Cougars and College: Tips and Tricks for Picking a Major

1 of the most attractive aspects about going to college is that you can focus on a specific area of interest. For the most part, there are still general education requirements in a plethora of subjects, but everyone ultimately earns a degree in something 1 way or another.

However, it’s scary for everyone to sit down and pick out a singular interest that could potentially shape the course of the rest of your career and life—especially because in high school, we do not have as much free reign in our school schedules to try and discover what classes are interesting enough to study for the next 4-5 years.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when you are trying to decide on your potential interest and/or major:

Trial and Error: Try new things. Not all of us are born knowing exactly what we want to be when we grow up. It’s completely normal to be unsure. An easy way to dive deeper into thinking about what you’re interested in is simply asking adults what they do for a living and why they made their choice; another is to think of what T.V. shows you like or the classes you enjoy the most. Ask yourself if there is a common thread somewhere. And once you narrow in on that link, chase it down.

Senior Ainsely Woodford, for example, has always had an affinity for fashion. In elementary school, Woodford pursued sewing at SewNow. She began working in the store and teaching classes by 8th grade.

“I got into fashion when I was young because I went to a school where we had to wear uniforms, so when I had the chance I got to pick my outfit [I] tried to make it count. Sewing came soon after that because my grandma taught me and I fell in love with it,” said Woodford.

Something as small as being environmentally conscious can result in a larger interest. Junior Caroline Fitzpatrick—a long time vegetarian and now vegan—originally realized her desire to convert to a plant-based diet “to lower my carbon footprint, to not contribute to animal cruelty, [and] also because I dislike the taste of meat and eggs.”

Interested in both social justice movements and promoting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, Fitzpatrick’s dedication to veganism conveys how there are many different routes to expand on a subject of interest.

Beginning with realizing that you are interested in shopping more sustainably or cutting out meat, you could consider majoring in environmental studies or continue with that interests by becoming an environmental lawyer, an engineer creating biodegradable plastics, or a data scientist cataloging the carbon in the atmosphere.

And if you take the 1st step and devote time to pursuing a subject or interest only to find you don’t like it, do not worry. A friend of mine spent the summer at a medical camp and decided to major in English. Try something, and if it doesn’t work out, at least you have a better idea of what you don’t like.

Explore outside the classroom. Many colleges have supplemental essays that ask you to explain a scholastic interest. When you think you’ve realized that you want to be a surgeon or field biologist, it’s no longer enough to simply write that you are interested in becoming an XYZ. Simply name dropping the profession you are interested in will not get you very far—show the steps of the equation that yielded such an answer.

After researching summer fashion programs, Woodford found a program at Banson NYC in New York City “to get an idea of all of the types of jobs in the fashion industry from being a designer to buyers to fashion journalism.”

“I also discovered that Nordstrom has an internship program called ‘Fashion Ambassadors’ that I got to intern for my junior year to see the behind the scenes of the business of fashion. I definitely feel I’m lucky I got to experience these things,” said Woodford.

1 criterion for Woodford’s college list was if the university had a fashion program or club to accommodate her interest. With the hope that her career will relate to “incorporating more sustainability into fashion and clothing,” without her grandmother’s early sewing lessons, Woodford would have never realized her passion for fashion.

Sometimes getting involved can be done at home, like creating a club or website dedicated to serve as a space for your interest. Fitzpatrick decided to create a Vegan and Vegetarian Club to serve as a meeting place for plant-based students to “to improve the plant-based community & for folks to share tasty, plant based recipes.”

“I took the initiative of creating a club dedicated to pointing out the many issues within the plant based community,” she said.

Go with your gut. It’s a cliche saying, but only you know what hobbies are interesting and which are not; the decision about whatever major you select or career path you’re considering is a choice that belongs to the decision-maker alone.

Coming from an area like Moraga, there is a lot of internal pressure in some students to find a profession that will allocate the largest salary in the least amount of time. Regardless of whether or not your area of study seems realistic to your parents or friends, it’s easy to involve yourself in extracurriculars or write good essays about something you have a genuine passion for.

So major in arbology if you want. Pursue painting or dancing or psychology. The only person whose opinion truly matters at the end of the day is yours.

Remember nothing is set in stone. It’s very likely that you might get to college and realize the major you selected is totally not for you. But at least the hard part—getting accepted into a school—is already over. Your college years are for experimenting and having more autonomy over your academic course loads.

According to the National Center for Education, roughly 80% of American college students change their major at least once. Furthermore, on average, most students report changing their major 3 times.

Some people realize they cannot choose between different interests and pick up a 2nd major or minor at their university.

Senior Molly Mitchell is “open to changing her major” later on if she finds something she really likes. Being open-minded can only benefit Campo students as they experiment with courses, clubs, and sports. Trying new things can only lead you closer to discovering something that just clicks.