What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up? Because I Need To Know For College…


By: Belinda M. Gonzalez-Leon, Ed.D., MBA


Parents and students fret when they are unsure of what to major in college because many high school seniors don’t know what career they want to pursue. This is common. Does it help to know what you want to study when you start college? Absolutely! But what if you don’t? Students can “try out” a career by working in it. Students might be able to find a part-time entry-level position or an internship in the field.

Miami Dade County Public Schools sponsors a summer internship program that pays interns. Or, a student can always approach a business and propose an internship a few hours a week to get experience in the field. But, there are other ways to figure it out or to buy more time while deciding.

First, it is perfectly acceptable to apply and start college with an undeclared major. Most universities will not require a declared major until year three (junior) year of college. Many schools put students into general education courses during the first two years of college regardless the major.

Therefore, changing majors is fine during the first two years of college. If a major related course is required during the first two years of college, an academic advisor can help the student avoid those courses until they are secure about a major.

If a student doesn’t know what they want to study in college, I tell them to attend a really big school, like a Florida International University. Why? Because large colleges offer thousands of courses and hundreds of majors.

Student can try different elective courses to figure out what they like. If they decide to switch majors- most likely they can stay at the same school because the big university will probably have the new major. The school will work with the student to get the credits and requirements needed to graduate.

Another strategy is to be more general rather than too specific. For example, if a student is considering medicine or law – don’t major in pre-med or pre-law. Rather, a student can major in biology or political science, respectively, and discover what the field is all about while still staying on track. Through exploration, the student may decide to go in a different direction whereas pre-med or pre-law will limit the possibility of courses and closes off exploration.

For the truly lost, an option is to first pursue an Associate of Arts (AA) degree. An AA is a two-year college degree that focuses on completing required courses such as English, Math, History, and Science plus a few electives.

This buys two years of time before focusing on classes specific to a major. After completing the AA, the student can transfer to a university to finish their Bachelor’s degree in a declared major.

It is also possible for students to take a career assessment. Many of these types of surveys are online for free or for a fee. This type of assessment asks questions to help determine recommended careers for the student.

These tools are not perfect, but they offer guidance. The best vocational assessment is done with a psychologist who couples the assessment with an interview to then provide probable career options. Keep in mind that these assessments offer suggestions but, in the end, the student makes the decision.

Regardless of a student’s college major, once settled in college, a student should go visit the Career Services office. Students can share their undecidedness of career and the office can help by providing some of the tools mentioned above. They can explore the different career opportunities that exist within the major as well as the current employment outlook. Career services can help students decide what to study and where to work as they embark on four years of study.

Students and parents tend to get anxious about starting college without a clear career path. Know that there have been plenty of students who started in one major, switched to another, and survived to talk about it.

There are also many who studied one thing but became something else. Students can draw on the basic skill set that being in college gives to succeed. In due time, everyone figures out want they want to be when they grow up. The important thing is to keep trying to discover it.


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