How-To Guide for Finding a Major (Major Exploration Series)

UVA Career Center – March 22nd, 2017

This blog post is part of the Major Exploration Series, which will be featuring more major-related posts that will be published throughout the months of March and April 2017.

As the spring semester draws closer to its end, many university students might be wondering about how they can choose their ideal major(s). Quite a few might be feeling pressures from a variety of sources, whether external (through parents, peers, faculty, etc.) or internal (through our own expectations, anxieties, goals). While declaring a major is a very important step in the undergraduate experience, the stress that comes with it does not have to be inevitable. By doing your share of the research ahead of time, you can avoid the possible headaches that might come in the future with making a hasty decision. See how you can make an informed major choice using these tips!

Do Understand Yourself

Having self-knowledge is an important skill to have no matter what point you are in life. Understanding yourself is also imperative in making sure that you are making the right major and career decisions for you. Therefore, before you jump ahead too far in the major declaration process, assess what your values, interests, skills, and decision-making styles are first. While this might not seem very relevant, it is actually a crucial step that many people might regret skipping over after choosing their majors; they might find themselves taking classes that don’t interest them in the very least and looking for careers that do not appeal to who they are.

Besides, self-exploration does not have to be particularly difficult. It can be as simple as asking yourselves questions like:

  • At a bookstore, what section do you visit first?

  • What topics of conversation hold your attention?

  • If you had more free time, how would you spend it?

For more questions like these, visit this section of the UVA Career Center website. Additionally, you should also become aware of how you tend to make decisions. Knowing this can help you avoid possible decision-making pitfalls, as well as the best methods you can use to choose the most suitable major(s) for you.

Do Get to Know Your Options

Whether you are someone who has known what you wanted to be since you were seven years old, or if you are someone who is interested in learning new things about yourself, everyone can benefit from knowing all the options that are available to them before having to pick one to explore further.

In terms of majors, take the time to get to know all the ones that are open to you; you can do this by visiting the list of undergraduate majors on the UVA Career Center website, or the websites of the schools that you are in or interested in transferring to (i.e. College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, etc.). Try browsing through all the departments and programs that are listed, then click through the specific ones that strike a chord with you so that you can find out more about the classes that are offered and the prerequisites for declaring.

Do Talk to a Faculty Member

Are you currently, or have been, in a class where you are completed fascinated by either the class material or the professor? Taking the time to chat with him/her after class or during office hours is a great way of getting to know the discipline better. Even just asking your professor about his/her career path and how (s)he got to where (s)he is today is an easy way of learning about the possible opportunities the major can offer.

Another really helpful faculty member to visit is the Director of Undergraduate Programs (DUP). There is usually a DUP that oversees every major in the College of Arts and Sciences, and (s)he is responsible for answering questions about majors, which can include what kind of classes you can take, what the requirements are for the major, what you can do with the major, and more. Making a point to see the DUP of the departments or programs that you are interested in can help you get a lot of your questions answered in one place, which may be more efficient than having to find them all on your own.

Do See a Career Counselor

A common question that students may have, or get asked, is, “What can I do with this major?” Contrary to popular belief, connecting majors to careers is not always so intuitive. With the exception of a select few majors (i.e. Engineering, Nursing, etc.), what you major in as an undergraduate does not necessarily have to define what you are qualified to do after graduation. Instead, your major will serve as a foundational knowledge base for you to develop soft skills (i.e. writing, teamwork/collaboration, data analysis, etc.), which can then be transferred to a myriad of positions in the working world.

To help you better see the possibilities available for majors that interest you, see a career counselor during open office hours in Newcomb 170, M-F from 12-5, or one-hour appointments (scheduled via Handshake and takes place in Bryant Hall) for resources that can inform you about all the different career paths that may cater to your interests and how you can obtain them.

“The majority of people who went to college do not end up in a career related to their major, meaning 10 years from now your major might be just a word on your diploma.” Genevieve Agar (CLAS '17, Economics)

As a final reminder, what you decide to major in does not have to pigeonhole you into a specific type of profession for the rest of your life. However, it is still helpful to make a careful and informed decision before moving onto the declaration process so that you can make sure you get the most out of your undergraduate experience.


Understanding Yourself and Your Options | UVA Career Center

Choosing and Using Your Major | UVA Career Center

Knowing What's Involved in A Career Choice | UVA Career Center

What Can I Do With This Major?

Genevieve Agar: How I Reconciled Creative Arts with Economics (Major Exploration Series) | UVA Career Center

Career Exploration Workshops for 1st and 2nd Years | UVA Career Center