Build on Your Strengths
You want to choose a major that matches your interests, aspirations, and values, but you'll also find it rewarding to concentrate in an area where you can excel. Finding a field where you excel may even enhance other aspects of your experience in your major by:
- stimulating deeper enjoyment of the subject
- empowering you to make more meaningful contributions to the world through your field
- improving your career prospects by showcasing your strengths
This last bullet point is worth emphasizing. All too often, students choose to struggle through a major that they feel will help them obtain particular jobs. Employers and graduate schools want to see evidence of talent and accomplishment, however. The Wall Street consulting firm will likely be more intrigued by an outstanding art history major than a lackluster economics major!
If you think a major may be right for you, it is worth taking the time to explore several classes to figure out where your talents lie. There are several reasons why your performance in a particular class may not be typical of your experience in that major:
- Your experience in introductory survey courses, especially in the sciences, may be quite unlike the work you will do in upper-level courses.
- Some methods and modes of thoughts may not click for you right away, but you may master them through perseverance and get all the more satisfaction for having puzzled your way through your confusion.
- Most disciplines have many different sub-fields that appeal to different styles of thinkers. In math, a whiz at number theory may not have a head for topology, and a high-flyer in general chemistry may be pedestrian in organic chemistry.
College is a time to discover new passions and talents. So, as you go through your first years at Princeton, ask yourself:
- Which activities or ways of thinking come "naturally" to you
- In which classes and extracurriculars to you excel?
- Where have you received praise in the past?
Knowing where your talents lie will help you choose the best major for you.
We always urge you to "study what you love." When you do this, you are more likely to excel at your major. In turn, all other things being equal, finding a major where you excel will help you love what you study.