Published November 04, 2019
Undecided? Here’s How to Choose a Major
As our admissions counselors will tell you, it is absolutely normal to not know what you want to major in when you come to NYU. It is also completely fine to start out with an idea and then change your mind. But as the end of sophomore year approaches, you’ll need to home in on a decision. Luckily, our academic advisers are here to help you figure out how to choose a major, and there are lots of ways they can work with you as you find the right fit. Here is some of their best advice.
Stay Flexible and Ask Questions
Not knowing what you want to major in can be a gift. Think of it as an opportunity to spend your first two years of college trying out different options. “For most students, attending college is the first time in their lives they are able to tailor their education to their passions and interests, most of which are both intersectional and innovative,” says Loretta Owens, an academic adviser at the College of Arts and Science (CAS). “I want students to remember that their academic career is a time when exploration, discovery, and flexibility are necessary. You don’t need to have all of the answers. As long as you ask yourself and others questions that are true to you, you’ll find your way.”
Narrow the Field
You might not know exactly what you want to major in. That being said, you probably do know what you don’t want to spend the next few years focusing on. “When thinking about how to choose a major, consider your curiosities and passions. What would you like to spend your time doing and why?” suggests Héctor Perea Jr., an academic adviser in diversity advising at CAS. “Reflecting on your experiences and who you are can help you narrow down all of the potential majors to one that is a good fit.”
It might be helpful to think about broader subject areas at first. Are you interested in science, technology, math, or engineering (STEM)? What about the humanities? Arts and media, business, health-related fields, education, and the social sciences are other areas to consider. If you find any of these less appealing, you can eliminate them as options.
Connect with Classmates
Every student goes through this process, and you can learn from them. “Talk to juniors and seniors, whether it’s through one of our peer mentorship programs or other connections,” suggests Victor Velasco, assistant director of advising and retention at Liberal Studies. “Also, join clubs and organizations that will help you explore the different majors you are considering,” he adds. “There, you will be able to meet students in those majors and learn about their experiences.”
Talk to the Experts
You don’t have to choose a major without support and advice. You will have an undergraduate adviser who will discuss your options with you and help you figure things out. “I find that when I meet with students, they almost always have either an answer or a general idea within themselves already,” says Owens. “We uncover these innate answers once we talk things through together, because I can give them further insight into their educational opportunities.”
The more often you meet with your adviser, the more equipped they will be to guide you. “My approach always comes from the understanding that every student has different needs and expectations,” says Velasco. “They are navigating societal, family, and personal needs, and my job is to help facilitate that planning.” But in order to understand your needs, your adviser needs to spend some time with you, so get to know them early on. Your professors can also be a resource. If you’re especially interested in one of your courses, go to your professor’s office hours. They will have a lot to say about what it means to major in their field.
Pick Two—or Add a Minor
If you really can’t decide, then maybe a double major is right for you. Depending on your school and program requirements, you may be able to take on an additional major or one or more minors. There are a few different ways you can do that. “But to put it simply,” says Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Phoebe Kingsak, “NYU students can only select a secondary major within CAS. So, if your main academic interests are in one of the other schools or colleges at NYU, I’d recommend you apply to that program, especially if it involves an artistic review.” Then, you can still choose a second major or minor outside of your school.