college major

Choosing a College Major

The problems with passion and online assessments

As parents of today’s college-bound kids, we can feel…behind. We have so much to do to support our kids well: SAT/ACT, summer experiences, jobs, extra-curriculars, homework, tests, and on and on. Choosing a college major may not be high on our “to do” list.

Every step moves your child closer to the choices ahead: career, major, and college. Does your student have a clear picture of their dream college in mind?

Usually, the more challenging task for our students is choosing a major and a career. How will they decide? What might they be good at or enjoy doing in the future?

Go ahead and Google “how to choose a college major.”

You’ll get some dangerous advice. US News suggests waiting until college to try out classes and see what your student likes.

Why is this risky? When we think of a 4-year degree, we expect a student to graduate in 4 years. With the cost of college today, most families cannot afford to pay for a 5th or 6th year for the students who change their majors repeatedly. You might be surprised to learn that only “41% of bachelor’s degree earners graduate within 4 years.

In addition, how can you select a college excelling in the program your student will eventually choose? You could be faced with transferring colleges if their major isn’t offered.

When your student has a strong sense of their ideal major, the choice of college becomes much easier.

A magic wand?

In the US News article, a dean of student affairs says “name … one 18-year-old that can say, ‘For the rest of my life, I want to do this.'” No one has the magic wand to give your student this answer.

True, no one (even adults) can say that we want to do a specific thing for the rest of our lives. However, At The Core knows that with guidance, students can discover their interests, strengths, preferences, values, and enjoyment level–the knowledge needed to make better and more informed choices about career, major, and college–while still in high school!

How about those online assessments?

Your student has probably been exposed to these assessments as a tool to identify an ideal career. We’ve heard story after story of frustrating, confusing, or just plain humorous results. (How many forest rangers can there be in this world?!)

Online assessments have pitfalls.

  • They can’t see the whole picture. No face-to-face contact to catch that fidget, directness, or confusion.
  • They force an answer from a limited set of choices. What if the answer is sometimes A and sometimes B?
  • They are limited by the quality of the software behind them.
  • Students can answer “aspirationally” (how they think they should answer) which isn’t helpful for such tools.
  • And often no one helps them interpret the results–this last one is especially important. Some online tools can be helpful, but they lack that human post assessment guidance.

Frustrating, for sure!

Why on earth would we have trouble with passion?!

Back to that web search about college majors, you will find advice to “follow your passion.”

Yes, having a passion leading you to a fulfilling career is wonderful. But for many teens, this word feels like pressure.  Many students may never find one, and they will feel like they have failed.

Cal Newport argues in So Good They Can’t Ignore You that most passionate professionals did not start out passionate about their career field.  Their passion developed along the way as they advanced in their careers. Interesting to ponder, isn’t it?

What can you do to help your student?

You can see that having a targeted career/major in mind can save time, money, and anxiety. If online assessments aren’t cutting it and passion may be hard to find, what can you do? At The Core developed Guided Self Assessment to tackle these problems.

In Guided Self Assessment, students (grades 10 & up) discuss their experiences with a trusted facilitator, yielding key foundational insights about their strongest personal traits. We analyze the student’s input and create a custom report filled with suggestions, next steps, and careers to explore. Then, we support the student as they begin their career research.

When the next decisions arise…

…they will evaluate the options with this new information at the top of their mind, guiding them to work they love, a perfect fit college, and opportunities to choose experiences that play to their strengths.  Families tell us it’s an incredible gift to give their child.

No matter how they do it, we highly recommend your child invests the time in self assessment. They will avoid grasping and guessing about their college major and career and instead make choices about their future with knowledge and confidence.

If you would like to learn more about At The Core’s Guided Self Assessment program, call us at 614-404-0646 or visit our website for more detail.


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