Choosing a College Major? Don’t Make This Mistake

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Read about choosing a college major and learn about the anxiety inducing approach that still a common route taken by many teenagers today.

My Path

When I was a senior in high school, I remember Googling options for jobs and talking to many career counselors.  What I discovered was that my search was for a clear answer, a path I could follow to get to know myself and learn how that interconnected with a profitable outcome.

Many focused on high SAT scores and other requirements to get into the top schools. I filled my schedule with challenging AP classes and extra-curricular’s to achieve acceptance into the colleges I aimed for. It was a very misguided effort that cost me years of aimless wandering through my 20’s to “figure out my life.” I had gotten into all the schools I had applied to and finally went to the best Fashion School in the world – FIT.  I even chose a major on interests I had in high school, not on a guided plan that would sustain my efforts and changing attitudes, needs, wants, and goals.  I had very unfocused interests, and no clear idea of what I would do after college.

Sadly, meeting with career counselors and taking assessment and aptitude tests led me stray in a path I would enjoy but would reconsider and ultimately change into Human Resources due to many external factors I never thought of.

Mistakes In Choosing A College Major

This anxiety inducing approach is still a common route taken by many teenagers today looking to find the college that in their mind will set them up for smooth sailing into adulthood.

In essence, choosing a college for most students is becomes a popularity contest.  I myself had the opinions of others with no knowledge on schools, but only exposure to what the media had sold to them. But, it’s not really the students fault—or yours as parents.

Between popular media and a broken school system, there is no easy access to the right information, and the information that is most readily available is skewed and misleading. U.S. News tries – but fails to fill an unfortunate information vacuum for parents and students alike. We as a culture have been massively mis-informed about college and career selection.

In many private high schools, parents pay a premium for their children to receive personalized guidance to identify colleges that fit with their interests and academic aptitude—helping students explore and apply to schools they feel are their “best fit”.  While parents in public schools generally assume their child’s counselor will provide guidance to students on college and major or career selection, this is not always the case. Most public high school counselors provide very little “counseling” and serve mainly administrative roles, dealing with discipline problems and making sure students fulfill all of their high school graduation requirements.  Both scenarios have college counselors doing the best they can with the resources and experience they have.  Neither however enable students critical thinking skills to ensure students understand the decisions they make and how they affect them 5, 10, 15 years later.

Selecting A College

Selecting colleges based on rankings and other impersonal criteria sets off a domino effect of devastating results for young adults. We see a mounting crisis in millennials that is carrying over to Generation Z: aimless students select colleges and majors that “sound good,” accumulate student loan debt, and graduate college with little or no direction or immediate career options.

There us an increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide rates among teenagers and young adults, who are finding that the way they’ve been guided through their educations doesn’t serve their adult-life needs. Graduates are let down by the reality of the job and career they have chosen after working diligently in college. They had never paused to figure out what they were really good at or develop passions that placed them in a career field that could bring them a meaningful sense of purpose while also accomplishing financial goals.

Our most successful and happiest students have identified personal meaningful criteria for their college and career choices. They weren’t just targeting the top schools and aiming for the highest test scores. They had received help to explore their strengths, learn about different career fields.

In our Career Discovery Workshop, students are guided to identify their unique strengths and interests while also building their knowledge of identifying careers based on career and personal goals.  Critical thinking and research are at the forefront of this easy to understand program that is engaging while remaining meaningful.  Students are much better equipped to make a decision about college and their course of study than someone who has not been given the opportunity to experience this process.

Knowing who you are, what you’re good at, what you need, and understanding the work environment leads to a happy, fruitful adulthood with realistic expectations – not a rich quick scheme.

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