If you're heading to college in the fall, you're probably about to attend summer orientation and sign up for your fall classes. But how do you know what classes to take? Or even what major to pursue? Here are some tips to help make your decision easier.

Choosing your major

1. Reflect on your interests. 

Not everyone goes to college knowing what they want to major in. Many students go through their first semester, or even year, undeclared. One of the best ways to decide on your major is to think about what your interests are. If you are fascinated by politics, maybe you should consider a political science degree. Maybe you really enjoy writing; try out English. Your degree is your decision, so feel free to explore what makes you happy.

2. Try out introductory classes.

Many introductory classes across majors are included on the list of general credit requirements (see below). If you are unsure what major you would like, choose to take classes you haven’t tried in the past but that pique your interest. Instead of a literature class, try out an art class or philosophy. Rather than geography, try anthropology or economics. There are a lot of possibilities within the general requirements to see what would be a good fit for you.

3. Don’t get discouraged or stressed out.

So many people will ask you what your major is, and it is perfectly all right to not know yet. Your first year of college is your first chance to really see what you enjoy and what you would be happy making a career out of. Not everyone has it figured out yet, and it is not a big deal to still be shopping around for a major. Just stay calm and enjoy the different possibilities at your fingertips.

Choosing your fall classes

4. Consult the general credit requirements.

At any university, there are certain credit requirements that every student must fill before graduation. These credits are typically your math, science, English and history options, with a few additional subjects. Look at the requirements for your university and decide the best way for you to tackle them. Some people finish them all in their first year to make way for their major-specific courses, but others spread them out as much as possible. Talk to your advisor and decide how you want to handle these.

5. Consult the degree requirements for your major.

If you are lucky enough to head into college knowing what degree you want, look over the requirements specific to your degree. Often there are prerequisites you must complete before you can apply to be enrolled in a major. Sometimes those prerequisites coincide with your general requirements, so cross-referencing course requirements can help you decide what classes to start with and knock out two birds with one stone.

It can be overwhelming when you start to look at all the classes you must take in college, but you have plenty of time to take care of it all. Unless you have extenuating circumstances, don’t overload your schedule just because you’re afraid you won’t finish. Make sure you leave yourself time to relax and adjust to college life because it is different (but it’s a good different). Remember to pursue your interests and try new things to find the perfect fit for you. And enjoy your first year!


Brittany Riley

is majoring in Journalism and Media Studies with an emphasis in News and Multimedia Journalism, as well as a minor in Political Science. She works for UNC's campus newspaper, The Mirror, as a sports reporter and for the campus news station, Bear News, as a sports anchor. After graduation, her goal is to get a job working at ESPN as an anchor.