College Planning

Planning ahead is vital.

Future success rests on the choices and decisions we make today. For students, adults and the advisors who support and guide them, Career Key career advice and career assessments open the door to opportunity and well-being. Click on the Career Link to find out more.



Major studies in recent years show great promise -- the closer the match between students' personality and their college major, the more likely they are to succeed. Click on the link above to find out more.

A college major is a set of courses and much more. You want to be informed and make a good decision.

A Set of Courses. A college major is a group of courses required by a college in order to receive a degree –– an area you specialize in, like Accounting or Chemistry. There are certain "core courses" in the specialization that everyone is required to take, along with several "elective courses". A college major may be called an "academic major", "major", or "major concentration".

If the "core courses" are in more than one academic department, it may be called an "interdisciplinary major" –– like, Arts Administration, Psychobiology, or Philosophical Psychology.

"College major" is normally used when talking about 4–year college programs, but on the Internet it is also used by community colleges to guide you to descriptions of their "Programs of Study", "Programs" or "Training Programs" (that lead to a credential or 2–year associate degree).

Many Bachelor's (4–yr.) degree programs have you choose a major at the end of their Sophomore year. Read "What are Liberal Arts, Humanities & General Studies Majors?" to learn what these majors are – their benefits and challenges.

Other colleges encourage you to choose a major when you apply for admission (some require it).

Much More. It is an important life decision. The major you choose will affect:

  • your college success and happiness,
  • your future career,
  • who you associate with during and after graduation, and
  • how you see yourself and the world around you.

You want to:

  1. Consider choosing a major before you choose a college to attend. There are good reasons for considering this, even though most people don't. You want to weigh the pros and cons carefully. At the end of this article, some of the potential advantages are listed.
  2. Consider when you "declare" (commit to) a major. In many colleges you do not begin your major studies until your junior (3rd) year. For some students, however, it is important that they start in their first year of college. Does it matter to you? If so, you want to consider this when you choose a college to attend.
  3. Consider majors that match your personality. Studies show that the degree of match will likely affect your college grades, whether you stick with your major, and if you graduate on time. Read "Personality–College Major Match – Why it is Important".
  4. Consider the "college major environment" that is best for you. When you choose a college major you are choosing an environment that will affect how successful and happy you are in your major. You are choosing to work with people – professors and students – who create an environment – one that encourages students with a certain personality, and often discourages students with a different personality. 
  5. Consider how you are making your decision. It is a big decision, and you want to make a good one. Read the article "High-Quality Decision Making" to learn a simple and practical approach, one based on scientific evidence. It will lead you through four essential steps.

Potential Advantages of Choosing a Major Before Deciding on a College.

  1. You have the opportunity to choose among the colleges that have the major that interests you. You choose the one that best fits you.
    For example, in weighing the pros and cons of the schools having a major that interests you –– you may find one that is significantly less expensive, or is in a better location.
  2. You can time when you begin your major. Many colleges structure their Bachelor's degree programs so that you do not begin your major studies until your Junior year. You take general studies or liberal arts courses beforehand.
    Other colleges have you start your major in your Freshmen year. Deciding on your major before entering college gives you the freedom to decide when you want to start your major studies.
  3. You can decide the extent to which you take courses outside your major. You may find that courses outside your major are stimulating, eye–opening ... that they help you become a more knowledgeable, "educated" person. 
    On the other hand, being in courses that do not fit your interests or personality may negatively affect your grades and happiness.