Image description: A header illustration featuring a student sitting in a chair, throwing darts at a dart board titled “Major Selection” with a venn diagram target containing very little overlap between the categories “profitable” and “fun.” End ID
Image description: A header illustration featuring a student sitting in a chair, throwing darts at a dart board titled “Major Selection” with a venn diagram target containing very little overlap between the categories “profitable” and “fun.” End ID


How should you choose your major?

What factors influence your academic direction? Would you rather study something you enjoy, something considered "profitable", or something in-between?

Apr 30, 2023

Many amongst the Class of 2026 have already declared their majors, either having been certain right from when they came in, or having experimented with classes enough to know by now. At NYU Abu Dhabi, we have the resources, professors, academic advisors, and even our peers to help us figure out what we like and want to study. NYUAD encourages us to explore, try new and quirky courses we never thought we would, and pursue a ‘holistic education’ through the liberal arts Core Curriculum. Yet, here comes a time when we have to sit down and ask ourselves — what major do we want to pursue for four years, and why?
Complaining to an extent is justifiable. None of us like every single aspect of our majors. As a Psychology major, I find it challenging to cultivate an interest in brain anatomy and functionality, which are essential components of neuropsychology. I don’t like some of the introductory courses — Introduction to Psychology in particular is infamous for driving away most potential majors. However, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't major in Psychology. It doesn’t overshadow the fact that the study of human behavior has captivated me for over three years now, and that I can see myself fulfilled by working in social psychology in the future.
Furthermore, there’s a difference between liking something and it being easy or convenient. Most topics in psychology involve a lot of memorization, and unfortunately not being blessed with a photographic memory, it’s not an easy task to score the grades I want. Although I don’t prefer this struggle, maybe it does keep me on my toes so I don’t get complacent, keeping up the challenge so I remain engaged.
One might say, a healthy level of challenging is good, but what about people that simply don’t have the technical or experiential skills needed for their major? This could be because they didn’t get the opportunity to study it during high school or lack any preliminary experience. I know a handful of people that didn’t pursue Computer Science (CS) in university because they weren’t taught to code previously. Although it isn’t a requirement, it disadvantages them by placing them significantly behind the rest of their peers as they have to learn everything from scratch.
To be completely honest, even if I didn’t get the grades I wanted, I would still pursue Psychology purely because topics like social dynamics, the use of language, and the influence of our environment on our behavior interest me. However, this isn’t an easy compromise to make. Your performance in your major — how much you participate in class, the grades you get, the internships you do — are crucial deciding factors in choosing your major(s). Speaking from the perspective of the South Asian community, upholding parents’ expectations constantly influences our decisions. Given how the technological industry is growing, and seen as highly valued and ‘employable’, most students find themselves pursuing Computer Science. If they don’t get the grades, or the internships, or the placements, their interest in the major fades away. I am certain that the South Asian community is not the only one facing this socio-cultural expectation.
But how far can you take this need for validation? How far can it sustain you in a major that you simply are not as passionate about? In my opinion, this is what we see with most of the posts on social media ranting about people stuck in majors that they hate. They find that their society’s expectations, the distant promise of money or power or a self-driving Tesla, or the hope that it will get better, is simply not motivating enough to keep them in a major they dislike. Plus, given that it’s not easy to change your major, many prefer pursuing a major that is, at the very least, familiar.
Of course, there is a way to find a balance in-between. You could choose a major that you don’t mind, that you’re decent at, and that satisfies whatever other societal, financial, political criteria you are navigating. However, while choosing a major may alleviate the pressure of making an immediate decision, it is important to remember that selecting a major entails much more than just enduring a three to four-year program. There’s an entire life we will build on our undergraduate degrees, and it is important to sustain that interest at least to some extent beyond.
We even have the option of pursuing interdisciplinary majors that could apply to many different fields of study, like the Sound and Music Computing program combining Computer Science, Music, and Engineering. This means we really shouldn’t put that much pressure on ourselves to align our majors with our long-term career goals, the kind of lifestyles we want to have, and the values we want to stand for. If we might just end up choosing some unrelated career, then we might as well choose a major we like during these four years.
So there are multiple factors to consider while choosing our major — what we want, what we need, what we are good at, what we would want in the future, and what people around us expect. But fear not, if all of these factors get too overwhelming, you can always just pick a major off your favorite TV show (Grey’s Anatomy fans would flood the health industry). There must be a reason you like it so much, maybe it’s your inner calling. It would help you finally tick that one important decision off the long list of important decisions we have to make as independent students at NYUAD.
Tiesta Dangwal is Deputy Features Editor. Email them at
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