To Major or Not to Major?

Major Tips on Declaring Your Major


Brian Katanov

Geetika Sewani ’20 comments on her preferred major, but explains how she is still not completely sure.

We’ve heard the question all our lives, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  As a child, you probably had a pretty quick answer: singer, actor, basketball player, astronaut.  As you grew older, you probably became a little more realistic: doctor, lawyer, teacher, and for some of you still, a basketball player.  However, since you are in high school and preparing to apply to college, you might have realized that you give your immediate answer, there is a long pause.  A really long pause. Yet, this seemingly high-pressure decision may not be as stressful as you make it seem.

If you ever find yourself googling “Highest Paying Jobs,” then you know that money can also play a major role in selecting your major.  In February 2019, the ‘U.S. News and World Report’ named the top ten highest paying majors. Number ten on that list was mechanical engineering, with a starting salary of $65,619.  The U.S. Naval Academy has alumni with the highest starting salary in this major. Number one on the list was petroleum engineering, with a starting salary of $97,689. The college with the highest starting salary for its alumni in petroleum engineering is the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

Of course, it does not hurt to know the majors with the lowest starting salaries.  The list, created by the U.S. News and World Report compiled the top ten majors with the lowest starting salaries.  Number ten on the list is Biblical studies, with a starting salary of $38,170. The number one major on that same list is child development and psychology, with a starting salary of $35,457.

According to ‘Best College Reviews,’ number ten on a list of top majors for the future is computer information systems.  The top major on that list was stated to be pharmacology, where graduates with this degree can get find jobs in pharmacies, labs, and hospitals.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in the academic year of 2016-17, the most popular bachelor’s degree was business, featuring 381,353 degrees out of 1,956,032.  In fact, based on the NCES data, business has remained the most popular degree from 1970 to 2015. By comparison, bachelor degrees in biological and biomedical sciences had 116,759 bachelor degrees from 2016-17.

“I am planning to go in undecided as of now, but I’m trying my best to figure out whether I would rather apply as a biology major, because I have loved the subject for so long,” Geetika Sewani ’20 said.

Sofia Mahairas
Tiffany Okpuzor ’19 describes her own experience on declaring a major on her college application.

While this can be potentially useful information, sometimes you just do not know what you want to study.  There is no need to worry, however, as there is still hope. In fact, about 30% of current undergraduates who declared a major have changed it at least once, according to the NCES.  Thirty five percent of those changes have been made among declared STEM majors, and 29% have been non-STEM majors. Within the STEM field, 28% of the changes came from Computer Science & Information majors, and 52% came from mathematics majors.

Geetika Sewani ’20 has just recently had her first college meeting and describes her plans for her major. “I am planning to go in undecided as of now, but I’m trying my best to figure out whether I would rather apply as a biology major, because I have loved the subject for so long,” Sewani said.  “I do understand that a lot can change within a few months, and I have to decide if that is what I want to pursue for my whole college career,” Sewani said.

Fellow junior Gidget Rosen ’20 has a few options in mind when it comes to her major.  “I am going in knowing that I am interested in world languages, math, and history, but I haven’t decided exactly what I would like to study yet,” said Rosen.  Rosen described her outlook on this part of the college process, “I believe that for me, the best approach to entering college is to go in with a completely open mind – trying everything and learning what I like best.”  While this is a good mindset to have going into a new environment, be aware that  colleges often require you to take certain courses to complete your credits.

Tiffany Okpuzor ’19 has already gone through the college process and shares her experience, “I declared finance as my major” said Okpuzor.  “At first, I wanted to be a doctor like my older sister,” said Okpuzor, “I later chose math and finance as a major, because I loved math and I had read the books ‘Corporate Finance’ and ‘Investment Banking for Dummies.'”

In the end, your college major is not the deciding factor of how your life will end up.  Your chosen major has as much power as you give it. A study done by CareerBuilder said that 47% of college-educated workers said their first job after college was not related to their college major, and 32% said that they never found a job related to their college major.  So what you decide to declare may not even be what you end up pursuing.