Choosing a college degree can be an anxiety-filled decision. While it feels like a decision about what you want to do with your life, try to remember that any choice you make can be changed, and in fact, at least half of all college majors are changed within the first few years of college. But getting it right the first time can save you time and money, so it makes sense to take a few steps that will help you figure out how well you fit into any degree program.
Assess Your Interests
Some of us are passionate about art or music, and some of us love numbers and the logic behind them. Whatever your interests are, start there as a way to find the best fit for you in a degree program. And once you know your interests, stay open minded to all the ways it can translate into a career. If you've loved animals all your life, it doesn't necessarily mean being a vet is for you. Look at all the jobs that could touch on your interests. For example, studying animal behavior for the more scientific mind, or opening a pet supply store for the more business minded. One degree would follow a science path, the other a business degree.
Assess Your Strengths
There are lots of online tools available to analyze your strengths, and they can be fun to take. Here's a link to a variety of self-tests that can give you more information. You'll find out useful information about yourself that can keep you from choosing a career that's a poor fit. For example, many new teachers drop out of teaching within the first few years, and one problem noted by school principals is the poor fit between temperament and what a teacher does all day. First and foremost, they have to control the classroom, and this comes easily to some personalities and is difficult for others. So it pays to think through all the aspects of a career, from interests to how it fits with your strengths and weaknesses.
Find the Professionals
It's really easy to have a vague idea of a career without a clear understanding of what the day-to-day job entails. For example, the common cry from first year lawyers is, "I had no idea I'd be doing this all day." It pays to find people working in the field you're interested in and either interview or job shadow so you can find out what their day really entails. Ask what they like and don't like, taking into account everyone has different interests. No job can be fun all the time, but if everyone says the same thing about a job, you should listen.
Investing in some time for self-assessment tests and research before you choose your degree program is worth it. It can help you decide which degree will get you the career best suited to your temperament and interests, and a good fit there makes it more likely you'll succeed in your chosen career.
If you aren't quite sure how you want to proceed, check out our resource that breaks down how to choose the right graduate degree.