How To Find the Major That’s Best For You

by Rachael Wisely


“What’s your major?”

This question is probably the #1 most FAQ at any university and Ave Maria is no exception. It’s a foolproof way to break the ice and make small talk when starting at a new school and meeting new people. But it’s not an easy question to answer, and a lot of thought needs to go into making the decision.

Personally, finding the best major for me was a bit of a roller coaster. As a freshman, I declared a Literature major with minors in Music and Shakespeare in Performance. My passions truly lie in music and acting. For as long as I can remember, both have been a very important part of my life, yet, by the end of the year, I was in a crisis.

I was persuaded into thinking that music, or any impractical major, wasn’t worth it. I was surrounded by a world that believed practicality was the road to success and anything else would surely lead to failure. I did well in math and science, so I knew I would do well if I pursued the “practical” path and became a doctor or a physician’s assistant.

If I studied that it would get me a real job and, therefore, a secure future.

So as my sophomore year began, I changed my major to biology and threw myself into biology classes. Simultaneously, I found that there were other areas where I could pursue music without having to be in the music department, so I dropped the minor.

Lastly, I registered for the Sophomore Success program.

The program helped me immensely. Through it, I discovered my top five traits, or strengths, and received advice on how to pursue a career path suited for me. These tools helped me better understand myself and how to search for a career (you can find a link to the “Choose a Major” page, which talks about the Sophomore Success program).

Following the Sophomore Success program, I took advantage of a lot of opportunities. I attended an intensive workshop for a Shakespeare graduate program, I spent ten days travelling through Italy, I was a costume intern and performer for a three week community theater camp, and I was part of a logistics team at a conference for Catholic thinkers and artists. I loved all of it, and the experiences led to a sudden realization.

I realized that I had been having the same conversation over and over again. For the last two and a half years, I had been speaking with mentors, teachers, and friends to help me figure out what to do with my life, and the one thing they kept saying was this:

“You’re definitely talented in the area of science, but it doesn’t seem to be what you’re passionate about.”

In the end, what mattered was what I was most passionate about, and that would be performance—whether it’s singing, dancing, or acting—literature, art, philosophy, and just people in general. As it turns out, Ave Maria has a major that includes all of those things: Humanities.

Interestingly enough, Humanities kept coming up in these conversations about my future, but I didn’t know anything about Humanities. I grew to learn more about the major and the people who studied it, but kept pushing the thought away. It wasn’t until a conversation I had with a friend that reality smacked me in the face: I am that kind of person. My passion and interest was drawing me in that direction, it just took me a while to catch up to them. Everyone else saw it but me.

This tale is not meant to convince you that Humanities is the best major. Rather, it’s how I came to find the best major for me. Yes, it takes some time, exploration, (a couple of mental breakdowns!), and a lot of discernment. But there is a process involved in choosing your major, and the work is completely worth it.

So here I am, a junior at Ave Maria pursuing a Humanities major and a minor in Shakespeare in Performance and I am happy

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of tips based on my experiences.

1. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it. You, and your strengths, will flourish if you pursue your passions. They will form you to be the best version of yourself.

2. A major is not a career. There are careers that require you to study a particular major (accountants, nurses, psychologists, etc.). But no major requires you to get a certain job. Consider your career choice and your major choice at the same time, but view them as separate issues.

3. Get involved. Sit in on classes you don’t take that are on subjects you’re interested in. Pay a visit to clubs you find intriguing. It’s hard to decide where to dive in if you haven’t at least dipped your toes in the water.

4. Talk to mentors, teachers, and friends so they can help you find yourself. Sometimes they will have insights into your character and interests that escape you. The Sophomore Success program is an excellent outlet for this discovery, and if you are a junior or senior you can still participate in the strengths assessments and mentoring that comes through the program.

5. It’s okay if you don’t have a particular career in mind when you start out. That’s part of the discovery. A major that best forms you as a well rounded person will naturally lead you in the direction of a career best suited for you.

6. Take advantage of opportunities! I cannot stress this enough. Look into internships, jobs, and other programs—whatever you can get your hands on. Pursue and persevere, and you will see doors opening (and sometimes closing, but that’s okay) all around you.

7. It’s okay to pursue what you want to. It’s okay to be happy with what you’re pursuing. If you can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that you want to try something else, you are better off looking into it.

8. Visit the Career Office in the Library Room 160 to find people who will walk you through your major choice.

9. Pray about it. Discern it. God will never lead you astray, even if it seems like he is sometimes taking you on a detour.

It’s my hope that you apply at least a couple of these to your own search!

So let me ask you: what’s your major?