The best way to choose your major is by making a well-informed and a well-thought-out decision following a step-by-step process. This toolkit includes some Exploratory tasks to do. Meet with your assigned University Division academic advisor to discuss what steps to take and set a timeline for making a decision. View the "Advisors and Choices" videos.
Ideally, you will be starting your exploration at the beginning of your first semester. No matter when you start, however, you should set a date for each step so that you narrow your options down as much as possible by the time you register for your second term. Then continue with the process with the goal to have your major chosen by the time you register for your third semester.
Use the iGPS plan to create an Exploratory map to follow. Exploratory “Degree Maps” are available to help you get started.
Exploratory Degree Maps
Go through the list of majors at IUB and cross off the ones that you are confident you are not interested in exploring.
- Print this one page A-Z list of majors.
- This first time through the list, evaluate each major based on what you already know, without doing any research. Ask yourself:
- Do I know what I would study and learn in this major?
- Do I want to explore it further or am I ready to cross it off?
- Use the Explore Programs tool to research the majors that remain on your list. For each major, click on the major to read the description and recommended first courses. Ask again:
- Do I want to explore it further or am I ready to cross it off?
- When you have finished going through the list of majors with these two exercises, the majors that are remaining on your list are the majors that you will explore in more depth in the next step.
- Some reasons to keep a major on your list:
- It sounds potentially interesting to you.
- You studied it in the past and enjoyed it.
- A parent, friend, teacher, or advisor recommended exploring it.
- It sounds like it may fit well with one of your potential career goals.
Below are some questions and resources to guide your research.
Seek advice from your University Division academic advisor about people you might meet with and what questions to ask them. If you are having trouble navigating through the online resources, see an IU Peer Coach for help.
Be sure to keep track of the resources you use and the contact information for the people you meet. Take careful notes. You will want to refer to this information throughout your exploration.
What would I study and learn in this major?
Read degree requirements and course descriptions and talk with people in the field.
What do I enjoy studying and what types of work do I find satisfying?
Expand on what you know about your values, interests, personality, and skills.
Are there specific career options related to this major?
Most majors will lead to many different possible careers, but it can be useful to learn the typical career pursuits of specific majors.
What are the marketable skills I can gain through this major?
Most of the skills employers seek can be gained through any college degree, but there are also specialized skills that can be gained through specific majors.
Will this major prepare me for the career(s) I would like to pursue?
You can find data about the typical qualifications for any given career.
Are there any special opportunities associated with this major?
Some examples to look for include: undergraduate research, scholarships, student organizations, tutoring, departmental honors, undergraduate teaching internships, and housing options like Living Learning Centers.
- School and Department Websites
- Search student organizations through the BeInvolved site available through Student Life and Learning.
- Explore Residential Programs associated with your interests.
- Talk with the academic advisor for the major.
- Talk with a professor who teaches in the major.
Review all of the notes, websites, degree requirements, courses, related careers, etc. that you have gathered for each major. Use what you have learned about yourself to determine what would be the pros and cons for you for each major. Talk this through with others, including academic and career advisors, the IU Peer Coaches, friends, and family. Take a systematic approach and create a chart to organize your thoughts. Continue to narrow down your list.
|Reasons this major is a good fit for you||Reasons this major is not a good fit for you|
|Things you like about this major||Things you do not like about this major|
|How does this major match your career goals||Concerns that you have about this major|
Once you have narrowed down your list to a few majors, consider an engagement experience that will allow you to go a little deeper to test your interest and skills and get a sense of the “academic life” of the major. Discuss ideas with your University Division academic advisor, especially those that involve taking a course.
- Take a course or a second course in the major.
- Are there Service Learning courses in this major?
- Talk with professors and associate instructors about why they chose to pursue that academic field. Do you relate to their passion for the discipline?
- Join a student organization related to the major.
- Talk with classmates and students in the major about why they chose to pursue the major. Can you see yourself in what they say?
The IU Peer Coaches are Exploratory Scholars who can help you navigate your IU experience and find your way. Read their stories and advice.
Josh, Computer Science major
“I wasn't sure if college was even for me when I initially came to IU, so picking a major seemed especially tricky. After doing well in AP Physics and AP Calculus in high school, I felt that physics could be a fitting major for me. I quickly realized, however, that not only was the subject material difficult, I also had no passion for physics, which made studying and doing homework that much harder. I was stressed and was not enjoying my classes and I made these concerns clear to my advisor who suggested I take an exploratory semester.
For that semester, with the help of my advisor, I took a wide variety of classes, which allowed me to find something I was truly passionate about, computer science. I found myself not dreading homework but actually looking forward to it. After discussing my experiences with my advisor, I decided to switch my major. It was a perfect choice for me because, while the material is far from easy, my passion for the subject makes the work quite worthwhile. If I would have let fear keep me from taking an exploratory semester, I would still be stuck in a major I did not enjoy.”
Chelsie, Informatics and Graphic Design major
“Please don't sweat it so much if what you thought would be your main path of study in college has completely changed. That's okay. Coming into University Division (UD) and figuring out what classes you want to take, and have to take, is part of the experience. How you can become your own person and find your strengths is by taking a class that sparks your interest, even if you don't know anyone else who is taking it or you think you need to wait until you're sure about your path. No. Take it. If you would like to graduate in four years, your best plan is to explore right away and to take classes that excite you.”
An ePortfolio is a website that is a bit like a resume in that it can used to record your accomplishments and describe your skills and experiences, but it can also be used like a planner to list your goals for the future, such as choosing your major, and to reflect on your progress. You can keep it private, make it public, or share with select people, such as advisors or potential employers. Below are some samples made by IU Peer Coaches and activities to get you started.