You may hear this question in both job and school admission interviews. And it is a tricky one for a simple reason: because many people do not know why they chose their major. Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat. You were young, enjoying life, not thinking much about what the future would bring. And so you followed the advice of your parents, or you went to the same college your friends opted for. Or you simply picked a popular major–something that was trendy at the time.
Maybe you also grew bored with your subject over the years, or even started to hate it. But you didn’t want to quit. Because you’re not someone who gives up, or because you’ve already invested so much time and money into your studies.
Heads up. Your story is not unique, in any means. Life changes, so do our priorities, and sometimes we end up having no idea why we chose our major, one week ago or ten years ago. But what to tell the prospective employer when they inquire about this important decision? We will try to find the answer in this article…
Your decision–not one of your parents
The most important thing (regardless of whether we speak about job interview or school admission interview) is to convince the interviewing panel that you decided about your major.
You can say that your parents or friends had some impact. After all it is normal to consult our loved ones, to hear their opinion. Doesn’t matter how strong a role they played in your choice, ensure the interviewers that you made the final call.
Try to connect your studies to your future
University studies represent one step in your lifelong (or “lifeshort”) journey. And though it is typically a great experience to study and to live in the campus (after all for many this is the last period of relative freedom, before they start working and/or have children), the primary purpose is not to have fun.
We study to learn a skill. Or an entire set of skills. Something that will allow us to find out place in working society, and to pay our bills. We study to be able to get some jobs in the future–ideally jobs we want to have.
And this is exactly what you should focus on in your answer. Tell the interviewers that you picked your major because you always wanted to work in the field (or at least you wanted to do it in the moment of sending your application).
What to do if the fields do not match
You graduated from law and now you apply for a job of a restaurant manager. Or you have a degree in Economics an Management and apply for a job in a zoo. How to answer the question in this case?
Not much changes, really. You can simply say that your priorities changed, or that later on in life you understood that your place is somewhere else than where you originally thought it would be (in the moment of choosing your major).
In this case you can always add that everything relates to everything, and that you believe your major will help you even in your new job (a seemingly unrelated one)…
School admission interviews
The situation doesn’t change much when you apply for a place in the study program. You should explain how your major will allow you to work in the field of your choice–once you earn it, of course.
In this case, you can refer also to the choice of their college (* see also college interview questions), praising their reputation, study program, or anything else. They should feel that you chose them on purpose, that they represent your first choice.
Speak with enthusiasm
I know nothing worse than young people who are bored with life. People who lost the spark in the eye before they turned twenty-five or thirty. Interviewers should never get an impression that you study simply because you have to, or because everyone else goes to University nowadays. You should show some enthusiasm for your major.
Your non-verbal communication in an interview is equally important to your verbal communication. They should feel that you are looking forward to your career, and it doesn’t matter whether you apply for your first or tenth job.
Sample answers to the question about your major
Let’s have a look at some good answers to the question, answers for different situations and scenarios in the interviews. Feel free to use them as an inspiration for your own answer.
- I applied for a med school because I always wanted to work as a surgeon. It is my ultimate goal and med school is the first step on this fascinating journey. Your school has an excellent reputation and it would be a privilege to study here.
- I chose finance and investment because I wanted to work as a financial analyst, and later perhaps start my own consultancy. Honestly, I had this dream six years ago, and as you can see, applying today for my first job with you, much hasn’t changed. I believe that my school has prepared me well for this position.
- I studied engineering but as you can see, I apply for quite a different job now. My priorities shifted, and things that happened to me changed me profoundly in recent years. Yet I believe that everything relates to everything, and that I can use some of my engineering skills even in social work.
- To be honest with you, back in the day I struggled to decide. I enjoyed various things, and I was interested in various subjects. I almost felt like studying more majors at once. And so I talked to our school counselor, to my parents, friends, and eventually I decided for law. Here I am, applying for a job with your NGO. And I believe that my major has prepared me for this position.
- I have always had this special feeling for animals. Everything I have done since my childhood related to my desire to help the living creatures. Veterinary medicine was just yet another crucial step on this journey. I enjoyed my school a lot, and can’t wait to put into practice what I have learned.
* Special Tip: You can also download all sample answers to this question in a one page long PDF, and refer to it anytime later while preparing for your interview:
Conclusion and next steps
We have all kinds of reasons for choosing our major, for taking a certain path in life. Sometimes we decide, another time someone close to us makes the call, and at times fate forces us to take certain direction.
When interviewing for a job, however, (or for a place in the study program), you should try to convince the interviewers that you made the decision, that you know why you studied (or want to pursue) certain major. Do not forget to speak with enthusiasm, and to ensure them that your studies prepared you for your first (second, tenth) job.
This question isn’t the only difficult one you’ll face in your interview. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that happen in the workplace. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, check our Interview Success Package for up to 10 premium answers to all tricky interview questions. Thank you!
Alternatively you can check answers to one of the following questions: