HOW DO I CHOOSE A MAJOR?

MAJOR EXPO: SEPT. 28

Want more ways to explore majors, minors and certificates? Don’t forget to attend the Major Expo on Sept. 28, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Union Ballroom, and follow the Major Exploration Center on social media to get tips and updates on our events. Find us on Instagram, @UofUAdvising, and on Twitter, @UnivCollege. Keep an eye out for our weekly feature, “What’s Your Major Wednesday” to learn from other U students about how they picked their major and more.

By Christy Hoffmann, academic advisor, University College

majors-utah-eduHave you ever heard students without a major referred to as “undecided” or “undeclared?” At the University of Utah, we prefer “exploring” to describe students who haven’t settled on their final choice. At the Major Exploration Center in University College, we believe that this more accurately represents the active, thoughtful process that most students experience when choosing a major. Most students at the U can be described as “exploring” at one point or another before graduation.

So why should you explore? Finding a major that you enjoy often results in earning higher grades, building stronger interpersonal networks and increasing professional skills after completing a degree. Finding the right major means finding a deeper and more satisfying U experience, with better opportunities for life after college. Don’t forget that exploring is a process that is unique to everyone, but here is the foundational process to get you started.


PHASE 1: EXPLORE

This is the foundational phase in this process. Students often skip this step, but it’s really important that this phase is part of your decision. Phase I has three areas of exploration: exploring yourself, exploring careers and exploring majors. Not everyone will approach this in the same order. Some people prefer to think about career options before looking at majors. Others may want to think about what their personal preferences are before thinking about careers.

Exploring yourself involves thinking about your interests, your abilities and your values. Ask yourself the following questions: What do you enjoy? What are you passionate about? What fascinates you? What do you do in your free time? What are you good at? What are your strengths? What is important to you in life? Do you value working in teams or by yourself? Do you value hands-on approaches to learning or do you value starting by learning something in an academic setting first?

Exploring majors can happen in a lot of ways, but the most important things to consider are length, what majors are offered at the U and if the major is open or selective. Find out what majors are offered at the U, keep a note on majors that have specific requirements or an application to declare, and how long the major is. Thinking about length means considering how long you want to be at school. Majors at the U range from 31-124 credit hours. If you want or need to be done with school in four years, make sure you know how many credit hours you will need to complete the major requirements.

When exploring careers, make sure that you know what kinds of occupations are available, what kinds of pay ranges exist for careers that interest you, and what the work environment is like. Do you need to make a certain amount of money to be comfortable? Do you want to work by yourself or on a team? What kinds of workplaces do you thrive in?

ACTION ITEMS FOR PHASE I

Go to the Major Expo! This is the perfect time to be exploring majors. Every year, the University of Utah holds the Major Expo, where all the academic programs are all in one place waiting to talk to you. Come by the Union Ballroom on Sept. 28 to get information on as many majors as you want.

Consider taking UC 1050: Major Exploration. This one-credit course is designed to walk you through the exploration phase. The courses helps you explore majors, careers and yourself through assessments, guest speakers, advising, discussions and assignments.

Take assessments to help clarify your personality traits and your interests. Talk to an advisor in University College to take the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) or the STRONG Inventory.

Visit majors.utah.edu for a list of all the majors and minors offered at the University of Utah.

Go to department websites or talk to advisors to find out about the entrance requirements for majors.

Did you know that “exploring students” have a dedicated career coach? Make an appointment with Lindsey Kass in Career Services to explore careers.


PHASE 2: MAKING A DECISION

Once you’ve explored, you should have some top contenders. This phase is all about comparing and contrasting these choices. In this phase, think about the ways that you like to make decisions. Do you prefer to compare pros and cons? Do you need to talk it out with someone? Do you prefer to try things out? Do you want to seek input from a lot of people? Make sure that you are using multiple ways to think about your choice and that you are considering all the areas in Phase I when you are considering.

ACTION ITEMS FOR PHASE II

Start taking classes in an area, and see what you think! Don’t forget that every class has a unique view, so taking one class may not always be a good indicator if this area is a good fit for you.

Talk to someone close to you about your options to get their opinion.

Make a pros and cons list.

Make a list of your options with an explanation of how the choices intersect with your abilities, values and interests.

Make an appointment with a University College advisor to talk through your options.


PHASE 3: IMPLEMENTING YOUR DECISION

Now that you’ve made your choice, it’s time to make it happen. To declare a major, minor or certificate, talk to an academic advisor in that college about declaring. This isn’t necessarily the last step, however. You can always change your major from here — just go back to an earlier phase and start again.
Don’t forget to keep your options open — while this process can be very structured, make sure that you are staying open to majors that fall into your lap.