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Four Wrong Reasons to Choose a Major

Jul 18, 2012 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 1 Comments

Many students take a long time to choose a major—or wind up switching majors during their college careers. College is a time to explore, and there’s nothing wrong with changing your major—as long as it doesn’t impact your graduation time or tuition. However, it’s better to pick the right one the first time. Here are a few reasons for picking a major that are more likely to lead to a switch.

Because your parents want you to

Your passion is music—but your parents want you to be an engineer. Despite what they say, that’s not a good reason to choose an engineering degree. You’ll be stuck dedicating your college life to a very challenging field of study that you have no passion for—making college more of a torture than it has to be. And if you think it’s bad in college, wait til you get to the rest of your life.

Resisting your parents’ desires for your college major and career can be very difficult, especially for students whose parents have made tuition help conditional on the student’s
choice of major. But ultimately, you’re the one who has to
live your life—they don’t. And you owe it to yourself to choose
a major that makes you happy.

Non-Traditional Students

The bottom line? Pursue something you love—and look into unconventional ways to make a living at it.



Because all your friends are doing it

In high school, it’s often easy to choose classes, programs, and extracurricular activities because that’s what all your friends are doing—it’s the cool choice. But once you get to college, it’s essential to break free of the peer-pressure trap and follow your own interests. So what if your friends all want online human services degrees and think economics is boring? If it’s not boring to you, it doesn’t matter what they think.

Because it’s the easiest one

Maybe your true passion is sports or partying—and you picked Fine Art because you thought it would be the easiest major. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea. First, you’ll graduate college with an online degree that may not help you do what you really want to do. Second, it’s entirely possible that the “easy” college degree you choose could turn out to be harder than it looks. If you’re going to have to do college-level work anyway, it might as well be in a subject you enjoy.

Because it has the most job security

This one may be controversial—however, for many people, it makes sense. College students often get the typical “follow your heart” advice, coupled with intense unspoken (or spoken) pressure to pick a major that will lead to a lucrative and stable career. Before you choose a major, it’s essential to really think about what you want in life. If you really want a family or a lot of money and don’t think you care what career you choose as long as it gets you there, it might seem like you have the luxury to pick a major based on job outlook—but once you have to spend fifty hours a week doing something you hate, chances are you’ll care what your job is.

The bottom line? Pursue something you love—and look into unconventional ways to make a living at it. It’s not easy to choose the path you’ll take for the rest of your life when you just graduated high school—and the pressure can be intense. True, you may wind up working in a field that has nothing to do with your major. But majoring in the right thing to start with can help you in your career. Take time to think about what type of work you really enjoy—and then pursue what you love.



Dabard Over a year ago

Sorry, Jennifer. I have to take issue with your article. "Pursue something you love" sounds great and noble, but it certainly may not pay the bills and can lead to greater problems down the road when "what you love" is your family and providing for them! "What I loved" at 20 was communication and theater. In reflection, it was a bad choice. Yes, I loved the material and the people, but my opportunities over the next 25 years have been limited. I wish I had listened to my parents and sought and adhered to the advice of people more experienced with life.

Certainly, no one should have to spend 50 hours/week doing what they hate. But this isn't a black and white issue. Making good money doing something less than what you love is usually better than making peanuts doing what you love and having insufficient money for your family. And I maintain love for family trumps love of job. Yes, it's great if you can have both, but a bad choice of college major can seriously impede future career options.

Of your 4 points, I totally agree with 2 and 3. With regards to 1 and 4, I say that students should strongly consider their parent's advice. Parents should know their children well--perhaps better than the students do themselves. And for number 4, it is essential to consider job prospects. Your article seems to counsel otherwise. It must be a balance. The correct college major should lead to a good career in an area where the student believes they can find satisfaction.

I'm really not trying to be a pessimist or negative. College majors and future careers can empower people to do what they love later in life through the money they provide. Students should give great consideration to what their parents advise and they must ALWAYS consider the job prospects for those majors.

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