College represents a significant investment of time and money, and the stakes are high: When it’s all done, a graduate should be equipped with the knowledge required to earn a life-sustaining salary. Talk about feeling the pressure to get it right! That inevitable question of “What should I do with my life” comes first, but right on its heels for students entering college is “What should I major in?” That’s not always easily answered. Here are some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for those who are struggling.
DO: Learn as much as you can about yourself. This seems obvious, but we aren’t always as good at assessing our own strengths and weaknesses as we’d like to be. And what are our passions? Life’s too short to do something that doesn’t interest us. A great way to see how our strengths correlate with careers is to take an aptitude test. They’re often offered to high school students, and you can take a comprehensive test at your local workforce agency, such as CareerSource Florida. Princeton Review also offers a helpful career quiz.
According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 50 percent of bachelor’s degrees were awarded in these five fields: business (19 percent), health related professions (11 percent), social sciences and history (9 percent), psychology (6 percent), and biological and biomedical sciences (5 percent).
DON’T: Pick a major just because someone else thinks it’s a good idea. It’s OK to turn to friends and family for advice. Just remember who will be the one studying and working in this field.
DO: Talk to people employed in the career field being considered. They may have options you hadn’t considered, such as majoring in economics or journalism before heading off to law school. Or, they may suggest an internship prior to pursuing a master’s degree. Industry mentors can be invaluable. When you’re ready to take your adventure a step further, try to find part-time work in your industry. Even an entry-level job can help you discover what you want — and sometimes don’t want — to do with your life.
DON’T: Ignore what your current grades are telling you. Where do we make A’s and where do we make C’s? Grades indicate not only where our talents lie but where we’re gaining mastery.
DO: Consider getting an associate’s degree at a community college first. It’s OK to need more time to explore options and do a little self-discovery! Taking two years to complete prerequisites will cost much less at a community college, and most or all credits will transfer to the university of choice. Furthermore, the academic advisers at a community college can help you browse possible careers and narrow down your interests.
DO: Consider the practicalities. What kind of salary can be expected upon graduation? Do people graduating with this degree find employment in the area where you want to live? Can you see yourself with a long-term interest and growth potential in this field?
DON’T: Overlook the return on investment. It’s important to follow our passions, yes, but digging out of a $100,000 hole of student debt and graduating with a job that only carries a $35,000-a-year shovel might be worth reconsidering.
DO: Know that if you don’t get it right the first time, you’re not alone. The Education Department says that about 30 percent of students switch majors at least once.
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