A History major studies the past and interprets information to form conclusions. While it’s important to know that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, History majors tend to dig a little deeper. What were the conditions in 1492? What kinds of ships did they sail? Who made them? Where did the wood come from? What does all that mean? Names and dates are important, but this is more than just a memorization major.
History majors like to read, which is good because they have to read a lot in their classes. They may have a particular culture or time period they’re passionate about – United States Civil War era, Chinese history, etc.
History majors are good writers – they have to be in order to accurately tell about the past. They are good researchers – meaning they do more than rush to Wikipedia to find answers. They’re good at picking up on important details, not just trivia – though they normally are the type you would never want to bet against in a game of Trivial Pursuit.
If you skip the actual books and go straight to the movie to complete your book reports in high school, you are not the History major type.
As a History major you’ll likely learn the basic history of civilization, as well as the highlights of mankind’s existence on the earth. Depending on the courses offered at your college, you can get pretty specific into what parts of history you study. In addition to learning the facts, you’ll learn how to research, how to record your findings, and how to analyze what you learn.
The joke is that the only thing a History major can do is teach history – it’s a joke that isn’t really funny, and it also isn’t true. There’s a home for History majors in a bunch of fields. While the obvious choices are as historians or history teachers, often History majors go on to become lawyers, researchers, librarians, lobbyists, business executives – with a college degree in history they’re really not limited much at all.
If your high school offers Advanced Placement History, take it. Also, find out all you can about local history and find ways to showcase your research. There may be local essay contests, and there are national history presentation contests you can enter.
History majors are expected to form their own views of history based on their research. How do you show off that you can do this? Participate in class – a lot. Depending on what kind of history you want to focus on, it’s probably a good idea to learn a second language, or at least take some international culture classes.