Should You Be Worried About Your Child’s College Major?

Should you be worried about your child’s future college major?
Many moms and dads are. I want to share three extreme examples of parental majoritis:

Parent No. 1

After hearing my talk at a high school last week, a mom confided to me that she was worried about her daughter because she didn’t know what her major would be. The mom seemed concerned that the teenager wasn’t excited about engineering or some other practical major. I told the stressed mom that it isn’t unusual for 17- and 18-year-olds not know what they want to do in college. After I said this, the mom explained that her daughter was 14-years-old.
Wow. I told the mom that she should really back off. Why would a high school freshman have already firmed up her career plans?

Parent No. 2.

My daughter, who will be graduating from college next month, shared a conversation she had with a good friend last week. The girl is double majoring in finance and accounting with a minor in political science. She worked incredibly hard to earn this tough double major.
Caitlin’s friend, however, confessed that she really wanted to minor in psychology. She would have loved to explore psychology, but her dad told her that he would not pay for college if she minored in psychology. Why? Because it wasn’t practical. He told her to minor in political science instead.

Parent No. 3.

The father of one of my son’s friends from his middle-school years insisted that his bright daughter enroll in a community college. Why? Because the teenager didn’t know what she wanted to major in.  Attending a four-year school, the dad explained, would be a waste if she didn’t know what she wanted to pursue academically.

What’s Really Important….

Parents fixate far too much on their children’s intended majors and that’s a shame. What’s paramount is earning a college degree, not picking the right major.
Rather than focusing on a major’s perceived marketability, it would be far more productive for parents to help their children find colleges and universities where learning is encouraged and valued. Unfortunately, many students are graduating from college without having learned much of anything!   Here’s a post that I wrote about this national scandal:

Do Undergrads Learn Much in College?

For those who are interested, here are various posts that I’ve written in the past about college majors:
College Majors: 5 Things You Need to Know
Choosing a College Major
Why Not Major in Philosophy?
Do You Need to Go to Film School?
What Colleges Do Employers Love?
Why It’s A Great Time to Be a Journalism Major
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for and US News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Just had this conversation with our college sophomore son this weekend on SKYPE. He was telling his father and i how he had attended a great panel program regarding the Romance Language major at his university. There were graduates who had a variety of careers post college but had all majored in a foreign language. We loved hearing about all the creative ways these students wove their degrees into careers including working for the Portland Opera, a community college instructor and book translator and someone working for the foreign service.