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Finding an Area of Study that Suits You

It's important to note that everyone is coming from different places when it comes to academic passions. Some people have known their passions since they were born and other people discover what they want to do while they're in college. Both are totally valid. In this post, I'll outline how to discover the range of options of subject areas that you can study in college, most of which you may not have even known about.

Finding Potential Passions Exercise

  1. Think of your extracurriculars and rank them from your favorite to least favorite, of the ones that are your favorite, is the intellectual content a significant reason for why that's one of your activities?

  2. List your hobbies from most involved with to least involved with, in an ideal world, if you could work in one of your hobbies, would you? Even if you wouldn't work in that hobby, would you want to learn more about it in college?

  3. Does exposure to your parent's/other family member's jobs significantly influence what you may or may not work in?

  4. Is there a community that you want to feel closer to and/or learn more about?

  5. Is there a skill that you want to develop or continue developing in college?

  6. What are your favorite characters or storylines in popular media? Does what they do have something to do with why you're drawn to that show/movie/other media?

  7. What do your friends think that you would be really good at or what you'd be really interested in?

Finding your Degrees of Interest Exercise

Note: You can do this exercise even if you don't have an inkling of what you want to pursue.

  1. I will have you explore different degree options at various schools. This is meant to be a fun and low-stress exercise, so feel free to grab a notebook, sticky note, or use the notes app on your phone.

  2. First, you will generate a list of 3 schools to look at their majors and minors. Choose one private school that you know you want to apply to, one state school that is on your radar, and one school that you don't know that much about. For the last school, I recommend looking at this list to find a newer school that you want to learn more about.

  3. For your first school, click through its list of majors and minors, which you usually find by Googling "school name + majors and minors". Pick 2-3 to put into each of these categories "very interested", "not sure if interested", and "definitely not interested". Write any notes to yourself that come to mind about the major.

  4. After you've clicked on a major. Read the major's summary. The major description will generally include the range of faculty research, job opportunities for the field, and interdisciplinary applications of the subject area. Often, the scope of a field is defined by the breadth and depth of the curriculum at universities. So, rarely will you get a better idea of "what can a biomedical engineer do?" than just looking at a college's website.

  5. Review their list of subfields (if readily available) to see if any of those interest you. This is an important step because it will help you not be so vague about your interests in a major when you apply. For example, if you think you like biology, that's great, but keep in mind that there's a wide range of biology options including plant biology, genetics, immunology, anatomy & physiology, health outcomes, biochemistry, biophysics, cellular biology, molecular biology, computational biology, mathematical modeling of biological systems, evolutionary biology, and the list goes on. This is also pretty much true for any major even if the name already sounds super specific. Needless to say, learning about the subfields of a major might pique your interest in a major you didn't know you might have liked.

  6. Optional: If you enjoyed steps 4 and 5, I encourage you to click on the list of faculty in the department you chose and read about what they're doing. Maybe the way that someone else synthesizes their academic knowledge excites you too. Also definitely save these notes, because they'll be great for your Why Us and/or Why Major essays.

  7. Repeat these steps for the next school and you'll find new potential in the field(s) you may be passionate about

Comment below about what new things you learned about a future field!

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1 Comment

Aayusha Sapkota
Aayusha Sapkota
Jul 11, 2023

Thank you so much, Tayla .You are the best. I was so indecisive and confused about my area of study. This post helped me so much to gain clarity .

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