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Should Veterans Declare A Major Before Starting College?

veterans choosing a major

Should Veterans Declare A Major Before Starting College?

Conventional wisdom says veterans should declare a major before starting their college or university career.  Actually, that’s not always the case- even if you use a GI Bill.

Choosing a major is a significant milestone in the college process because it identifies your academic focus area and influences the path you take to complete a degree.

The best time to make that decision will depend on your current situation, your academic goals and the career field you are interested in.

5 Reasons to Declare Your Major Before Starting College

  • It can help you narrow down colleges and universities to choose from. Not all schools have all majors. Click here to start looking for schools that offer the major you’re interested in.
  • It might help you get into a particular college. Some schools are more competitive than others. Picking a major they are trying to recruit students for can increase your chances of getting in.
  • Declaring a major can open up scholarship opportunities only available to students pursuing that degree. Click here for information about scholarships for different majors.
  • Some technical degree programs require you to declare a major when you start. These programs can be hard to transfer into later, so declaring you major before starting college can be a good investment.
  • If you’re planning to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer, declaring a pre-professional major before starting gets you on track to get all the required courses you’ll need to move onto the next level of schooling.

5 Reasons to Wait to Declare Your Major

  • Declaring a major, discovering it’s not the right fit, and needing to change it can cost you time and money. Research says around 30% of beginning college students will change their majors within three years. If you’re a veteran using a GI Bill and change majors, you may use up your benefits before you’ve completed a degree.
  • Most schools don’t force you to commit to a major before the end of your sophomore year. Some allow you to begin as undeclared, others ask you to select a broad interest or meta-major such as Business, STEM or Education. Still others allow you to create your own major or double major after you’ve earned a few credits.
  • With an undeclared major, you can explore your interest areas while getting the credits you’ll need, no matter what degree you eventually decide on. Most bachelor degrees require the same foundation of general education courses in math, social sciences, language arts and science.
  • By taking a variety of general education courses and expanding your academic horizons with the freedom of an undeclared major, you may discover a related career field or interest you’d never considered.
  • If you want to pursue a particular degree program, but your GPA isn’t good enough to get you in right away, with an undeclared major, you can take the classes you need to get that GPA up and re-position yourself as a stronger candidate for that program.

5 Things to Consider Before You Decide

  • If you’re using a GI Bill, you have until the end of your sophomore year to commit to a major. According to the VA’s School Certifying Official Handbook, “General Education” courses can be certified before the declaration of a major.
  • Your major may not be as important as the school you attend. An article in the New York Times says students attending selective colleges tend to make more money as a result of the personal and alumni networks they gain, not their majors.
  • A Georgetown University report says that your choice of major doesn’t automatically mean you’ll earn more or less than someone with a different major. Researchers discovered the top 25% of humanities and liberal arts majors make more money than the bottom 25% of engineering majors.
  • Think about why you’re going to college – to get a degree as soon as possible, to get the “college experience”, to explore new ideas and career opportunities, to fulfill a lifelong career dream – your motivation can give you a clue to the best time to declare your major.
  • The decision of whether to declare a major before you start college or to wait until you’re farther along in your university career isn’t one you have to make on your own. Ask friends and family about their experiences, talk to an academic advisor or check in with the veterans’ resource center on campus.

Investing your time, energy and money to get a college or university degree is a big decision with great rewards. Your major plays a role in how you make it happen, and the timing of that decision is a piece of the process.