The prospect of settling on a college major is a daunting one, especially for students who genuinely aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives.
Unfortunately, one way or another, most students eventually must choose a path. While it’s crucial not to overthink or put too much stock in this process, the process is important enough to warrant plenty of thought and advance planning. As you work toward your degree decision, you’ll want to keep these four tips in mind.
1. Consider Your Personal Values
As in other pursuits, your personal values should inform your choice of major or degree. After all, you don’t want to be miserable in your chosen career. You want to do something you truly feel good about — that you believe makes the world a better place, or at least shapes it in your image.
2. Look for Ways to Pursue Your Passion While Earning a Living
These days, it’s not hard to find degree programs that allow you to pursue your passion while earning a good living. Indeed, top arts and technology schools successfully premise entire curricula on this proposition. Put another way: The days of feeling forced to compromise your principles for a paycheck are long over.
3. Think About What You’d Do If You Had $1 Million
In a memorable scene from Office Space, the main character asks his colleagues to imagine what they’d do if they had $1 million — and thus had no need to work for a living. (A million bucks went a lot farther in 1999.)
The point of the exercise was simple: Whatever the answer, that’s what you should do with your life. Another way to think about this: If you’re committed to a particular hobby, why not look for ways to turn it into a full-time career?
4. Think About the Future Job Market
If you’re in the midst of choosing your college major, you probably have a long career ahead of you. No one knows how the job market will look as you near its end — heck, few can accurately predict what the job market will look like next year.
Still, some careers are more likely to produce long-term opportunities than others. Look for majors that produce skills expected to remain in demand as artificial intelligence further disrupts the economy.
It’s Not Too Late to Change Course
Contrary to popular belief, your choice of college major does not determine the course of your entire career. Millions of successful professionals rarely, if ever, use the practical skills they acquired during college. Their degrees are window dressing, evidence of little more than their ability to operate at a reasonably high academic level.
Even if you work in a career that does require you to exercise your degree on a daily basis, it’s not too late to change course and pursue a discipline that better aligns with your values or personality. As part-time and technology-driven options multiply, going back to school without sidelining your career (or passing up opportunities for advancement) has never been easier.
Here’s to doing what you love — at any age, no matter your discipline.