Exploring Career Pathways: How to Connect Your Interests with Potential Majors

Navigating the transition from high school to college can be overwhelming for both students and their parents. Choosing a major that aligns with personal interests is a critical step in ensuring academic success and career satisfaction. Join us for an informative webinar hosted by admissions expert Maria Acosta Robayo to explore various career pathways and connect their interests with potential college majors.

Key Learnings:

  • Understanding Personal Interests:
  • Identify and assess individual passions and hobbies.
  • Use interest inventories and personality assessments to guide decisions.
  • Exploring Career Options:
  • Discover a variety of career fields and the majors that support them.
  • Learn about emerging industries and job market trends.
  • Connecting Interests to Majors:
  • Strategies for researching college majors and programs.
  • Tips for aligning academic strengths with career goals.
  • Practical Steps for Students and Parents:
  • Guidance on how to make informed decisions during the college application process.
  • Tools and resources for ongoing career exploration and planning.

This webinar is an invaluable resource for high school students on the verge of making crucial academic choices and their parents who wish to support them through this process. Join us to empower your journey towards a fulfilling and successful career.

Date 06/12/2024
Duration 58:48

Webinar Transcription

2024-06-12 – Exploring Career Pathways: How to Connect Your Interests with Potential Majors

Sydney: Hello, everyone, welcome to today’s webinar, “Exploring Career Pathways: How to Connect Your Interests with Potential Majors.” My name is Sydney Mantell, I use she, they pronouns, and I will be your moderator today. I’m also a senior advisor here at CollegeAdvisor.com, and as a proud first generation college student and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I have really loved giving back to the next generation of students as CollegeAdvisor.

I also have my master’s degree from Duke University, a Master of Environmental Management, and I currently work in science communications with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, as you may have heard them. So just to quickly orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation and then answer your questions in a live Q& A.

On the sidebar’s handout tab, you can download the slides that you see today so you can refer back to them later. And you can already start submitting questions through the Q& A tab as well. All right, so let’s meet our presenter, Maria Acosta Robayo.

Maria: Hey everyone, my name is Maria Acosta Robayo and I graduated From Harvard class of 2020 where I studied sociology and global health policy and where I was on the pre med track.

Um, since then I’ve moved over to doing, um, government consulting and public sector consulting. And currently live in D. C. where I get to do that. Um, both for D. C. and also for cities around the U. S. and around the world. And I really enjoyed being a senior advisor, a CollegeAdvisor for almost 4 years now.

Looking forward to chatting about, um, exploring career pathways.

Sydney: Great and just to kick off the presentation, we’re going to do a quick poll. So, we would like to know what grade are you in so you can go ahead and answer that question now, just to get a sense of. Who’s in the room with us tonight? We can kind of tailor the presentation even further. You can go ahead and answer that question and while folks are answering, Maria, I’m curious if you could just tell us a little bit about your major and what your favorite thing about it was.

Maria: For sure. So I’ll get a chance to talk about this a little bit more during the presentation, but even though I was pre med, my major was sociology. So I really loved getting a chance to learn both about the social sciences and the life sciences and kind of using the social science to put the STEM and the biology, chemistry and all of that into perspective in the day to day and seeing how even things that seem as objective or as concrete as some of the STEM sciences can vary between different cultures and different societies and points in time.

So I really loved studying sociology during my time at Harvard.

Sydney: Great, and yeah, I can’t wait to hear more about how that connects to what you do now and how that might have changed throughout your college experience. So I’m going to go ahead and close the poll. It looks like we have majority of people here are in 10th grade, but we also have some 9th graders, 11th graders, and 12th graders.

And then, you know, people might have answered differently depending on the fact that it’s summer. So we have a good mix of people in the room today.

Maria: Thanks so much. So we can kick off here with our 1st slide. So, um, where do you start when you’re thinking about exploring career pathways? Um, this is probably something that you’ve thought about since you were in kindergarten in terms of just like, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Um, but it starts getting a little bit more concrete as you start thinking about what school you want to apply to for college and things like that. Um, what career tracks are out there. And so I think one of the best places to start is just thinking about what are some of your personal interests. And so sometimes it’s really hard to just answer even that question of what are your interests, um, from scratch.

So I usually start with some broader questions about how you already use your time and what you already know, brings you joy. Um, so just starting from a place of you, of things that you already are familiar and knowledge about can be easier than trying to think of these hypotheticals. Like, what would I want to do?

What am I good at? Or what would I be good at? Um, so I usually think first about where do you spend most of your free time? So, um, this is outside of like the norm of sleeping and eating also kind of cross out times where you’re just like relaxing and like maybe watching TV or doing things that you just need for like mental health and wellness.

But think about when you’re doing new things, when you’re trying out different hobbies or when you’re using your hands, your mind to do something other than like necessary or required schoolwork. Um, where are you spending your time that might be in a given sport that might be reading certain things that might be, even if you’re on YouTube, like what are the type of things that you’re learning about or looking into?

Um, Another question that I usually ask students is if you had an extra two hours in the day, um, what would you do with it? And again, kind of mixing out the very common like, okay, sometimes I just want to watch a movie or when I hang out with friends or whatnot. But like, if you had two hours of the day to just explore anything, nobody’s grading you.

Nobody’s like, you know, keeping your time, um, on their mind. It’s just your time. Uh, what would you do with that? And sometimes that’s where things that are just your natural interest start coming up. Um, for me, for example, like if I had an extra two hours in the day. I would probably read a little bit more about some other academic interests that I’m really interested in that I can’t necessarily do during my time at work.

And when I’m done with work and I just wanna hang out with my friends, oftentimes I don’t have that extra time to read up on other academic interests. For me, that’s, um, I would really, at the moment, at the moment, like really interested in generational wealth. And so about an extra two hours, maybe I would read up more on generational wealth.

