Changing world of college majors

The Changing World of College Majors: A List of Some New Choices

What happens when you ask college admissions counselors to tell you about the newest majors at their schools? You get an incredible outpouring of exciting ideas and a great reminder of ALL the college choices available to our students. (This list does not include every college which offers these majors. It is just a starting point to explore new, exciting fields. PLUS, not all these majors are “new”…some are just new to that college.)

Click here to read the list of “new” college majors we collected

Some Interesting Observations

Obviously, this list is not comprehensive by any means—despite its four-page length. It does provide some inspiration as well as a look at program/topic areas that are trending in the US. Obviously, technology is a driving force, but we also see humanities focused studies, healthcare approached in new ways, the challenges of society today, etc.

Bonus points for whoever knows what “thanatology” is (without Google!). Sustainability is a common theme, sometimes connected very uniquely to another subject. The majors mentioned most often were data science/data analytics and Esports (in various forms).

Why the new and very specialized majors?

Well, you can probably guess…competition! The competitive side of admissions that we are all seeing now is partly a result of the falling birthrate in the United States and also the declining number of adult learners. The pool of college applicants is shrinking each year. Colleges must fight hard to win the new students. The risk to these hot, new majors? Rushed programs that seem trendy and only look good at first glance..

So this birth rate thing….this chart shows the number of births per year in the United States from 1990 to 2017 (in millions). The recession in 2008 started the trend of less births. There was an ever-so-slight bump in 2014 going from 3.93 million to 3.99 million, but then the numbers continued to drop to a level of 3.86 million in 2017. The number of students will remain relatively flat for a number of years and then begin to taper off.

Number of births in the US

College enrollment declines are not just from first-time college students. Less adult learners head to college because of the rising price when weighed against the perceived value of a college degree. As of 2018, enrollment of adult learners, students over the age of 24, (had) fallen by more than 1.5 million since spring 2011.

What do actual enrollment numbers look like?

This is interesting! The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center™ released a report for Spring 2018. Here are two snipped images from that report showing the number of US college students by major. You can really see trends here in certain types of majors.

Enrollment estimates
Enrollment Estimates

What can parents do with this information?

Understanding the competitive nature of college admissions is just smart. Smaller schools are going to do more to attract students compared to large flagship state universities. Keep this in mind when your student creates a college list.

What can students do with this information?

College major lists like the one we assembled are good to share with your student. Kids simply don’t know the options out there. They can use their devices to explore and dig deeper. One of these may spark some inspirations or at least do some thinking. Of course, simply “sounding interesting” isn’t enough to base a big decision on. Guided Self Assessment can help there.

You may not be aware that most college websites provide course catalogs online for their majors—a complete list of the courses a student could choose from in that major. Perhaps, a student is interested in learning more about a BFA in Immerse Reality from SCAD. A few clicks and they can find this list of courses to read more about. This course catalog exploration is not limited to these “new” majors, but it’s a good idea for any college search.

Finally, if you’ve been to Tips for the College-Bound or Heads Up!, you’ll know that we love the Book of Majors from the College Board. This book (which can be found at local libraries too) is an amazing resource for students to explore.

Always food for thought in this ever-changing world!


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