How to Choose a Major

You can submit a Declaration of Major Application electronically to Jay Express Services Center (login is your John Jay email username and password).

Choosing a major is another way of getting to know yourself. What do you want to spend the next few years thinking about? Of course you wonder how any particular major would prepare you for a career, but for the moment just try to focus on how interested you are in various majors. Don’t worry; we’ll help you understand the major/career connection too.

Criminal Justice
Majors which examine aspects of the criminal justice system.
Majors that explore the ideas and events of past and present and how great thinkers, writers and events shape the world we live in today.
Math, Science, and Technology
Math, Science, & Technology
Majors that prompt the creation of more advanced tools, systems, practices, and technology that move both our understanding and our knowledge of what is possible forward.
Public Service
Public Service
Majors that focus on public service-related issues such as protecting individuals and communities from harm, managing crises, or running an agency smoothly and effectively.
Social Science
Social Science
Majors that examine society and human behavior with a more scientific approach than you’ll find in the humanities.

Choosing a Major

To get you started, here are a few tips for choosing a major:

  • Notice what kinds of course descriptions interest you most and see if you find a pattern in those courses—is there anything they have in common?  
  • Pay attention to the classes you most look forward to attending, and consider what it is about them that draws your interest. Do they have anything in common?
  • Consider each major’s foundation courses.
  • Learn about each major’s math requirements. Some majors require statistics and advanced math, whereas others don’t.
  • Consult online resources such as our Major Resource Pages, which provide valuable information about each major. If a major looks interesting to you, look at all of its requirements and read the course descriptions, paying attention to your reaction. This can help guide you to a major that excites you.

If you’re having trouble deciding on a major, talk with people who can guide you. Major advisors and minor advisors are happy to discuss your concerns. Academic advisors and peer advisors can help you clarify your interests, answer questions regarding general education requirements, and pull the different pieces of your academic plan together as they offer ongoing support.

If the courses you find most interesting are not courses you tend to do well in, talk with your instructors and seek out any tutoring resources available to improve your grades in those classes. If you continue to struggle to receive satisfactory grades, it might not be realistic to pursue a major in that field. Be open to thinking about what other academic areas could provide you with a greater chance of success while still being interesting to you. An academic advisor can help you with this decision.

Common Pitfalls

Parents sometimes have strong ideas about what you should study and what career you should pursue. They want the best for you, and of course you want to listen to their point of view. However, don’t get lost in the expectations of others. This is your life, and it’s important that you listen to yourself as you make decisions about your major and your career.

It’s easy to compare yourself negatively with high-achieving family members, especially if you feel pretty clueless about your own abilities and goals. Talk with an Academic Advisor and try to focus on discovering your own gifts. Remember that what works for one person may not be right for you. Everyone is different, and often people who take a bit longer to discover their direction end up just as content and successful as the family members they admire. You will find your own way, and John Jay’s advisors and resources are here to help.

Friends can give you helpful perspective, but their opinion about your choice of major is not necessarily going to be right for you. Be open to what they say, but remember that their experience is not yours. Weigh their advice alongside what you know about yourself, and be sure to talk with academic advisors and career counselors as well, since often students misunderstand the relationship between major choice and career path.

Are you sure that no major looks interesting to you? Or do certain majors look interesting, but it’s unclear how they prepare you for a career? If this is the case, take a look at the next section.


If you are certain that no major looks interesting, ask yourself why. If it’s because you don’t want to read, write, analyze, and problem-solve, that’s another way of saying you don’t want to be in college! We want you to be here and are happy to talk with you about how to focus your interests. Explore this site and talk with an Academic Advisor for guidance.

Be careful not to make assumptions about the marketability of certain majors! Base your decisions on reliable information rather than vague opinions or articles on the internet. Most employers don’t care so much about your choice of major, but are very interested in your skills and how well you work with other people. The Major Resource Pages and the Center for Career and Professional Development can help you understand how each major provides a great professional foundation.

Remember that you are not determining the rest of your life with this one major declaration. If it turns out not to be right for you, that’s ok! It is possible to switch majors - just be sure to meet with an academic advisor as soon as possible to develop an alternative plan.