Choosing a Major

how to choose major

I learned this technique in my Decision Making Analysis class in grad school.

I learned this technique and I was completely infuriated that I hadn’t learned this in high school. Or even before high school. I mean, we start making decisions at a pretty young age, and bad decisions at that. Am I the only one that felt PARALYZINGLY overwhelmed when it came time to choose a college or a major?

First, I have a crazy analytic brain. Maybe you don’t and this won’t help you. But I have to share because I feel that it will sincerely help someone, and one person would be enough.

So, first a story from my past. The questions start so young. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer, “I don’t know” is only valid for so long. And that deadline seemed to be senior year of high school. I worked myself up into a tense, panicky, not fun version of myself, willing the vision to just come to me. It didn’t. I went to college thinking I wanted to do interior design and that I would transfer to a school that offered it after a year. In the mean time, I was an undeclared major. Being an undeclared major means that you are sub-par. You have to go to seminars and start getting your life together (at least at my alma mater), so eventually I just chose the major that had the best reputation at my school. It hasn’t turned out so bad for me. But I don’t recommend this tactic.

First and foremost I want to tell you that the deadline is not senior year. I promise. But I know that doesn’t ease the anxiety. You should still definitely make an informed decision when choosing a major.

Alright, enough about me. Onto the goods!

This is what my decision making chart should have looked like in high school when choosing a major. Hint: I think I made the wrong decision.

This looks confusing, but it’s really simple. First list out your choices for a major. Then, make a list of the pros and cons. Put them all in the list under the corresponding choices. Now rate each option based on how good or bad the pros and cons are (-100 being very bad, 0 being neutral, 100 being very good). That’s column 1. Column 2 is how likely each pro and con is to happen, with 0 meaning it won’t happen, and 100 meaning that it definitely will happen. Then we multiply across the columns and get a sum for each major.


Basically, the major with the highest total should be your best choice. I’ve done this a few times for a few different decisions, and sometimes it actually makes me realize which option I really wanted to win. And that’s important too.

If that seems like too much work to get your future in order, no worries! I’ve happily provided a free downloadable spreadsheet that will do some of the work for you.


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