by Fallon Willoughby ECHS College Coach
For many, part of being college-ready seems to be having your mind made up about major you will declare the instant you walk onto your college campus for orientation. I have had several students come to my office upset and worried because they are not sure what career path to choose, what major to follow, or how to decide between the two choices that they have narrowed it down to.
The reality, I tell them, is that they may wind up picking neither. According to borderzine.com* “About 80 percent of students in the United States end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career.” This does not hold true for everyone. There is around 20 percent of students who never change their major – I was one of them. However, what I thought I wanted as my future career choice changed drastically while I was in college and I am now pursuing a different path.
When students become too focused on one specific career, they forget to take the time to explore their options. If you are interested in two different things, take an introductory class for both of them. You need college class electives to graduate anyways, and it will be time well spent. Look at the programs and class requirements for each path. One may have more math or science than you originally thought. Another may take you to a different path or not lead to the career you wanted at all. You have four years to spend at college taking classes – make sure it is something you are passionate about, that will lead to the career you want, and that you enjoy.
I always encourage students to speak to their advisors when they arrive at their college as well. Tell them what you are interested in, and what career you ultimately want to have. I know one fellow student who went for a degree in criminal science and found out it would not lead to what she wanted. After she graduated. You do not want to waste four years of your life (or even five or six) on the wrong thing. Talk to other students in the program. Better yet, talk to your professors. They will have a wealth of information you can get nowhere else.
Last but not least, take advantage of the time you have now. There are many opportunities to research careers before you even head off to college in August. As juniors in high school, and as seniors up until you leave, you have the chance to go job shadow someone in that career. It may seem daunting to find someone in that field and ask if you can follow them around, but I’m sure that many would be more than willing to help you figure out what a day in that life is like. Research the career online (the occupational handbook is fantastic for this) and look at job growth and salary. Look at the program requirements at the different colleges you are interested in. Be aware of the path you are choosing.
Remember, you do not have to decide right away, and even if you do, it is not set in stone. There will come a time when you have to stick to what you choose in order to graduate, but take advantage of your freshmen year. Learn who you are and what you want to be. There is no better time than the present.