Dr. Way's Guide to Picking a College & Major

Selecting a college or university and an undergraduate major field of study can seem overwhelming, mainly because the resources available online make it seem this way. This is my attempt to provide an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide along with some tidbits of wisdom that I have picked up along the way.


  1. Make a list of majors that interest you (see "Picking a Major" below)
  2. Make a list of colleges that interest you and offer those majors (see "Picking a College" below)
  3. Pick your top few favorites and apply
  4. Select the best fit from among your acceptances
  5. Enroll as your selected major, or as undeclared, knowing that a change of major is common

Picking a Major

Picking a College


  1. Changing majors: A huge percentage of college students change majors. Prepare mentally for this possibility and be open to discovering a major you hadn't before considered, even after you are already attending school. Almost everybody is initially uncertain about what to study and what career to pursue, and this is because there are so many options and possibilities. Often the only way to make a decision that is right for you is to take classes in the areas that you think you are interested in.
  2. Success is up to you: Remember that your success is all on you, not on your degree, not on your professors and not on your choice of college. It is up to you.
  3. Just a foundation: Remember that a college major is only a basic foundation, and is not job training (except in a very few disciplines, such as nursing and education).
  4. Minors and Double Majors: Having a second major and a minor area of study is fine if you want the extra knowledge you'll gain, but it won't help you to get a job.
  5. Start your career today: Do something every day that you would do is one of your envisioned jobs. Do what people do who do the job you want to do. Don't waste four years, expecting that your college degree will suddenly make you into something. Start now.
  6. Do it: The best use of your time is to start doing the things people do who are in your envisioned line of work. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to make movies, make movies. If you want to run a business, start and run your own business. If you want to develop apps, web sites or computer games, do that. If you want to teach, find places to teach. If you want to do research, do research. Figure out how to do it and then do it.
  7. Where you go 1: If you are determined to be excellent, it really doesn't matter what college or university you attend. People who make a big deal out of the importance of selecting a particular school don't realize that future employers and co-workers are far more interested in whether or not you can do that job than the institution that issued your degree. If you can do the job and do it well, that really is all that matters.
  8. Where you go 2: You need a degree. Pick a school that you like that has fields of study that interest you in a city or town that you could enjoy living in for 4 years or even for a big chunk of the rest of your life. Many people wind up living in or near the place where they went to college.
  9. How many applications: Choose 2 to 5 good-fit schools and apply to them. Any more than that is just wasting your time and money.
  10. Employability: If you are determined to work in your field of interest, it doesn't matter what the job outlook is for graduates with a particular major. You can make a career doing whatever you want to do. If you are even a little undecided, it is helpful to look at the forecast for what jobs will have a solid demand for new graduates in coming years (Fastest growing occupations).

Paying for College

Your feedback is welcome <thomas.way@villanova.edu
Updated: 12/01/2013