10 Tips for Choosing the Right Major

Students need to be introspective, but parents can help, too.

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There's a shop in Lindsey's college town of Lawrence, Kan., that sells T-shirts with all the different schools of the university printed on them, including the School of Business, the School of Pharmacy, the School of Journalism, the School of Engineering, and more.

There's also a T-shirt with the word "UNDECIDED" printed across the front in all caps.

It's meant to be humorous, but it no doubt resonates with many students at the University of Kansas and on most other college campuses as well: Picking a major is no easy task.

[In photos: nine hot college majors.]

JULIE: In our house, probably like yours, we've been preparing our kids for this since they were little and we asked them, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Now that they're actually choosing colleges and majors, the conversation has taken on more urgency.

Some of the things we've asked and discussed with them to help them evaluate their choices include:

1. Where do your strengths lie?

2. What are you interested in or passionate about?

3. How much schooling do you want to commit to?

4. What kind of work do you want to do?

5. What kind of life do you want to lead?

6. Finally, we advised Lindsey, and will also advise her brother, to pick a school that is strong in the major she was most interested in, but one that also offers lots of other attractive options for her should she decide to change majors as many college students do.

[Check out scholarships for in-demand majors.]

LINDSEY: Deciding on a major is a daunting task, especially for a student who's fresh out of high school. It can seem crazy to have to determine at 18 what you want to do for the rest of your life, but choosing a major early saves you valuable time in school and tuition money.

I was lucky; I had a much easier experience than most choosing a career path. I have known I wanted to major in journalism since my junior year of high school, and have stuck with and enjoyed that track since coming to college.

Plenty of my friends have changed their majors, however, and on college visits I heard that the average student changes their major as many as four or five times throughout the first two years.

Here are four ways to help choose a major:

1. Seek out help: It's extremely beneficial to you to utilize your school's resources when it comes to choosing a major. One of my friends worked very closely with the career center to determine her major, taking personality tests and working with advisers until she landed on Applied Behavioral Science.

2. Explore: Another option is to spend a semester taking one or two entry level courses within a major you're interested in. I initially thought I would love psychology as a major, but after taking my first class I realized that journalism is exactly where I belonged.

[Explore college majors with the best return on investment.]

Your perceptions of certain majors may not be entirely accurate, so don't be afraid to get your hands dirty and enroll in a few classes that sound interesting to you.

3. Be introspective: The most important component of choosing a major is getting to know yourself better. This sounds like a difficult task, but believe me, there is no better place to do this than college.

4. Be proactive: Go to the meetings of a few academically focused clubs you're interested in, such as Pre-Nursing Club or Engineering Student Council. Attend the events—like speakers or seminars—hosted by your prospective academic departments. Speak with other students who are enrolled in the schools you're considering. Being proactive in your search for a major will be your best asset.