Maybe I would do a bit of a research project. So. That’s just an example. There’s probably lots of other ones that might be coming to mind. Maybe you have an idea of like a small business or thing that you want to try out. Maybe It’s a specific course or specific thing that you want to learn to do. Um, and so usually those things just start getting your mind warmed up to think about what are you good at, what naturally calls to you when you’re thinking about learning a new thing or using your time in a certain way.

Um, and then another question is what naturally, what comes naturally to you? Um, for example, um, there are certain, like physics does not come naturally to me at all, but biology does. Like biology, I understand it. It comes very easy to me. For other students, that might be switched. Um, but think about what are the things that you’re naturally Um, and that again doesn’t mean it’s like the answer, therefore, like, that’s the career you need to go into.

I am not a biologist, but it did inform a little bit more about the things that I wanted to pursue. Um, and if something doesn’t come naturally to you, that’s okay. That’s something that you can still work on and learn more about if you’re passionate about it. But one of the many questions you could ask yourself in this realm is what, what are you good at naturally or what comes easy to you?

Uh, and that doesn’t have to be just like a school subject. Uh, maybe something that comes easy to you is being personable and being, um, a social person. And I know that’s not necessarily like a degree in college, but when you’re thinking about business, when you’re thinking about being a good doctor, good lawyer, good, lots of these careers that are people oriented.

Um, that’s a skill that comes to mind or that’s a skill that’s important. Um, and again, it’s a skill that’s probably important in life, but especially in those people oriented careers. And so if you’re good at that, again, it’s not a necessarily an academic subject, but it could inform that maybe a career where you’re people facing is one where you would be naturally good at as well.

Um, another question here and just like, what are things that bring you joy or a feeling of accomplishment? Um, and like that doesn’t, again, doesn’t mean that that is a career you have to do, but you would hope that as you’re developing an idea of what career you want to pursue, it’s something that has aspects that bring you joy or happiness.

Um, so those are just some starting questions, and I think they’re going to share this stack with you after the webinar is done. And so you’ll have these questions, but they’re good to just kind of think through. Thank you. And. It’s not going to reveal everything, but it starts kind of putting some pieces together.

Um, so once you have a sense of what your interests are, how do you actually connect them to a potential career? Um, so I usually, um, advise the students that I work with to try to organize your interests and passions into buckets that can help reveal potential career tracks. Um, so what is intellectually interesting about what you enjoy doing?

Again, I mentioned like One of the things that I enjoy doing is reading, okay? Um, so, a lot of people love reading. How does that connect to a potential career? If you start thinking about like, okay, what are the things that you naturally gravitate to when you’re reading? Like, for me, it depends on the season.

Like, if I’m thinking I really enjoy fiction writing, Um, there is a sense there in which I like storytelling. And storytelling doesn’t just have to be a career in writing, um, like fiction or being an author. Like, there is storytelling even in what I do as a consultant. Um, a lot of what we do is like, Doing research to try to help identify different solutions that a client might, uh, to a problem a client might be facing.

And part of that is not just trying to find creative solutions, it’s also presenting them to the client. And so part of being able to be a good consultant is being able to tell a good story of what is this problem that we’re seeing and what are some possible solutions that we can, um, thing to use to address that problem.

And so that, again, is like a way in which I realized, okay, I really appreciate good storytelling in a book, and it’s something that I would like to see, I like to do. Even part of presenting this webinar is not just like reading off bullets, it’s being able to tell a story around this topic. And so, again, I would think about that as, um, Like one of the aspects that you might think in your potential that might be a part of your potential career Um, is there a topic or a field that you’re naturally curious about?

Um, so even if it’s maybe not a book, maybe it’s not something that like feels school like in any way But it’s maybe like what do you gravitate to when you’re like looking stuff up on instagram or on youtube or in movies or in books Um, and there might be something that is a trend there Um again as someone who studies sociology, I think that like studying what different societies and different generations like to look at and read, um, is just a really fascinating talus, like how society is moving.

And so maybe those are things that you’re interested in too. Um, I know several of my students, how much they love like video compilation or, um, like film compilation videos where you get a chance to see trends across different movies. Yes. That’s something that’s just really interesting and cool in like the normal world, but it also reveals a bit of a hunger to make connections between different.

Um, different films and like trying to make connections between what different filmmakers did, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to go into a career of filmmaking, but maybe you’re interested in a career where you are able to synthesize data and make sense of data, right? Putting different points together and drawing lines to see trends like that is something that even though again, in this specific scenario, it’s about film.

That’s a skill and something that you can use to do lots of things like from software engineering, to being a data analyst, to doing finance, like being able to spot trends is something that’s a really useful skill in a lot of careers. Um, and then, um, what type of skill or type of activity do you want to keep doing and want to grow in?

Um, so there are things that I was really interested in when I was a child that I’m no longer interested at all now. There’s things that I was interested in a couple years ago, even a couple months ago that I’m not interested in now. And so, um, thinking about the things that have stayed with me the longest, those are usually the passions and the activities I enjoy doing most.

Um, so. Looking back and thinking about your own life and seeing okay What are things that you kind of stuck with and you really liked and wanted to grow in? Um, can also help reveal things that you might be interested in continuing to do it to do in the long term. Um, and then what type of work life balance do you want to have?

I added this question just because there is lots of lots of interest that I think sometimes can also conflict with the type of work and life balance that you might want to have. I’ll give a personal personal example for me. I wanted to be a doctor my whole life. I did four years of college where I did my pre med recs.

When I graduated, I was ready to. Go to medical school, um, and then I decided that actually being a doctor didn’t have the, the work life balance that I wanted. It’s not the career track that I saw for myself anymore, just based on the stage of life I was in. And so even though I’m still super interested in life sciences and human anatomy, I think medicine is fascinating and I’m so grateful to all the doctors and medical professionals out there, but, um, that was not the lifestyle I wanted to have.

And so that’s just, uh, it just ended up being. Um, a lot of work hours versus family and life hours. Um, and so those are just things that as you’re thinking about careers, also chatting with people who are in those careers can give you a bit more of a taste of what that life would be like. Um, and we’ll talk a little bit more, um, about that in a couple of slides, but I just wanted to put that question out there of like, have you considered the type of work life balance that you do want to have so that if in the future, when you’re looking at different careers.

It is starkly different. You can kind of at least ask yourself the question of, are you willing to change your preferences on work life balance for this career? Are you so interested in that topic or so passionate about doing that career that you’re willing to change that work life balance? How much are you willing to give up?

Um, those are all questions that are helpful as you’re thinking about a potential career.

So then how do you actually explore career options? Um, so I wrote down two different paths that you can go about to do some of this research. The first is just thinking about a topical route. So if you start thinking about the topic that you’re interested in, so starting about topics they’re interested in learning about and being involved in to kind of narrow down into a field.

Um, and then you can use Google or another search engine, um, to, to search what careers exist in those fields. So an example of that is I was recently talking to a student who was very interested in, um, medicine and the life sciences and this, uh, student came up to me saying like, I want to be a doctor.

And as soon as the student mentioned that, I asked like, you know, what are, what are the reasons that you want to be a doctor? And it came down to like topically, like this person was really interested in medicine. Um, and in health. And so that was really great for me to hear because it wasn’t necessarily that that person wanted to be a doctor.

It was that they wanted to be in a career where they were able to learn more about medicine, more about health, which could be a doctor, but there’s so many different careers in which you’re dealing with, with health and biology. And so we were able to talk through different careers that ranged from Being a doctor, being a physician’s assistant, nurse, uh, medical technician to doing something in like pharmaceuticals or biology research or something very different, um, where you didn’t necessarily need to go to medical school.

Um, and so just talking through the different ways in which you can incorporate knowledge about a topic into a career is really important so that you don’t feel pigeonholed into, like, thinking, this is the only career where I’ll be able to learn about this topic. Um, and so that’s if you’re starting with, you know, Knowing that you’re interested in a specific topic, if you’re not sure if you’re what topic you’re interested in, or like what field you might want to look at careers in, um, I recommend maybe thinking about taking a skill based route.

Um, so this is thinking about like the skills and the ways of working that you enjoy doing, so that you can narrow in on the type of work you might be interested in doing. So, for example, maybe you’re someone who really likes to do things with your hands, like you like to be, You like classes where you’re able to build software, able to, um, not just learn about things in your brain, but actually put into action with your hands.

Um, this is one of my closest friends was, um, ended up being a biomedical engineer and they loved being in the lab and putting things together and like actually building things and manufacturing like small pieces that they can use to like build like an in ear stuff like that, where you’re like, you’re really using your hands and using machinery.

Cool. Um, so that’s, and that can go into so many directions. Like that can go from like my friend who was, um, uh, biomedical engineering to doing just mechanical engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, there is like mechanic, like there’s so many things that you could be doing with your hands, especially if you’re looking into like a trade career, like, uh, so again, things that you’re doing with your hands, uh, there’s research and there’s different types of research here.

You can go from like, life sciences to financial research to a part of being a consultant is doing research. Um, so maybe the way you like learning and the things you like doing is just like, Looking up and doing deep dives into topics that you find very interesting, and that could be something that plays out is you go really deep into Reddit threads, or you go really deep into like, again, different YouTube videos, um, so that sense of, like, really wanting to immerse yourself in knowledge could Maybe show that you’re really interested in the field of research, and that’s a place where you just naturally might be good at.

Um, maybe it’s teaching. Uh, maybe you’ve never taught in like a classroom as a teacher before, but maybe you have siblings who you’ve helped with their homework, who you help teach life lessons to. Um, maybe it is with mentorship or something similar to like what we’re doing here with CollegeAdvisor, where someone who’s gone through an experience before is able to, um, Compile their knowledge and share it with somebody else.

Maybe that’s something that you also enjoy doing and being, and being good at teaching doesn’t just mean like you have to be a teacher. Um, you could be, you could look into like so many other careers where you’re able to progress into being like a project manager or in a leadership position where you’re maybe teaching skills to other people who are working alongside you.

Um, and so again, that’s just helpful to get a sense of what skills you’re interested in. Um, and then again, kind of bringing it back to using the power of technology and a search engine to then see. What careers leverage those skills or ways of working most? So if you say like what careers, um, will allow me to do things with my hands, you’ll see a whole slew of things that will come up.

Um, same if you type in with research or teaching or any other skill that you’re interested in doing. So those are two different routes that you could take to learn more about what career options are out there.

So, um, what are examples of emerging career markets? Um, and this question is again, it changes based on one, who you’re asking. Like these are just trends that I’ve seen and that I saw, especially when I was in college of where folks were gravitating to in terms of, um, what majors they were, they were choosing, what career tracks they were doing.

Um, this will probably change in the next five years. We’ll probably change in the next 10. It also changes depending on the location that you’re in. Like if you’re in Silicon Valley, probably you’re surrounded by the tech world. Then if you’re in like Boston where it’s a lot more research and biomedical things, um, and like academia.

So it really just depends on where you are, but a couple of trends that I’ve seen, um, emerge over the past five to 10 years is, uh, an increase in, uh, career markets in sciences and tech. So that’s like computer science, software engineering. Artificial intelligence, especially over the past three to four years.

Uh, neuroscience, things related to behavior and how the mind works. Another sector is businesses in the trades. So a lot of folks deciding, um, they want to go into business, but not just to, uh, work for another company, but to start their own company. Um, so usually in the trades, there’s a lot of, um, uh, a really big need and gap in the economy right now for folks who are trades person.

