How can I decide on a college major when I have NO interest?
March 11, 2009 9:35 PM   Subscribe

How am I suppose to decide on a major when I have no real hobbies, interest, or passions for anything. Other than sleep or a good book I don't really do anything. I'm not the greatest writer and you can't support a family with sleep so what so I do to find something I truly enjoy. Something that actually will make me look forward to the day while I'm wasting away in minimum wage jobs while I decide on a major; After 60 semester hours at my school you have no choice.
posted by isopropyl to Education (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It really doesn't matter too much what major you choose. Sorry to say, unless you're going straight into a technical line of work, no one cares where you went to school or what your major was. Most disciplines could care less for anything other a Master's - and even then, they don't care too much. Relax, take something you like...maybe English, or Lit, or History - get out and get on with your real life.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:45 PM on March 11, 2009

Umm are you the same person that asked this?
"My dream job would be working with computers, diagnostics,and networking. I'd be just as happy managing a store"

Did all of that just go away? Sounds a lot different than what you wrote above.

I'd stick with computer science, drop out, or pick business management.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:06 PM on March 11, 2009

It can be a stressful experience when you feel like the only kid who has no idea what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Meanwhile you're under pressure to decide RIGHT NOW. The good thing is that you're not the only one with these feelings, not by a long shot.

Head down and talk to a professional about this (e.g. career counselor, academic advisor, therapist). They'll be able to help you cope with your anxiety over this commitment and perhaps even guide you toward a major that you might have overlooked.

And don't worry so much. It may feel like the biggest decision of your life, but it's not that big of a deal. You can always switch majors as an undergrad, or go to grad school for something completely different.

Upon a second glance at your question, if your days are truly devoid of any interests other than sleeping or reading a book every now and then, you may be clinically depressed. It's not uncommon for students your age to suffer from anxiety/depression over issues like you describe. You may want to consider talking to someone about this.
posted by Team of Scientists at 10:16 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gender studies. Seriously.
As the Light Fantastic says, nobody will care what your major was as long as you finish your degree—before then, you should enjoy learning and engage with things that help you make sense of the universe. If you already know a bit about women's studies or gender studies, then you know the value of gender studies; if you'd never considered it before this comment, do it now. You will read things and points of view that will radically change the way you view human society. You will agree and disagree. I don't know much about computer diagnostics or networking, but you may find a new application for gender analysis in it. Whatever happens, you will not be bored.
So there's my advice. Gender studies.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:21 PM on March 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

You don't say how old you are, or if you really have a family to support. I didn't find what I really loved until I was 30.

If you are young, and don't have a family to support, then just keep looking. Sooner or later, you will encounter a great teacher who will turn you onto a subject you love.

But you will have to work at it. The good news is that When you love something, it demands that you work at it. And if you are truly lucky, it isn't really work.

If you don't find that inspiring teacher, just try working at it first. Being immersed in something has a way of making you interested in it, provided you have the right attitude.

It's a damned big world out there. There are many, many ways to spend your days. If you really can't find something you love, I agree with the above - talk to a professional to find out if the problem is deeper.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:22 PM on March 11, 2009

No matter what you choose, you'll most likely end up doing something different in the end. Maybe not right away but give it a decade or so. The degree just gets your foot in the door someplace, shows HR and the hiring manager that you have some aspirations beyond living on welfare.

If you don't already know your Myers-Briggs personality type, take a couple of free online tests to determine it. Once you know, further research will pull-up a list of careers that most people with your personality type are well suited for. Look for a couple that interest you.

Also think back to the high school elective courses you took and enjoyed. What interested you back then. For example, let's say you liked computer and geography courses, put the two together and you have things like GIS.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:26 PM on March 11, 2009

My first comment probably wasn't all too helpful, sorry bout that. I just graduated two years ago and Team OS is right, a lot of people don't know what they want to do. I think the main thing is don't rush into anything. You can take general type of courses for your first couple years that won't trap you into any one particular major. At my school there were courses that everyone had to take regardless of major (foreign language, english, math, arts and humanites courses, statistics, that kind of stuff.) Talk to your advisors, find out what courses would be good for a variety of majors and take those your first few years. I wish I would've done that, I jumped into Bio courses in my first year, 6 out of 8 of my courses were science. Now I realize I hate science and want nothing to do with, but that's my major. Even if you end up making the same mistake I did it doesn't matter, just like the Light Fantastic said it's more about just having a degree, people could care less what it's in.
posted by BrnP84 at 10:28 PM on March 11, 2009

Best answer: Could you, like, not go to college for the moment, and just sort of check some stuff out in the world and see if anything tweaks your interest?
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:28 PM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

If I were you I'd use college soak up useful general knowledge.

That would be two years of mathematics (the calculus sequence, basic statistics), a smattering of physics, linguistics and/or computer science. Plus two years of a major foreign language (French, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, German -- take your pick).

Computer science is great for learning general problem-solving skills (decision matrices, truth tables, algorithmic complexity, etc).

