The University of Iowa

First Steps for Open Majors

explore, plan, connect graphic
There are many ways to explore possible majors in college.  One method isn’t necessarily better than another, so we suggest you try several.  Although students often start off by investigating their strengths and interests, you should begin wherever it makes sense to you.   

The key is to just get started.  Try something.  If it works, great.  If not, try something else.  Exploration doesn’t usually go in a straight line, and you don’t have to worry about getting it right from the beginning. Changing direction is sometimes the best way to find the path that’s right for you, and backing up isn’t always starting over.

You will find that many careers don’t require specific majors and many majors will work for a variety of careers.  A college degree can be your career Swiss Army knife.

The resources below are listed top to bottom, but remember, you can start wherever you like. Try something that sounds good to you. Research, reflect, ask questions, and don't limit yourself.  Dive in and be sure to talk with your advisor.

Exploration can take many different forms, but it often starts with taking some time to reflect on who you are and what you enjoyWhat do you choose to do when you have free time?  What do you feel strongly about?  What things are you good at?  What fascinates you?  Investigating what is important to you and what motivates you is a great place to start.  Not sure where to begin?  Some self-assessments take as little as 15 minutes and are a straight-forward way to get going.  However, don't expect to figure out your life in less time than it takes you to eat your lunch.  Allow yourself time and space to discover what you enjoy, are good at, and is meaningful to you.  Ask questions, research, try things out.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

  • Examine your interests by taking a self-assessment.  These vary in length and whether they are focused more on academic programs or career paths.
    • MyMajors helps identify majors at the University of Iowa that fit with your interests and aptitudes. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.  Find it at https://uiowa.mymajors.com
    • Focus 2 guides you through five short inventories, asking about your interests, skills, personality, and values.  It takes 20-30 minutes to complete.  Find it on the Pomerantz Career Center website at https://careers.uiowa.edu/students/assessments
    • YouScience is comprised of 16 separate "brain game" exercises that help you to identify both your interests and aptitudes. Plan on 1.5 - 2 hours to complete the assessment.  Results are provided within 12 hours. Sign up to take it though the Pomerantz Career Center website at https://careers.uiowa.edu/form/you-science-request
    • CliftonStrengths for Students is an assessment that will help you to build your Strengths, realize your uniqueness and design your future. After you've taken the assessment, you will have a 60 minute personalized Strengths Results appointment, where you will discuss your Signature Themes Report, how you’ve seen your Strengths show up in your life, and how your Strengths can support a career question or goal you have.  Find out more and sign up on the Pomerantz Career Center website at https://careers.uiowa.edu/students/assessments
    • MyBlueprint is a great tool for those who like to reflect on open-ended questions and write.  Through a series of guided prompts, it will help you discover your interests, values, and abilities.  Download it from the Advising Center website
       
  • Take a class, whether it is a course in a specific area you are interested in (geography, anthropology, art, science, whatever) or a class to help you discover what your interests and options might be.  Your advisor can be very helpful with this.
    • CCP:1300 Major and Career Explorations - This course helps students identify their interests, skills, and values relative to majors and careers; self-assessment, information interviews, research on majors and careers.
    • MED:1100 Introduction to Health Care Professions - Introduction to current U.S. health care system and changes that are likely in the near future; information about distinct health care professions grouped by discipline (e.g., nursing, pharmacy, public health), and less traditional career pathways in health care fields; how health care professionals across disciplines coordinate to deliver better health care; instruction by prominent health care faculty at the University of Iowa; for students considering a career in the health care field.
    • RCE:2081 Making a Vocational - Educational Choice - Vocational decision-making process, self-evaluation, exploration of the world of work; for students who are uncertain about their educational and vocational goals.
       
  • Gather Advice
    • Contact your academic advisor to discuss majors and resources. 
    • Talk to your instructors about your areas of interest.
    • Make an appointment with a Career Advisor in the Pomerantz Career Center through MyUI
    • Arrange an Informational Interview.  This is an opportunity to learn about a career which interests you by meeting or talking with someone who is working professionally or who has completed an internship in that field. Find out more on the Pomerantz Career Center website at https://careers.uiowa.edu/informational-interviews
       
  • Research Options
    • Attend an Exploring Majors Fairs held throughout the year. You'll learn about majors, minors, and certificates.  Professors, academic advisors, and career advisors will be on hand to answer questions. For more information, and to see upcoming events, check the events section of the Academic Advising Center website.
    • Attend a Dine & Discover program held through out the year. Eat pizza, learn more about exploring majors and career options, and ask questions.  For more information, and to see upcoming events, check the events section of the Academic Advising Center website.
    • Research majors, minors, and certificate programs.
    • Explore the Occupational Outlook Handbook for career information, including projected growth rates for career fields and median salaries.  Find it at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/
    • Learn about career paths on the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net site, which includes details job descriptions, career clusters, and fields that have a 'bright outlook.'  Find it at https://www.onetonline.org/
    • As you are researching, create a list of questions to ask your Academic Advisor & Career Advisor.
  • Meet with your Academic Advisor and Career Advisors to discuss your goals, how to plan, and to learn more about possible career paths.  You can schedule both appointments through MyUI.
     
  • Use your time wisely during breaks from school to research, reflect, and make connections that will help you clarify your professional goals.
    • Consider gaining experience through volunteering, a part time job, or an internship
    • Connect with other working professionals and Iowa graduates through social media and informational interviews
    • Talk with family, friends, and others who know you well about your thoughts and plans.  Seek feedback, but remember to weigh all considerations and decide for yourself based on what is important to you.
    • Keep researching, refining, and thinking about where you want to go and all the ways you might get there.
       
  •  Learn to set goals effectively and to remain goal-focused as you explore academic options. 

 

Connecting to others can help you discover new opportunities and introduce you to options you didn’t realize were possible.  Talking to people who are already in career fields you are considering can give you a better idea what those fields are like.  Working or volunteering can help you clarify what motivates you, what you find meaningful, and what is not important to you.

Many students enjoy the hands-on experience of building professional connections and experiencing new things.  You can start in many different places, taking on as much as you like, or testing the waters and building your networking skills.  The important thing is to get started, so get going and don’t hesitate to ask for help or guidance when you need it.