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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, professors, and staff how they found the right major for them. Here is their advice:

1. Follow your childhood dreams

How students chose their major

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

“I’ve always loved ancient history, and I knew classics was the way to do it! I was even ‘The Egyptologist Who Found King Tut’s Mummy’ for Halloween when I was 9, so I guess you can say I’ve always known.” —Makenzie Cool ’19, classical studies and art history double-major

“I played sports throughout my life, and I always wanted to stay involved in sports when I finished competing on teams. I’ve always had an interest in health care, specifically sports medicine. Athletic training was a great major that fit the criteria I was looking for.” —Andrew Long ’19, athletic training major

“There was no question about my becoming an educator — I’d been playing ‘school’ since I was first able to hold a book and my sister taught me to read. Forty years later, I’m delighted that this vocation evolved into higher education.” — Patty Rieman, Associate Professor of Education

2. Explore your personal interests

How students chose their major

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

“I’ve always been inspired by my teachers and have loved learning. I took a job as a playground director with Kenosha Unified School District the summer before transferring to Carthage, and I got to work with children ages 6-12 all day. It was the best! I already knew how much I loved working with children, but watching them grow as learners and as friends was so wonderful to see.” — Autumn Jones ’19; elementary education major, urban education minor

“I knew I wanted to work with people and represent companies, goals, and interests while ensuring workers were also being treated fairly. Public relations is such a broad field with so many possibilities. In my thesis class alone, we have people with plans to go into tourism, small business crisis management, human resources, wedding planning, and more.” — Christina Koch ’19; public relations major, communication, Spanish, business administration minors

“The best questions I was ever asked during my time as a college student were, ‘what is it you like to do? What makes you excited when you wake up in the morning? What are you passionate about? What do you want to learn?’ Take the time to ask yourself these simple questions and answer them honestly. The four years you spend here should be some of the most exciting and life-changing, so spend time learning about fields of study you’re excited about. Make it your own! Knowledge is powerful, but much more powerful when you have the passion to fuel it.” — Amber Krusza, Director of Residential Life

3. Take classes that seem interesting

How students chose their major

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.” — Kat Ottman ’22; computer science major, Chinese language minor

“I was originally a history minor because I didn’t think I could get a job with a history degree. Then I took my first history class at Carthage; I fell in love with the community of my department and realized I couldn’t deny who I was — a history major! I ignored my fears, completed the major I wanted, and am now employed by my alma mater; things will work out!” — Mackenzie Curry, ’17; Director of Tutoring Services

4. Consider the job market

How students chose their major

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

How students chose their major

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. 

“When I was growing up, I took German, but I always knew I wanted to be a physician. When I got to college, I really struggled in biology and chemistry classes and realized it wasn’t my strength. It turned out that studying languages and literature was where my passions were, and I was good at it, too. I switched from biology to German and English. In the end, I became a doctor, even if it wasn’t the kind of doctor all of us imagined I would be.” — Greg Baer, Chair of the Modern Languages Department; Associate Professor of Modern Languages

“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 the best 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

“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 (2019), 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 Career Services.

    • 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 been named a top producer of Fulbright Fellows three years running. 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 archaeology 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 75% tuition up to full tuition, room, and board. 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 the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, 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 120 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 No. 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 …