Um, and so someone who’s able to. Start a business, um, and able to manage a company of trade is actually something that’s seen as like a potential emerging market. Um, and then subject area expertise, um, which is doc, like, potentially. Folks who have gone through a lot of, um, training in order to develop the specific skillsets.

So for example, doctors, lawyers, PhDs, et cetera. Um, so how do you pick a major based on your career interests? So, um, one way of doing that is just thinking about, okay, there’s lots of majors that are offered in a university. How do you know which one to choose? Are you locked in on it or not? Um, so you can change majors even when you when you choose one you can decide also to move on to a different one We’ll have a slide that’s all about that But I just wanted to bring it up as like you pick a major thinking that that’s one that’s going to help you with your career interest and so Um, a question I usually ask students to think about is like, are there academic requirements that you would need in order to complete your intended career?

So, for example, if you wanted to be a doctor and go to medical school, there are certain academic requirements that you need to do as an undergraduate in order to, um, to apply to medical school. And so you probably want to choose a major that will allow you to complete at least some of those. Again, with my example, I completed my pre med requirements in my electives.

That made it a lot harder because all of my classes were either sociology or my pre med electives. I didn’t have a lot of, um, other like fun classes because I decided that my major was going to be sociology and that didn’t include some of those pre med requirements compared to some of my roommates who were also pre med.

They decided to major in biology or chemistry. So just naturally a lot of those pre med requirements. Folded in into, um, those majors. So you might want to think about like, okay, is that possible at your school? Or will you need to major in something that will give you like a certificate or a certain number of classes?

Um, I know a couple of my friends who were at a couple other state schools. said that in order to study finance, like you really, or to like go into a career in finance, you really needed to take certain classes that would teach you these quantitative skills in order to do financial analysis. And part of that was just being in the finance major.

Um, again, that is not always true in every single school, there are ways to go around it. But a really important thing to ask yourself is Are there things that you absolutely need to take in undergrad in order to progress to your, in your career? Um, and so, uh, if, if it’s not, if there’s nothing that you need to take as a prerequisite class, then you could just talk to folks who are in your intended career right now.

And ask them what majors, classes, or programs of studies they found most, most helpful and relevant to their current work. Um, and that’s helpful so that you can figure out like, okay, maybe you want to really do this specific career that doesn’t need, um, A specific like number of prerequisite classes, but you know, if you are able to major in something specific, like if you are doing business and you really wanted to do something like business and finance, maybe your major is business, but you choose to take a lot of classes in finance that can help you supplement some of your business skills so that when you graduate.

You didn’t just major in business. You have the financial skills that you’re thinking, okay, these folks who are in my intended career path said all of these were going to be really important. Um, and so talking to people who have done the path that you’re thinking about will really give you some insight into what you could be doing in college to prepare for that.

And that could be choosing a major, choosing a minor. It could be just taking a certain number of classes. Um, and that can really help you get closer to that career. Um, so how do you actually explore majors? So maybe you’re thinking, okay, I kind of have a sense of what careers I want to do, or careers I’m interested in, but I don’t know what, how to explore the majors that are available to me.

So, I usually recommend that students start by just making a list of the schools that you’re interested in, uh, in attending and then looking, looking through the majors that they offer to get a sense of what’s out there. Um, you have to start someplace, like you could start by just Googling majors, but I usually think like if there is a school that is already of interest to you, seeing what’s out there in that school, um, and then cross checking that with what’s out there in other schools that you’re also interested in will just give you a more comprehensive idea of what you could choose to, um, major in.

So the way you would do that is usually each major in a specific school has a department of staff and faculty that teach those classes. And they’re in charge of like getting that major together for students. And so, um, usually they have like their own office or like their own floor of offices and they have their own website where you can learn more about the specific major, the professors that teach the classes, and then the classes that are offered.

So I would look at, again, the major and look at the specific website that they have for that department. And when I say department, again, I’m using terminology that’s supposed to mean like the department that teaches that major. So, for example, for the biology department, you can major in biology and usually your professors will be professors under the biology department.

Um, and so once you’ve looked through the department websites and have a sense of what majors interest you most then, then you can use that information to look up other schools that have renowned professors or classes in a major that you’re interested in. So, we’ll see. You looked across different schools and you realize neuroscience sounds like a really cool major.

Um, and you kind of cross checked across different schools that you already know about and said, okay, neuroscience sounds super cool. Let me then Google what universities have or what colleges have really good neuroscience majors. And that can give you even more, um, lists of schools that have that major that you could look into their programs and see, okay, how is this different from, um, The neuroscience major in the school I already looked at.

And that’s a way to kind of explore majors in a more structured way. Um, so how can you set yourself up for success during college? That can mean lots of different things. We’re like just talking about it, um, in the sense of exploring a career pathway. So there’s lots of different ways to set up, set yourself up for success.

Um, that would take its own webinar. And so we’re just limiting, um, the scope to thinking about career. Um, so as soon as you get into a college, it, I think one of the most important things you can do early on is meet with your academic advisor your freshman year and share your career interests and goals because that will be the person who will know a lot about what, what classes are offered in the school and can help give you direction as to what classes you need to take, um, what majors are offered, um, and which ones you will need to achieve the goals that you have.

They’ll also help you to create a plan of study so that you could figure out what classes you need to take each year, where you can be flexible, and maybe if a certain year you want to take a different class, how do you do that without like, Being really stressed the next semester. And so kind of building in flexibility is really important, but in order to have that forward vision, usually you need someone alongside you who knows the system really well, who can tell you like, Hey, if you decide to not take this class this year, you know, next year, you just need to be prepared to take two really hard classes.

And like, if that’s okay with you, then like, fine. If not, then maybe you might want to choose to like spread those out. Someone who has that insider knowledge is going to be super helpful to help you Set yourself up for success. Um, another thing that you could do is just build a network of professors, advisors, mentors, and peers.

So follow students who are, who are already in or pursuing a similar career path. Um, why? Because these folks can give you just a more comprehensive perspective on the career. So for example, for me, um, when I started at Harvard and. Just didn’t know anybody who was a doctor there. I started doing, looking for research at nearby hospitals, um, and shadowing opportunities.

And I was able to meet doctors who were able to be mentors to me and, uh, people who I really admired and really learned more about their career trajectory. Um, and just learned how complicated it was to apply to medical school. I learned more about what it was like to do life while, while being in medical school, then residency, then fellowship and got a sense of, again, that work life balance piece that I had no idea about.

Um, and it was ultimately something that made me shift my perspective and career. Um, I also met other folks who, um, in the sociology department, who again, I never thought I would use sociology, but. Saw how cool their research was and what their day to day was and um, kind of affirmed. I wanted to study sociology So being able to talk to people who are doing the career track that you want is going to be so helpful to either Help you pivot and help you to see that pivot early or Um, just affirm that this is like the career path that you want to go down Um, it’s also having that network is also going to help you navigate some of the hard questions that come up So as you’re investigating Is this the right career for me?

It’s really hard to do that on your own. Like you don’t know everything about every other career. And the more people that you let into that conversation, the more perspectives that you will have, um, and the more informed decisions you might be able to make. Um, and so being able to have that network is just going to help you through those questions and navigate some of the challenges that, That come with asking those questions,

which leads us to what if you’ve changed your mind about what career you want to pursue during college? What options do you have? So I just want to start by saying a lot of people do this. You might be sitting here thinking, like, I know exactly what I want to do. There’s nothing stopping me. Like, I That’s great.

I would say even so just make sure that you’re setting yourself up for in the case that you later on decide you want to change that you have the flexibility to do that. I was one of the people who have again, wanted to be a doctor since I was like seven, did everything in middle school, high school, college to try to be a doctor.

I had the great, the, the background, the mentorship, everything there to continue down that path. And I ultimately realized like I could do it, but really I would just be. Pursuing something that I no longer wanted. And so I really wish I would have afforded myself more flexibility to pivot earlier on, um, really just took like a leap of faith after I graduated to decide not to go.

It would have been so much easier to just go to medical school and become a doctor. Um, and I, there are times where I feel like if I would have explored more early on, I would have maybe had a variety of different other fields that I would have explored. Um, instead of now, like I’m, Doing really great work, things that I’m really excited about, but I definitely see myself pivoting to other things, and I wish I would have done more of that exploration earlier on, and I didn’t because I was so stuck on, like, this is the career I want to do.

So, I say that just to let you know that, like, even if you’re super fixated on a specific career, Give yourself the wiggle room to explore. If anything, it will either early on help you pivot or to just confirm that that’s really your path and give you even more motivation. So it’s only going to help you.

Um, so. Now that we’ve kind of established like lots of people do this, it’s very normal. It’s actually an advantage for you to think about different careers as well and explore other options. Um, I just want to say like, there’s also different opportunities and challenges based on when you decide to pivot, um, career tracks.

So if you are, this is why I was saying like, it’s helpful to ask these questions early on, especially your freshman year, because then you are earlier on in your college career, you’re able to, um, potentially even Before you declare a major, you could decide on a different major and end up not having to change majors.

You just change what you would have declared. Um, If you’ve already declared a major, it’s easier to change majors when you’re earlier on in like your sophomore year, because there is more years that you have more semesters to take classes in a new major. If you’re a senior trying to change your entire career, it’s going to be a lot harder because you only have a year left to take maybe classes that you need.

For completely different major, you might have to stay an extra year. You have to pay for extra semesters. Um, and so there’s different pros and cons. Um, if you’re changing between majors that are very similar, maybe the difference is only 2 or 3 classes. That’s not as hard, but let’s say if I was changing.

Major from history to computer science. There’s a lot of different classes I would have had to take. And so again, that might mean I might need to stay a couple extra semesters in school. Um, if I was changing between, let’s say, social studies and sociology, there’s probably a lot of shared classes there where it might be a lot easier.

Um, there’s also just in general, some majors that are harder to switch into than others. There’s some classes that, um, you would have needed prerequisites taken like your sophomore year in order to take higher level classes. And so maybe it was, it’s harder to switch into that major. Um, and this is where working with an academic advisor and building that network of career mentors and peers will be helpful because those are the folks that will help you again, navigate these transitions, kind of prod you to think about different majors, different career tracks.

Um, So before we go into Q& A, the last advice that I have for you is just take advantage of your freshman year to explore and to ask some of the hard questions about the career that you’re interested in. Um, freshman year will be the easiest year for you to pivot because it’s the first year that you’re in school.

You haven’t already had all these different classes under your belt. You’re, you kind of have a clean slate. And so really try to analyze why you want to pursue this track. What are the actual real opportunities and not just the things that you’ve seen on TV or that you’ve heard romanticized. Um, and what are some of the hidden challenges that you should really think through?

before you decide pursuing this career. Um, and again, that’s not to say that going through these things will make you pivot. Um, it could, and that’s great. Once you like, again, want to have the opportunity to pivot early versus later on. Um, but also on the plus side, it can help you, again, just affirm your commitment, your passion for this specific career.

And that’s going to give you energy to keep going forward in the coming years. Um, And then I mentioned this before, but just make a career network early on and then stay connected so that you could continue to learn from this network of folks who have either done your career or who are wrestling with the same questions that you are.

So that’s everything on my end.

