How to Pick a College Major when You Have a Lot of Different Interests
Photo courtesy of English 106.

How to Pick a College Major when You Have a Lot of Different Interests

Written by Janet Brent

Topics: Education

Today, we’re going to tackle one from the putty mail bag:

“Hi! I was wondering if you could write an article for students. I am aware uni is not too far away and as a multipotentialite I am struggling when it comes to what to study. I would love to hear your thoughts on whether we should study what currently interests us (even if that interest could die the day after we get accepted or it is some very focused interest like astrophysics), whether we should study something more general like english (even if we aren’t burning to do so) or whether we should study something completely different. I would also be interested in whether you think that what we study in uni really matters to which job we get in the future.”

***

If I could go back to school and study any major, I would probably take up intercultural studies, a fun fusion between anthropology and sociology. But what if the professional options don’t interest you? What do you do with a degree when you don’t want to pursue the particular field, or don’t know what you want to pursue? As a multipotentialite, it can be difficult to figure out what to take up in college. The question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is alive and well.

Here are my top six tips to making the most of college:

1. Explore

College can be a fun experience but it can also be stressful trying to figure out the rest of your life. The good news is that you don’t have to. College is the perfect time to explore, especially if you don’t know what you want to do.

Not only does college give you a structured learning environment, it can also give you community, friends, and some of the best times of your life. You don’t need a purpose, just find out what subjects would be most fun to take, and take them.

2. Take classes that currently interests you

There’s no time like now. For every philosophy major wondering what he/she can do with a philosophy degree, the answers become philosophical. It’s what you make of it.

Instead of worrying about what to take or what to major in, why not become a student for the sake of learning? What fascinates you currently? Always go for what interests you now, even if it may not interest you later. You never know how following your curiosity might help you in the future. After all, it took the late and great Steve Job’s stumbling on a calligraphy class to years later give him the typographic appreciation to make Apple’s clean, minimalistic and beautiful design that it is today.

3. Consider the idea of double majoring or pairing a major with a minor

If you have plenty of interests and a willingness to learn, sometimes deciding on just one major or path may not be enough. You can always consider double majoring or pairing your major with a minor. It will take more work, but this may be the perfect multipotentialite solution for studying something specific. What pairings complement each other?

4. Weigh your options

SATs and GPAs don’t matter so much in the grand scheme of things, but it may matter if you want to get into a better university. Weigh your options and look at each school’s philosophy as well as statistics for during and after college. It may be helpful to create a list of pros and cons for each school you’re thinking of applying to.

Does the school or program’s philosophy revolve around interdisciplinary learning? Does it have programs that will allow you to pair majors? Are extracurriculars like sports or music important to you and does the school offer them? How does the school help alumni’s in job placement, and what are the statistics around getting jobs within their specific major?

When I went to art school, I had to sacrifice the fact that there were no sports teams or orchestras to join but since I took a very specific route, my payoff was on very focused classes to learn my trade, and getting job placement assistance that helped me find a graphic design job within two weeks.

5. Pursue internships or apprenticeships

Internships are not necessarily required but it can give you an advantage and look good on your resume when applying to jobs after college. If you don’t know what you want to do after college and you’ve opted for a more generalized degree, taking a specific internship in your junior and/or senior years once you’ve got more time to figure out a path is an excellent step in the right direction towards the particular career you want.

If you’re still unsure what to pursue after college by junior or senior year, don’t sweat it. Internships can be the perfect place to carve out what you like and don’t like. For example, I took an internship at an ad agency and discovered I did not have a burning passion for advertising and that it practically made my skin crawl. Nevertheless, finding that out was still a valuable lesson, and my time was never wasted.

6. Consider a study abroad program

Most universities and colleges have a study abroad program and being able to learn abroad can be invaluable, life-enriching experiences. I will always advocate traveling, experiencing new cultures, and broadening your world view and wished I had taken a study abroad program. A structured environment that allows you to get school credit for learning abroad makes it an excellent way to learn and see the world. Learning and creativity is automatically enhanced in a new and different environment.

Generalized or Specific?

Unless you are certain you want a specific career that takes higher education to get there, such as an engineer, doctor, or lawyer, a generalized degree will do the job just fine, especially if you’re unsure what you want to pursue.

Programs like Liberal Arts, Cultural Studies and Psychology are popular choices among multipotentialites, but really there’s no one way of doing it. Take a look at your current interests, look for schools/programs with interdisciplinary philosophies and get creative by considering different majors and minors that you could pair up.

Your 20s are an experimental time to try things out and see what you like and don’t like in both career and relationships. Don’t be afraid if you don’t have it all figured out now. Some people spend their whole lives “figuring it out.” Realize that you don’t have to know what happens next, and that’s ok. For now, relax, breathe and have fun!