You get out of college what you put into it.
posted by troy at 10:29 PM on March 11, 2009

Best answer: And don't choose your major b/c someone says it's so awesome and they had so much fun and love their job now, blah blah. Having plenty of older relatives I heard it all, everyone thinks they know what you'd have a lot of fun with or that you'd make a great dentist. Don't listen to any of them, including us hear at askMe.
posted by BrnP84 at 10:30 PM on March 11, 2009

If you've never gone through a formal interest self-evaluation like the kind in the book What Color is your Parachute, now might be a good time to give it a shot.
posted by nanojath at 10:45 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Film studies lets you watch movies for credit, and it's almost guaranteed that you'll watch the same movie twice at some point, enabling you to catch a nap the second time.

Throw in some classes on animation, Photoshop, and nonlinear video editing, do well and produce a good reel, and you can move on to VFX work, where you can grab a nap every time you have to wait for something to render.

If you've got computer science under your belt too, you can get a job writing better rendering engines, leading to getting some extra sleep while your test renders run.

No, I'm not entirely serious, and you will work at least 45 hours a week on a show in and around your nap breaks. That being said, I know lots of differently ambitious people who do fine in visual effects-- you just have to be good at what you do and make yourself a comfortable niche.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:56 PM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding What Colour Is Your Parachute. I finished it and still haven't entirely worked out what job next to work towards, but it helped narrow the field and that's certainly something -- and definitely enough to help you pick something as broad as a major.

Same with the Myers Briggs analysis something else mentioned -- it'll narrow the field, which is useful. Ridiculously enough the list of jobs the results suggested are all exactly the ones I've considered over the years while I've been unhappy with my current career. Save yourself the years of pondering each one in turn: do the test and have a think about 'em all now! ;)
posted by springbound at 11:00 PM on March 11, 2009

I like what troy said above. A good Liberal Arts education will be a good foundation for when something does strike your fancy. Don't worry, btw, there's lots of students in class with you who only think they know what they want to do -- and it will change 3 or 4 times. You're just being honest that nothing really "does it" for you. One day, something will grab your interest and you'll be like a sponge wanting to know everything there is to know about it. That will be a good hint that you may have found a career path - based on a discovered passion and not what Sarah or Jennifer or Devon or Jason or Eric or (fill-in-the-blank) wants to do and it sounds really cool to you too! You'll find your niche - it'll happen.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 11:01 PM on March 11, 2009

Erm, "something else" should read "someONE else". Sheesh... caffeine please?
posted by springbound at 11:02 PM on March 11, 2009

This sounds horribly unromantic and unidealistic, but someone once told me, "If you don't know what to do, go make money." That, or just do something you're naturally good at and won't need to work too hard to get by and live comfortably.

I learned this the hard way: for some folks, what interests you isn't what's gonna get you fed, but that's okay.
posted by hobbes at 12:26 AM on March 12, 2009

I'd like to second hobbes. If you really can't figure out what you want, try to at least make some money. It makes life easier and gives you more freedom if you eventually find out.

That said, don't underestimate reading as a valuable activity. There are tons of jobs out there that basically consist of reading some stuff and extracting some information or making some decisions based on it.
posted by dhoe at 1:01 AM on March 12, 2009

when i first started college, i thought i knew what i wanted. there was denial for a while. and then, just when i was supposed to declare a major, i couldn't force it anymore.
now i know what i want. which is awesome.

.02: talk to school counselors etc., try to think about general categories of what you do and do not want to do. find out the possibilities of taking a break or going part-time, to pause the clock of college credits. and then get a job (sleep studies? jk) and give yourself some time to figure it out. and if that's not an option, the take-a-variety-of-courses thing will probably help. although the advice that "any degree is good" is generally true, there is the technical/academic exception.
(me: math and cs ...blugh... oh, industrial design!)
also, like team suggested, find out if depression has a role in all this. it definitely did for me.

good luck (:
posted by vaguelyweird at 4:37 AM on March 12, 2009

Who's the most interesting teacher? What department in your school stands out? A good teacher can instill inspiration and passion. A bad teach can ruin any subject.

Also, think about the possibility of higher ed, and what classes could help toward that, and don't sell yourself short. I'll bet you are interested in something.
posted by xammerboy at 5:43 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: I have no real hobbies, interest, or passions for anything.

Respectfully, have you considered the possibility that you're depressed? I hate to be the person who answers questions about picking a major with 'talk to a therapist,' but, well, this is one of the classic signs.
posted by box at 5:49 AM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would choose (and did) whatever subject was interesting and I felt I was capable of doing well in. Any degree is useful. If you suddenly figure it out, no time will have been wasted because you will have been doing something you enjoy.
posted by Gor-ella at 6:52 AM on March 12, 2009

Talk to your school's career center. They will probably be able to administer Myers-Briggs and Strong Interest Inventory assessments. Neither assessment will tell you which path of studies to pursue, but they will give you a better sense of who you are and what your interests are.

