How to Choose Your CALS Major

A photo a bridge backdropped by leaves changing colors for fall.

By: Heather Marcotte, CALS Director of Admissions

Choosing your major is an exciting and essential step in the college application process. Applicants to Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) apply to and are admitted directly to a major, allowing them to jump right into their academic program the moment they step foot on campus. Your major is your starting point for personal growth, exploration and opportunities on campus but with so many options, how do you choose? As you consider the options at Cornell CALS, the following questions may be helpful as a starting point:

What excites you?
First, think back on your time in high school and ask yourself, “What classes did I enjoy most?” Perhaps your mind was blown when you read about climate change for the first time in your Environmental Science class or you were moved to tears by the words of Shakespeare in your AP Literature class. Think deeply about how you connected with your favorite courses. Were you drawn to a class because you liked the teacher or discovered a passion for the class’s content? How did you feel about the way you learned in different courses — literature, labs, and discussions? Are your interests geared to science and mathematics or the social sciences and humanities? Maybe you enjoy both. The answers to these questions can help direct you to the types of courses you would like to pursue as an undergraduate student.

How you spend your time outside of school is also an essential factor to consider when identifying which major will be best for you. Are there clubs, books, or activities that have truly inspired you? What do you find yourself paying attention to outside of school that compels you to learn more or take action? Again, take the time to think about why these activities are important to you and how they may connect with your academic and career interests.

What are your Career Goals and Aspirations?
Declaring a major does not mean that you are locking yourself into a specific career; however, you should take the time to think about your future job and identify a major (and institution) that will support your goals. Ask yourself these initial questions as you ponder possible career paths:

  • What are my talents/strengths?
  • What is my personality?
  • What are my values, and what is important to me?
  • Are there specific skills/knowledge that I will need to be successful in my chosen field?

Use the resources around you. Take the time to explore different careers online, interview individuals working in a field that interests you, connect with current college students or recent alumni, research university and major webpages, and ask questions. Remember, it is OK not to have every detail laid out, but you want to begin building your personal roadmap.

What happens if you change your mind?
One of the most important things to keep in mind when selecting a major is that it is OK for your interests and goals to change — that is what college is all about! Think of your major as the starting point of your unique journey, one that will not look like anyone else’s. Your path may include a double major, minors, changing your major, or even changing your college. Still, it is important that you choose a major that truly appeals to you and the future you seek — while directed students experience perspective changes and are exposed to new opportunities, you set yourself up for greater success when you attend college with a purposeful, passionate mind.

College is an opportunity to explore and experience new things, but your success begins with the effort you put in before you ever set foot on campus. In your pursuit of the future you imagine for yourself, take time to really consider the major and course of study that will give you the right first steps.