Student Success Strategy #52: Choosing a Major

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Kyle at 5:  Fireman

Kyle at 6:  Cowboy

Kyle at 7:  Astronaut

Kyle at 8:  Soldier

Kyle at 9:  Doctor

Kyle at 10:  Lawyer

Kyle at 11:  Football Player

Kyle at 12:  Broadway Star

You get the picture.  Kids usually have many ideas depending on what is influencing them in their lives.   Each idea might be “the one” or it might be a pipe dream, but encouraging exploration is a great way to find the right path in life.

Why, at 18 or 19, do we expect them to know what they should major in while at college?

Does it all come down to economics?  How far the money will go?

“You’ve got four years, kid, make it count.”

Research shows that a student will change majors 3 to 5 times during those four years, and this can delay or even derail their graduation plans.

What can a student – or a parent – do to make those choices realistic?

1.  Take career interest tests.  Many of these are online, either through a university, or listed in Google.  Take several, if you have the patience.  You’ll likely find two or three types of careers that are good matches, and from there, you can research the academic requirements.

2.  Make a list of your favorite accomplishments.  What do they have in common, and in what ways do those common areas appear in different careers?

3.  See the people in the college career services office.  They can help guide you to resources on campus and discuss your options.  They can also discuss how a specific major fares in the current economic climate, and the future trends of the career.

4.  See your advisor.  Regularly.  Discuss your interests, your academic requirements, and how your interests might lead you into different majors, or a major and a minor, or an interdisciplinary degree in which several interests are represented.   Take an elective in an area you may be interested in, but consider which courses are required for each of your interests.

For example, statistics may be required for a math major, an education major, or a social science major.  Is there a course or series of courses that would meet the requirements for each of these, without having to duplicate the efforts?

5.  Know yourself.  What is your idea job setting?  Indoors, outdoors?  At a desk or in a lab?  Traveling?  Always around people in a teamwork setting, or working more independently and often alone?  What is important to you?

6.  Get experience.  Early.  Internships, externships, shadowing, and co-op experiences are available.  Employers want to know that you are truly interested in the position, but you should be even more positive that you are choosing well.

Student Success Strategy #52:  Choosing a major:  there is help available!  Start early to use your resources and keep your options open.

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