College Majors: What the Scottish Can Tell Us

This is my third post on college majors and my last for awhile on this topic. I promise. If you missed my previous posts, here they are:
5 Tips on Choosing a College Major
Stressing About College Majors

The Scottish Way of Choosing Majors

Is getting a head start on a college major a good thing?
Not according to a study on college majors that was conducted by Ofer Malamud, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago.  He looked at the career choices of college graduates who attended schools in Great Britain and Scotland and made some fascinating discoveries.
In Great Britain, students need to select an academic major while still in high school. In contrast, Scottish undergrads take a broad variety of courses before specializing in their last two years.
Curiously enough, the British college graduates who had to pick majors as teenagers were less likely to hold jobs related to their fields of study. Scottish grads, however, who had more time to explore majors before settling on one, were more likely to end up at jobs related to their academic work.
Here’s what Inside Higher Ed observed about the findings:
The students at Scottish institutions seem more likely to have chosen to study fields that successfully aligned with their career interest, says Malamud, success that he attributes to the time and freedom they’re given to experiment with a broad range of fields, and to learn both what they like and what they’re good at.
With many state schools experiencing deep budget cuts, I’m afraid an increasing number of students are going to have to choose majors before they are ready.

Free College Workshops

FYI: I’ll be giving two college workshops at the University of California, San Diego, on July 16 and July 23 and I just learned  that the university is fine with opening them up to the public. The workshops are for teenagers who are participating in an academic camp at the university and their parents.
If you’d like to attend one or both free workshops – one  will focus on college finances and the other evaluating colleges academically – just send me an email –  I’ll put you on the guest list and provide you with more details.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also write a college blog for and US News.

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  1. The author of this article doesn’t know their geography. Great Britain is an island which 3 countries occupy: England, SCOTLAND, and Wales. So you can’t say Scottish colleges are different to Great Britain’s colleges as Scottish colleges are british colleges….

  2. In working with students, I use the Birkman Assessment ( and a student profile I’ve developed including academic information as well as desired college demographics. I marry the two sets of data into our College-2-Career LEAP report which identifies economically sound, best-fit careers, the major(s) that feed to them and the colleges respected for these majors. It’s an investment in college savings aimed to help students stay focused and finish in 4 years saving their parents thousands. Our report is not the end game suggesting that Suzie will leave knowing exactly what she’ll be, but it does rule out what she’s not wired to do and opens her eyes to further exploration.
    Let me know if you want a sample of our reports. You can learn more on our website: My heart for students and their families’ pocket books is strong like yours. Thanks for all you do, Lynn.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      What you’re doing sounds interesting. Please send me one of your reports.
      Lynn O’Shaughnessy