SELECTING A MAJOR 
SECTION ONE 


SELF ASSESSMENT
SECTION TOPICS

 
  • ACADEMIC PROFILE 
  • NON-ACADEMIC PROFILE
  • MATHEMATICS AND STATISTICS

One of the first steps in choosing a major is self assessment. We give some questions which you can ask yourself; using your responses, you may be able to narrow down your list of possible majors. There are tests that can help you choose a major; oftentimes these tests are provided for free by your college.  

TIPS FOR CHOOSING A MAJOR (u Iowa) offer a good introduction to choosing a major including questionc to help you pinpoint your academic and non-academic profiles.

 

ACADEMIC PROFILE

 
  • On what Advanced Placement (AP) Tests did you do well (i.e. a 4 or 5). .
  • In high school were you on the mathematics fast track culminating with a score of 4 or 5 on AP Calculus? 
  • Do you like and feel comfortable working with numbers?
  • Did you successfully complete a year of high school chemistry and a year of high school physics?
  • Where do you academic strengths lie? 
  • Where do you academic weaknesses lie? 
  • Where do you academic interests lie? 
  • Which subjects would you enjoy studying in depth?
  • Which high school or college courses did you most enjoy?
  • Which high school or college subjects would you prefer to avoid in the future?
  • In which high school or college courses did you rank at or near the top of the class?
  • In which high school or college courses did you rank at the middle or below?
  • Is there some subject that others find difficult but you find easy? 
  • Which do you prefer? Subjects focused on data or subjects focused on people.
  • Which do you prefer? Subjects where one works with facts or subjects where one works with opinions.
  • Which do you prefer? Subjects where questions (problems) have unique answers or subjects where questions have open ended answers.  
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • So far, what is your best academic accomplishment?
  • Are you a "great communicator?
What honors or awards have you won in the last two years?
Honors and awards definitely may indicate a possible choice of major. For example, your having won the science fair or your having done well in a mathematics competition may indicate considering an egineering, science, or mathematics major whereas your writing an award-winning essay is also sending you a message; this message may depend on the subject of the essay.     

Reading and Writing.
Several "No" answers to some of the following questions should, at the very least, make you think about excluding some majors in the College of Humanities (e.g. English, history, and philosophy). Numerous answers of "Yes" to these questions may suggest considering a major within the College of Humanities.
          Do you enjoy serious reading?
          Do you read for pleasure?
          Do you enjoy writing term papers?
          Can you express your thoughts clearly in writing?
          Do you understand and retain the material that you have read or reread?
   

QUESTION

 

CONCLUSION

     
Do you want a major where
high grades are the norm or
do you want a major where
grades still have some
meaning.  
 
  • In general, high grades are the norm in areas where one works with
    opinions and with questions that do not have unique answers; this is
    the situation in education, humanities, and social sciences (excluding economics).  
  • In general, grades still have some meaning in areas where one
    works with facts and questions (problems) that have unique answers;
    this includes accounting, finance, chemistry, economics, engineering, 
    life sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences.
  • This question is relevant if you must maintain a high GPA, perhaps
    for scholarship considerations or for graduate school, law school, business school, medical school, etc..

Why you are in college?  

If you are in college to make money, many majors will be eliminated (e.g.
humanities, education, and sociology) whereas others wil be put to the
forefront.  

What, if any, are your career goals?    Your career goals may influence your choice of major, oftentimes in an
obvious way.
What is more important: job
security or a high salary?
  Teaching at a public school or at a state-supported university should
provide job security (at least after tenure is obtained). Federal govern-
ment jobs often, but not always, provide job security.
Do you enjoy helping people?                         Perhaps a major in psychology, sociology, education, or a medical field.  
What are your long-term
career plans? Do they
differ from your short-term career plans?
  Your career plans will certainly impact your choice of major.
 

Where do your interests lie? Business, education, engineering, fine arts, humanities, life sciences, 
mathematical sciences, medical sciences, physical sciences, social sciences, criminal justice, law, etc.?.


.

NON-ACADEMIC PROFILE

 

Franklin Pierce College (Rindge, New Hampshire) has some self-assessment questions and I do too (the last three questions are mine. The following questions are quite relevant; unfortunately the implication of your answer might not be so clear.  

  • Do you like working with others or do you prefer working independently?
  • Are you more comfortable supervising others or do you prefer to follow directions?
  • What types of situations do you find stressful?
  • Do you perform best under deadlines or do you prefer a less structured environment? 
  • What would be a good work starting time foryout?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you hope to have?
  • What are your dreams for the future? Where do you see yourself in ten years, twenty 
    years?
  • What are your top priorities: family, money, fame, stability, making a difference, 
    travel. etc?
  • Do you have preferences on where you plan to live (specific states, regions, 
    city, rural, suburban)?
  • Are you willing to earn a graduate or advanced degree? 
  • What type of co-workers do you hope to have? 
  • It is important to have variety in your work?
  • Is it important to have opportunities for career advancement?
  • How many hours a week are you comfortable working?
  • How do you define success?
  • Do you prefer to work where the dress code is casual?
  • Do you prefer to work where the hours are flexible?
  • Do you prefer to work at home?

 

MATHEMATICS AND STATISTICS

For just about every major at just about every college, there is an undergraduate mathematics requirement. Mathematics is a filter forcing those who are unable or unwilling to meet their mathematics requirement to change their major and oftentimes their career choices or life choices. For example, not being able to pass business calculus will cause economics and business majors to change their major. Oftentimes the courses used tp satisfy the undergraduate mathematics requirement must be satisfied with a grade of "C" or b etter.

Students with a major in elementary education, one of the humanities, or many of the social sciences may have a less than serious requirment but this may prove a handicap if graduate school, business school, or law school is their goal.

At many colleges, an elementary statistics course designed for business and social science major is required of majors in business or social science as well as majors in biology, chemistry (BA), and medical schools, but not law schools. Oftentimes this course must be passed with a grade of C or better. This course usually has an algebra prerequisite. A more serious course (often called Probability and Statistics) with a two semester calculus prerequisite is oftentimes available for mathematics majors, physic majors, and engineers.

Students in business, economics, biology, psychology, and premed will probably be required to satisfy the just
mentioned statistics course and
will also probably be required to pass, oftentimes with a grade of C or better, a one semester course in calculus (usually the prerequisite will be College Algebra) designed for business or social science majors. Note the the statistics course and the calculus course just mentioned are not
designed for math majors and are not recondite but for some these courses
may require great effort.
 Much more serious mathematics requirements are imposed on student's
majoring in
mathematics, physics, chemistry (BS), or engineering. 


 

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