Stressing About College Majors


Stressing About College Majors

Last spring I bumped into a dad I know whose daughter had attended the same middle school as my son. I asked him where his daughter would be attending college in the fall and he said: She’s going to a community college.
I was surprised because Rachel is a very bright girl. The dad explained, however, that his daughter didn’t know what she wanted to major in so he didn’t feel there was any point to start her off at a four-year school.
While this is an extreme case, I run into a lot of parents who are not pleased if their teenagers don’t know what they should select for a college major. To all those parents out there, I want to say:  “Take a deep breath!”
It doesn’t matter if a 17 or 18-year-old has no clue what he or she wants to study. In fact, even if a teenager thinks she knows what college major she wants, she will probably change her mind once she gets to college and is exposed to all types of classes. It’s there that something will probably click.

Switching Majors

My son Ben, who is going to be a college sophomore, has already switched what he hopes to major in at Beloit College. He thought he wanted to major in physics, but now he’s interested in majoring in math and minoring in physics.  He’s also talking about wanting to be a high school math teacher.
Ben’s following in my path since I switched my major. I started out as a history major at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, which was 1 1/2 blocks from my house. My invaluable experiences at UMSL prompted me to switch to journalism and I transferred to the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism where I earned my journalism degree.

College Major Resources

Knowing that many students are going to change their majors doesn’t mean that teenagers can’t start exploring potential majors.  For teens, who are stressing about picking a major, here are three resources that I’d recommend.

College Majors 101

Wondering what you can do with a degree in dance? Or maybe business, psychology or sociology? This website offers lots of information about what careers are possible with dozens of majors, as well as what you can expect academically if you pursue these majors. You can find tons of videos on college majors from individual schools.
I also love the links for individual academic majors that can connect you to related student associations and publications. I think one of the best ways to research majors and schools that offer them is to read publications in that field and also sign up for relevant student organizations.

College Board Book of Majors 2011

This book  from the College Board  provides in-depth descriptions of 200 of the most popular college majors. The book explains how each major is taught, what preparation students will need, career options and employment prospects.

The Princeton Review Guide to College Majors, 2010 Edition

This fat book (weight 2.4 pounds) contains information on 370 majors. For each major you’ll find:

  • Description of the major
  • Sample college curriculum for major
  • Other majors you might like
  • Starting salaries

At the front of the book, you’ll find 500 careers and the potential majors that feed into them.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also blogs about college for CBSMoneyWatch and
Read More at The College Solution:
A Great Resource for Researching Colleges
A Dean’s Perspective: Why We Need the Liberal Arts
Getting Into College With Learning Disabilities

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