Top Decision Making Tips for Figuring Out a College Major and Career Path

top-tipsHere’s a round up of the responses from a quick activity in a career/life planning class earlier today. The goal was to come up with the top career planning tips for figuring out a college major and/or career path.

  • Pursue something you’re passionate about.
  • Know yourself, your interests, and passions, and pursue them.
  • Find out what you’re good at and consider pursuing it.
  • Pursue something you’re interested in.
  • Once you pick a major and career path, realize that it/you could change; more importantly, realize that that’s okay.
  • Pick something you’ll be interested in for the long run.
  • Just do something and see what happens – don’t be afraid to take risks.
  • Take a career planning class if you’re undecided to get some ideas.
  • Think about what classes you enjoyed in high school and build off that (fine tune your interests) in college.
  • Shadowing.
  • Think of what you enjoyed in high school and take related classes in college and reflect on it.
  • Think about what you’ve done in the past that you’ve enjoyed doing – would continue doing even if you weren’t paid.
  • Look up what you want to pursue and see if you like it – keep looking if you don’t find something at first.
  • Pursue something that fits your personality and lifestyle.
  • Pick something you’re interested in for the long term; look up and explore many different resources; realize options exist in places where you’re not at.
  • If in college and undecided, take a lot of different classes; take general education courses to buy yourself time.
  • Take time off to relax and reflect; but realize it’s not a vacation.

Here’s a round up of responses from a similar class activity the previous quarter.

General Advice

  • Make a pros and cons list.
  • Be decisive and realistic.
  • Think long term, not just short-term.
  • Get advice from friends, family, and experts.
  • Trust your gut.

Choosing a Major

  • Do what you enjoy, consider what it pays, where it’s at, and if it’s reasonable for you.
  • Test the subject out (e.g., take classes).
  • In choosing a school to transfer to, visit the school.

Choosing a Career

  • Look at your values.
  • Consider work and family balance
  • Research work aspects, skills and education required.
  • Talk to people who look like they’ve got it figured out.
  • Be rational; factor in your age.
  • Conduct thorough research (e.g., do an internship).
  • Set long term (evaluate stability factor) and short term goals (be specific).
  • Be willing to sacrifice.


8 comments for “Top Decision Making Tips for Figuring Out a College Major and Career Path

  1. Ming Liu
    June 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I agree with most of the advice above, especially those pertaining to making decision based on genuine interest, passion, and long term.
    The one advice that resonated the most with me is – be willing to sacrifice. Sometimes one cannot pursue something they are truly passionate about due to a variety of reasons. Personally, I chose a career that had stable financial compensation versus one that would require a lot of free lance and contracting work. Though I am not passionate about my job, I still enjoy it because of the people I work with.

  2. Ashley Nguyen
    November 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Though the post has some great advice, I think the fact that the advice appeals to me so much actually makes me more worried about my future. I want to choose a major that can fulfill each and every one of those bullet points. However, I don’t know if that major exists. How do I know what I will want in the long-run? What if the things I’m passionate about cannot give me financial security, or does not offer many job possibilities once I’m out of school. Would it be a mistake to choose a career path focusing more on the financial security it can give me than the happiness and pleasure?

    There are definitely things that I enjoy doing and have thought about pursuing such as journalism and fashion design. However, I can’t bring myself to choose one and commit to it by declaring it as my major. And even if I did choose one of the two, after getting advice from my family and friends, I end up feeling a little more discouraged than I was before because they bring up valid points about how my candidates may not be something realistic or something I’d be interested in doing in the long-run. Thus, leading me back to square one: finding something that interests me. It’s only my first quarter at Foothill College, so I still have a bit more time to take more classes and see what I may be interested in. However, I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to find anything that I would want to do as a career.

    Overall, I think my problem is that I’m having a hard to accepting that once I declare a major, it could change. I really don’t want to waste my time. I want to begin my job and my life as soon as possible, and that’s why I want to pick the right major the first time around. I think changing my outlook may be one of the first things on my to-do list. Thanks for the advice, Andy.

    • Michelle Collette
      March 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      Trying to decide between passion and financial security can be difficult. One way to look at it is this: do you want to be doing something you hate, and be miserable 40+ hours a week for a hefty paycheck, or is it worth loving going to work nearly every day doing something you love and getting a smaller paycheck? Maybe as you take more classes you will be able to come up with a way to integrate the areas you have a passion for with a field that has a higher pay scale that would also hold your interest.

      I too have had trouble choosing a major, as I don’t want to make the “wrong” choice, however I now realize the only way I will find out if it is the wrong career field for me is if I try it. Even if I end up finding that I need to find something else to do, I will always have my degree and can move forward.

  3. Chad Lake
    June 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

    After taking the MBTI and STRONG tests, all of my essentials for what I need in a job have been highlighted, and I am not aware of what matters most to me. Since those test dates, I have obtained many job offers and taken the one that suits me best. Thanks Andy!!!

  4. Alex Yau
    June 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I also believe that exploring your options is really in your best interests as you may find an interesting career to pursue and while it may not make as much as something else, the chances are that you’ll find it to be a much more personally satisfying and fulfilling career.

    The part about not being afraid to take risks and sacrifice things is also important and of course ties in directly to weighing out the pros and cons. If you think the pros weigh out the cons for you, you should consider going for it!

    • Gerardo Aguilar
      June 15, 2011 at 8:40 pm

      I really have enjoyed my Career Planning course and it has helped me decide my career choice. Thoughtful reasoning and the aid of assessments on what career I want to pursue are the way to go!

  5. Ali
    June 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Pick something you’ll be interested in for the long run.

    I am firm believer of that.

    In my earlier days, I made the biggest mistake of picking computer science as major when I had Zero interest in math or science! I wasn’t listening to others while ignoring my interests.

    May be graphic design doesn’t pay as much but guess what – I’m very happy with my decision! 🙂

    Many thanks for those excellent tips, Andy.

    • India
      July 31, 2011 at 6:03 pm

      I have to agree with this post above: Pick something you’ll be interested in for the long run.

      I’m personally at that crossroads, of choosing a career with uncertain financial compensation over my current career which leaves me wanting more.

      Money aside, I think we’re all better human-beings when we’re working on something which we enjoy, rather than not.

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