Students pour over deciding on a major when they begin their college education, but then they’re also asked to choose a college minor. While this isn’t always required, a minor can round-out your degree, compliment your chosen major or career aspirations, or expand your knowledge and education of a particular passion.
Luckily, choosing a minor typically isn’t as much pressure as choosing a major, so you have more freedom to explore when picking a minor. We’ll walk you through your options and the process through the eyes of an academic advisor and a recent graduate.
When starting the process of choosing a college minor, start with the basics by considering simply what your interests are. Make a list of subjects that interest you, and ask yourself questions that can help you understand what you are looking for in a minor. LaBrian Carrington, Academic Counselor and Advisor at Northern Illinois University, explained why asking these questions can help students understand where their interests lie:
“In listening to the students, a lot of the time they’re answering their own questions, like ‘where do you find your passion?’ ‘What is it that you’re interested in?’ Do you see yourself being a mentor or managing a team?” said Carrington. “It’s a lot of soul searching.”
When you have a few general ideas of what you might like to minor in, learn more about each one and how it would fit in with your academic path by talking with the department of the subject you’re interested in. Carrington explains how he helps students examine their interests once they come to him with their ideas.
“We’ll talk about the careers and different things they can do with a minor, but then we’ll have them go over and talk to the department. And, speaking with them, they would be able to come up with a plan,” said Carrington, as each department will have an outline of major and minor degree paths.
What a minor does
When choosing a major, it’s important to pick a degree that will be useful in the career you’re after. While a minor is more flexible because it isn’t where you are spending the majority of your time, it can still be valuable when you apply for jobs and even later in your career. A minor allows you to dive into a particular passion of yours, rounding out your degree and teaching you certain skills outside of your major area of study. Your major and minor combination can be in the same field or completely different, and still serve this purpose.
Carrington gave the example of a student who earned her bachelor’s degree in business, but minored in dance. Of course, these fields are very different, but he explained that this student’s goal is to open up her own dance studio later on in life, making the minor very helpful.
“If a student has a particular thing that they’re interested in, I would tell them it’s a good idea to entertain those minor options because it gives them a little bit more insight into what’s expected in that field,” said Carrington.
On the other hand, Lauren Van Solkema graduated from the University of Denver in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications and a minor in marketing. She said that her marketing minor was a good fit, as it was in the same family as strategic communications. However, the two were different enough that she learned different concepts in her marketing classes that helped her in her career after college.
“In strategic communications, a lot of my classes were focused on company’s images and how to recover those images when needed. So, more image focused and more dealing with the media, whereas marketing was more controlled by a company and more on the business side,” said Van Solkema.
Van Solkema even recalled a specific marketing class that helped in her career later on, as it was not a concept covered in strategic communications.
“My business to business marketing class has helped in my career in ad tech. It helped differentiate the mindset between advertising to businesses and advertising to consumers,” said Van Solkema.
Making the decision
While you want to consider your choice carefully based on your interests and chosen career or educational path, your minor can only help you expand your knowledge.
“I don’t think there’s a wrong choice when picking a minor, but I do think doing something practical to kind of beef up your major is never a bad idea,” said Van Solkema.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can minor in multiple subjects. If you, for example, want to choose a minor that directly relates to your major as well as a minor that focuses on a passion of yours, this is completely doable. Many students are able to work double or triple minor paths into their schedules.
Overall, you have a lot of leeway when it comes to your minor, but whatever you choose, it will be beneficial to you in some way personally or professionally.
“With the exception of things that will need a licensure, there are so many different pathways students can take to get to where they want to be as a professional. It’s just a matter of taking the right courses and making sure that they’re getting everything out of that course that’s going to allow them to move forward into their profession,” said Carrington.
See also: How to Choose a Study Abroad Program