PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 197 | How To Develop An Interest (Intended Major)

How do you develop, refine, or pique your interest in a certain field, career, or job? And how does that affect your intended college major?

In this week's podcast, I offer a creative idea to help your child develop an early interest in a subject, field, industry, or career.   Ideally, this process will help them when it comes time to choose an "intended major" on their college applications. This seemingly simple step can have significant consequences in the admissions process and beyond. If you want to help your child develop a budding area of interest, please listen to this episode.

Show Transcript:

Hello, friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. In today's episode, I want to continue on our journey toward helping students think about what they might want to study in college. Also known as their intended major and by extension, what they might want to do for a job or any career. And I would say that this episode is certainly relevant and useful for ninth and 10th graders, but I think the primary beneficiaries of today's recommendations will be 11th and 12th graders. They are the ones who will soon need to pick an intended major on their college applications. They're the ones who really need to put some thought into these questions and have a plan as to how they arrive at an answer. And just a quick heads up for those of you just joining us. Your child will be asked in every college application what they intend to major in. And while on the surface, this may look like an innocent and easy question to answer, it can have significant consequences for one, your major choice will play a role in how competitive you'll be at said college. If you pick a super popular major like computer science or psychology or business, you should know that you'll be vying for a spot against possibly thousands of other students who have picked the same major. So statistically, you may be at a disadvantage right off the bat. In addition, if you choose a major, which you have shown very little interest in during high school, you'll have some explaining to do. For example, if you select computer engineering as your major choice, mostly because you think it's an up and coming field, maybe your uncle told you that computer engineers make a ton of money, but your track record in high school is absent anything related to computer engineering or computer science or computer anything.

Then they will raise an eyebrow and wonder if you really know what you're getting yourself into. And that is not where you want to be. You want to make your major choice look like an obvious choice based on your body of work during high school. For example, if you selected English as your major choice and during high school you started a book club, you won several essay contests, you ran yearbook. You were the editor of the school newspaper. You had several articles published in legitimate magazines. Maybe you ran a popular blog page. You did some English tutoring. You scored a perfect 800 on your verbal SAT section. This will make it very easy for your admissions officer to get behind your application because, for lack of a better phrase, you've put all the pieces together for them in a very coherent way. You've connected all the dots, if you will. So once again, one of the keys to differentiate yourself in the college admissions process is to select an intended major that reflects what you care about most. And hopefully what you have evidenced over the last few years by how you've spent your time. And as I said, I've already devoted several episodes to these questions, but I wanted to add a few more tactics and ideas because every student is different, and some methods may resonate with some students more than others. In past episodes, I've talked about paying attention to which classes you like more calculus or history, thinking about whether you're more of a STEM or a humanities student. Do you prefer numbers or letters? Do you prefer reading or problem solving? I've talked about joining school clubs that seem to pique your interest. I've recommended watching TED talks or listening to podcasts related to your interests. You can certainly try to get a part time job or a full time summer job or an internship in a field that you might find interesting. I've talked about shadowing sessions. This is where you spend a day with someone doing a job that you think you might enjoy. I've talked about setting up short informational interviews with people in careers that spark your curiosity.

Today, I'm going to add one more tool to your toolbox, and that is finding and reviewing a list of required college classes for any given major you're interested in. What do I mean by that? For example, let's say you thought you might want to be a math major. You're not sure, but you have a growing interest. You would go online, like right now and look up typing what classes are required to be a math major in college return. And what you would find are classes like discrete mathematics, differential equations, analysis, linear algebra, multivariable calculus, calculus, geometry, topology, modeling. And you would sit back and think to yourself, Do any of these subjects look familiar or interesting to me? If so, am I excited to learn about them? Now, you may not know right off the bat what these subjects are all about. But if you double click each one and get further information about what they're all about, are you intrigued? Are you excited? Are you confused? Are you bored? Are you indifferent? Because these will be literally the things that you would study during your four years in college. If you're a math major. What about mechanical engineering? To be a mechanical engineer major at Duke, for example? You need one writing class five math classes for natural science classes like chemistry and physics. Five Social science classes for engineering and science classes like digital systems, electrical science materials, science, thermal science fluid and solid dynamics, Environmental science, mechatronics systems and controls, Propulsion design and manufacturing. Obviously, you're not going to be an expert in any of these things, but do any or all of them pique your interest?

