College is a time for people to understand how the world works through in depth discussions in classes, classmates, and friends. Picking a major is an exciting, yet overwhelming choice. You want me to pick a topic I want to study for four years that will dictate the rest of my career?
That’s a lot of pressure. Family, friends, and society all have a large role to play in this decision too. Especially if you want to go against the grain. Many students pick a subject that they are passionate about but can’t find a job after graduation. Others will pick a subject that appeases their family, but don’t make them happy.
So here is a guide to navigate this all-important decision, with the intent that the decision process will be made by weighing the options.
Most Colleges Finalize Major Selection at the End of the Second Year
This is done to allow students to explore their interests through courses while simultaneously working on the general education requirements. So, when the admissions process begins and they ask for a proposed major, it’s okay to pick something and then change it. General education requirements are made so students don’t rush into a major. So if biology is interesting, take more biology courses while taking economics for general education requirements. If biology doesn’t work out, the science requirements have been met. No harm, no foul.
The Ultimate Test – First Choice Major vs Parent’s Choice
Parental dreams for their child can become a source of tension between budding college student, especially if the school is hundreds of miles from home. Who gives in? Neither. Parents can offer their wealth of experience in the real world, and children can show their strengths in passion of a subject.
Something that can be done together is researching possible majors, and career paths. The best place to start is the US government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. Categorized by profession, it keeps track of annual salary rate of growth, job descriptions, and degree needed for the job. It’s a great place to start the discussion around careers and the job market, especially in this economic downturn.
Money, Money, Money
Money is not a subject usually up for in depth discussion. Parents will put aside the topic to make sure their child gets the best education, despite household income. Both student and parent will get saddled into sky-high debt just make sure the student goes to a good school. However, depending on the profession, families must ask if it’s worth the debt if the same pay and experience level can be obtained through apprenticeships, vocational school, or community college. The Huffington Post has a great slideshow-based article with a list of options about how to manage debt after college.
Experience vs Interests
By the time most teenagers turn eighteen, they have an idea of the things they liked, things they don’t, and the things that interest them. The media has been following the increased national student loan debt, thus putting an immense pressure on incoming freshmen to choose majors that will pay off. That is a dilemma that is a student by student basis.
It is important to think about an individual student’s potential in a field – strong writer? Good at math? A knack for using technical thinking? What sort of personal experiences can a student look for in their life that made them happy? It’s important to play to strengths, but also challenge intellectual capabilities.
There are many aspects and considerations to take in when thinking about what major to choose. It’s important to go with a subject that will make a student happy five or ten years from now. Degrees are require a lot of money, and it’s important to be wise about how to use it.
It’s always best to seek out advice of friends, family, and teachers to help. Another great resource to careers is to seek out someone with that job, and interview them.
Sameer Bhatia is the founder of ProProfs.com, a provider of a powerful and comprehensive course management system available at www.proprofs.com/training. Through its course management system, ProProfs offers trainers and educators powerfully-simple ways to create training courses without having to download or learn expensive training software.