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Using Key Themes to Choose Your Major

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

If you’re wondering how, as a high school student, you’re supposed to know what you want to do with the rest of your life, you’re not alone. Deciding which college to attend is probably the most significant decision you'll make up until this point in your life. And deciding what you want to do when you arrive at your dream school may shape the rest of your career. But choosing your major may be a challenge you’re not sure you’re up to yet.

Most students have multiple areas of interest. If that's you, that's okay! It's good to be well-rounded. However, if you think about what makes you…you, well, you may begin to see patterns and themes that can help you pick a path you’re passionate about.

Here are some quick steps you can take to get started.

Think about key themes

When I talk with students about their college essays or scholarship interviews, we always start by determining what we call key messages, which are based on themes you can pull from your unique background and life experiences. If you’d like to start thinking about your own key messages, I have a worksheet that can help you get started. Begin by thinking about all the things that make you who you are—from academics to extracurriculars to passions and volunteer work. Once you have this information, you can begin looking for common themes that will become your key messages. You may end up with a list that looks something like this:

I am the captain of the volleyball team.

I am involved in student leadership opportunities.

I am really good at math and science.

I like to learn about nutrition and healthy living.

I'd like to try out for triathlon class next year.

Identify patterns

Next, you can consider some of the trends or connections you’re seeing. Based on the example above, that might be sports, nutrition, and healthy living.

Consider potential majors that link back to those themes

Once you’ve got a list of your themes and have spotted the trends, think about what you might be able to major in that would draw on your strengths and interests. Playing off the above example, some majors you might want to look into could be sports science, dietetics or nutrition, or physical therapy.

Hopefully, from this exercise, you’ll have gained a better understanding of yourself and what you might want to major in when you get to college. But remember, the great thing about college is you don't need to choose to do just one thing. You can select a minor that is entirely different from your major if you want to diversify. And you can change your major if needed, often without wasting any time if you start by taking required courses you’ll need to complete no matter which major you choose.

The biggest factor in making this decision is that it must be right for you. Remove the ideas of what you think others want for you and give yourself the freedom to be honest about your interests. Your path is only for you. Make it one you'd like to travel on for a while.

The good news about identifying key themes and patterns is that it also helps you respond to the essay prompts you’ll encounter throughout the college admissions process. If you need help with this process, schedule a free introductory call with me at


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