For Parents of College Students/recent College Grads...

Updated on March 20, 2012
☆.A. asks from Beverly Hills, CA
16 answers

If you have a child in college or a recent (5 years or so) college graduate, can you please share their field of study/degree(s)?
We are legal guardians for a high school aged boy (a friend's son) that will be looking into college soon.
Looking for some ideas to help him gravitate toward a major, a certain field, etc.
(And, yes, I know it "should" be something he likes and has interest for...)

How did your kids decide on a major?
Did it change from freshman to graduation?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

ETA: @Momofmany: HE says he wants to be a doctor....and he is the one who has chosen to begin college.
He has looked at some other option, but is set on college at this point.

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answers from Dover on

My son is a Sports Management major at York College of PA. He has always been athletic so it made sense. Before he saw they had that program, he was thinking of going in "undeclared" or "business" but this was a good fit.

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answers from Dallas on

I wouldn't sweat it too much. Most colleges don't let you declare a major until you've got 55 credit hours completed. The first two years he's just going to be taking core classes and has plenty of time to think about what major he wants to pursue.

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answers from St. Louis on

Is he good at math? Actuarial science is a great match. Actuaries were rated the number O. job last year. That was based on salary, work enviroment, stuff like that.

My daughter is graduating with marketing and sociology and will be teaching until she gets her masters so you may want to cross those off your list. :p

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answers from Dallas on

I chose my major after going general studies for the 1st year. I took the basics and found a passion for government and politics. It never changed. But, It is not all that marketable, so, I wish I would've thought more about $$ and less about passion.

My ex went for chemical engineering because all he saw was $$$ signs. Once he got in he hated it and changed to Environmental Engineering and loved it.

My son chose his major based on what he wants to be when he grows up. He wants to design cars, so he is in an engineering program. No change so far.

My daughter has played around with a lot of differant ideas, including technical/vocational stuff. With each idea I've helped her research what the job entails, what it pays, the hours, and the training and education requirements. She still hasn't found her perfect fit yet, so she is putting her toe in the water by taking her basics at a jr college.

I don't think there is any reason to declare a major right away and it adds to the pressure unecessarily.

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answers from Albany on

Well my oldest is a second year computer engineering major. He has always been very math/science/tech inclined, so narrowing it down was not that tricky.

Next O. starts college in September. His major will be American History. He has always been a history yeah. But he also likes the field of sociology too, if he changes is mind, that's cool too.

Third on is only a freshman but has always been interested in the medical field. This likely stems from years of orthopedic surgery visits and physical therapy stemming from gymnastic injuries. Just this year, it's changed from PT to physician, which is cool. Lately she has a crush on a senior she talks to in the library who is going to Harvard in September. So she's decided nothing less than Harvard Med will do for her as well. She's the kind of kid who makes things happen, so I'll just cheer her on and see where it takes her.

MY guy's daughter got a Master's in chemical engineering. At the time she was dating a guy who was a law student. So she decided to go to law school too. She's now a corporate attorney and has never used her CE degree (but is still paying for it, teehehe).

Some colleges are very flexible when it comes to switching majors, we've discovered, and some are not.

I mean, who the HELL knows what they want to spend their ENTIRE life doing when they're 17? You can't even decide what you want to do friday night!


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answers from Washington DC on

SD is looking at culinary school with a Batchelor's in Restaurant Management. For a long time she was into fashion but can't sew and isn't artistic in that way. But she's a great baker.

SS is graduating Political Science.

Sit down and consider his interests and aptitude. Then look schools that cover most of those degrees (my SS changed from Engineering). It is easier to change inside O. school than have to transfer. Even if he has no interest in the school you visit, just getting an idea of what a college is like and what that size school is like can help. I went on school tours through my HS that I found very useful. I quickly decided what was too small (600 undergrad?) and too big (small city status). Find out where the colleges are located. On the East Coast, they are likely to be near a city. Out west, not necessarily so. Is that good/bad for him? What about travel time home?

Consider having him talk to people in possible fields or do an internship or volunteer program to see if he really wants that job.

SS wanted to do Mechanical Engineering for quite a while...til he actually got into the program.

SD has been accepted into her first choice, but we are waiting on the other 2 schools and what their financial aid packages may be. SS ultimately went where there was Engineering and an academic scholarship. I went to the school that gave me the best package, too (which was my first choice, but that cinched it).

