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Choosing majors can feel overwhelming and even confusing. It can feel like your whole life can be based on this one choice? And then what happens if you figure out you don't even like this major? Well, don't worry, we're here to help. In this episode, Erica talks to us about what majors are, how to choose one, and how to know if you should consider changing your major.

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0:00 - Introduction
2:06 - How majors work
3:53 - Selecting classes and balancing your time
6:00 - How and when to declare a major
8:24 - Resources to help you choose a major

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If college were a video game, a major would be like the main storyline. Sure, there are plenty of side quests, surprises and achievements to earn, but a major gives us an overall route, where we take classes to reach significant plot points and checkpoints and savepoints. Hopefully lots of savepoints. It's a major choice, and a pretty important one. So students tend to put a lot of thought into it. That can be a hard thing to figure out on your own. Spending too much time in a major that isn't the right fit for you can waste time and money. Luckily, you have us. Hi, I'm Erica Brozovsky and this is Crash Course: How to College, a Study Hall series presented in partnership with Arizona Stateu University. Today, we're going to talk about how to decide what to dedicate your entire life to- just kidding, that would probably take a lot longer than ten minutes. But we are going to talk about how to decide what to spend your college life doing. In college, there are hundreds, sometimes even thousands of different classes to choose from. So with such a long list of possibilities, colleges build in some structure to help us wade through and create our own unique journeys. For instance, most colleges require students to pick a major, which is a student's intended area of study. When we choose a major, we take a set of classes that help us specialise our knowledge in a particular discipline, field, career or skill set. Our major becomes a guide for what classes we take and where and how we spend our time. In fact, a major is really what we get a degree in. So our diplomas, it might say Bachelor's of Linguistics or Associate's in Nursing. Like, my major was Linguistics, so I focused on English sociolinguistics and skills and knowledge that I could use in a future career. And this is true for all the different types of majors. Finance majors learn to analyze budgets and investment strategies, English majors learn to write persuasively, interpret texts and computer science majors learn to code and use software to solve problems. Ultimately, a major is an investment of our time. And that investment pays off and we level up our abilities by completing different segments that our college has set to guide our major journey. The biggest segment will be the series of courses a department or school lays out for a major, so that every student meets more or less the same standards. So students of the same major may take some of the same courses, like an introductory course or course in a special method used in their field. Business majors may be required to take accounting, chemistry majors may be required to take lab courses or philosophy majors may be required to take ethics. But there is still some choice involved, because many times there are several different paths through a major to reach the ultimate power up: graduating with your degree. So, some major courses may have prerequisites, which is a course you must take before you are allowed to take a more advanced course. It's just like how we usually have to take Algebra I before we take Algebra II. Other major courses are electives, which means students are free to choose from a list when selecting courses. Electives can help students dive deeper into a topic or hone a particular skill, or just explore a new area. For example, our director Nick was a Graphic Design major, but took film courses to round out his education. Electives can also be helpful if a major has the opportunity to choose a concentration, or an even more specialized area of study within a field. One of our editors, Shep, majored in English but concentrated on creative writing. Majors might also have the option of completing a thesis or capstone project. Writing a thesis or completing a capstone is kind of like a boss battle. It's a challenging research project that serves as the culmination of the degree, usually completed during your final year. So even if they have the same major, not every student will take exactly the same path. It's the best for students to talk through their plan for completing their major's requirements with an academic advisor, because advisors can explain when certain courses are offered and propose a game plan. Though you can usually also do your own research by reading about required courses for each major on the department's website. Some even have a 'major map' to help college students see what courses they need to take and when. At this point, the path from introductory classes to more advanced levels probably already sounds like a lot. Fortunately, there are ways to plan and manage your time and course load, to try and avoid being overwhelmed or worked out. As college students, we generally get to decide what exactly our schedules look like. For that reason, it's best to strike a balance. As we navigate major requirements and other obligations, it's important to make sure the schedule we choose is feasible. One way to do that is to balance your course load, because major courses are usually not the only required courses in college. Most schools will also have general education or gen ed requirements, which are introductory level courses in a range of required subjects. Gen eds tend to cover core academic areas like composition, social science or math. Sometimes, gen ed classes can broaden our horizons or help us discover potential majors. In the best case scenario, gen ed classes will feel like a useful and interesting adventure, rather than unskippable cutscene. Some students may find that one gen ed class is more difficult than another, so choose classes wisely. If you are already taking some challenging courses for your major, maybe pick a gen ed that you'll find easier. Think about it like prioritizing your quests. Ultimately, major courses and gen eds are helping us chip away at the total number of credit hours we need to graduate. Credit hours are like the experience points of college courses. Each course is worth a certain number, and they indicate how many hours per week students will spend in that class. So a 3 credit hour course means that the class meets roughly 3 hours each week. Credit hours can also give us a sense of how much time we can expect to spend working outside of class. A good rule of thumb is that for every hour you spend in a class, you'll spend one to two hours outside of class doing homework, studying for exams, or writing papers. So, if a student is enrolled in 15 credit