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Four Steps to Choosing a Major

Nathan GephardFrom Nathan Gebhard, co-founder of Roadtrip Nation and co-author of “Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life.”

After 15 years of interviewing a wide variety of people from C.E.O.s to camel ranchers, Nathan Gebhard found that most people are unsure when they’re starting out. Choosing a major is part of a larger, lifelong endeavor to channel interests, values, and skills. He outlines four steps for undecided students to choose a major:

1. Separate your goals from other people’s goals for you.

How do you quiet the noise that’s coming at you from family, friends and society? Parents suggesting you should be a lawyer, policy makers defining “success” in terms of paychecks, even the voice inside your head saying you’re not smart enough.

2. Forget passion; follow an interest.

Most advice about majors includes the admonition “Follow your passion.” But passion is something you discover over time, by finding an interest, however small, and nurturing it. There’s no epiphany; it’s a collection of small decisions that move you step by tiny step.

3. Put your decisions in real-world context.

Whether you’re attracted to something because of its promise of prosperity or because it stirs you on a deep level — neither inherently right or wrong — experts warn: Determine whether expectations match reality.

4. Yes, you do have to be good at it. Be flexible.

Dips in the job market, failing at a venture you wanted to succeed in badly, or just realizing that something isn’t as envisioned — these realities will force you to bend, contort or even redesign your ideal.

The complete article originally appeared in the New York Times.