What should I major in?

I’m pretty much at the end of my rope here. I’m a sophomore at the University of Texas, and I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing here. Most people at that point are halfway to their degree by now. None of my friends are awake (they’re never helpful anyway), and my phone is on the fritz so I can’t call my folks to talk to them about this for the 20th time. Academic advisors have done me no good, and it’s Sunday, anyway.

So hi, how about some advice? I’m 19, I like making music and art, and I’m intrigued by very little of what my university has to offer me in the way of degree programs. I unfortunately have developed an outstanding prejudice against several of them - business, because I detest the mindset of corporate america and middle managers, engineering, -because I frankly can’t fake an interest in the minutiae of technology or how things work (I never took apart a calculator when I was 12), and most liberal arts programs, because I don’t see any career opportunities emerging from such a degree.

I would major in art, but the bureaucrats who run the school only allow kids in during the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the winter solstice, and frankly the program has no professional rewards like actual art schools do; it simply prepares one to be a starving artist begging to have his/her art hung and sold in a gallery.

The music program is fully inclined toward classical music and music theory, neither of which I am actually interested in. I play a little bit of classical guitar and novice piano here and there, but

I am currently in the computer science program, but the second class I took put me off of it… I’m no good at the overtly mathematical part of it, which i really didn’t know about beforehand.

I’m no simpleton, I did very well on my SATs, but doing math and science are just a pain to me. I’ve done OK in chemistry, but I don’t know if it’s something I’d want to specialize in.

My last resort is to transfer to another college, but my biggest fear is that I would not find any more rewarding programs anywhere else. I’ve looked at a lot of art schools, and they look pretty good, especially the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, but I’d really prefer not to move to somewhere where I know no one. I’ve been contemplating dropping out of school, but I don’t think that would actually get me anywhere.

What do you like? Who’s paying the bill, until you decide? What are you good at? How can you find an opportunity to do what you like and get paid for it?.. Institutes of Higher Education are not there to teach, they are there to give you the opportunity to Learn… Go to Barnes and Noble, look in the self help section, look how many books are there to succeed, notice there are none on how to fail. Failing is easy…Believe in yourself, if weak in one area, ask. If strong, help others… Make a GOAL for yourself, this is the hump year, girl, you can do it, you’re a Doper, look at your fan base…Anytime now you will be deluged with replies from others giving whatever you need at this most precarious time…{{{{{{{if you were my niece}}}}}}

Sounds like you should consider, not “dropping out,” but taking a year or two off to catch your breath and figure out what you want from college. (Actually, it sounds like you might have been better off taking some time off before college; I think one of the worst things about our educational system is the way we give students the idea that they have to proceed in a linear, lock-step pattern from high school to college to a career. However, that’s neither here nor there.)

Failing that, ask yourself which classes genuinely make you feel curious, passionate, and engaged, and act accordingly. (If the answer is “None of them,” it’s definitely time to put college on hold for a while.) The career thing is always chancy. If you major in something you hate thinking it’ll lead to a job later on, there’s a good chance you’ll end up jobless and unhappy.

I’m going to be in the exact same place as you next year. Fortunately, as a freshman, no one really expects me to know yet, so I’m trying to work it out in advance.

Basically, I’m trying to decide whether to go for what I like doing (I’m not entirely certain if I’m GOOD at it or not, yet) which would be some sort of English degree, or something that can earn me money, but I’m not particularly crazy about. I’ve narrowed it down to either medicine or computer science.

If I knew I was REALLY good at writing, then it would be an easy choice, but I don’t know that, so my only solution is to just take more classes from all of those paths, and see how it turns out.

Everyone I’ve talked to about it has said one thing, however: DO NOT do something that you don’t like. You might get by making a career out of something you aren’t crazy about, but if you downright hate it, then stay away, regardless of whether you’re good at it or how well it pays. Sounds like good advice to me.

I have apparently put my ability to post on the line. You will have your advice, I will pay the price. I will consider it worthwhile in a few years, if you say HEY, I MADE IT…Damn, Why do I keep doing this stuff…What a medium!!!..

Take some random classes that seem interesting. I was a Psych major for a while because I took Intro Psych cause I needed 3 hours. Well worth it!

You said:

I think that’s the core of your problem right there. The answer is that you should major in one of the liberal arts.

There may not be a direct “career” program directly leading from a social science or humanities degree, but for a number of reasons, that doesn’t really matter.

First, you want to get through school doing something that interests you. If you find a subject you like, chances are you will do well in it. It’s better to be a history major with a high GPA than a bored business major with a low one.

Second, these days virtually no one remains in the same “career path” that they started in out of college. Life takes all sorts of interesting twists and turns, and in the end your undergraduate major frequently matters extremely little.

Third, you want to get through college knowing how to think, not merely with a career credential. You’re in this for the long haul, and down the line how you think, write and process information is much more important than what you studied.

Good luck.

Honestly, unless you’re in nursing, or architecture, or engineering, your major just doesn’t matter that much with regards to your life after college. So don’t think that your choice is really significant.

And you should consider the year off school. Get a halfway decent job, maybe take a couple of night classes, and live for a while. Your head’ll be clearer when you come back.

Moo, as a UT alum who was in the same place that you were about five years ago, please allow me to suggest the following: talk to the Plan I and Plan II people. They have dedicated counseling types who have lots of experience helping out very bright people who aren’t quite sure what to do with themselves. And even if you aren’t in any of those honor programs, just tell them you’re contemplating applying to transfer in – they’ll talk to you.

Just leafing through the UT website. You might want to dabble in some of these courses:




SCHOOL OF LAW (hell, why not …)

And of course, the major many of my successful friends chose:

Welcome to the Philosophy Department!

