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Episode 49- Choosing a major

Jan 11, 2021

When your student doesn’t know what major they want, I’ll share some ways you can coach them about which program to start in….how to explore.

It’s never a good result when a student enrolls in a major of their parents choice. College is hard enough when you are motivated to succeed in a discipline of your choosing. It gets worse when you add the pressure and frustration that this is your parents choice.

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Have them look inside/reflect. Even if your student cannot articulate their degree choice, have them really spend time thinking about how they’d like to spend their time over the next 30-40 years. 

  • What hobbies do they enjoy?
  • What kinds of things are they good at naturally?
  • What things do others come to them asking for help with?

If they have a few ideas but aren’t confident, you may suggest job shadowing. Use your contacts, seek resources from friends, colleagues or a nearby college/university to identify opportunities for a job shadow experience. This could certainly help your student in their decision making.

There is always a concern about being able to earn a living depending on the degree choice. That is certainly a valid concern. Challenge your student to do their own research on ways they can support themselves in their chosen discipline. Ask them to provide evidence of other success stories to you…..and not the one in a million folks that are here and gone from the media after their 15 minutes of fame. 

Now if you are still with a student who isn’t quite sure you need to assess the college to determine if they have a place an exploring student can be housed for their first semester or two. I will caution you to really dig in here. Even colleges with an undecided/explorer place to house your student the curricula requirements of the potential majors should be evaluated carefully. Not all colleges have a true core curriculum that seamlessly transfers across any discipline. Your student could end up taking a semester or two of courses that don’t fully fulfill the plan of study requirements depending on where they end up.

Lastly I would challenge you to consider if college is truly the best choice for your student now. Some may need to deal with health issues, some may need to mature more, some may need to further develop their level of responsibility/accountability, some may need to work for a year to help earn money for college, some may desire vocational school such as HVAC, electrician, plumbing, auto mechanic. Look around and consider how your life would be without those folks filling those roles. Consider the income they make as well and for less of an up front investment.

  • Plumber- $46,000
  • Auto mechanic- $37,261
  • HVAC $59,000
  • Electrician- $52,720

According to Glassdoor.com on Sept 1, 2018.

Major changes sources used:

https://columbiachronicle.com/students-are-not-sticking-to-their-majors

https://www.studentresearchfoundation.org/blog/statistics-about-changing-college-majors/

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/12/08/nearly-third-students-change-major-within-three-years-math-majors-most

https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018434.pdf

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/08/24/study-finds-students-benefit-waiting-declare-major

https://www.localnews8.com/news/education/nces-report-about-80-percent-of-college-students-change-major-at-least-once/806483499

https://hechingerreport.org/more-info-is-available-about-which-majors-pay-off-but-students-arent-using-it/

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