Wednesday, February 15, 2012 myBiz Blog
Choosing Your Major...A Major Decision by Leah Butler

One of the most stressful parts of beginning college is choosing a major. Though people say it’s not necessary to pick one right away, the pressure comes when trying to schedule classes to make sure they’ll eventually count towards your major (whatever it ends up being). However, there are also those people who have had their major chosen since elementary school and they can be just as intimidating as trying to sort through the hundreds of classes and programs offered here at UW-Madison.

Personally, I was not one of those people. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was in high school….and thought I was going to Pharmacy school. That only lasted until I took the dreaded AP Chemistry test and realized chemistry was not for me. Just for kicks, I enrolled in some business classes my senior year of high school and to my surprise, really enjoyed them.  Coming into college as a pre-business student, I didn’t know what I specifically wanted to pursue, but was able to narrow it down pretty quickly. I avoided math-based majors such as accounting and finance and in the end, chose International Business and Management & Human Resources. My strong desire to study abroad and immerse myself in a completely different culture made International Business an obvious choice for me. As for MHR, I knew I loved working with people and enjoyed helping others succeed. The hiring, training, and development of employees is something I would like to pursue in my career and that sounds like a very rewarding experience.

Choosing a major is a daunting task that certainly takes a lot of exploring and thought. If you’re completely clueless as to what you want to do with your life, here are some tips that I found useful:

1. Expand your class horizons

Try taking a variety of different classes that count for general electives. This way, you are taking classes that are necessary to graduate, yet allow you to expand your horizons. You never know when some class could spark your interest and change your mind on what kind of degree you would like to pursue.

2. Talk to everyone

Talk to upperclassmen, talk to professors, talk to parents of friends, or anyone else in the professional world. Ask them about their passions and interests and why they decided upon their major. Also, talk to professors about different classes or what they like most about their area of study.  They might even be able to put you into contact with past students, now in the professional world, that graduated with a degree in which you’re interested.

3. Join clubs or groups that relate to your major

Knowing that I would be a business major, I joined an organization within the business school that encompassed a wide variety of business activities and included students of all different majors. I was able to meet upperclassmen and learn about different classes they had taken, internships and jobs they had held, and about their majors in general. This information and advice, from students who were in my position just a few years ago, was incredibly helpful and insightful.

4. Job shadow

A job shadow is a great way to see what kind of tasks professionals perform on a daily basis, and then decide if that’s something you would like to do in your career. Think about the people you know and any possible contacts you may have through them…do any of their jobs seem like something you would be interested in? If so, reach out and contact them!

5. Expand your interests outside your major

If you’re one of those people that have your heart set on a certain major, don’t be afraid to take other classes as well. It may be nice to break up all those business classes with an introductory science course or maybe a physical wellness class. Also, if you’re not enjoying the classes within your major, don’t be afraid to change it! It may be scary to think about switching and having all new class requirements, but don’t make yourself sit through classes that you don’t enjoy.

When deciding upon a major, just think about what you love, what you’re good at and what kind of skills you want to learn or topics you wish to explore. All of these are good starting points to get you thinking about where you want to be in five years and what you want to have learned in the meantime.

Leah is a sophomore majoring in MHR and International Business.  To comment on her post or tell us how you made this major decision, please email