On the road to choosing a major, who has the “right of way?”
Would you be surprised to hear that no one has the right of way? While certainly not a traffic rule you should follow, the reality is that there is no one way, or right way, for a student to select a major. The process is unique to each student, as many factors can influence the decision.
Don’t believe us? Here are some stories from current UMBC students about how they reached their final destination (aka – chose a major):
"Be adventurous! Do not be afraid to try new things. Personally, I never studied computer science before, but it sounded interesting to me. I enrolled in COMP 101, with Dr. Stacy Branham as my instructor. The course was challenging, but with the right support and dedication to my work, I passed the class with an A. Now, I've past all my gateway courses, and I am currently working towards my [Computer Science degree with a focus in] Cybersecurity. Anything is possible if you stay committed to your studies!" -Michael Unuigbe, Computer Science, Class of 2019
“Having gone to a magnet school specializing in engineering and science, I went with the flow, realized I had an interest in computers and electronics, and decided I would major in computer engineering. After some self-reflection, I realized that I really only liked technology as a consumer. It was during this period that I became very stressed and scared of what the future may bring. I was lost with what I wanted to do, afraid that I would not graduate on time, and had no idea what I could do to fix any of it. This is the point when I talked with academic advisors, the Career Center, friends, and most importantly, myself. I took about two complete semesters to mull over career paths and used them to focus on prerequisites and take diverse classes that would offer insights into what one can expect from a specific path. By doing this, I discovered a newfound passion for the world of media and communications. And let me be honest, to this day I still have worries, fears, and anxiety that even this is not the right path for me. But what is most important is that I found something that I enjoy, and know that it’s never too late to change what I want to do and who I want to be.”– Dalton Maize, Media & Communication Studies, Class of 2018
“[Biology] includes the majority of prerequisites for professional and grad schools across the nation and gives the most basic, all-encompassing foundation of knowledge for whatever health related field a student might be striving for. Even though I plan to go to Pharmacy school, which focuses more on chemistry, the biology degree allows me to take more credits to finish my degree since the prerequisites and core classes don't overlap as much as a chemistry degree and pharmacy school prerequisites.” -Jaden Todd, Biological Sciences, Class of 2019
“Throughout the process of choosing my major, I did a complete 360 on my perspective in the span of Freshman year. In high school all I enjoyed was chemistry, but starting college I thought that income mattered more than anything. I realized that engineering could easily land me a well-paying job after graduation, so it was what I convinced myself to be my passion. After seeing the requirements and 18-19 credit semesters, I let go of that major. I [then] convinced myself that Biology could be my passion because it appeared to be a flexible option that could still land me a well-paying job. Long story short: I saw a frog on my way to a bus stop, and nearly fainted when I saw it stutter off the path and out of my way; making me realize Biology would involve learning about animals I had no wish to see again. Instead of searching “majors that have high income” for the thousandth time, I realized I had to focus on what I wanted to do with my major instead of how much money I could make. I realized I have a passion for teaching, and to teach means choosing a subject I wouldn’t mind explaining, learning the ins and outs of, and possibly dedicating my life to. It was then that I [remembered] my underlying fascination with the dynamic nature of Chemistry, and realized that it is really what I enjoy. It is a tricky subject, but it is what I came to love.”-Malaysia McGinnis, Chemistry Major & Education Certificate, Class of 2019
As highlighted in these testimonies, the path each student takes to selecting a major is unique, and that is okay! Here are some recommendations, many of which were highlighted above, as you walk through this journey:
- Engage in self-reflection. The Career Center has several self-assessment tools that are free to UMBC students.
- Consider what matters most to you in choosing a major (i.e. – what factors will influence your decision?)
- Consider how your choice of major impacts your post-graduation career or graduate/professional school goals.
- Use general education courses to experiment with potential majors.
- Talk to people, including your academic advisor, network, and attend events.
- Consider minors, certificates, or double majoring if you find it difficult to narrow down your interests to one path. You can also check out Interdisciplinary Studies.
“What can I do with my major?” via the Career Center
List of UMBC majors, minors, and certificates
UMBC Academic Pathways (sample four-year academic pathways for each major)