Within the first two years of college, students are tasked with the decision of what direction to take their academics in. Choosing a major can be a daunting task, especially while adjusting to a new social scene, a new living space and most recently, a pandemic. When I first came to Emory, I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, let alone what my major was going to be. But after much trial and error and taking multiple introductory-level courses, I found the curriculum that most spoke to me and a world of opportunities to match. Below are five pieces of advice to help in declaring a major that will make the decision process less overwhelming. 

101 is meant for beginners

Introductory classes are perfect for getting your foot in the door with a variety of subjects. With 86 majors offered at Emory, there’s never a shortage of new courses to try even if the subject matter may be new. Looking to improve your dance skills? Try out some classes under the Dance and Movement Studies major. Want to try your hand at debating socio-political conflicts in class? Check out the International Studies major. You can enroll in as many introductory courses as you’d like, and you may even be able to discuss the major further with the TAs for the course or the professors. If you’re already an upperclassman, these classes could be perfect for picking a second major or maybe even a minor. 

Take advantage of general education requirements

General Education Requirements, or GERs, are productive avenues to widen your horizon when it comes to finding interesting courses at Emory. You might start out in a class with the intention of taking it solely for GER credit, but it might become one of your favorite classes you are taking that semester. In order to find your passion, be open to trying out classes that might be out of your comfort zone. You never know what class may spark your interests. 

Illustration by Alison Barlow

Talk to professors

If I’ve learned anything during my time at Emory, it’s that professors love to talk about their specialty. If you’re still unsure about your major, speaking to an expert in that field of study could give you that extra push to pursue a certain type of coursework. Professors can help you visualize what can come of a specific major, aid in the decision-making process and discuss what you’ll be able to learn throughout the major.

Every major offers something different 

Every major at Emory has value; if they didn’t, they would not be considered majors. As a student, it is important to explore courses in topics that might be foreign to you. Even if you have never heard of a topic or major, it doesn’t mean that you should avoid taking those classes. You may stumble upon a subject that could become your major, so have an open mind when browsing different classes, even under majors you may be unfamiliar with. 

Consider your previous courses

While taking new courses is great, there may be value in the classes you have already completed. There is a chance that courses you’ve already taken count toward the same major requirements. When deciding which major to choose, it can be very beneficial to see what you’ve already invested a lot of time into. This can help shave off courses for a specific area of study. If you’ve already taken a number of courses in a specific area, take a look at what that department is offering the following semester. Not only will this strategy save you time when enrollment comes around, but it also may help you find your next favorite course. 

With all that said, declaring a major is still one of the most grueling challenges you will come across during college. From talking to advisors to trying all kinds of classes, trial and error can feel impossible. But it is important to remember that a major doesn’t have to choose your future path but it can instead be a baseline for your learning.