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College Majors Matter

Jul 03, 2019

College majors have a big impact on the value of the investment being made in pursuit of a student’s college dream.

The first step for parents is to help students understand the benefit of choosing a major that fits their passions and interests.   This overview from New York University emphasizes the interests, values, skills, and personality to be successful in different majors.  A more in-depth tool from the Princeton Review (Career Quiz) is a simple 24 question evaluation to help students identify areas of interest. These and other online tools are helpful compliments to the information students receive in school to help them define their interests, aptitude, and possible career paths. While there is no guarantee that a declared major will lead to a dream job, evaluating these interests early can save lots of time and money later. 

Sometimes the value of a survey course, part-time job or internship is to help students understand what they do not want to do after college.  According to the Department of Education’s recent study, approximately one-third of college students change their major within their first three years, and 10% change majors more than once.  The problem is that this can get to be time-consuming and expensive as students pile up credits from one major that are well more than the number of credits necessary to graduate.

Students may feel pressure from family or friends to choose a major that leads to a job with a big salary after graduation. While it’s important to consider average salaries in the field(s) they’re considering so they do not borrow more in loans than they can afford, it certainly shouldn’t be the only determining factor. Successful careers are not often built in a business that a worker hates for many years but sticks with just because it’s lucrative. While specific majors are necessary for certain career tracks, such as engineering and the medical professions, other majors provide a breadth of experience to develop adaptable skills for a variety of work opportunities.  Ultimately, it’s up to the student to learn and acquire new skills along the way towards degree completion.

One benefit of identifying interests, aptitudes, and majors as soon as possible – as early as high school – is to take high school classes related to the college major or field of study that most interests the student.  In the best case, a student can excel and receive college credit as a result of a great Advanced Placement or CLEP score.  Many colleges award credit or placement for these exams, sometimes allowing students to skip introductory classes or fulfill general education requirements.  All this saves money and ultimately leads to less student loan debt and better returns on the investment in college.

Choosing a major can feel like a complicated process, but it shouldn’t be rushed. Using available resources, including discussions with parents and advisors, high school and college counselors, and online tools, students can determine which major, and career path is best for them.