Choosing a Major
Choosing a major may be one of the easiest decisions you have ever made or it may be an overwhelming and stressful decision.
At Illinois State University, we utilize numerous resources to help you choose a major(s). University College Academic Advising is available to any student who is undeclared/undecided or who plans to change majors.
A couple quick things to keep in mind when comparing major requirements. The middle 50 percent GPA gives the range of students typically admitted into the major. Twenty five percent of students admitted have a lower GPA, so you should not view the lower GPA as a minimum required for acceptance. Also the sample plans of study provided are based on the current Undergraduate Catalog.
- Learn About Yourself Reflection
- Major Elimination Activity
- Occupational Outlook Handbook Activity
- O*NET Activity
- Pros and Cons Chart
- What Are Your Skills?
- What Are Your Workplace Values?
- Learn About Yourself
- Majors and Careers
- Transferrable Skills
Learn About Yourself
The key to finding a satisfying career is matching your personality to your career choice. Understanding who you are, your likes and dislikes, is the first step. This is a process that takes some time and reflection. But your career will occupy the majority of your adult life, so it’s worth taking some time to learn what will be satisfying to you to help you make good career decisions.
People like careers for many different reasons...
- Interests: Enjoying classes in this area, talking about the subject, or spending time doing related tasks.
- Personal Values: Feeling energized and excited to think about making a contribution in this area, finding the career personally meaningful.
- Opportunity to Use Talents: Seeing your unique talents and skills are maximized in a career. For example, you may have special talent as a writer, educator, person who empathizes with others, or leader. Careers that give you an opportunity to use those gifts will be appealing.
The more you know about a career, the better able you are to decide if you would like it. Career assessment may help you identify your interests, values and skills.
Are You Undecided or Indecisive?
It's helpful to consider whether you are undecided or indecisive. Being undecided is a normal step along the way. It usually means you need more information about yourself, educational options, careers, or perhaps how college majors relate to career options.
Being indecisive is different. It may indicate you have trouble making decisions in many areas or struggle to make a decision in spite of having information. There are many reasons you might be indecisive. Fear of making a mistake is one common reason.
You might find it helpful to speak to a counselor at Student Counseling Services if you think that being indecisive is a problem you face.
Signs You May Be Undecided
- You need more information about careers
- You need more information about your personality
- You generally make good decisions in other areas
- You are unsure what criteria to base your decision on
- Enroll in IDS 106 - Career Choice
- Enroll in IDS 128 - Thriving in College, Career and Beyond
- FOCUS the online, self-guided career and education planning tool designed to help select major programs and career fields most compatible with personal interests, skills, and goals.
- Meet with Academic Advisor
- Consult with the Career Center or Student Counseling Services
Signs You May Be Indecisive
- Struggle to make decisions in many areas of life
- Feel fearful of making a mistake
- Postpone decisions hoping others will decide for me
- Change my mind frequently
- Get very anxious about making a decision
- Feel unready to face the consequences of my decision
- Worry about what others think of my decisions
- Feel very uncertain despite having information needed to make a decision
- Worry my decision will be the wrong one
- Feel I never have enough information to make a good decision
Counseling at Student Counseling Services to address any personal issues relating to your career decision making
Selecting a major and selecting a career are different!
An employer will consider your major as just one of many factors when making a hiring decision. In addition to your major, the skills you've acquired, your personal attributes and achievements will all factor into the hiring decision. Some majors lead to a wide variety of career paths. Thus it is important to have a well rounded college experience.
Keep in mind that some careers require a specialized degree and/or certification. These areas include: teaching, nursing, geology, and speech pathology.
Many people vary their careers during their lifetime. Thus, selecting your major does not have to be a one-time decision. You may be surprised where your career takes you.
Do you have an idea of the academic areas you are interested in? If so...
- Make a list of all of the major options which may be a good fit for you
- Learn more about the majors and careers in your identified areas of interest
- Complete some of the activities listed above which will assist you in narrowing your major options so you are ready to make your decision
When selecting your major, it is important to consider future career options. Things to consider include the following:
- The difference between selecting a major and choosing your career
- Various career options and the major options that can get you there
- Skills that can get you to your intended career
How do I know what the job outlook for a career will be?
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is an excellent resource you can use to find out information about careers as they exist in the "real world." Click on the A-Z Index and enter an occupation that interests you. You will be provided with information such as the job outlook, earnings, nature of the work, working conditions, training and other qualifications, and advancement.
Another helpful resource for career exploration is the O*NET Online Occupational Information Network developed for the U.S. Department of Labor. This extensive online database allows for a variety of detailed occupational searches based on categories, skills, interests and much more. A number of other useful online career information resources are also linked to the O*NET Online system.
Frequently, students do not consider participation in student organizations, class projects, and volunteer work to be significant activities to put on to a resume. Then, when they begin writing their resume, they feel like they do not have experiences to write about. Quite the opposite is true!
This activity helps students identify the transferable skills they developed during college and prepares them to choose an academic major, intentionally select involvement opportunities, write a resume, and find interesting career options.
What is a transferable skill?
A transferable skill is a skill or ability acquired during any activity in life – jobs, classes, projects, hobbies, sports, internships, volunteer work, virtually anything – that can be utilized in a different setting or while participating in a different activity. The transferable skills developed throughout a college career can be evaluated to help determine what type of major, involvement activities, and even careers you may be best suited for. Employers are most interested in candidates who can build on skills developed and refined in college and transfer those skills to the “working world”.
Why are transferable skills important to identify?
Identifying specific skill sets each student possesses will help when navigating life choices ranging from academic major selection to job application. College graduates do not always have practical experience or technical skill abilities for the field to which they are applying. As you recognize skills you have gained throughout college that are similar to those used in a chosen field or industry, you will become more confident in your abilities.
Hints in identifying your own transferable skills
Transferable skills can be developed while doing almost anything! Here are some examples of ways transferable skills can be developed:
- jobs and work experiences
- volunteer opportunities
- classes: major and non-major courses
- groups you have been a part of and the leadership opportunities you have utilized
- innate abilities or skills others always comment to you about such as compassion, organization, thoughtfulness, originality
Applying to a Major
Depending on where you are as a student, your process for applying to a major may be a bit different. Keep in mind, each major at Illinois State has its own unique application procedures.
If you are not currently an Illinois State student and want to be, you'll have the opportunity to choose your major when you apply to the University through the Office of Admissions
Students admitted to Illinois State who have not yet begun classes must contact the Office of Admissions to change your major. Please be aware, different major programs may have different admission criteria.
Once classes begin, you will be able to apply to change your major through My.IllinoisState. Once you're logged in, click on the "Academics" tab, then on the "Apply to My Program" link.