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Part 2: Five Steps to a Major Decision

Step 1: Assess Yourself

Your first step is to do some self-assessment. The more you understand yourself, the clearer your life goals and the ways to reach them will become. Asking yourself the following questions will give you some important clues:

• What do you truly enjoy? Consider the classes, subjects, and activities that you have liked the best. What did they involve? Why did you enjoy them? Consider what you enjoy reading, talking about, or studying. Why do you enjoy them? There are careers related to every interest you have!
• What are you good at? Identify your skills and abilities. What types of things do you seem to do well? Are they technical, adventurous, intellectual, involve helping or influencing others, etc.?
• What is really important to you? Is enjoying your work more important than prestige? Is creativity more important than security? You want your choice to be compatible with your values.
• What are your motivations? Why might you be considering a particular major and/or career? Are outside influences such as family, friends or your perception of the job market shaping your decisions?
• What is the coolest job you can imagine? Describe it as specifically as you can. Try to locate and contact one or two people in this area and ask them how they got there.

Be sure to complete DISCOVER, the online Internet based career decision-making tool and also visit Career Services to utilize a variety of other assessments to assist you with discovering more about yourself and aid you in the decision making process.

Step 2: Gather Information and Explore Options

Examine the majors available at UCM. Use the UCM Undergraduate Catalog and the UCM Programs At-A-Glance and make a list of those majors that interest you to eliminate those that do not interest you. Read about the majors remaining on your list.

Mark the courses in each major that most interest you, match your abilities, and share your values. This should help you further shorten your list.

Review additional information about the majors on your short list. Visit each department's web page and read print materials they offer. Ask the department if they offer an e-mail listserv that you can join.

Discuss your possible majors with a variety of individuals, including departmental advisors, faculty, instructors, students currently in the major, and program graduates.

Gain some experience in the majors you are considering by attending informational program meetings, getting involved with departmental activities and services, and joining student organizations and academic clubs.

Visit Career Services and check out the Career Library. Take a particular look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the New York State Career Zone, and the Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance.

Talk with an academic advisor from the Office of Academic Advising and plan an academic schedule that keeps your options open while you are exploring. Discuss taking introductory courses in the majors that you are considering and consider shadowing upper level courses for additional information. You can also learn valuable information by glancing through required textbooks and reading course syllabi of classes required for a major.

Consider enrolling in courses that will help you to explore, such as AE 1400. The more information you find, the more informed your final decision will be. See Part 3 for more information.

Remember to attend the annual UCM Majors Fair where you will have a chance to ask academic departments questions about their programs and learn about the many options available to you at UCM! Also, remember that Student Advising Services and Career Services offer a choosing a major workshop every semester.

Step 3: Evaluate and Make Your Major Decision

It's time to put together the information you have collected. Consider what you have learned. Weigh the pros and cons of each option. Be sure that the major(s) you are considering fit with your academic strengths and abilities. If you haven’t already, narrow your list down to two or three majors.

Consider the feasibility of a second major, choosing an alternative major, or making one of your options your minor. Or look at an interdisciplinary major or minor. If your major interest cannot be fulfilled by way of UCM’s existing departmental majors, consider creating your own Individualized Major. Under prescribed parameters, this major can allow you to take classes selected from different departments that share some theme or career goal.

Talk with an academic advisor and a career counselor who can help you to evaluate the information you have collected, suggest additional resources, and guide you through the decision making process.

Step 4: Take Action

Remember that you cannot expect that the right major will just come to you or fall into your lap. Choosing a major requires your active participation. You must be proactive!

If you haven’t already done so, sample courses in the majors you are considering. Remember to shadow upper level courses for additional information.

Meet with an academic advisor and discuss what specific prerequisites and other admission criteria are required for admittance into the major. (A prerequisite is a course which must be satisfactorily completed before another course can be registered.) Discover if there is a Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement for admission. Learn what the admissions process is. Discuss when you are ready to apply to the major. Determine if there are internship or practicum requirements. How about research opportunities?

Be sure to update your intended major the next time you meet with your academic advisor.

Choose student activities, internships, volunteer work, and/or part-time employment that can help you further develop your skills in areas that interest you.

Talk to people who work in the career fields you are considering. Ask them about their major and how it helped them. Use the job shadow network program through Career Services, which can be an excellent resource for learning more about the realities of specific career fields.


Immediately visit the department with an updated copy of your DARS report and inquire about applying to the major.

Once you are admitted to the major, remember to meet with your departmental advisor for advisement at least once a semester until you graduate.

Adapted from Mary Lou Taylor, Choosing Your Major, National Association of Colleges and Employers.