I was a freshman in college in 1993 and I vividly remember that one of the first questions anyone asked me was “what’s your major”. Like all 18 year olds, I thought I knew it all and I would respond without hesitation “my major is political science with a law and legal concentration – after I graduate I plan to go to law school and be a prosecutor.” Fast forward 20 years and about the only thing that holds true from that statement is that I did major in political science with a law and legal concentration.
I have a Master’s degree in Psychology and am currently pursuing doctorate degree. I am the president and founder of Right Path New England, an educational consulting and career consulting firm and a professor of psychology. I am one of the lucky ones, my journey was filled with great opportunity and achievement, I was able to figure out my educational and career path and find a field that I am passionate and enthusiastic about. A career that where I am successful and incredibly happy. My major does not have anything to do with my career and while I thoroughly enjoyed my undergraduate years I sometimes wonder ‘what if I explored other options than pre-law, what if I knew myself better at 18, what if I actually didn’t think I knew it all at 18 years old’ what if….what if….what if……
As an educational and career consultant I meet with students on a daily basis and always ask why – why is __________ your major. In my tenure I have come across very few students who know the answer to this very important question. Typical answers are:
- I think I will make a lot of money in this major.
- My parents told me this was a good major.
- My friend has this major and we want to take classes together.
- I heard this is an easy major.
- I have no idea what I want to do when I graduate but I like classes in this major.
- I heard there are lots of jobs in this major.
Clearly these are not the right answers for choosing a major and a career path. The choice of major can be one of the most important decisions that a student makes. Consequences for choosing the right major last beyond college. Nationally, three out of four entering students denote some uncertainty about their choice of major and between one and two thirds change majors at some point in their academic career. Students who choose the right major earn higher grades, persist in their choice of major, graduate on time, are more satisfied with their career, have greater job satisfaction and job stability.
The question now becomes, how is a typical college student supposed to know what the right major is. As a personality expert, I believe that the answer lies in individual personality traits and major match. Personality typing is the innate way people naturally see the world and make decisions. The basis for personality typing is the belief that there are sixteen distinct personality types and each person has one type that most accurately describes him or her. Personality traits are inherent and people’s type does not change throughout one’s lifetime. By knowing their personality traits, students can make informed decisions about their major selection and have greater satisfaction and success with their college experience.
Students who choose a major that is not congruent with their personality tend to: study subjects that are not suitable with their interests or skills, as well as, finding themselves in an environment of students and faculty members who have different, skills, and values. As a result their grades suffer, they have lower graduation rates and are less satisfied with their careers.
If you are a student who is beginning your journey this Fall think about who you are and the way you view the world. Seek advice from an educational consultant or a career counselor and examine your personality traits. Choose a major that fits your personality traits and allows you to be successful. Choose an area of study that can lead to a career path where you can be happy and successful. Finally, the next time someone asks you “what’s your major?” turn the question around and ask then what theirs is and then ask them why. You will be surprised by the answers they give you. You are about to embark on a wonderful journey of self-discovery and academic enrichment – enjoy every moment and take the time to ask yourself a question that is far more important than ‘ what’s your major’ – ask yourself ‘who am I?’.