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Should I Pick a Major Because My Family Thinks I Should?

It’s often a big challenge for new college students to pick a major that aligns with their interests and provides them with engaging career opportunities after graduation. There is often pressure applied to students as they consider the many choices available for their college major. Everyone from parents and relatives to school counselors and best friends has an opinion on the “best” or “most rewarding” college major of the bunch.

Though it can feel as if there is no choice for students other than to pick the major their parents prefer, this approach can actually be damaging to long-term academic and career success. The alternative is to choose an interesting, meaningful major, free of pressure from parents and others. There are several reasons that choosing a major should rely almost entirely on a person’s own interests and their gut feeling about what interests them. The arguments range from academic to economic, and they could determine how successful a student is within a given academic program.

 A Strong Interest Leads to Better Grades

Students who are interested in their coursework are simply more likely to attend class, participate in classroom discussions, and study for major exams and papers. This means that students will find greater academic success in a college program that actually interests them, versus a program that they chose because of pressure from parents and others. With better grades, students will find it easier to qualify for honor societies, on-campus clubs, graduation honors, and excellent internships. These opportunities bode well for career success, and they will help to make students more competitive as they begin applying to entry-level positions in a career toward the end of their college experience.

Choosing a Major is an Economic Choice

Here’s another consideration that students should be making: Does a given college major lead to a rewarding career over the long-term? In today’s economy, many students choose their major based on a combination of academic interest and the ability to get a job after graduation. While parents may have a few ideas about the major that best satisfies these two needs, they may force students into an unhappy career after graduation. Unhappy employees typically perform worse at their job, end up going back to school to pursue something more interesting, and actually make far less money over the long course of their professional careers. That isn’t a risk, or a sacrifice, worth taking.

Majors Vary Based on the Student’s College or University

In addition to academic and economic interests, choosing a major also relies heavily on whether or not a parent’s favored major is even offered at the student’s “first choice” institution. Furthermore, some schools might offer a major, but their program may not be highly ranked or considered an excellent investment by major publications or hiring managers. The key to choosing a major is finding the right program at the right school, and choosing one that aligns with interests and long-term career objectives. Some schools, no matter how hard they try, just can’t satisfy this complex number of variables.

Choosing a Major: Make a Personal, Rewarding Choice

Finding the right major is a rite of passage that all students get to enjoy as they enter into adulthood. Students who are about to start their first year of college should resist choosing a major that satisfies their parents’ wishes, however. Instead, pick a major that offers long-term career growth, academic interest, and success both on-campus and off.