Your Turn

How did you approach (or how are you approaching) your college education as a multipotentialite?

janet_aboutJanet Brent is an intuitive graphic/web designer for creative, holistic and heart-based entrepreneurs. She’s interested in passionate people making positive change. Find her blogging on Purple Panda and on twitter @janetbrent.

13 Comments

  1. Allison says:

    Great article!

    My solution to this problem was to major in French and study abroad. the French major at my school had classes in history, literature, culture, film, sociology, anthropology… basically every humanities discipline. And while there were some required courses I didn’t love, it gave me a LOT of freedom to take basically whatever i wanted – as long as it was in French.

    And when I studied abroad, every class counted towards my major. it was fantastic! i ended up doing my senior thesis on folklore, coming back to France to do a master’s in comp lit and another one in anthropology, and now am starting my business helping others come to France.

    I’d avoid majors like liberal arts (which have really low employment rates!) and go for a language with a study abroad semester or year, at a school that has a good core curriculum that will allow you to take lots of intro classes in all areas.

    • Janet Brent says:

      that sounds like a lot of fun.. especially the studying abroad part. I take it you’re still in France? Good luck on your business venture!!

  2. Leslie says:

    I started in Journalism and ended up in architecture. However, I went to Washington State University where there was a General Studies major which would have suited me as well. It’s an ag school, with veterinary medicine, engineering, arts and theater and education majors. There are cows on campus and farms around the area, and being isolated from cities you could just study whatever you wanted and no one turned you away from photogrammetry, fencing, music or animal husbandry classes. No one turned you away from anything for any reason. It was all opportunity. It’s a large school with a lot of different areas of study in one place. I recommend a place like that. Hm. How does one make cheese? I think I’ll take a class.

    • Janet Brent says:

      that sounds interesting. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make soap. :)

    • Emilie says:

      Washington seems to be like a great state for multipods to study in. My girlfriend went to Evergreen and when I heard about how you essentially get to invent your own major, I got really really jealous.

  3. Josh says:

    Janet, I probably went to the best college for multipotentialites in the world: The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. You can basically design your own path there.

    While there I did three “independent contracts” where I chose a teacher and a project I would do, and they would meet with me and I’d update them on my progress.

    I was basically allowed all the time I needed to study and work on my project. I made short films and an art installation, it was great!

    If I could go back, though, I probably would have spent one of those independent contracts trying to start a small business. It was actually a case of too much reading and input and not enough real world experimentation.

    My advice to my 20-year-old self would be to do something where there is feedback from the real world.

    “Your 20s are an experimental time to try things out and see what you like and don’t like in both career and relationships. Don’t be afraid if you don’t have it all figured out now.”

    I might add that your 30s are also an experimental time to try things out. I’m very conveniently of the mind that while people became true adults in their 20s a generation or so ago, that this age is getting pushed back. I like to think that 30 is the new 20, if that has any meaning, haha.

    “Some people spend their whole lives ‘figuring it out.’”

    I can relate to this, I’m only (already?) 33 but I’ve definitely spent a lot of my life figuring it out. Just getting

  4. Josh says:

    woops, I meant: Just getting to the point where I am able to see my interests coming together in a way that is doable / makes sense

    • Janet Brent says:

      Great advice for your 20s. I’ve also heard that phrase for the 30s and it’s *definitely* true in my case. :P So people are maturing later in life? I think the abundance of choices that we have is part of the reason.. modern day marriage isn’t like how it used to be either so there are so many different landscapes to figure out now!

  5. Annie says:

    Thank you so much! When choosing a uni and course this will help me a lot. Nice to know that I don’t have to have figured it all out by 18!

    • Janet Brent says:

      yes, you most certainly do not. I’m 30 and just now feel like i’m finally starting to get a grasp of what I like and don’t like and have a plan.

  6. Becky says:

    I have long believed that multipotentiality is a vastly underrated stressor. Thanks for writing about how to make choices – not what choices to make.

  7. Soheila says:

    Ever since I discovered this broad-as-life platform, I’ve felt like I’m taking a step closer towards my true self/selves every day. I’m still a senior, and the question “what do you want to be?” literally brings me headache. I’ve always had a hundred interests of fluctuating intensities. Whatever I settle for (for like 17 hours) never feels “just right”. So nowadays, I’m interested in mathematics, biology, cognitive psychology and linguistics. For now, I’m choosing biology as my first choice in applications as it involves many possibilities. I’m so glad that I found you at this age. Huge thanks from every single cell in my body!!

13 Comments Trackbacks For This Post

  1. If You Bet The Farm, Be Sure To Have More Farms | Riskology.co