He may also be able to take AP and CLEP tests to get out of basic classes or take community college classes to get through the basic requirements. My cousin is taking is first 2 years at a community college and then transferring to a 4 yr school to finish his degree.

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answers from Houston on

DD graduates in May!!! Yay!!! She started out in Political Science/PreLaw (she wanted to be an attorney since 5th grade) but decided her second year in college that wasn't what she wanted. She then went with Business. She drilled it down a little more and will graduate with a degree in Human Resources Management. This is a very good fit for her. The PreLaw was NOT.

When deciding on colleges, she wanted something small and closer to home. She is about an hour away and lives on campus. I would have preferred her to go a little farther and bigger school but it wasn't about me it was about what she needed and wanted out of college. She has been very happy there and has received a very good education.

Our son just started college. He is a mechanical engineer major. I anticipate that this will change. I see him more as a civil engineer. He wants to build and blow stuff up. He is in the National Guard and ROTC and a fraternity. He needed to go to a university that had an engineering program and an Army ROTC program which limited us somewhat. Also, in how Texas does their admittance to universities he was not able to get in to the ones he wanted here in Texas. He was accepted to a university in Kentucky which is where he is. Too far from home!!!!

We started looking at schools when they were juniors. Its very excited and overwhelming. Especially if they decided to go out of state.

If your charge is uncertain, he can go to the local community college for a couple years and just get his core requirement classes out of the way.

Most high schools if asked with give students an aptitude test that shows what careers they might be good in. Have him do that. If he is interested in math, engineering might be a good fit as well as business (economics)

This is a fun and overwhelming time. Take a deep breath and dive in!

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answers from Dallas on

Our daughter is not in college but she is a current Junior in High School and has always been very focused on college. We've already done a lot of college visits and she has her choices narrowed down.

As for her major, she LOVES sketching clothing and making some items. She is quite a fashionista and talented with her drawings. That said, she has expressed that although she LOVES the design and being on that end of the fashion market, she feels she needs a business degree in order to help expedite her ideas.

She comes from a very entreprenural family... Her dad and I are running a business we started, we funded and we are fortunately very successful with it and it is growing by leaps and bounds. This January, I put daughter on the payroll. She is an officer of the company and she is gaining hands on experience with the financial end by working with me.

We just finished her Jr. Counseling session at school and he agreed that her idea to focus on business, running a business, etc was important and would in the long run probably be more valuabe because it is not easy to be a fashion designer and/or writer. She also loves writing and in interested in majoring in English as well although with no desire to teach.

So, where we stand now is comparing the colleges of her choice for the best business degree followed by a good study abroad plan for Italy so she can get some education in the fashion industry.

She has been set on this plan for quite some time and I don't expect her to veer from business major at all... it is in her blood, but she may change some focus on her minor studies.

Good luck, it is a lot of work, time consuming and fun exploring all the alternatives and options for O. heading off to college!!

NOTE: if he is in AP classes now and doing well, they count as credit for some of the core college courses at some (not all) colleges.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Yes, choosing a college major needs to be about a young person's abilities, strengths, and interests.

Assessments can be taken to help understand these traits. Here is O. I recommend:

Another assessment that has been used for decades for vocational counseling is the Strong Interest Inventory.

I your young man has not taken these assessments, I highly recommend he do so. They are available to individuals online, or he could work with a career coach for a few sessions to understand his best options.

I would also suggest he do some research into the estimated demand in different career fields into the future. This info is available online through government websites. Here in Minnesota, the state has developed a website with this information:

I am currently in college earning a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and working as a career coach. My SS is completing his MBA in Finance in May and is having a challenging time in his job search. My SD has a degree in Mass Communications/Advertising (a languishing field right now).

Here is some info about growing career fields:

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answers from Detroit on

My kids are not quite there yet but I have worked in universities for years in admissions and marketing. The first year he will predominantly be taking university-wide, first-year requirements (not classes toward his major) -- although he will be able to choose from a fairly broad list of classes within each requirement. For example, if there is a history requirement, he may be able to choose from classes like U.S. History, History of the Middle East, History of Technology, Russian Literary History, etc. Most students use this time to explore their interests, and the credits only go toward the university requirements, not their ultimate majors, so there is room for that kind of exploring.

A large percentage of students enter their freshman year with "undecided" as their major -- roughly 25 percent. And, 50 percent of those who do declare a major will change it at least once. I'd encourage you to let him pick his own class list that knocks out as many required courses as possible. It's very likely that going through those classes, he'll find something that inspires him toward a career.

