How to select a college major

So, about me. I’m currently a super senior (5th year) at the Catholic University of America. I ended up as an Econ major after a couple changes and I’m very happy I landed there. I’ve partied too hard at times, worked too hard others, and I’ve had my ups and downs in college but across the board I’ve worked rigorously and have therefore come out the better for it. Because I always keep myself very engaged in student groups and internships, I have some decent prospects after graduation. This Spring semester I got my dream internship at a fantastic DC startup. I’m neither the pretentious geek nor the party-hard slacker. I am, however, the casual group leader of every group project because I’m the nerd who always volunteers. For fun I play piano, guitar, cello, whatever I can get my hands on and I write. I hold the current high score on the Tinder game and plan to go for the high score on ourtime.com next. Wish me luck.

Unless you really don’t care about what you do with your life, choosing your major can be more than difficult. It’s a big deal. You’re choosing the first steps in the path of the rest of your life. There are different things you want to do but you have to choose just one? This is, unless you’re a genius and can double major, which I absolutely am not. Are you forsaking one future for another, abandoning a passion for just a practical interest? You’re 18 and this decision is one of the biggest of your life and you ask yourself as David did after the dentist, “Is this forever?” If you make the wrong choice you’ll be stuck in a cubicle, wearing the same tie every day, never letting your hair down, trying to please a boss you couldn’t give a shit about, and constantly letting yourself down, slowly yet progressively Tylenol PM’img yourself into an early, ache-free grave. Dear God, the consequences of this one choice are so dire, what will you do??
Alright, I know that’s a dramatic interpretation of the thought process but my own experience wasn’t altogether too different. It wasn’t until second semester of my junior year that I really learned the tricks for choosing the right major. I don’t regret my choice of major but if I were suddenly a freshman again, I might do things a little differently.
You see, I always knew I had an interest in business. When I was 13 I started a lawn mowing business to service a handful of the neighbors’ lawns. But what do I do with that interest? Sure I can choose a major in business but what major specifically? Well, guess what – it hardly matters. Do you know how many people end up working in a field that’s different from what they majored in? Ok, I don’t know specifically but it’s a lot. I will say, however, that if you want to pursue a technical field like medicine or engineering, of course you need to major in that in undergrad if you want to go to grad school for it and actually make it somewhere in that field. For all else, you will end up in “business” one way or another, whether you’re a curator in a museum or a soccer coach, so listen well. Frankly, this advice may benefit those in technical fields also.
I went to panel discussion, after networking event, after guest lecture within the business school and a theme I began to see is that very few of these people had been business majors in undergrad. They came from all different backgrounds from psychology, to history, to art. One thing they all had in common, though, is that they worked hard and pursued, what turned out to be, practical interests on the side. They went to events like the one I was sitting in listening to them. They read the newspaper. They kept track of what was happening in the world, the economy, the stock market, or simply in a particular industry where they had a hobby. And the words of one of my professors came to me. “Employers don’t hire majors, they hire skills.” As long as you have passions that you pursue, whether in or out of school, and as long as you allow those passions to pad your resume with some legitimate experience you’ll be just fine. You may be more than fine.
Believe it or not, that liberal arts degree you think you’ve doomed yourself by choosing may help you in the end. Any kind of specialization can provide useful in a future career in “business”. It’s one thing to be able to make a good sales pitch but whatever you’re selling, you need to walk the walk and talk the talk. You need to live and breathe the product you’re selling and it really helps if that product is something that you were passionate enough about to have studied about it in undergrad. Yes, even if that was music. Maybe you’re selling your boss at the Kennedy Center on an idea for a concert series.
So finally that piece of advice I was talking about. Be involved and do it now. Go to those “stupid” networking and other events that are often hosted by the business school. Minor in business. Seek out internship opportunities in something either very practical, like at a well-known finance firm, or in something you’re very passionate about. Don’t be afraid to follow your passion as long as you aren’t a lazy, unambitious, boring bum. Employers LOVE to hire employees who will be passionate about what they do. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll be 10 times more successful at it than if you weren’t. Be ready to embrace the “business” world one way or another. And here’s the most important part. Whatever your major is in undergrad, make sure you learn the transferrable skills that you are meant to learn in any undergraduate major. These skills are writing, working on a team, presenting, and especially critical thinking. Whether you consider yourself a business person or not, learn to think like a shark and you can be successful in whatever field you find interests you.
If I could go back, I would major in musical performance because I’ve always been a musician and frankly, it would just be fun. And I would strongly pursue business on the side. I’d do as I do now and read the newspaper, watch the news. I would minor in business and get summer internships on Wall Street. That being said, I do not regret choosing the major that teaches critical thinking better than probably any other: economics.

Happy hunting folks. If you care enough about your future to have read this entire article, then you’re absolutely going to kill it.

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