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The Perfect Major: 6 Strategies for Making the Right Choice

Finding the perfect major isn’t always easy. We asked Carthage students how they found the right major for them. Here is their advice:

1. Follow your childhood dreams

A student looks through the telescope at the Griffin Observatory.

Childhood dreams often become grown-up careers. These students knew exactly what their majors would be when they were children. 

“I chose my major based on a Carthage visit that stuck out to me. The slideshows playing before the presentation began included photos of the NASA Microgravity Team, and it reminded me of the many times I visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. I remember how excited it made me about space and eager to learn more, so that’s how I chose to come to Carthage and major in physics and astronomy.” — Cassandra Bossong ’21; physics and astronomy double-major with a concentration in astrophysics

“I chose my major because I always loved being outside and knew I wanted to work as a biologist protecting our natural world. Environmental science seemed like the perfect fit, especially after taking my first environmental science class during the first semester of my freshman year.” — Annemarie Seth ’22; environmental science major

“I always knew I wanted to do something with environmental science — I’m an Eagle Scout and love the outdoors. However, during my sophomore year, my advisor Professor Kurt Piepenburg convinced me to also major in geographic information science.” — Matthew Stocking ’21; environmental science and geographic information science double-major, geoscience minor

2. Explore your personal interests

A student holds a frog at Pringle Nature Center during an internship.

One way to choose a major is to find what activities, subjects, and fields are most interesting to you. These students decided on their majors by exploring their personal interests. 

“I took a physics class in high school and found it interesting — I wanted to learn more. I chose to also go into secondary education after talking with my advisor and deciding that teaching would be a more fulfilling career for me than engineering.” — Eric Schmitt ’20; physics major, secondary education minor

“I was always interested in science and I always excelled in science classes in school. I knew from middle school that I wanted to do something in the area of biological sciences. When I was a sophomore in high school, I needed my first knee surgery from playing softball and I was so interested in seeing the X-rays and MRIs and hearing all that my doctor and [physician’s assistant] had to say about the profession. I knew from that experience that I wanted to be a pediatric orthopedic PA.” — Alexandra Millett ’20; biology and pre-health major, psychology minor

“I enjoyed learning about the techniques and materials used in graphic design, and how a student was able to make their work unique. No two artworks are the same because of the distinctiveness each student puts into their work.” — Jillian Schirmacher ’21; graphic design major

3. Take classes that seem interesting

Prof. Ed Montanaro talks with students in the Chinese Program.

For those who feel a little stuck, take classes that seem interesting to you. Consider what subjects you find most fascinating, or subjects you’ve never taken a class on before. You might just find a new passion. 

“I took a class [in computer science] my sophomore year of high school and was fascinated with the complexity of programming. It is extremely rewarding to help create a new program or piece of code that is challenging and complex. Coding is like learning another language. When you are given a task, there are so many different ways to approach it.” — Kailee Ottman ’22; computer science major, Chinese language minor

“I always knew I wanted to do something in business. I landed on marketing after exploring a few classes and joining some business-oriented organizations, including Velocity Consulting and the business fraternity Pi Sigma Epsilon.” — Lyndsey Bielinski ’20; marketing major, Spanish and public relations minors

“I entered Carthage as a criminal justice major. After taking American Government with Professor Mast my freshman year, I realized I also had a passion for political science. I took another political science class in the spring, and by fall I added it as another major.” — Jacyln Wilks ’20, criminal justice and political science major

4. Consider the job market

A student works at a station during her internship with SkiesFall.

When choosing their majors, these students researched the job market. They were able to find majors that interested them while still ensuring they could start their careers and make a living after graduation. 

“I wanted a career in art that was more practical than working in a studio in terms of making a living.” — Brianna Gromowski ’21; graphic design major, Spanish minor

“I always thought I would go into engineering sciences since that’s where everyone says the money is. However, I took Professor Rick Matthew’s Sociology 1000 course and realized I was really good at understanding people and how pieces of society fit together in their various systems. With the huge push for STEM fields in recent years, there is now a bigger need for people in social services.” — Magdalena Rocha ’19; sociology and criminal justice majors, Spanish minor

5. Don’t be afraid to switch your major

A student meets with an academic advisor to discuss her schedule.

If you’ve chosen a major that no longer feels right, consider changing your major to something more interesting to you. Find your strengths, explore your interests, and choose a major you’re passionate about. 

“I researched the field and talked to people that I knew in the program at Carthage. I came to Carthage as a business major, but soon realized I wanted a job where I could move around every day and be able to help people improve their lives.” — Justin Corrigan ’21; exercise and sport science major, health secondary education minor

“I was originally a physics major but switched after one semester. Then I was a chemistry major and then an English major before eventually switching to Japanese. I was taking Japanese as my language credit and I liked it enough to change it to my minor and then eventually to my major. I added Asian studies in Spring 2019 after noticing I only needed two more classes for the major.” — Nathan Kamprath ’20; Japanese and Asian studies major

“I came to Carthage as an English major but I ended up switching to undecided. I always thought English was what I was meant to do, but after taking the Intro to Literature class, I realized it was really not for me. Attending the Women’s March in Chicago really influenced my decision to pursue social work. That experience, as well as classes I’ve taken at Carthage, pushed me to figure out who I wanted to become.” — Haley Olson ’21; social work major, women and gender studies, sociology minors

6. When in doubt, ask Mom! OR any of the people who know you best

How students chose their major

Sometimes the people who know you best will offer you great advice when trying to decide on a major. Ask a friend, an advisor, or even mom to help point you in the right direction. 

“I always loved editing pictures on Photoshop, creating posters, and any other creative project I could be involved with in high school. I just didn’t know of any jobs where I could do all that. I asked my mom what I should do and she suggested graphic design. I had never heard of it before. I looked into it more and was excited to find out that there was a career that encompassed everything I enjoy doing.” — Victoria Dobias ’19; graphic design major, public relations and theatre minors

“In high school, I tutored classmates and friends of mine in math, so becoming a math teacher was always in the back of my mind. When I told my math teacher about this idea, she told me ‘Yes! You need to do this!’. That’s what lit a spark in me that pushed me toward teaching, and math in particular.” — Riley Maguire ’20; mathematics major, secondary education and Spanish minors

“Spring semester of my freshman year after I took the J-Term EMR class, I decided that I really liked medicine and working hands-on with people. My mom always wanted to be a nurse and never got to, so I decided to do this for both myself and her.” — Sarah Ferri ’21; nursing major

Carthage is the perfect place to explore new subjects and discover your passions.

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2021), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit The Aspire Center.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has ranked as a top Fulbright producer for four of the past five years. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors, and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from marketing to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $25,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about Intellectual Foundations.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 130 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked in the Top 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …