Is your student undecided about a major? They are not alone. Most students enter U-M undecided about their major. Even those who initially know what they want to study often change their plans.
Choosing a major is not easy for students. They may feel overwhelmed with the number of options available. They may be afraid that their choice of major will lock them into a career, lifestyle, and salary range for the rest of their lives. But the choice of major does not necessarily set a life-long path, because:
- The majority of employers who recruit U-M students do not focus narrowly on a student’s major, and students who graduate from the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts are often able to find employment in a wide range of career fields.
- Graduate schools may be flexible about an applicant’s major. For example, students do not have to be biology majors to enter medical school, nor do they need to be political science majors to enter law school.
- Most people change jobs and even careers many times throughout a lifetime.
Students typically spend 1-2 years deciding on a major, using a process of self-reflection and exploration. Here are suggestions for how you can support your student through this decision-making process.
First, self-reflection: You may want to ask your student to reflect on personal strengths and interests. Ask them what classes do they most enjoy? What areas or skills come naturally to them? What types of jobs or careers appeal to them? What do they see themselves doing 10, 20, or 30 years from now? What do they value most regarding a future career (salary, work/life balance, intellectual stimulation, working independently, helping others, teamwork, creativity, stability, prestige, etc)? See additional self-assessment questions at College of Engineering or the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Through this process, your student's values may differ from your own, and you may want to reflect yourself on how you can best help them through this process of reflection.
Next, exploration: Encourage your student to research options, gathering information about possible majors and career fields. Students may want to:
- Take a variety of classes.
- Use campus resources, such as the University Career Center or specific school/college career centers.
- Connect with people who studied a wide range of majors through Michigan’s alumni network. The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts even offers a “Majors & Minors Expo” in March, where students can explore different majors and get their questions answered by departmental advisors and faculty members.
- Talk with their academic advisor about options and ideas. Advisors can also help students identify interests, clarify procedures and learn about pre-requisite courses.
With reflection and exploration, plus your support, the process of choosing a major can itself be a rich and rewarding part of education.
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