Good luck!

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answers from Tulsa on

I graduated in '05 with a BS in nursing, and will finish my MS in May (thank goodness!). If he wants to go to med school eventually, I'd suggest something other than biology as an undergrad degree (contrary to popular belief, there is no "premed" degree). Hubby graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in '07. Biomedical engineering is a shoe-in for med school, plus it gives lots of other options. Basically tell him to pick something he can find a career that he will enjoy. So many new grads finish school and can't find a job. Always look at the end options! And he will probably change his major at least once, pretty much everyone does :)

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Can I just say that college shouldn't necessarily be the only option? While my husband has advanced degrees in the science field, and does very well with his line of work, we are encouraging our children in a different direction. I would much rather have them not being an employee who is dependant on the whims of a boss and be the head instead of the tail. We love the freedom that this route is giving our family now. We much prefer it. Not everyone is cut out for this route either, so it must be done with careful consideration. But, at 19, my son is quite successful in his field of work. He says that college would have set him backwards instead of foward. He is excelling. We have many other stories in the same vein. What does he want to do? What are his strengths? Do you see a natural ability there that he can tap into? Of course, some fields require a degree. I don't want someone operating on me who hasn't had the proper education to do so. But, many fields don't actually need that same path.
ETA: Thanks for the update. You didn't specify that he already had a career field in mind. You might try something like college plus or CLEPing some courses so that he can finish his BS sooner and cheaper. He will have a huge debt with the med school on its own unless he has a large amount of cash or can get scholarships/grants to pay for it. College Plus (google it) can help a student finish college much quicker and cheaper than the traditional brick and mortar path, and get him into med school much faster without debt piled up from the undergrad degree.

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answers from New York on

i reccommend going in with an undeclared major for the first will get the classes that are required by the school out of the way almost everyone i know has changed their major and i know alot of people that switched schools also.. O. of my cousins changed her major at the end of her 2nd year of college and a whole bunch of her credits were lost because they didnt count towards her new major at all (she went from some kind of fashion design to creative writing)... so if i were u i wouldnt push for him to definatley have O. picked just some ideas

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Just thinking back to my own experience, I went in with an idea of what I wanted to do. Through taking different courses I discovered what I really wanted to do, declared my major, and took the classes to earn my degree.

From my husband's experience I would highly recommend he does not take time off between high school and college. If he waits too long it can be very difficult to go back. Plus if he has to work full time and go to school part time it takes forever and delays getting on with his 'life'.

If he is interested in being a doctor could he look at a school with a strong pre-med program?

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answers from St. Louis on

we have three RNs in the family now.

we have O. accountant. Obtained her degree after her older kids were in school & before the younger ones were born.

my son has applied to Air Traffic Control/ excellent field to be heading into. He originally had chosen engineering/construction mgmt.

& then we have quite a few in the field of education....who are struggling to find jobs. My niece graduated with a degree in biology...couldn't find a job....& is now working on her Masters in Education. She's already been offered O. position (the O. she wanted!!), but she's moving out of state - so we'll see what's happened.

We also have quite a few young men who went into school....kinda' following their parents' recommendation. Every single O. of them has dropped out & is working at bogus jobs. They're all headed towards 30 & still not making adult decisions. So sad. I just wish the parents hadn't pushed so hard. :)

Oh, & probably 75% of the kids in our family went thru a degree change before graduation.

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answers from Chicago on

I had 2 graduate last year and O. will graduate this may last O. is only 16.

Daughter is a nurse. she couldn't get her act together at 18. got married had 3 babies and went back to school when youngest hit kindergarten. She is now 30 and is working in the field she loves. Making really good money.

My oldest son graduated from Carthage College in May of last year. He started out with a major in Mathmatics and minor in Vocal performance. that switched up for a year his sophomore year when he thought he was going to major in music. But he flipped back to Actuarial math when a professor reminded him he would need to be able to pay back the student loans lol. He has a great job with a company called Epic in Madison. loves it and making buku bucks.

Son #2 will graduate ithis May from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Computer Science. He already has started the "real" job at a company called Anexter which was willing to work around his spring school semester. also making what we consider buku bucks.

Son #3 has no clue except possible army. so we will see. He is a sophomore in highschool right now

Son number 1 is the only O. who switched up his major but only to switch from major to minor never dropped it. although the student advisors said that 95% of kids will switch at least once throughout college.

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