Don’t write anything off until you’re given it a try. Don’t rely on your friends or family to choose your major. Find something you like and dive right in!

I’m gonna take a different tack. Even though you already said you hate it (on the bright side, I’m assuming that means you already have some credits in it) I say go with business. Really. Your passions are art and music, and keep them as passions. When you are out of there in 2 more years with your business degree, you’ll be in decent shape to get a job in a music or art related business, or to market your own work. And failing that, you will be more employable than other liberal arts or art majors. At least 90% of everything out here in the “real world” is business or government.

Frankly, I never understood the advice given by some people to be certain to major in what it is you enjoy - how in god’s name do you know what you enjoy before you do it? You may not like the mathematical portion of computer science, but with a compsci degree you’re able to fulfill a particular niche that someone with a liberal arts degree cannot - and what’s more important still is that there’s nothing someone with a liberal arts degree can do that you won’t be able to.

My major is economics and philosophy. I almost wish I could go back and change it to, say, electrical engineering; I probably could but I don’t want to be an undergraduate three years after I was supposed to graduate. Since you have less time invested than I do my advice would be to carry as much prudence about you as you can.

I strongly recommend that you study whatever it is that interests you. Undergraduate study, imho, is designed to teach students how to learn. Ask people with jobs in the “real world” how much about their job that they learned on the job. And don’t even think about studying business - that’s bunk. Only one Ivy league school even has business for undergrads (Penn). Internships are infinitely more important.

Moo the Magic Cow, I was in your position about four years back (and about 300 miles away from you at UH). Since freshman year in high school, I had prepared myself to be a music education major in college and become a band director after graduating. I studied music theory; I listened to classical music; I composed a few little songs. After three semesters in the music school, I was frustrated and decided that I wasn’t cut out to do anything music-related professionally.

I’m now a senior in the business college (eww… business school!) majoring in management information systems. Before I decided on this route, I spent a semester taking a bunch of different courses. My hatred of and poor skills in math limited my options away from architecture, physics, and computer science (even though I loved the C programming I took during that time). A friend who worked in the business advising office pointed me to MIS. There’s still enough math in it to make it difficult on me, but overall I like the courses and think I’ll be headed in a good career direction upon graduation.

My advice to you would be to spend a semester where you either take a light load and spend the extra time researching what you would like to do or take a semester with a wide variety of courses so that you can see what interests you. I’d recommend against dropping out of school because, just from my personal experience, I lot of people I know who did that haven’t and probably won’t return to college for quite some time. In doing either, you’ve got to keep an open mind, though. You hate business, don’t like the relevance of the liberal arts, and dislike math/science. Like I said, I hate math and toughed out 18 more hours of math classes for my major. Try some classes from education, communications, technology, and social sciences.

Good luck!

Good luck, Moo. I know you’re in a really tough spot right now. Me, I’ve been out of school for three years, and I’m still not sure what I want to major in. :slight_smile:

My first piece of advice is don’t drop out, not even for just a year. It’s much easier to stay in college than it is to go back. My parents both dropped out, never finished, and regret it to this day.

The math in the CS major is tough, but once you get through it, you probably won’t use much of it in your actual job. If you really can’t stand the math classes, see if the Business school offers some kind of technology degree – at my school, it was Computer Information Somethingorother, with business classes replacing most of the math and a lot of the “science” aspect of Computer Science.

Take an elective course in anything that you think you might possibly be interested in. It’ll be good for you even if you don’t major in that subject.

Don’t choose a major purely based on how much money you can make in the Real World, and don’t choose a major just because it’s “fun”, without considering how you might use it someday. Look for a good compromise.

If you get totally stuck, don’t panic. What you major in is really not as important as you think.

As a film school graduate in cinematography (from a large liberal arts university) making $5.75 an hour working in a college bookstore, I say major in something that interests you (talk to the music department, often schools (especially larger ones) can allow you to tailor a degree with a specific professor… but take computer, business, and writing classes.

ESPECIALLY TAKE WRITING CLASSES. It amazes me sometimes how many professional people couldn’t form a sentence on paper if their lives depended on it.

Take a class in every department possible. You’ve got the opportunity to dabble (especially because you’re at a larger university) and it makes you a more interesting person. Especially investigate history (specific courses, not surveys) philosophy (ethics is usually very good) and English.

Good luck. Have fun. Don’t expect to be a money making artist right out of the chute. I did, and I was sorely mistaken. (also my chosen major, while incredibly fun, was not what I want to do for the rest of my life).

First, sell your soul on Ebay.

Then, declare a political science major. Well, if you insist you can keep the soul, though I recommend against it.

Seriously, political science is a good choice in my opinion for people who’re not sure what they want to do with their lives. It’s intellectually stimulating, it doesn’t require huge amounts of math/science skills (being comfortable with statistics is good, though), and if you get really involved in the polisci department you can meet all sorts of people. Well, politicians, but they’re like people - many of them can pass the Turing test.

Another nice thing about Political Science is that it doesn’t lock you in to a certain career path. You can do business with it, teach, pretty much any liberal-artsy field. If you want to do serious work in the field, though, you need grad school.

One other thought - perhaps the Peace Corps would be a good choice for you after college? Take a couple years to see the world (well, the impoverished and developing parts of it), do some good, get free room and board and put off paying student loans. It’s a good deal, for some people.

Thanks everyone, this helped very much. I’ve realized I shouldnt be so fatal about it, it’s not the rest of my life, just the next few years.

I’ve decided(with some help) to major in Chemistry as I’ve enjoyed the last two courses of it and I work rather well with the material. Thanks again.