hours, they can expect to spend 15 hours a week in class and 15 to 30 per week on classwork. Which is why being a full-time student is like having a full-time job, even though you're in class 40 hours a week. Of course different classes require different amounts of work, but credit hours can be a useful gauge for managing your time each semester. And if you plan to work part-time while in college, you can use this method to figure out how much time you can expect to spend on classes so that you can set a realistic work schedule. So really, all that's left is to actually choose your classes and major! It's a big decision, but not one that has to be overly stressful. Even before starting college, you'll probably hear the question "What are you studying?" all the time, and it's totally okay to say "I'm not sure yet." A lot of people start college without knowing what they want to major in, and there's nothing wrong with taking some time to weigh your options. In fact, some departments already have suggested classes for first-year students. Some engineering programs, for example, may want new students to take calculus so they know what to expect later on. And some students select a desired major on their application, but it's normal to remain undeclared for first one or two semesters for full-time enrollments. In academic speak, being undecided means that you haven't yet declared a major, which is when you yell your favorite subject as loud as you can from your window. Just kidding. Declaring a major actually just means formally telling the college what path you plan on taking by submitting some paperwork. But even if you do shout it from the rooftops, don't worry. Your major isn't necessarily set in stone. Many students switch majors when they change their career plans or simply change their mind. In fact, about a third of students end up switching majors. So pivoting is not unusual in college, but you should still think through options because it's not always possible to switch just like that. At 4-year colleges, switching your path late in the game might mean having to stay extra semesters. And extra semesters means extra dollars. And trade schools often specialize in degree programs or certificates for a set of careers. So if you start out wanting to be a chef and enroll in culinary school but they decide your passion was really heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, that's going to be tricky- but not impossible with planning. Community colleges can also provide several different routes. One option is to enroll as a degree-seeking student and earn an Associate's degree in an area of study. But we could also enroll to take college-level courses without committing to a degree. In either case, it's possible for students to transfer from a community college to a 4-year institution and save the progress they've made so far. When a student transfers, or switches schools, they can often use the credits they earned at the previous school to satisfy the requirements at their next one. These are called transfer credits. For students undecided on a career path, the transfer track at a community college can be a great option as it gets lots of required classes out of the way. Plus, you can get acquainted with the experience of taking college-level classes before you declare a major. However, the sooner you know where you'd like to transfer, the sooner you know which courses will transfer for credit. Generally, public schools are more accepting of credits earned elsewhere than private schools. But no matter where you go, choosing a major can require lots of reflection and planning. Sometimes, our career plan points us in the right direction. Like if you want to become a software engineer, the computer science major is likely pretty high on your list. BUt some of us are not yet sure what career we want to pursue. And some careers don't require us to choose one specific major at all. Many first-year students are surprised to learn that pre-med and pre-law aren't themselves majors, but programs to make sure you take all the required classes for med or law school that can be done with virtually any major. So it's worth thinking through your choices. A major may be the main storyline of our college career, but it doesn't have to be a single-player game. There are many resources available to help us decide what story will be ours and how to navigate its twists and turns. Let's go to the Thought Bubble. Say Jordan is trying to decide  whether to major in English literature or economics. When deciding on a major, one of the best options is to get advice from people we admire or whose careers we find exciting. We can also rely on admissions counselors, career services departments or academic advisors. Professors can help too, whether you've taken a class with them or not. Don't be shy. It's okay to email a professor and make an appointment and then ask questions about their field or their department's majors. Faculty and staff want to see their students succeed, and it's always possible to ask for coaching from the experts. There are tons of great online resources for choosing a major as well. Check out our Study Hall channel where you will find Fast Guides to college majors, which takes a closer look at many areas of study and what career path those majors can open for you. Click the card or the link in the description. You can also use websites like College Navigator or Big Future to learn about degree programs. And students sometimes try sitting in on a course in order to get a better sense of how a topic is taught and what a given department teaches. When a student sits in on a course for an entire semester, that's called auditing and it can be a useful tool for making decisions about what to study next. Although, it's worth mentioning that you need prior permission from the course instructor to do this. As you satisfy gen ed requirements, you may find yourself wanting one or two more courses in that topic. That can be helpful as well, and if you don't end up using those courses to count towards your major, they could always become part of a minor, or a secondary area of focus. Taking classes and talking to professors is always going to be a great option to learn about majors. Thanks, thought bubble. Remember, a major is an investment. One day, when you interview for a job, the major you choose might help you explain how you developed your passions and interests into marketable skills. And no matter how many wrong turns you take or how many classes or credit hours you squeeze in, remember. Ultimately college is teaching us how to learn, which we'll keep doing for the rest of our lives. Thanks for watching this episode of Crash Course: How to College. This series is part of an expanded programme called Study Hall. Crash Course is partnered with Arizona State University to launch Study Hall on its own channel. Check out where you'll find more tips about navigating college, choosing a major plus foundational courses connected to college credit courses, what students struggle with most in their first two years. I'll see you over there.