Choosing a college major can be overwhelming. Many schools offer hundreds of choices, and it is a challenge to pick one when it feels like the rest of your adult life is riding on that choice. It is a big commitment, but it's not a life sentence: Many college graduates pursue careers that aren't directly related to their majors, or change careers after several years. That said, you'll spend a lot of time studying whatever subject you choose, and there are a lot of factors to consider before you commit.
Some students choose a major because it will prepare them for a specific career path or advanced study. Maybe you already know that you want to be a nurse, a day trader, a physical therapist, or a web developer. Before you declare, take a class or two in the relevant discipline, check out the syllabus for an advanced seminar, and talk to students in the department of your choice—make sure that you can and will do the course work required for the career of your dreams.
Future earning potential is worth considering—college is a big investment, and while it can pay off in many ways beyond salary, this can be a major factor for students who are paying their own way or taking out loans. According to PayScale.com, the majors that lead to the highest salaries include just about any type of engineering, actuarial mathematics, computer science, physics, statistics, government, and economics. Keep your quality of life in mind, too—that six figure salary may not be worth it if you're not happy at the office.
Some students choose a major simply because they love the subject matter. If you love what you're studying, you're more likely to fully engage with your classes and college experience, and that can mean better grades and great relationships with others in your field. If your calling is philosophy, don't write it off just because you're not sure about graduate school, or what the job market holds for philosophers. Many liberal arts majors provide students with critical thinking skills and writing abilities that are highly valued by employers.
If you truly have no idea what you want to study, that's okay—many schools don't require students to declare a major until sophomore year. That gives you four semesters to play the field. Make the most of any required general education courses—choose ones that interest you. Talk to professors, advisors, department heads, and other students. Find an internship off campus. Exploring your interests will help you find your best fit major—and maybe even your ideal career.