Do they get your academic juices flowing? Are you dying to get started because each of these topics sound so riveting? Or are you bored or indifferent or intimidated by these topics? Now we can do this for every college major you can think of business, journalism, history, biology, sociology, zoology. This is a very good exercise to do, even as early as ninth grade, to get some initial sense of whether you're barking up the right tree or not. And of course, the older you get, the more mature you get. The more high school classes you get under your belt, the better equipped you'll be to evaluate how much you attracted to or repelled by certain classes and thus certain majors. I know students who graduate from high school. They go to college. They don't go through this exercise until they arrive on campus as freshmen. Then and only then do they start thinking about what they might want to majoring. And they have about a week to decide. That's not where you want to be. You want to be well ahead of the game. As I hope you can see, this exercise can help in a lot of different ways. It helps make you think about the future. It encourages you to start considering what you might like and dislike when it comes to college majors. If something really lights you up and you fall in love with the classes that are part of your intended major, it might prompt you to start participating in extracurricular activities related to those classes. Maybe you'll join or maybe even start a mechanical engineering club, for example. This is called Shaping your extracurricular activities. You are picking extracurricular activities to participate in based on how well they align with what you think you might want to do in college. And ideally, the sooner you have an inkling about what you might want to do, the better, because you'll be able to create that alignment. Now, this is not always as easy as it sounds.

For one, many students have no idea what they want to do, and I can appreciate that. But I don't want you to use that as an excuse not to explore your options. If you have no idea what you want to do and all you do every day is go to school, play your sport, go home, play video games. You're not giving yourself a chance to think about what you might want to do. You're not giving yourself a chance. Are you unsure about what you want to do because there are so many great options to study that you're overwhelmed or because you're lazy and haven't really thought about it very much. Don't use ignorance or lack of effort as an excuse as to why you don't have any direction. You must actively think about these things. Try different things out. See what connects with you. And by the way, don't be surprised if you think you like a certain topic or subject or major, and then you look into it a bit more, only to find out that it really wasn't what you thought of. After all. That's not a failure. That's actually a big win. Even though you didn't immediately fall in love with the first thing you thought you might like. You still tried and guess what? Now you know better. And now you move on to the next thing. It's much better to explore these avenues now when you're in high school. Then when you get to college and get locked into a major that you wind up disliking. Do some due diligence now. Try to get closer to what you think you might want to do. It doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to know exactly what you want to major in or what you want to do for a job. But if you've made any progress, you're going to be way ahead of the curve. Try to enter college with a solid idea of the type of work, the type of study, maybe even a career you might want to pursue. Now, things may change once you get to college, but I'd really like you to go in with an initial game plan. And as I said at the top, college admissions officers will appreciate the fact that you've put some time and energy trying to figure out what you might want to do with your life, and that will be demonstrated in your application.

It also gives the admissions officers a spot to put you in the class, whether it's as an engineer or a philosopher or a language expert or a musician or something else. Help the admissions officer out. Paint them a picture of who you are, where you think you're going, and what you've brought to the table. To come to this conclusion. Going through this exercise and coming up with a tentative plan or even a solid plan will give your extracurricular activities more weight. It will help justify your intended major. It will help you write your common app and supplemental essays. It will help your teachers write impressive letters of recommendation. It will help you in your interviews. It will give your application the substance and depth that it will need in today's highly competitive environment. So please give it a try. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. In case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies online mentoring program. The bread and butter where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, for service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schoolers enrolled in Prep or Academy, which is great. If you don't yet, please consider enrolling them. Registration is only open during freshman or sophomore year. After that, we no longer accept new students. So if you have a freshman or sophomore in high school and you like what you're hearing in these podcasts and you'd like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child for their specific grade and with their specific goals in mind, go to Prep. Well, Academy AECOM and enroll today. If you know a parent with a middle schooler or high schooler that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them and give us a rating if you have a moment. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a much wider audience. If you have questions, comments, or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email. DM me on Instagram. Check out our blog, our Facebook page. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Until next week, Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing.

This podcast is brought to you by PrepWell Academy. PrepWell Academy is my one of a kind online mentoring program that delivers to your ninth or 10th grader a short, highly relevant video from me every week. Every Sunday, in fact, where I give them a heads up about what they should be thinking about, to stay ahead of the game to get these valuable lessons into your child's hands. Please head over to and enroll your child today.

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Podcast Host:

PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc.

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