1/3/2014 8:00 PM ET|
Picking the wrong major: Big mistake
Aiming for a degree that doesn't match a student's interests and skills could turn into a big waste of time and money.
Many U.S. high school students may be headed for trouble in college because they plan to major in a subject that doesn't match their interests.
Only one out of three students who took a recent ACT college assessment test intended to major in a subject that was a good fit for their strengths and preferences, according to the organization that administers the exam.
Nearly as many choose majors that are a poor fit, according to College Choice Report: Preferences and Prospects, a report by ACT, the Iowa City, Iowa, testing and research organization.
Picking the wrong major can be an expensive mistake. College students whose majors don't reflect their interests are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to drop out, said Steve Kappler, ACT assistant vice president and head of postsecondary strategy.
"If I change my major two or three times, it's going to take longer to get my degree," said Kappler, citing studies by ACT researchers. "A significant number don't complete, for a variety of reasons."
College consultant Lynn O'Shaughnessy said she frequently hears from families who are dead set on a college major that doesn't match the student's interests or abilities. One student, for example, planned to major in engineering even though he wasn't great at math. Another was told by her parents that her education would be paid for only if she majored in accounting. She did, O'Shaughnessy said, and she's employed -- but she's miserable.
"Parents and students are increasingly focused on pursuing majors that will provide a great salary," O'Shaughnessy said. "Their greatest fear is they will invest all this money and the kid will wind up working at Starbucks."
Career assessment tools, including the ACT Interest Inventory used in the study, aren't crystal balls. Many people discover interests in college, and future careers, that they never would have imagined in high school, college experts said.
Most students take the ACT in the spring of their junior year, although about 25 percent take the exam in their senior year.
Trying out different subjects should be a part of the college experience, said Northwestern University political science professor Andrew Roberts, author of "The Thinking Student's Guide to College."
"It always seems strange that a first semester freshman will take chemistry, history, English, and math when that is exactly what they took in high school," Roberts said. "Why not try linguistics or psychology or art history, to mention just a few subjects not offered in most high schools?"
Sidetracked by financial aid
Blindly pursuing a degree solely for financial reasons can backfire if a student washes out because of lack of ability or switches majors, or schools, because of a lack of interest, O'Shaughnessy said.
The misalignment of majors and interests is a big deal, said David Hawkins, director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "ACT has touched on something we've seen as a problem for a while."
Ideally, high school counselors would help students sort through their educational and occupational options. Three out of five students in the ACT study said they would welcome such help.
Many high schools don't offer that kind of assistance, however, so it may be up to parents to help uncover their children's strengths and figure out a career path, Hawkins said.
"Parents should check their own assumptions and prejudices at the door," Hawkins said. "It shouldn't be about what school bumper sticker you want on your car ... It should be helping the student understand and flesh out what they're passionate about, what lights their fire."
Once parents are clear about their children's academic strengths and interests, they can help tidentifyhem identity potential majors and professions - which will in turn help them pick colleges that support those goals.
The good news, ACT's Kappler said, is that these conversations are much easier and more fun than parents' usual lectures about the importance of getting good grades.
"I've had this conversation with all three of my daughters," said Kappler, whose children are now in college. "It's a very easy conversation to have ... it's something teenagers want to talk about."
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Oh, please--the child who majored in accounting is "miserable." Ask her how happy she would be on welfare and simultaneously in debt.
The problem with such people is that they think that their job is supposed to "fulfill" them in some way. A job is a way to earn money. Being employed is a good thing, as it allows one to pay for the things one needs.
The young lady needs to realize that there is a difference between a vocation (her job in accounting) and an avocation. She needs an avocation. She might start working with community theater, she might start working with a charity she cares about, she might take up painting, she might start blogging. But, she only works 40-50 hours a week (more than likely, perhaps 60). She sleeps 56 hours a week. That leaves her with 62 hours a week to fill up doing other things--and one of those things can be her avocation.
Vocations are for earning money--they are not for self-fulfillment. If people understood that (including the people who wrote this article), we would all be a lot better off.
It's a big mistatke and a waste of maney to encourage students to get into an art degree. They like it because it's easy to study comparing to engineering or scientific majors. With an art you will most likely land into a retail or restaurant jobs in today's economy. You go to college to study hard not to take it easy. If you take an easy major, don't waste your money. Get straight out of High School and get a job or go to a regular Trade School. Don't waste your time and your money with a lousy easy major. I don't understand why a lot of people like art major not Scientific majors. Most students from Asia like China or India take engineering or scientific majors and rarely take art majors. Most American students like to take art majors like anthropolopgy, psychology, or sociology. These are good major, but the economy cannot provide enough jobs for those graduated with these majors. Please advise.
High school students who don't know what career they want to pursue should get a job and take a course or two at a junior college.
College is not meant for everyone.
The trades is a good option.
TO JESSIE123'S REPLY? You really believe that don't you? First off it is NOT THE GOVERNMENT that is being bought off as you say by big business? IT IS the PEOPLE in government offices! Whom WE THE PEOPLE COULD CHANGE ON A SEMI REGULAR BASIS IF PEOPLE YOUNG AND OLD WOULD VOTE for qualifications and ACTIONS ONCE IN OFFICE instead of some THINK TANKS bull promises and slogans!
Not as miserable as she would be if she had majored in what she truly wanted to do, only to find herself unemployed or working as a cashier. She got a decent paying job in a solid field using a degree her parents paid for. That's something to be VERY grateful for in this economy.
Personally I don't think REALITY matches LIFE anymore? Technology which should be a good thing since the automation of the auto industries right up to today has been a major factor in our unemployment problem? And what does THIS administrations THINK TANKS say? Well, there is no way to replace all the jobs lost to technology? I feel for you students, young and old! It is getting to the point that we have a GLUT of unemployed for the few jobs to be had in any career field?
GET OUT AND VOTE for people that YOU think have the business SAVY to get the USA back on its feet and prospering AGAIN! Is the only suggestion I can think of?
TO BLACK FIREDS REPLY? Your first mistake is LOOKING for a POLITICIAN TO VOTE FOR? Look for qualifications of? But after I went and took a look at your profile, you ARE a liberal, so no amount of sense will likly change your outlook as ALL LIBERAL POLITICIANS want to do is put up a FRONT THAT THEY CARE about anything except taking all they can for themselves!
3 republican nominee's have MBA's, and business experience? But being a libbie, all you probably want to do is the same as your leaders?
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