It might be worth sitting out a semester to get a sense of what you want to works towards. You don't want to end up in the second semester of your senior year wishing you had pursued a different path.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 6:55 AM on March 12, 2009

It's been my experience that it doesn't really matter what field of study your degree is in, as long as you have a degree. I was an art major, and ended up with a great job (via temping) that has about 1% to do with anything I learned as part of my major. My co-workers also have varied academic backgrounds, ranging from journalism to sociology to history. Unless you want to go into a profession that requires specialized or technical skills or qualificaitons (e.g. teacher, doctor, etc.) - and it sounds like you don't, since you aren't really sure what you're going to be when you grow up - just having a Bachelor's degree is the most important thing, education-wise. Besides that, actual industry experience is valuable. So if, like me, you happen to land an entry-level job in an industry you enjoy, you can soak up all that experience and transition it into a higher-level job or use those skills to get into a related industry.
posted by LolaGeek at 7:59 AM on March 12, 2009

I didn't have any interests or real hobbies either. I just picked something I was good at - it was between math and chemistry, and I figured it'd be easier to get a chemistry job. And I'm so so happy with my job now!! So if you're at a total loss just pick something that won't kill you in college, especially if you're good at something that has decent job opportunities.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:22 AM on March 12, 2009

A liberal arts degree is not vocational training. What you major is is not what you will be when you grow up. Therefore, pick something you enjoy so that you can spend the remainder of your undergrad years doing what you're supposed to be doing: learning about a wide range of things and emerging into the world a broadly educated human being with a wide if not particularly deep skill set.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:42 AM on March 12, 2009

Best answer: Ill go against the grain here and say that a liberal arts degree is the worst choice you can make in this economy. While jobs are scarce you should be targeting specific industries with your education. You sound like youre interested in tech. That leaves you with a lot of options you can focus on. Look at it this way, if there's a job youre interested in, like web development and you apply with your history degree and someone else applies with a CS degree,who do you think is going to get the job? Heck, if youre good at self-learning you may even want to consider leaving school altogether and seeing if you get an entry level position somewhere. If that doesnt work then go back. Now youre not spending 50k in loans for a BA in History.

I'm not the greatest writer and you can't support a family with sleep so what so I do to find something I truly enjoy

Youre looking at this wrong. 90% of happiness is in your head. 10% is environment. The idea that there's some magical job thats perfect for you and will fulfill you is silly. Capitalism doesnt work that way. Cultivate happiness within yourself first and you'll find jobs in general are easier to handle. Personally, Im happiest when I go out of my way to not be miserable and Im not constantly worrying about bills. If you cant monetize your writing then you might stay miserable. All passions come at a price and at an opportunity cost.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:37 AM on March 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also have you checked your university for internships? Maybe some time at an internship will help you decide, make connections, pad resume, etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:41 AM on March 12, 2009

You don't say how far into college you are now, but my advice echoes what everyone has said above - just take classes that sound interesting, and when you find one that makes you want to take more classes in that subject, major in it. I was a psych major but I knew I didn't want to be a psychologist, I just found the subject really interesting.

Most majors in the liberal arts aren't meant to prepare you for work in that specific field...they're to help focus your studies in a particular subject and help grow you as a person. If anything, it gives you something interesting to talk about in employement interviews.
posted by radioamy at 10:42 AM on March 12, 2009

I would suggest that you might be going about this the wrong way around: you're starting at the beginning and trying to find the path that will lead you to happiness, when you should be looking at what makes you happy first.

So, while you say that you don't enjoy much apart from reading and sleeping does that mean that your ideal life would consist of reading and sleeping all day? And having a family right (that sounds like it's a goal of yours too). Is being rich a goal? What about having a nice house? Travel? Recognition? Fame? Being your own boss? Having defined working hours? Making other people happy? Getting a degree? Having lots of friends?

Seriously, take some time to sit down and write down all of your goals, all of the stuff that you want to do in your entire life. Then try and isolate the top ten. Once you have those you should try and choose the top three and structure your life around those. If you find (as I suspect you might) that "being really happy during working hours" is not one of your top ten or top three goals you can leave it for now. (Amazingly, if you do this exercise properly you'll find that fulfiling your top three or top ten goals over the next 5-10 years is immensely satisfying and keeps you thrilled during your working hours whether or not the job itself is a source of direct pleasure all the time.)

Practically speaking, if you do this you're going to have to work on it a lot and all the time and you'll need to start with turning your lifetime goals into yearly, monthly, weekly and daily goals, but that's a whole different question.

But I guarantee you that if you are actively working towards the goals that you have determined for your life, it won't matter to you whether you're a plumber, a lawyer, a journalist or a stay at home dad: you'll be very happy.

Good luck.
posted by gwpcasey at 12:51 PM on March 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

For the truly indecisive, some schools offer a liberal arts major (link for my own alma mater's program). I think of it as a generalists' major. A little of everything.

As someone who also enjoyed books over everything else, I majored in English. It does involve a lot of writing, but they're not expecting great literature from you. And I am one of the few I know whose degree is useful for their job, in that I am a public librarian - which is incidentally a great career for a generalist (although not for anyone who wants to support a family by themselves).
posted by timepiece at 1:22 PM on March 12, 2009

"How can I decide on a college major when I have NO interest?"

Sounds like the real question is why you're even in college

Drop out and try something different for a while, then see if you want to go back (and if so, what you want to study).
posted by tiburon at 6:27 PM on March 12, 2009

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