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College Talk Blog

College Major

The Undecided Placebo

Do you really have to know exactly what you want to do in college? Can't you just enter college as an undecided student? 

Of course you can enter college undecided. Truly, many of the students who enter college as "decided" are not truly definite on what they want to do. However, the extent that it is possible to narrow down what your likely general areas of study in college will be (STEM, Business, Humanities, Social Sciences) helps tremendously in college selection. Colleges differ in focus and the extent to which they offer areas of study. Having a general idea of strength and talent can help families choose the best colleges for a student and minimize the need to transfer later or take an extra year to graduate.

Why College?

One of the first pieces of advice that I hear many parents give their teens is: "Don't worry about choosing a major. It is too early for you to know what you want to do. You'll probably change majors three times while you are in college." As I hear those words, I often wonder: 


Looking at the outcomes I see in students who go off to college, the benefits are beyond college major. Going to college provides:

Talent is not enough

Many students choose a major based on limited information such as courses they enjoy in high school, careers they saw that looked intriguing or careers that typically earn high salaries. These are all valid considerations but they only provide part of the information that students need to consider before making a choice. Accurately choosing a college major requires knowledge of student talent, personality and motivation and the world of work.

Choosing a major that will not disappoint, result in a major change at mid-stream or limit potential career success is the goal.

The right major

Is your rising college freshman entering the right major? Choosing a compatible major early is a great way to avoid spending extra money on an extra year of college. Students who enter college with a specific plan are more likely to graduate on time. Such students can also take advantage of campus opportunities that will help them get ready for their career. Too many students enter college in an undeclared major status. College graduation and job search are closer than you think. Career testing and advising is important and should not be left to the senior year of college.

Majors lift spirits for undecided teens

Families that don't sweat the idea of identifying a college major for their college bound teen are missing out on a little known phenomenon. Teens who know what they want to study feel less stressed because they have fewer mysteries about college. Knowing field of study also helps guide college choice. Not knowing what you will do adds anxiety to your life. Knowing what you are trying to do gives you peace. This is as true for teens as it is adults.
Parents often do not bother with curriculum identification often because educators and other parents tell them that it is too early to do so.