Here's a list of things you can do to explore possible majors. Some are easier than others. Some may take an hour while others take a quarter. Some will work for you and some won't.
Whichever you decide to do, you should:
- Treat the process like one of your jobs or one of your classes (i.e., "This quarter I'm taking Oceanography, Math, Art History, and Choosing a Major.")
- Set specific goals. For example, "By the end of this quarter I'll attend information sessions for my top five majors, try to narrow to three, then meet with the department advisers for those majors."
- Work with advisers throughout the process. Advisers can be outstanding partners in this process. They can help you discover your own interests, help you set your goals, and can be a wealth of information, too.
Look at the list of undergraduate majors.Print out the list of undergraduate majors and cross off the ones you know you're not interested in. If you can narrow it from over 100 down to 10 or 20, you've really accomplished something. Follow the links for information about the remaining majors, including admission and graduation requirements, to further investigate.
Attend some information sessions.Many undergraduate majors offer 30 to 50 minute information sessions every quarter that can fill you in on all kinds of inside information: not only how to apply and graduate, but also research, internship, and career opportunities. You might hear from other students already in the major, and advisers and faculty from the department.
Attend a Roadmap to Choosing Your Major workshop.The Roadmap to Choosing Your Major workshops — co-sponsored by UAA Advising and The Career Center — are offered several times a quarter, and focus on tools to help you find a major that goes with your interests, abilities and values. There are often other useful workshops available on that website, too, offered by the Counseling Center.
Take a few introductory courses.Follow the links from the list of undergraduate majors for suggested introductory courses as well as the complete requirements of majors. Look over the list of Suggested Areas of Knowledge Courses for introductory courses that look interesting and might be potential majors. If you decide not to major in the subject, you can still count the course toward general education requirements.
Talk with department or college advisers.Department or college advisers are some of the best resources on campus because their knowledge of their department spans the continuum from minute details about degree requirements, faculty, and courses (e.g., "That course is only offered every other year, and you never want to take it at the same time as this class.") to broad intellectual issues of theory and philosophy (e.g., "Professor X's research all springs from her theory of X, Y, Z"). They can help you form a picture of what faculty in that major like and want and what students in that major like and want.
Talk with faculty in the major.Perhaps you're thinking of majoring in an area you're taking a class in this quarter. Go to office hours and talk to your instructor about his or her interests and background in the discipline. Remember: this person has dedicated his or her life to this subject, to its advancement and its dissemination. That's pretty powerful. If anyone could give you the bird's eye view of that major, a faculty member can. If you're not in a class with someone, ask the department adviser who to talk with. Faculty are busy, but they will be pleased that you're interested in something they're interested in.
Talk with students already declared in the major.To get the ultimate insider's view, talk with other students (like we had to tell you that!). Find out what drew them to the major, what they hope to do in the future, what the good opportunities are.
Talk with a premajor adviser.Since they are familiar with all of the majors the UW offers, premajor advisers can, among other things, help you compare majors. They can also serve as a great partner in your overall process of choosing a major. There are premajor advisers at UAA Advising, in the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity Counseling Services, and in Student-Athlete Academic Services.
Talk with a career counselor.Although majors and careers are certainly not the same thing, the same skills that make career counselors good at helping people find their career passion might be directed to help you find your academic passion. Go the The Career Center to see what they can do for you.
Talk with family and friends.People who have known you for many years and who know you well may have some insights that you yourself might not be aware of!
Get a job or an internship.There's sometimes no way to know if you like something until you do it. Work with the department adviser, The Career Center, or the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center to get some leads on jobs and internships.
Take the personality/preference tests offered at the Counseling Center.
The Counseling Center offers the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Strong Interest Inventory (SII), both widely used career assessment tools which may also shed light onto your academic interests. You may learn something new about yourself, may confirm what you already knew about yourself, or perhaps see things from a different perspective. In any case, it is fun to hear the interpretations. Only bad thing: the Counseling Center does have to charge to interpret them for you.