Fabian Pfortmüller on What to Consider When Choosing a College Major

In Chapter 4 of 19 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller shares his approach to choosing a college major.  He advises others to consider non-practical approaches, focusing less on choosing based on career path and more on learning from a diverse array of subjects.  Over time, typically two years, the diverse experiences allow for a more personalized and fitting choice.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com).  He also co-founded an innovation think tank, Incubaker (www.incubaker.com), and is part of the group's first spin-off, Holstee (www.holstee.com), an apparel brand for people who would like to wear their passion.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its School of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: What should college students consider when choosing a major?

Fabian Pfortmüller: I personally believe that they should not go for practical output for practical reasons such as ‘This is going to allow me to do X, Y and Z in my career’. I think having the courage and the guts to disconnect your studies and especially undergrad but I personally believe even grad studies, from a practical, applicable knowledge for your career is a great thing.

Because in the end, you know look at how people recruit, yes they like to recruit – like if you want to go into business, yes they like to recruit business people but at the same time this is not what going to really matter afterwards in the job. And so I can only recommend for people to try and try out as many things as possible, most diverse as possible in first one, two years, don’t settle too easily for something, be critical to yourself, try totally random stuff and then go for what you really feel most passionate about.

In my case, I had a class on music in the Middle East and India and I realized that’s cool, that’s interesting but it was music. I had a class on philosophy, I had a class on social inequality in China and from all those things in the end you have to kind of also start understand what is a good professor? What is a nice department? I mean obviously the major and the topic itself matters but I think there are also departments and departments. And I am at the department which is called Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and people are just very relaxed and people are very open and I believe that makes a big difference.