Sydney: Great. Great. Thank you for that. Presentation Maria, I think that was really helpful and I know that I learned a lot. So we do have a question and don’t forget that you can submit questions at any time through that Q and a tab. Uh, but this question comes from a student. It says, What do I do if I’m stuck between two majors and do not want anyone else to influence my decision?

Maria: Yeah, so I think, um, taking a step back to ask yourself why you don’t want other people to influence your decisions, I think, As a student, um, especially like 17, 18 year olds going into college, there’s just so many things we don’t know. And part of the reason why we’re going into college is to be surrounded by people who are wiser and smarter than us and who have more lived experience.

And so taking a step back and thinking through, I am literally paying so much money or getting a lot of financial aid to be surrounded by people who can help me, let me take advantage of the fact that that’s available to me. In order to to have somebody come alongside and help me figure out. Okay. What are some of the hidden again challenges that I might be thinking about?

What are the career tracks? What are the different classes? Um someone who can invest in in you and help you find? um the the major that you’re interested in. And so I would kind of flip that question to like, say, like, how can you use the fact that there’s so much money going into paying these folks to help you to your advantage, to help you figure, to help you get unstuck.

Um, so that’s kind of the, my, my response to that question.

Sydney: Great advice. And I know that, um, a lot of people have jobs that are not related to their major in college. So. Does it really matter all that much? And could you kind of speak to how your major maybe doesn’t apply to what you do today?

Maria: Yeah. So I think sociology is one of the majors where it’s like, okay, unless you’re a sociologist and doing research, how is my job being informed by what I learned in college?

And I would say in my current consulting job, a lot of it is navigate helping companies and agencies from like governments to nonprofits navigate culture change. So. When things get really hard and there is maybe broken trust in a company, maybe there’s policies that have hurt people. Maybe there’s different structures and ways of working that isn’t working for the staff, but leadership can’t see that.

How can, how can we as like, again, me as a consultant step in and say, how do we analyze those problems? How do we come up with creative solutions? Um, and part of that’s being able to analyze, okay, what are the different, like, the different things at play? It could be power dynamics, it could be, again, like, how psychologically safe the place is, what are the different divisions, uh, and departments, and how are they working together?

All of those things are things that you have to analyze and think through. And I think in sociology, some of the things that we learned is being able to critically think about those What are the ways in which people work together? What are the different factors that influence behavior? Um, how do systems affect behavior?

And how do people affect systems? And again, these are all questions that sound like really theoretical, and they can be in like a theoretical sociology class. But I see them, like, take effect, and I see them play out. When I see different problems in organizations where it’s like, well, I just come to work and I can, you know, see when things are wrong, but like, no one’s thinking big picture, okay, what are the big picture questions or big picture problems?

What are some of the big picture ways that we can solve them to have that analytical mind is something that really helped me. Um, or. Being in sociology helped me to have that big picture analytical mind so that I could work with a team to zoom out and see what are the challenges, what are some of the creative solutions we could use to tackle those.

Sydney: Great. And what if students do know what they want to major in? Um, are there particular skills that might be important for success in a certain major? What are some ways a student could start developing those skills while they’re still in high school?

Maria: Um, and sorry, you cut out for a second. Can you repeat that please?

Sydney: Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. Um, yeah Just the question is what skills are most important for students when they like do know what major that they want to have And like are there specific ways that students can start developing those skills like early on in high school?

Maria: Yeah, so I think it really depends on what skills are what major Um Like that that person’s thinking about.

And so, um, oftentimes you can start taking classes that will give you a little bit more of like a content level expertise. Um, so let’s say you know that you’re interested in the field of medicine, um, but you don’t know if you want to be a doctor yet or like what career path you just know, like, maybe you want to major in biology or in chemistry.

Just because you’re really interested in that content. Um, one thing you could do is just take more chemistry classes, more biology classes, potentially classes that are adjacent to that. So for example, like I took a medical ethics class that allowed me to see, okay, I really love medicine. I think science is really interesting.

But there’s also this layer of like ethics that I wanted to dive deeper in in college. And so taking a medical ethics class in high school was really helpful to kind of help make those like little shifts and what I could see myself exploring in college. Um, and so that could be classes that you take that could be, um, extracurriculars that you’re a part of in your school.

It could also be, um, the books that you’re reading, or the movies that you’re seeing. Um, it could also be the folks that you’re talking about, uh, or that you’re talking to, who are, um, maybe people that you’re shadowing, or like people in the field that you’re interested in talking to. So all those things you could do before starting college, and can influence what you decide to focus on, um, when you’re in college.

Sydney: Yeah, great advice. And, uh, we have one question that kind of zooms out. So I’m going to ask the student, whoever submitted this question to maybe go into a little bit more detail and ask them another question. Uh, there’s a question about like, how do you start the college application process? And I think that that can be a pretty abstract question, uh, because I think that all of you are in a way starting the college application process right now by being at this webinar and starting to do some of that early on research.

So if you have a more specific question about the college application process, we’d be happy to help you out, but. Um, I think we’re just going to stick to the topic of choosing a major right now. Um, so related to majors, there’s a question saying, Can I pick a not so popular, a not so popular major to get admitted into the college of my choice and then change my major after or during my freshman year?

So does your college major affect your chances of getting into a school?

Maria: Yeah, so I’ve actually heard this uh, like, niche strategy several times from students um, when they’re You know, a lot of folks are thinking, and very rightly so, like, there are schools with low admissions rates. Like, how do I improve my chances?

Like, that is a totally natural way to think. Um, I would push back a little bit on that strategy for a couple reasons. The first is, if you are actually interested in a niche or not so popular major, And that is, like, true and genuine, like, go for it. That’s great. Like, go for what is genuine and true to you.

