If you go to college, you have to major in something — theoretically, at least.

I actually knew a guy in college who kept changing his major every year or two so he wouldn’t have to graduate. When we met, he was 32 years old and had amassed approximately 500 credit hours.

But I digress. Most people choose a major early on and more or less stick to it, which is a good thing. Changing your major will set you back at least a semester and perhaps an entire year.

That said, sometimes students do need to change their major. They get into a course of study and discover it’s just not for them. Taking an extra six months or a year to graduate is preferable to spending your life doing something you hate.

That happened to me. I originally intended to major in psychology, but it only took me about two semesters to figure out that my professors were nuts. I didn’t know if working with mentally ill patients made them nuts or if they had been nuts to begin with. I just knew I didn’t want any part of it.

In any case, it certainly pays to decide as early as possible what you want to do with your life and what you should study in order to pursue that career.

That doesn’t mean you have to know your major the day you set foot on campus. For the first semester or two, at least, everybody has to take more or less the same classes —English, math, history, psych, econ, lab science, etc.

In addition to equipping you with basic academic knowledge, those courses can also help you decide what you want to do. Since you get to experience a little bit of everything, from writing essays to solving equations to doing experiments, you can determine what your skills are and where your interests lie.

The main question to ask yourself, as you contemplate choosing a major, is “what can I do for a living that I would enjoy and that will provide a decent income?”

Note that there are two sides to that equation. You can’t just latch onto the first part — the old “do what you love” advice — and ignore the second. Unless you’re banking on Mark Zuckerberg’s “Universal Basic Income” and planning to squat in your parents’ basement, you need to make a living.

Actually, there are three factors at work here, which can be represented as a Venn diagram (Google it). The first circle encapsulates your skills, the things you do well, such as writing or math or design. The second includes jobs you might actually be interested in doing. And the third contains careers that pay enough for you to be self-sustaining.

Where those three circles intersect, you will likely find your career path — and the college major that will lead you to it.

Rob Jenkins is a local writer and college professor. He is the author of five books, including “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility”—available at Liberty Books in downtown Lawrenceville and on Amazon — and “Think Better, Write Better,” coming in June. The views expressed here are his own. Email Rob at

rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.

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