How to Choose a Major: A Model for Major Exploration

The process of choosing a major is often riddled with anxiety and doubt, yet the experience of deciding on a major or changing from one major to another is common among many college students. A key thing to keep in mind is that the process of major decision-making is an active one. Students in this mode must actively pursue experiences that will give them the information they need to make their decision. Here are some steps you can take to help you with your major exploration.  You can also use our Exploration To-Do List to guide you in the completion of these actvities (Click the image to access a PDF).

UESP to-do list


Work to clarify your interests, values, and abilities.

  • Engage in self-reflection and ask yourself key questions about these three aspects of your life. Explore your Interests, Values, and Abilities for some of these key questions. (Adapted from Major Decisions with permission from the author.)
  • Access SIGI3©, a comprehensive career planning website.  You can take some basic assessment surveys through SIGI3© to help you learn more about your interests, values, and abilities, and then you can use SIGI3© to access information about majors and careers that might fit well with you as an individual. 
  • Engage in meaningful conversations with friends, family, and/or your UESP advisor. Often your interests, values, and abilities can be clarified if you articulate them to others. You can also speak with a career consultant in the Career Development Center to get perspective on how your academic interests relate to the world of work and visa versa.  Students also have access to personal counseling through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and this is a wonderful avenue for you to use to process and discuss how your personal interests, values, and abilities relate to your major and career exploration.

Research the majors available to you at OSU.

  • Look in your OSU catalog or visit the Admissions web site, to find a list of majors at OSU. Consult the catalog or the department web sites to learn about specific course requirements for each major.
  • Consider all possibilities. Don't rule out a major just because you're not sure it will lead to a good job. Most majors in college aren't preparing you for a specific job, but rather they prepare you for the job market by developing transferable skills such as reading, writing, researching, and critical thinking.
  • Make a list of prospective majors that you want to research further.
  • Take introductory or exploratory classes in academic areas that potentially interest you. Talk with your UESP advisor if you're unsure if there is an exploratory class in your area of interest.
  • Make an appointment with a college advisor to learn more about a specific major, or find out if the particular college which houses that major offers general group information or orientation sessions.
  • If your interests involve the Mathematics Department and/or their courses, the College of Science invites you to direct your queries to Bill Bogley, Head Advisor in the math department, and/or David Wing and Lyn Riverstone, Math Department Advisors, via this email account:
  • As you are considering a specific major, revisit the ideas you generated in self-reflection about your interests, values and abilities. Ask yourself - Is this an academic area that is a good fit for me?

Implement your decision!

  • Consult the department or your UESP advisor to make sure you meet the requirements to switch to a specific major.  Find out if there are any other specific parameters you need to meet to declare. Often it is just a matter of having them help you fill out a  "Change of Program Form" which you can get from OSU Registrar web page.
  • For most majors, you'll be meeting with a professional advisor in the department or a central college office, but for some, your advisor may be a faculty member. Try to meet with your new advisor as soon as possible to outline a timeline for how you are going to fulfill your remaining degree requirements.
  • Continue to have meaningful conversations with people about your choice. In particular, talk with your new advisor or professors in your new department to gain a better understanding of how you can use this major to prepare you for the world of work.
  • Consult with your new advisor or with a Career Development Center consultant to learn about what kinds of internship experiences are available to students in your new major.