How to Identify and Focus Your Interests

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Selecting the Right Major is Key to College and Post Graduate Success

According to a new survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies are planning to hire 9.6% more college graduates from the class of 2015 than they did from last year’s graduating class. The most in-demand degrees: engineering, business, and computer science. What does this mean for current high school students? Even with rising college costs, there’s no doubt that a bachelor’s degree is worth it. However, it’s not just about where you go to college, but what you study.

We’ve written at length before about the importance of having focused interests as colleges are looking to build well-rounded classes of specialists, and this is important, not only for gaining admission to your best-fit colleges, but also for preparing you for the post-graduation job market. What you study in college can have a big impact on your job options after graduation. However, this doesn’t mean every student should jump into a STEM major based on the most in-demand degrees.

Yes, certain majors are in more demand than others, but what matters most when deciding what and where to study is fit. Students should not only seek out best-fit colleges but also best-fit majors that meet their academic interests. Why? Because finding the best major for you early on ensures you’ll select the right college and stay on track to graduate on time with less debt and more time on the job because you won’t waste time and money transferring colleges or in between majors.

How to Identify and Develop Your Interests

Before selecting colleges to apply to, students first need to identify their interests. What do they want to study? After all, you are going to college to get an education, so academics areas of interest should be the main focus when researching colleges for your balanced college list.
 
First, start early. High school freshmen and sophomores should spend time exploring different areas of interest through reading, extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities, the classes they take, and more. What are you most excited about? If you’re in a business club, but find yourself skipping meetings or putting in minimal effort, then this activity clearly isn’t a passion. Drop it for something you do enjoy, whether it’s art, music, athletics, or something else.

Do you love camping and the outdoors? Maybe you have strong opinions about environmentalism and preserving nature. Explore that! Devote all your energy into the things you truly enjoy, not what you think will look good on your activity list.

Next, get involved. So you’ve found an activity or subject you really enjoy – great! Now work to make an impact through meaningful involvement. Take on a leadership position in a related club, organize projects that will help advance the club or activity, or find a way to turn that interest into a volunteer opportunity.

There are many ways to develop interests outside of clubs or activities as well. If you’re interested in entrepreneurism, take some free online courses on the subject, subscribe to publications, blog about what you’ve learned, or even start your own business! The goal is to find creative ways to learn more about a subject and gain experience that can help you decide whether this is an area of study you really want to pursue in college.

Don’t be afraid to branch out. Sometimes an activity or topic that interests you turns out to not be what you expected, and that’s okay! Don’t be afraid of trying something and not liking it. Remember, colleges want to see sustained involvement in activities that really interest you. If you try something and don’t like it, drop it and move on. By stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new you’re already preparing yourself for the college experience and putting yourself one step closer to finding an interest that you’re truly passionate about!

If you’re still struggling to find an interest, here are more tips to help you identify and develop your passions!

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