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College Talk Blog

Voila! Math Major

And for his next trick, The Amazing Super Parent will turn a student who wants to major in social sciences or humanities into a mathematics major instead. Abracadabra, behold a math major! (applause)

Some days I feel like I am in the audience of a bad magic show. A parent brings a bright, amazing student to me who has clear career interests and insists on the student majoring in STEM. While I love directing students toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors consistent with their interests and talents, I feel the weight of the depression of the student when a parent tries to turn the student into something she is not.

The abracadabra college major phenomenon is most likely to occur when a student is gifted in many areas. Parents, who mean well, pressure them to select something they can do but don't want to do. This results in a disgruntled student heading to college for a major she does not want. I worry about the chances of graduation success for such students. Another concern in such situations is student mental health.

Parents and educators need to keep student gifts, personality and preferences in mind when helping them make decisions. The role of educators and parents is to help with decisions not make them for the student. While making college major choices for the student may seem efficient when the student is still searching, this is a crucial choice best made by the student. It is part of growing up and a reminder to the student that he is responsible for his success.

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