My oldest son is now a junior in high school. In addition to my freak-out because his college days are looming, I’m also panicking over the prospect that he should decide what he might want to do for the rest of his life.
My freak-out is partly due to economics. Declaring a major is a big deal these days. Pick the right one, and you could be gainfully employed for a long time. But select the wrong one, and you could join the ranks of the unemployed.
According to a recent study, nearly 9% of college graduates are unemployed. So despite accruing $26,000 in debt, on average, many grads have nothing to show for their four-year degrees—except for a nicely-framed diploma.
Do I really want to invest over $22,000 a year (the average going rate for public colleges) on higher education only to have him be unemployed? Of course not.
When it comes to choosing a major, in my opinion, gone are the days when liberal arts degrees could suffice: Today, a student must choose a major that’s more specific—and hopefully, more prosperous.
This leaves parents in a tricky spot: Beyond making sure that our kids’ dorm rooms are adequately stocked with the latest IKEA accessories and ramen noodles, should we also get involved in the details of their studies? Or should we allow them to venture off “undecided,” so they can explore a variety of courses before settling on a major in their second or third year?
Why I Regret Rushing to Choose My Own Major
Many adults still don’t know what they want to be when they “grow up,” so how realistic is it to expect a teenager to know this answer? My son has no idea what he wants to do this weekend—let alone for the rest of his life.
When I was his age, I had no clue what kind of job I’d want to do when I was in my 30s and 40s. But I felt pressured to “just pick something,” so I checked the box for marketing. Everyone else in my family had done marketing or sales, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Instead, I wish someone had asked, “What are you really excited about in life?” Then I could have considered marrying that answer with a major and a career.
Ultimately, I pursued a marketing degree, and successfully followed that path for ten years post-college. Then I got bored and restless, and figured out my true passion—writing. I’m grateful that I discovered what makes me hum each day, but after writing college loan checks to the bank for eight years, I’m mad that I wasted all that time and money … which brings me back to my soon-to-be high school graduate. I would like to spare him the same frustration—and spare myself the expense.