What Should I Study in College? Experts Advise How to Narrow it Down

Woman in library

It’s potentially one of the most important questions you will ask in your life: What should I study in college? Deciding on what to study means determining which degree to pursue, which can impact what job you end up with, where you live and many other important factors. It’s a big question for anyone considering going to college, which makes it an important question for us.

Deciding what to study in college doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. There are a number of ways to help you decide on a degree before you show up for your first class. We assembled a step-by-step guide with advice from career experts to help you narrow down which degree to pursue.

Your step-by-step guide for choosing what to study in college

Choosing which degree to pursue in college can be intimidating. But don’t let fear and indecision deter you. Follow this expert advice to help you narrow down your degree options in no time.

Step #1: Know yourself first

Before you can start thinking about what type of degree or major you should choose – even before you have decided on which college to attend – you need to understand who you are as a person, according to Beth Probst, owner of guided self-assessment company At The Core. “Start by noting things like the traits and skills that you already possess, the kind of environments you thrive in as well as those you don't, the things you value, your personal preferences for working in groups or individually, and so forth,” Probst says.

Knowing where you excel and where you don’t is an important factor in determining what to study in college and what career area to pursue. Ignoring your likes, dislikes, skills and talents can lead to a career you dread going to every day.

“Once you know yourself better, it's much easier to consider different careers that are of interest to you,” Probst says. “Before you make a decision about what to major in, set yourself up for success in college and beyond by having a targeted career in mind.”

Step #2: Pinpoint your passions

In addition to knowing yourself first, finding out what you are passionate about is a key element in determining what to study. You’ve surely heard the advice “do what you love” when it comes to choosing a career. But since your career is in many ways reliant on the degree you choose, you should begin to ask yourself this question before deciding what to study.

“There is no substitute for passion and it cannot be taught,” says Austin Duvall, a financial planner who has helped families prepare for college. He advises students to follow their instincts when choosing a career path. Of course, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It’s not always obvious which careers will put your interests to good use.

“A major isn't always the exact same title as the desired industry. Students interested in business, for example, may major in accounting, finance, psychology or marketing,” says Ashley Hill, a college success coach and scholarship search strategist.

It’s important to not rule anything out early on. It will take time to understand what exactly you are cut out for. Pay attention to the direction your interests are taking you, and don’t be intimidated by a degree just because of its stigma.

Step #3: Look beyond the books

Don't just follow your academic interests, but also look at the other aspects of your life, advises Neha Gupta, author of The Four Year Plan. Gupta advises students who are undecided on a degree to ask themselves a number of questions, like How do I like to interact with people? How do I best learn? Which lifestyle works best with me?

“Each major has a culture surrounding it and it's important that you're surrounded by professors and peers who you’re excited to work with and learn from,” Gupta says.

Looking beyond the books also means understanding which industries or careers a degree might lead to. Hill advises gaining experience and exposure to a potential field of work by volunteering and connecting with professionals within your area of interest. Knowing what the industry is like will give you an idea of which degree will work for you.

Step #4: Get your hands dirty

Now you’ve surveyed your skills and interests and done a little research to narrow down which degree you’d like to pursue. But research can only go so far. Sooner or later, the only way you’re going to know is by getting out there and dipping your toes in the waters.

Seek out opportunities to get a taste of the career in a real-world capacity. If you’re considering earning a technology degree, join a computer science club. If an accounting degree seems like the perfect fit, arrange a job shadowing opportunity with a local firm. Interested in graphic design? Check out some online tutorials to start teaching yourself the basics.

Jump at any chance you have to “try before you buy” and get a feel for what the job would really entail. After all, you want to be confident in your choice before making a commitment to a college program. If you get a taste of the field and are hungry for more, that’s a good sign it’s what you’re destined to do.

Capitalize on your strengths

As you can see, deciding on a degree to pursue is a process that takes time—so don’t worry if you can’t decide right away. Now that you have some tips and tricks to help you answer the question “What should I study in college?” you’re well on your way to finding the degree program that’s a great fit for your skills and passions.

If you could use a little more help determining which careers align with your skills, take our Career Aptitude Test to help you figure it out!


Take the Next Step—Talk to Us!

There are some errors in the form. Please correct the errors and submit again.

Request More Information

Talk with a program manager today.

Fill out the form to receive information about:
  • Program Details and Applying for Classes 
  • Financial Aid and FAFSA (for those who qualify)
  • Customized Support Services
  • Detailed Program Plan

Step 1 of 3

What's Your Name?

Please enter your first name.

Please enter your last name.

Step 2 of 3

Contact Information

Please enter your email address.

Please enter your phone number.

Please enter your five digit zip code.

Step 3 of 3

Program Preferences

Please choose a school of study.

Please choose a program.

Please choose a degree.

The program you have selected is not available in your area. Please select another program of interest.

By requesting information, I authorize Rasmussen College to contact me by email, phone or text message at the number provided. There is no obligation to enroll.

Aaron Lawrence

Aaron is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. His interest in writing articles for students stems from his passion for poetry and fiction and the belief that all words can educate.

default blog author

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college.

Add your comment


Please enter your name.


Please enter your email.


Please enter your comment.


icon-colored-advance icon-colored-build icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-developement icon-colored-growth icon-colored-national icon-colored-prep icon-colored-regional icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-paperwork icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-camera icon-filter icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-share-square-o icon-spinner icon-tag logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-testimonial-quotes icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-button icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-button icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x