major can be a plaguing decision, and some argue that it’s one of the most important decisions in life. If you’re caught in the throes of it, take heart. It might not be as big of a deal as you think.
There are two prevailing mindsets when it comes to your choice of college major: some say do what you love, while others vote to choose a major that will bring home the bacon. The decision is polarizing, and probably daunting. But don’t worry about it too much.
If you choose to major in something that you love, make sure you have the right mindset. Many things humanity loves — art, music, philosophy — aren’t easily translatable into a steady income for most. If you love science, math, investment banking, or computer programming, you’re probably in the clear. But if you have 200 followers on Instagram and believe that you could be the next prolific professional photographer, you might want to think twice about your motivations. Excellence, and furthering a field that you can’t imagine the world without, should be the goal.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing what fascinates and inspires you; if no one devoted themselves fully to such things, we’d live in a static world. But interest does not always translate to talent, and interest plus talent does not guarantee success. This path, by the way, is much easier trodden if you don’t have a crippling amount of debt. And take the opportunity to enroll in a personal finance class. Take copious notes. You’ll need to review them later, when paying your water bill with tip money.
If you’re going to choose what you love, choose it. Commit. Be passionate. Don’t let your fire burn out. Be relentless in your pursuit of your chosen vocation, and rarely take no for an answer. Be open, honest, and fervently eager to learn. Listen to professors and professionals in your field, and stand on the shoulders of giants. Even if you’re pursing your passion, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.
If you choose, for example, a philosophy major, be prepared to have several spotty careers and false starts after college. You may have armed yourself with a love of wisdom, but if you have no other marketable skills you may find yourself a displeased graduate. If you’re going to pursue what you love, how you put food on your table cannot be a conflated issue. You’ll probably have a stint at Starbucks. It’s OK. We’ve all been there. If you’re in love with something that’s not marketable, prepare for a life of being scrappy.
Conversely, if you’ve chosen a major that’s easily translatable into a lucrative career — economics, for example, or medicine — own your choice, 100%. Take advantage of networking opportunities your college affords you. Join fraternities or professional organizations. Study hard, and don’t be ashamed that your motivation to excel is financial. Bonus points if you can be honest without seeming like your soul is bankrupt.
If you’ve taken out several loans to finance your education, no one will ever fault you for choosing a major that will empower you to pay them off. That’s just how this stuff works. But don’t ever choose a major because you feel like you “have” to — while a college degree is almost necessary these days, regret begets unhappiness. And happiness is the goal. If majoring in business or pharmacology, ostensibly just for the paycheck, will make you happy in the long run, choose that major and never look back.
Tips For Your Upcoming Choices
- Check out the image at the top. Rank your choices accordingly.
- Ask yourself some questions. What do I love? Why do I love it? What’s my bottom line for future earnings? Would I be happy in a lucrative career that’s not my favorite subject? Write down your answers. Make a pros and cons list.
- Ask both an academic and career counselor for advice. Make notes. Compare.
- Enlist a mentor that’s not a relative. Listen to their advice.
- Find a hero. Whose career do you want? Talk to that person. Learn how they got there.
- If all else fails, take a skills assessment test. They should be available in your career center, or you can find some online.
- Don’t like math? I don’t care. Learn some basic math. It will help you calculate your potential earnings and make a more logical and rational decision.
- If you’ve got the bug, run with it. And don’t ever, ever give up.
- Two things to consider: Money talks. And where there is love, there is life.
Scholarships.Com: How To Choose A College Major
The Princeton Review: Choosing A Major
U.S. News: 5 Ways To Pick The Right College Major