Home » College Advice » Consider Your Personality When Choosing a Major

Consider Your Personality When Choosing a Major

Choosing a major can often seem like an insurmountable task. There are often so many factors that go into the decision that a clear-headed evaluation seems impossible. Yet the stakes are high. A failure to choose wisely what to major in college may determine your future career success and happiness. With a proper understanding of personality, however, you may have little difficulty finding the best-fitting major.

Personality theory is based on the presumption that each individual has an innate personality consisting of natural preferences for mental and social functioning. This does not presume that people always act according to their preferences. Often, preferences are suppressed in favor of behavior that is closer to group norms. It may be that you have always tried to act in conformance with a certain type of social behavior. While this behavior may be a large part of you, it could also be concealing your true personality. When you are choosing a major, information about your true personality will help ensure satisfaction with that major.

The first important factor of personality is the preference for introversion or extraversion. Introverts find solitary, mind-centered activity to be energizing. Extraverts find social, externally-focused activities to be energizing. In our society, extraversion is often praised over introversion. Because of this, individuals with an introverted preference will frequently act as if they were extroverts. The result is that the individual will be frequently exhausted and eventually begrudge social activity. The opposite would be true for an extravert.

When deciding what to major in college, the introversion-extraversion preference is important. You cannot expect an extravert to naturally take to a field of study in which long periods of isolation and mind-centered activity are necessary, such as computer programming or philosophy. Conversely, an introvert may suffer considerable pains if he or she decides to major in outdoor education or business.

Other preferences are also important when assessing personality. According to the Myers-Briggs personality theory, these preferences, including introversion-extraversion, are as follows:

Sensing - Intuiting: How We Take In Information

If we our sensors, we look to raw data for information. If we are intuiters, we look beyond the raw data for more general patterns. A sensor prefers hands-on, practical work, like carpentry or cooking. An intuiter prefers more theoretical, problem-solving work, such as writing or design.

Thinking - Feeling: How We Make Decisions

If we are thinkers, reason is the ultimate decider. If we are feelers, our feelings are the ultimate factor in a decision. Thinkers prefer an analytical approach to problems. This makes them good at things like engineering and science. Feelers prefer to approach problems by feeling them out, which is more suited to social work, art, and psychology.

Judging - Perceiving: How We Live Our Lives

If we are judgers, we plan our activities ahead of time. If we are perceivers, we adapt to circumstances and forego planning. Judgers prefer to live organized lives. They will flourish in organizations that provide structural stability. Perceivers find organization to be ultimately limiting. They flourish in an environment where the rule of order is not too strict.

Isabelle Myers, author of "Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type", considered these preferences to be innate and relatively unchangeable. There is nothing wrong with one preference over the other. What is harmful is suppression of our preferences. If the student does not consider these preferences when choosing a major, an unsatisfactory and stressful career may be the result.