Um, one of the drawbacks, if it’s not genuine and true to you, is that the, the admissions office is going to see what classes you’ve taken. They’re going to see what extracurriculars you’ve done. They’re going to see what your background and, and, um, like, experience has been. And if you’re scared of saying, okay, you want to declare biology because, you know, Everybody who’s pre med wants to do biology or chemistry or STEM and you decide to do something a little bit more niche like, I don’t know, like Celtic studies.

Let’s just say something like that. Like if there is nothing in your resume that backs that up, they’re going to smell that strategy from far away. Like these are folks who are trained to be able to better understand how, like what, diverse community they want to create on campus. They’re trained to look through different student profiles and be able to see, okay, who would be a good fit for this college?

They know that strategy. They know that students are trying to get in, um, and try to get a leg up in any way they can. They’re going to look for if what you’re saying you’re interested in is actually true and has evidence or it’s backed up by what you, by what you’ve done in the past. And so I would say err on the side of declaring or saying that you’re interested in something that you’re genuinely interesting, interested in.

That’s going to be reflected in your extracurriculars. That’s going to be reflected in your courses. And that when you write in your essays, it actually comes off as true because if that’s another like tricky situation if you’re really interested in studying something in college and you’re saying that that’s what you’re interested in but then it doesn’t seem authentic in your essays either you’re not only gonna like probably not sell on like sell the admissions officer on the fact that you want to explore a specific major you’re also using up your essays and places where it’s really important for you to show your genuine self to say things that are not true or something that is not as true and authentic to yourself as possible and that’s only going to hurt you Um, so I’d actually really recommend not doing that strategy unless, like, you actually genuinely are interested in a not so popular niche major.

Sydney: Great advice. Thank you for that. Um, we’re gonna switch gears quickly and talk about CollegeAdvisor. So CollegeAdvisor.com‘s team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate the confusing and challenging college admissions process in one on one advising sessions.

We’ve already helped over 6,000 clients on their college journeys. And after analyzing some of our data since 2021 We found that CollegeAdvisor students are 3.6 times more likely to get into Stanford University. 4.1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt University and 2.7 times more likely to get into Harvard University.

So you can increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 minute to 60 minute strategy session with an admissions specialist on our team by scanning the QR code on the screen. And during that call we’ll review your current extracurricular list and your application strategy, maybe talk about some of the majors that you’re considering, um, in your college experience.

And discuss how those things align with your college list. Then we’ll outline the tools that you need to stand out in this competitive admissions world. So that QR code will stay up on the screen. And when the webinar ends, you’ll be automatically directed to a screen where you’re able to sign up for a strategy session.

But we’ll go ahead and get back to the Q and A. Um, so Maria, I want to ask you a question. Uh, what is the difference between majors and minors? And can you have more than one? And are there advantages or disadvantages to choosing? To either double major or minor in major in two things that are completely seemingly unrelated.

Maria: Yeah, that’s a great question. And college and undergraduate is like so full of new jargon and things to learn that it’s really helpful to kind of differentiate between these different terms. So majors and again, folks might already know this, but just to kind of have a level learning foundation. Um, a major is primarily like the number, uh, a department where you take a lot of your classes.

So let’s say like you’re majoring biology. It means probably a lot of your classes are going to be in the biology department. Uh, for me, sociology, a lot of my classes were in the sociology department. Different majors have different requirements of how many credits or how many classes you need to take in order to graduate with that major.

Um, so let’s say, again, in a hypothetical, you needed eight classes to graduate, um, with, uh, eight biology classes or classes within the biology department. To graduate with a biology major. A minor is very similar, but it’s less classes. So it allows you to take another set of classes in another department that you think is really interesting, could be related to biology, could be completely different, but you just need to take a certain number of classes in that department.

And usually again, major minor just means that it’s usually majors have more requirements. Minors have less requirements, but still more than like your average, like ad hoc, I want to randomly choose classes. Um, when you double major, you’re usually choosing two different departments and trying to, uh, take the, like, the classes that are required for that.

So, again, these are all hypothetical numbers, but let’s say you need, you can only take up to twenty classes in your normal four year period out of college. And you need seven for a specific major. If you’re double majoring, you Then you are using up 7 for one major, 7 for another, that’s 14 total, leaves you with only 6 elective classes.

Again, these are all fake made up numbers, I’m just trying to give an example of like, you could double major and have those 14 classes be for your 2 majors. If you, if there’s a minor that has 6 or less classes, then you could also add a minor in there. Um, some students do that, sometimes they really jam pack, like the majors and minors.

Um, it is not as necessary, like, There is a lot of classes that I took as a pre med and actually as a pre med, I took so many classes in the biology, chemistry, physics departments, but none of my degree says that like, it’s just on my transcript, but my major is sociology where I took more of my, most of my classes.

My minor is global health and health policy. Um, and then my pre med requirements were kind of ad hoc across different departments, again, across biology, chemistry, all these different departments. And so they didn’t feel like, Um, so I didn’t feel the pressure or the rush to like, turn that into a major or a minor.

Um, so that’s kind of the best way I can put those different terms into perspective.

Sydney: Yeah. Thank you for that clarification. And yeah, is it advantageous or, um, detrimental to have two majors that are completely different from each other or like, Is it easier to have, like, say, a double major in biology and chemistry than it would be to have a double major in biology and English, for example?

Maria: Yeah, so I think sometimes the straightforward answer is, like, yes, if they’re similar, then, like, it could be easier to, like, cross pollinate classes. So maybe a class that’s biochemistry can fit as both a bio, a biology and a chemistry credit. And so that’s kind of easy to double dip. However, I would say like as a student, or the like real more comprehensive answer is just, it depends on the student.

For me, like I really needed the balance between like hard STEM classes and like P sets and tests with like more. Qualitative writing classes like my sociology classes and if I would have double majored in like a stem Then I would have been pretty stressed out, probably burnt out mentally. Um, I probably, if I was going to double major, probably would have chosen a STEM and a more qualitative, like social sciences, um, major to balance that out because that’s what I, I would have needed to not burn out.

