How to Search for a Major

The thought of having to select a major induces anxiety in many students because they are not sure what they are interested in, they may not have any idea what career they want to pursue, and they are afraid that they may make the wrong choice. There are several important things to remember that should help to reduce the level of anxiety:

  1. Choosing a major is not an irreversible action.

    You can switch majors at any time, with the primary penalty being the additional time it will take to complete the requirements for the new major. Note that putting off choosing a major may incur the same penalty.

  2. You are not locking yourself into a particular career when you choose a major.

    Although the Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Music degrees tend to be focused on preparing students for particular career paths, the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees with their vast selection of majors are much less focused. They are based on the liberal arts philosophy that the general education courses are meant to build a foundation of critical skills such as writing, oral communications, and critical analysis of ideas, while also building a broad understanding of the world. Work within the major refines those skills by making students apply them to more and more sophisticated problems. As the studentís skills increase, they are expected to work and learn more independently, with the goal of eventually becoming completely independent of the classroom. These lay the foundation for a successful career in any field, not just fields directly related to the major.

  3. Choosing a major does not lock you out of further study in another field.

    Students with interests outside their declared major may be able to pursue those interests by taking courses as electives. The number of electives that you will be able to take depends on your School/College and your major. The courses may be taken within a more formal framework by working toward a minor in the second field. Pursuing a double-major is also a possibility, but should only be considered by students who are very strong academically and only after consulting with faculty from both departments.

  4. Do not be afraid to look at fields you have never been exposed to before.


Tools to Employ When Searching for a Major

There is no single best way to search for a major, but there are a variety of tools that can be employed during the search. Taking classes in fields you might be interested in is the most obvious tool, but it should not be the only tool employed. A more complete list of search tools is:

  1. Take classes in fields you might be interested in.

  2. Read the descriptions of the departments and courses in the University Catalog and surf the departmental web pages to learn about fields, including fields that you have never been exposed to before.

  3. Visit one or more lectures in a field you are considering. Obtain permission from the professor prior to the visit, and ask which days would be best for the visit. Do this for both an introductory level and an upper level course because there can be dramatic differences in the flavor of the classes.

  4. Talk to faculty in the fields you might be interested in. It is not necessary to register for a class taught by a professor before going to talk to him or her.

  5. Take advantage of the Discovery Program which provides resources and arranges events that allow students to explore some of the disciplines at the University.

  6. Take advantage of the Career Development and Academic Advising Office which has a number of services and resources that can help focus and identify career interests and help you understand how different majors can contribute to success in different careers. The office is located in Room 102 of Flagler Hall, and they maintain a set of web pages that can be accessed at Career Development and Academic Advising.

  7. Attend the performances, short talks, and poster presentations given by students from departments you are interested in at Stetson Showcase, which is held each spring.


Where to Begin the Search?

There are many possible starting points for the search for a major. The following list is not intended to include all of them.

  1. If you truly have no idea of where your interests lie, start by selecting courses from the widest possible range of fields. Read the descriptions of the departments and courses in the University Catalog and surf the departmental web pages to learn about different fields including those that you have never been exposed to before and then visit lectures in the departments that spark your interest. If you liked a course or a lecture that you visited, look more closely at that field and other fields that study similar topics and that use similar methods.

  2. Think about the subjects that you found most interesting or intellectually satisfying in high school and look for majors that study similar topics or that use similar methods. Be aware that it is not uncommon to have disliked a particular class because of the personality or style of the teacher while still being very interested in the subject.

  3. Think about the subjects that you found you were good at in high school, but that were not particularly interesting. Give those subjects a second look (maybe by visiting some lectures rather than taking courses) to confirm that it was the subject that did not appeal to you rather than the just the teacher. Expand your search to look at fields that use similar methods, but that might deal with material that you find more interesting.

  4. Think about careers that seem interesting to you and look at majors that refine the skills that are most often used in those careers. There may be a large number of different majors that are equally suitable.


What to do While Conducting Your Search?

  1. Be aware that some majors have a hierarchical structure to their courses which makes it best to start the major during the freshman year. This is especially true of majors in the natural sciences, such as chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics. Although it is usually possible to start such a major as a sophomore and complete it in three years, this dramatically reduces the number of electives within the major that can be taken. If you think that one of these majors may interest you, take the introductory course as soon as possible.

  2. Be aware that some majors have an introductory course or sequence of courses that is offered only once a year. Plan your schedule to accommodate this.

  3. If most of your interests lie in one school or college, get an adviser in that school or college. The deansí offices have cards for requesting a change of adviser.

  4. Once your search has narrowed down to two or three departments request an adviser from one of those departments. The deansí offices have cards for requesting a change of adviser.

Revised: 07/30/13