Consider These 3 Things When Choosing a MajorWritten by Seth Howell
As a senior in high school, two questions gave me constant anxiety: “In which institution should I continue my education?” and “What should I major in?” In a school of about twelve hundred students, many of my friends had answers to these questions by junior year and were confidently striding toward their goals. My journey looked much different. I did not decide where to study until June of senior year and I enrolled as an undeclared major. After completing the first semester at Sattler I declared a biology major, intrigued by the idea of reaching medical school. I then began doing more research on career paths, talking with students in other majors at Sattler, and meeting with the school counselor to discuss my future. This process led me to change my major to computer science during my sophomore year.
If you aspire for higher education and are wrestling with the question of which major is best for you, rest assured. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), about 30 percent of undergraduates changed their major at least once within three years of enrollment. College is a phenomenal place to experience a variety of academic disciplines, some of which will captivate you and others you may loathe. Therefore, if you arrive at school with a major you later realize is not the right fit, you will be able to switch majors without severely disrupting your educational trajectory (although the earlier you realize this, the better!).
I will now outline some tools to help you decide on a major that you can remain passionate about after arriving at college. During a career advising session, Dr. Kuruvilla presented a concise model for choosing a major that revolves around three questions: Does the field of study bring you joy? Do you have the abilities needed to excel in the classes? Can you use the content to meet needs in your local or global community? If you can fill all three of these buckets, you will thrive in your major.
The first thing to consider is whether the things you study in a certain major will bring you joy. Where do you see God’s glory? Does the content make you wish that time could slow down? Something that made choosing a major challenging for me was seeing the delight and enthusiasm each of my professors had when engaging with the material we studied in their classes. For instance, Dr. Oliver’s excitement about the business program won over a handful of indecisive students. Steve Jobs counseled the 2005 Stanford graduating class, saying, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” You cannot find out what brings you joy through research alone; you need to experience it. Some of the many ways you can do this are shadowing workers in several fields, trying free online courses, and writing a list of classes you loved in grade school and why you loved them.
The second thing to consider is whether you have the abilities needed for your major. What are your strengths and weaknesses? For example, if you have great difficulty with numbers but enjoy reading and writing, it would be ideal to choose a major within the liberal arts rather than within STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). However, just because you may struggle with a subject now, do not let that hinder you from trying to conquer things you find difficult. I have been astonished to see classmates who struggled with math now excelling in calculus and those who struggled with writing now crafting beautiful essays because of the grit and discipline they exercised. Even if you are good at most of the classes in your major, there will be outliers you need to struggle through and work hard to master.
The third thing to consider is whether you can use your major to reach unmet needs and ultimately advance the kingdom of God. Will you be able to use the things you are learning to help other people? Some of the most striking needs fall into the categories of poverty, medicine, and the salvation of humankind. The Christian life is one of intentionality. As Paul advised, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16, ESV). College will demand both tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of your time before you reach graduation. It is therefore important to dedicate those resources to a cause that can bring God glory through serving others. That is why this third bucket is necessary when evaluating which major is right for you. For example, some students from my high school wanted to study computer science in order to become video game programmers, a career path they were good at and enjoyed. However, such a career path does not meet the criteria of Dr. Kuruvilla’s diagram, since video games do not reach a serious unmet need. I suggest that as you assess Sattler’s five majors of Human Biology, Computer Science, Business, History, and Biblical and Religious Studies, you research and write down a list of careers you could pursue after graduating in that major. How will you use that major to the glory of God? What specific needs will you be able to meet through that career?
In conclusion, choose a major that you will enjoy, that you have the ability for, and that you can use to meet people’s needs. If you do this, college will be a wonderful experience, and you will remain passionate about your studies throughout your four years. Also remember that even though your major will define much of your time at college, it should not define you as a person. You will have the opportunity to take many core classes and electives that will enrich your experience as a lifelong learner.
Interested in talking with an admissions adviser about career possibilities for Sattler's five majors?
Seth is a computer science major from Pennsylvania. He enjoys music, studying theology, and skateboarding. After spending a few months working with street children in Kenya, he became passionate about international ministry and teaching English, something he continues as an ESL teacher in Boston. He hopes to become a software developer after graduation and to use his computer skills to help non-profits.