How do you pick a college when you have no idea what you want to do as a career?

First of all, its ok to be undecided about your future career. Exploratory is often the most popular freshmen major. College will expose you to new subjects and specialties that you didn’t even know existed. However, knowing what you want to study can help you stay on track and graduate on time as well as do internships that help prepare you (and make you competitive) on the job market. It can also help you find a school that offers the right programs for your interests. But how do you take those interests and convert them to a major? There are a few ways.

Career Assessments can be great tools to explore your interests. If your school uses a college or career planning software like Scoir, Naviance or Xello, take the free career assessments on those tools and review them with your school counselor. If your school doesn’t have these resources there are many online career assessments (but some do charge you for the exam or a counseling appointment). Career Explorer is a good one, as is Do What You Are. There are also “career quizzes” these are not full-blown career assessments (which are typically based on years of research and data), but they are fun and can give you a sense of your personality and what careers might interest you. Two we like are 16personalities.com and Princeton Review’s Career Quiz.

Many states publish career guides, “Hot job” lists or provide free career resources for students or job seekers. Visit your state’s department of workforce development or employment agency to see what resources might be available. For example, Indiana has a website Indiana Career Ready with lists of in-demand jobs and videos. CareerOneStop has great videos to help students explore careers, although they are aimed at young children.

If you are still completely unsure what you want to do, consider attending a college that has a strong exploratory program. Use college search engines like collegeboard.org, Cappex.com or your school’s programs (Naviance, Xello, Scoir) to learn more about exploratory major programs. When visiting schools or attending virtual information sessions, ask how exploratory programs work at the campus. Ideally the program would include an advisor who helps identify your interests, schedules you for a series of classes that expose you to subjects related to those interests, while fulfilling graduation and core requirements.

Liberal arts colleges can be a great place to explore as they typically have a curriculum that incorporates many disciplines into the core requirements. Large universities have many options and majors, but sometimes (not always) they do admission (and scholarships) by major. Check the colleges’ webpages or speak to an admissions counselor to understand how they structure admissions, the design of the core curriculum, and ability to explore before declaring a major. Also, be careful. If a school does admission by major, and some programs are very competitive (think engineering, nursing, and computer science)–will you get into those majors if you don’t apply as an entering freshmen.

There are jobs that have yet to be invented. College will expand your world and expose you to new people, ideas and possible careers. While some may know exactly what they want to do, others will change their major two or three times. There is a perfect place (and major and career) for everyone–some just take a little more work to find.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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