Hey everybody - I need to pick a major for college applications

In summary, high school student is considering majors and wants advice. He is fairly nerdy, interested in a variety of topics, and spends a lot of time studying and teaching himself. He is considering a physics major, but is worried about the future if he does not pursue a career in medicine. He is also worried about the number of girls in physics and wants to improve his chances of admission to a competitive college.
  • #1
Willow Wanda
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3
Hello y'all! I'm a high school student and I'm looking for some advice:)

I am very interested in physics, quantum mechanics in particular. I'm a bit of an overachiever, and I usually overthink everything. I come from a family of doctors, and although they don't pressure me into following in their footsteps, they generally don't approve of the pursuit of physics careers. As a junior in high school, I'm beginning to plan for college, and I was wondering, does anyone have any suggestion for majors?

I'm fairly nerdy - very interested in string theory, loop quantum gravity, astrophysics, quantum theory, but also other classes like chemistry and biology; honesty any STEM class. I spend my free time studying and teaching myself a wide variety of generally useless information, and I read a lot of, mostly nonfiction science books

Doesn't anyone have any college major ideas for applications? I'm looking for something interesting, stem related, and probably more along a physics track, without it being too specific as to impede a medical career (I really don't want to disappoint my family. They say I don't need to go into medicine, but my parents have made it clear that there aren't many jobs in physics, especially for women. They consider it a more masculine subject, and although they support whatever I want to study, they strongly against physics. I don't want to restrict myself from the medical field, as if I do end up changing my mind in the future, I would never live it down)

Also, to make things even more complicated! I'm hoping to pick a major that would help improve my odds of acceptance. I'm looking at very competitive colleges (MIT, Brown, Johns hopkins, and Tufts in particular) and if picking a slightly different major can help to improve my chances, I would definitely take the opportunity, as long as it reflects my interests. In my experience, there are far less girls in physics, so maybe something along those lines could help my chances? I'm not entirely sure if these colleges are trying to fill quotas but if anyone has any ideas it would be greatly appreciated.

Anyways this is a lot longer than I intended, thank y'all for sticking with me till here
If anyone has any suggestions for a college major that would be sick thank ya
 
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  • #2
A physics degree would give many job opportunities in the sciences and elsewhere. My PhD advisor has a PhD in physics, but she is a professor in a chemistry department and her research is basically in biology and biomedical science. As physics degrees give strong training in quantitative and computational sciences, I know many physics graduates who have gotten jobs in tech, for example, at Google and Facebook.
 
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  • #3
Decide whether you want to live your own life, or the life that your parents want you to have. If it's the first one, keep reading.

It's pretty typical as an undergrad to switch/add/drop majors in your first year or so. You can declare physics to be your major, and if after taking the first two semesters of physics you decide to switch, no harm will be done as the first year's classes are usually general education requirements anyway. It's also not unheard of to be a physics major and still a pre-med student, in case you're worried about that.
 
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  • #4
If you parents are paying for a significant part of your college education, you should receive their feedback.

My dad eventually warmed to the idea of me majoring in Physics, but he originally wanted me to major in petrochemical engineering. Living in Louisiana, he knew that there were lots and lots of jobs for petrochemical engineers and far fewer for physics graduates. It was December of my senior year in high school when I gained his approval to major in physics. His approval was not just based on my love for physics (love is not enough) but on my demonstrated track record of success and excellence in science including numerous awards and recognition, including very good grades in my science courses.

Depending on where you attend college and what credits you already have through dual enrollment when you start, majoring in chemistry usually won't set you back much if you switch to physics after your first year. Chemistry is a very good major for pre-med and similar aspirations, and your parents may be warmer to the idea of Physics after you complete a semester or two. Right now I'm mentoring a student who is on the fence between Chemistry and Physics, and (at his school) he'll still be able to graduate in 4 years even if he does not decide for sure until after his first year. He wrote "Chemistry" on all his college and scholarship applications, but that declaration is not usually binding at all. This year, he is enjoying his physics and math-related coursework much more than his dual enrollment chemistry courses and giving careful consideration to switching.

I've mentored several other students on the fence between Mechanical Engineering and Physics, and in many programs that decision does not really need to be made until after 2-3 semesters of college. Beware though, at some schools (GA Tech is one example) the engineering majors stack up the prerequisites in engineering so that if one does not begin taking the required engineering courses in the first semester, one may be delaying graduation by however many semesters one delays the first required engineering course.
 
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Related to Hey everybody - I need to pick a major for college applications

What are the top factors to consider when choosing a major?

Some top factors to consider when choosing a major include your personal interests and strengths, potential career opportunities and job market demand, course requirements and curriculum, and potential for growth and advancement within the field.

Should I choose a major based on potential salary?

While salary may be a consideration, it should not be the sole factor in choosing a major. It's important to choose a major that aligns with your interests and strengths, as this can lead to long-term satisfaction and success in your career.

How can I explore different majors to make an informed decision?

There are a variety of ways to explore different majors, including taking introductory courses, speaking with academic advisors or professors, attending career fairs and information sessions, and conducting informational interviews with professionals in your areas of interest.

Is it okay to change my major once I've started college?

Yes, it is common for students to change their major during their college career. It's important to choose a major that you are passionate about and will lead to a fulfilling career, so if you find that your initial choice is not the right fit, it is okay to make a change.

Do I need to choose a major before applying to college?

It depends on the college or university you are applying to. Some schools allow students to apply as "undecided" or "undeclared" and choose a major later on, while others may require students to declare a major on their application. It's important to research the requirements of the schools you are applying to in order to make an informed decision.

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