Students: How do I pick a major?
As Andy Bernard said on The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the ‘good old days,’ before you’ve actually left them.” When you’re in the middle of studying for final exams or preparing to take the SAT, it can be difficult to appreciate being in what many adults would argue is the best time of your life.
2020 provided even more reasons why this is probably not the joyful end of high school you were promised your whole life, and while I cannot erase the pandemic, or take your AP or final exams, I can provide you with guidance for choosing a college major and help you look forward to the joy that college can bring.
How do I choose a major, and why do I need to?
When you choose a major, you are assigned an academic advisor. Advisors know how to craft a four-year plan to graduation, how to select courses in the best order to prevent discouragement and increase enjoyment, and how to choose courses that align with your future. Take some time to look over this list of programs (PDF), cross off the majors that you know you wouldn’t enjoy, and research the ones that are leftover. You are welcome to discuss majors with advisors even before you apply to the university, or even have a general conversation to help you narrow down your list by emailing me anytime.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
Imagine working after graduation to help you decide what majors can get you that job. What type of work would make you happy, while providing income and career advancement opportunities? Think about the setting you would enjoy. Is it inside or outside? Do you want to provide services or design products? Are you best working alone or in groups? Do you want to manage others, or just yourself? If you aren’t sure which careers fit your skills and personality, you can use this career insights tool to learn more about the many careers available to you, and the majors that lead you to them.
Four years and out?
How long do you want to be in school? Some majors lead to further education, and most will take you right to an entry-level job. If you only want to complete four years of college, make sure your degree will qualify you to start working right after graduation by talking with your major advisor. If you want to go to medical school, law school, veterinary school, or pharmacy school, you will need to complete your bachelor’s degree with exceptional grades, take and pass an entrance exam, and apply to programs. If your intended career requires a master’s degree, consider applying for AGRADE at Wayne State University. For all continuing education programs, it is important to look up application deadlines and requirements well in advance so that you are competitive with other applicants.
You will want to take advantage of Wayne State’s Pre-Med and Health Science Center (PMHSC) if you want to be a medical doctor, veterinary doctor, dentist, nurse, optometrist, podiatrist, pathologist, or physician assistant. PMHSC offers advising, test prep, information sessions, and can help you see how competitive a candidate you would be for advanced degree admissions. If law school is your goal, you’ll find the advising and prep you require under pre-law advising. There are also many pre-professional student organizations that can help you prepare for graduate school applications, and provide a group of students with which to study and volunteer.
What is the best pre-med major?
Pre-med is not a major at Wayne State University, it is a pathway. If being a medical doctor is your intended career, you can major in absolutely anything at the university and still get into medical school with good grades and test scores. Medical schools require some math and science, but those credits can easily be taken as general education requirements, or as part of a minor. You can read about what makes a good medical school candidate, and what you will need to complete during your bachelor’s degree here: Preparing for medical school.
If you are pursuing a major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), you will be required to complete a minor. You can minor in anything the university offers or any of the interesting minors in CLAS, and the minor will give you a competitive edge over other candidates when you apply for employment. Minors also give you an opportunity to pursue something you have a passion for, and expose you to students and faculty with similar interests.
Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP)
Undergraduate research provides an opportunity for you to put theory into practice and helps you develop relationships with faculty in your desired field. You can begin searching for research opportunities anytime, but would likely participate after your freshman year. You can participate in any area of study, not just science.
Choosing a major early is highly recommended so that you can be offered the support and advising you deserve. You can easily change your major during the first two years of your degree program by seeing your advisor, so do not worry about going down the wrong path.
What if I still do not know what to choose?
If after researching majors and thinking about your career goals you still are not sure which major to choose, the university offers exploratory tracks to help you decide. Exploratory programs are meant to be taken in your freshman year and will expose you to several courses in a particular area. All of the exploratory courses will count toward your general education requirements, and will not delay your time to graduation. To speak with a professional about exploratory tracks, you can make an appointment with the University Advising Center. Hearing from students directly about why they chose to pursue a major at Wayne State University can also help, so take a look at our Major Choices with CLAS Warriors videos on YouTube!
By Jill de Jesus, academic services officer III