Every year, there is a great number of incoming international students in U.S. colleges who have not yet figured out what they want to study over the course of four years. If you are one of those, please do not feel too nervous or stressed out. I have seen many people switch their majors after two years.
This includes those students going to top-notch schools in the U.S. News rankings. Therefore, I want to help you make a more informed and wiser decision by laying out a few steps new international students can take to choose a major.
1. Ask yourself if you want to stay in the U.S. after graduation: This question is perhaps the most essential that every international student has to consider. A lot of students want to stay in the U.S. to work and pay off the money that their parents have spent to get them into college, or because they simply think that staying will be more beneficial than going back. These students will usually major in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, since many companies in the U.S. are looking for workers with these skills.
If you aspire to work in the U.S. after graduation, yet choose a liberal arts degree or one that is not in demand, your chances of fulfilling your ambition may be significantly lower.
2. Review SAT scores and transcripts to determine your academic capabilities: Although these may not be the most reflective tools to evaluate your intellectual capacity, they can be informative. A strong SAT chemistry or biology score suggests that you will be well prepared to take on a premed major. If you are wondering whether you will make a good CPA, your SAT critical reading and math scores may be a telling sign.
A lot of people make a mistake in choosing their major by not looking back at their academic performance, yet still go on and choose a difficult major. I have seen a friend who got a B-plus in her Honors Biology class in high school, and had to drop out of Biology 101 in college. Thus, it is extremely crucial that you know where you stand and what you are good at before making this big decision.
3. Listen to your parents: Some international students may disagree, arguing that their parents do not know what the U.S. educational system is like, or that they don’t know as much about the U.S. as their children.
But parents are usually the ones who know you the best, perhaps even better than you know yourself. Many parents also went to college, so they experienced a similar process. I have had many academic advisers in college, yet I have not found a better mentor than my father, who always gave me deliberate opinions on what I should do to prepare for my future.
You may feel the urge to follow your heart or want to act on the saying, “Do what you like, and you won’t work a day in your life,” but sometimes, those sparks of interest will be short-lived or not beneficial to your long-term future. Therefore, it is critical that you stay rational, and ask the right people for advice.
4. Talk to other international students: Spend time talking with other, senior international students, since they have been where you are, done what you are doing and perhaps have valuable experience that you may benefit from. It is helpful if these students attend your school, because they will know the curriculum well enough to give you insightful reviews of each major.
Before I declared as an accounting major, I did not know that my school had a strong accounting program. This was because it had spent more time promoting its liberal arts curriculum. Yet after talking to a senior international student, who recently got her internship at one of the largest accounting firms in the country, I knew that switching to this major will give me a better career prospect.