For other students, maybe they’re like, no, STEM is my jam. Like I love biology. I love chemistry. And like being just in that quantitative space was going to be a lot more helpful to them for them. It might’ve been easier to double major in something more similar.

Sydney: That makes sense. And yeah, a lot of the things that we’re discussing today are just so individualized that it really does depend on the student experience.

Um, what about students who do have those really broad interests and want to create their own major or they want to have an interdisciplinary major? Could you kind of describe what that is?

Maria: Yeah, so not all schools have this, but several schools, especially liberal arts schools, have the option to do this.

Um, like to create your own major, I will say this sounds really tempting. Um, I was really tempted by just thinking like, ooh, that’d be so cool to just choose my own adventure when I get to college. I will say it’s a very, like, strongly vetted, like, program where I only know of one person at Harvard. Uh, two, two people at Harvard who created their own majors.

And it was a process where, like, you truly had to sit down, make a proposal, get so many people to sign off on your, uh, Plan of study, like you have to prove why it was so different from what they already had available. Um, why would be different from just double majoring or doing a major and a minor? Like what was so special about this specific plan of study you had in mind that you needed to create your own major.

So a lot of the evidence falls off or the, um, not the evidence, um. Like it falls on you to make your case for why you need a specific major Um, and so and I think that’s that’s a good pushback because you when you choose to have a major Like an existing major you have so much support. You have a major that’s filled with faculty and staff who have been doing this for years And who can provide you that support when you’re making your own major you still have a lot of support from faculty and staff that you’re going to bring into your major, but you don’t have a whole department that’s only focused on your major to back you up and to support you.

And so there is a lack of support there. Um, and like, I came in again thinking I was going to do something like social medicine, something that mixes like learning about different societies and cultures with like medicine. And I realized like, actually, if I study sociology and I take my pre med recs, I’m going I, it ends up being a mix of those things and I didn’t make need to make my own major.

Um, so that, that’s the best way that I, I personally would describe that situation.

Sydney: Yes. You were definitely able to make it work with your kind of broad interest in finding those links between them. Um, what about extracurricular activities? Are there any extracurricular activities that are available to students that relate to your major?

And yeah, is it beneficial for students to join those kinds of clubs or professional societies?

Maria: Yeah. So there’s definitely a lot of different clubs that you can join. I think it’s more of a question of which ones do you want to spend your time on? You’re going to be pulled on time in so many directions from classes to friends, to extracurriculars, to networking, to career, um, like things.

And so you’re really going to have to sit down and think, okay, what are the things that I need that are requirements? So for example, if you’re going to be applying to medical school, you probably need to think about doing some research, doing some shadowing, like those are extracurriculars that you will need.

Um, but then, like, also, for me, for example, like, it was really important to explore other things, and so I did, um, some clubs that were in, like, politics, some that were in, like, outdoors and mountaineering, and, like, different extracurriculars that I was interested in just as a person, and it was important for me to use my college years to explore that, and so I would just prioritize what you need versus what you want, and try to, like, find a good, happy balance of both.

Sydney: Great, and we are running low on time. So if anyone has any extra questions, make sure to put them in the chat now, but, um, I’m curious to know if your major or how does your major relate to what you want to potentially study in graduate school? Um, and yeah, is there such thing as a pre med major at any college or, you know, the pre professional schools?

Like, how does that work?

Maria: Yeah. So usually there is like a pre professional path, which means you get some advising to help you figure out, okay, what are the classes that you need in order to apply to graduate school? Um, there are some schools where like, for example, if you want to do a PhD in astrophysics, you probably want to take some physics as an undergrad.

Like, there are just some programs of studies that in order to even get in, like, you would need to have, like, probably majored or taken a significant course load in it. For medical school, for example, like I had a friend who majored in music theory. She took her, her, uh, pre med electives and actually helped her stand out as like a non conventional applicant.

Um, someone who was really interested in medicine and also interested in music and how it affected the brain. And like that just made her stand out in medical school. And so I would look up like whether you need specific things for, or a specific major. Um for your intended grad school, but I would say whether it’s law school or grad or medical school or business school As long as you have certain like classes that demonstrate Like interest and again with like law school even that’s even more big.

You don’t really have law Pre law requisites that you specifically need unlike medical school But there are definitely classes that help express interest if you take constitutional law or like history of law or use history like That could all help. Um But again, unless like it’s a PhD where you’re really diving into a specific topic, it often, you don’t often need like that much, um, a specific major.

Sydney: Great, and I think I’ll end on one final question that I get asked from my students a lot. Um, Is it a benefit or disadvantage to apply to a school undecided? And what does, like, going in undecided really mean for a student?

Maria: Yeah, so it’s neither a benefit or a drawback. Like, it’s just, if it’s genuine to, like, you’re not sure what you want to study, it’s better to say that.

And say the things that you’re interested in, then to try to make up something that you’re super passionate about, because again, it’s going to come off in your essays and your interviews and other places. And you, the last thing you want to sign is disingenuous. Um, and so it just means that you are coming in ready to learn and be open minded about what career track you might want to do.

And college is a great place to explore and it’s meant to be a place where you’re learning lots of different things. And so I would just maybe recommend. Especially looking into liberal arts schools that kind of create or foster that exploratory space a little bit more.

Sydney: Great. Um, and that is a great question to end on.

I just want to thank you again, Maria. Do you have anything else to say? Any final words? All right. Awesome. Well, thank you all for joining us. We had a great time telling you about exploring career pathways and connecting your interest to potential majors. Uh, we do have lots of other great webinars here at CollegeAdvisor.com. And here is the rest of our June series. Um, thank you again for joining us and we will see you all next time.