Guiding Kids in Their College Majors

Updated on April 22, 2011
J.W. asks from Gardner, KS
36 answers

Our (extended) family has been having many conversations about life post college particularly one's earning potential. My question is for those of you entered college or have children entering college.

How big of an influence did your parents have on your college major and its long term earning potential? Or more particularly, how have you guided your teen in selecting a major? How big of an impact did it have? Do college bound kids really understand that a college degree does not necessarily mean a "living wage", let alone a big paycheck?

Please don't get me wrong. I'm a big believer in a college education but I wished someone would have encouraged me to explore other more lucrative fields. How has this worked in your family?

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Thank you everyone for your replies and stories. I've enjoyed reading each and everyone. This is such an important decision that has lifelong and a generational impact.

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answers from Cleveland on

My father had a big influence on my major. He stressed a "skill" versus a more open-ended major. ie: engineering versus history. I listened to him and am glad. My sister didn't and never had the earning potential I had and have realized. She did just fine marrying a very wealthy man and staying home and being a great mother. My husband doesn't do as well financially as hers though so I'm glad I can contribute a lot in that department. So it all worked out fine but I have wondered how things would have gone for my sister if she hadn't met her husband. A friend who is struggling, along with her husband, to find new jobs said she's going to insist her kids have a "skill". Her major was something in liberal arts and she regrets it. Same with her husband who can't find a job now. But all that said - happiness comes in different forms for different people and luck has a lot to do with eventual financial success. And some people would be too miserable working only for money. (But - I'm going to STRONGLY guide my kids to a "skill" type major given it's always at least a fall back.)

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answers from Gainesville on

I didn't have much guidance at all in my major or which college to go to.. I think back and i wish i had had more talks with my parents about why I was chosing to go to this school or what I thought I would do with my major. I have talked to my step brothers and they feel the same way..
Not that i would have listened lol! It just would have been nice to have had a little guidance.

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answers from Kansas City on

A college education was not an option in my family (or in my hubby's family) was a requirement. We were definitely encouraged to pursue a degree in a field where we could easily get a job. I did Education, my sister did Criminology (in preparation for law school), my brother did Business, and my other sis did Nursing. My husband got a degree in Engineering. I think it's important to have that discussion. It's a lot of money to spend if you can't use the degree. My husband's cousins both picked very unconventional degrees and were never able to work in their desired fields. I obviously won't make a lot of money in education, but I enjoy the work and I will always be able to get a job.

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answers from Sacramento on

I went to an Ivy League university with the intention of majoring in Engineering. That's what my dad wanted me to do. I'm good in math and aced physics and chemistry in high school, so it seemed like a reasonable choice for a college major. Well, then I went to college and went on a semester abroad in France, and just fell in love with the culture, the language, and the history of the area. I ended up majoring in French Literature and Language, with minors in Theology and Sociology. You might think to yourself, what a total waste of an Ivy League education! I'm sure that's exactly what my parents thought, but they kept their opinions to themselves. I ended up getting a job with a construction company, translating bid documents, speaking with subcontractors in Canada and France. I was quickly promoted into project management, and now, 15 years later, I make a pretty hefty salary in this field (I am the primary breadwinner in our family, and my children want for nothing).

SO, my point is, if you follow your heart, the money will follow quickly thereafter. I do believe that if I'd had this same major at a lesser university, the story may have been different. Having a degree from a college with some "wow factor" does help open doors. There is absolutely nothing wrong with state schools or community colleges, but then I do think the choice of major would make a bigger difference in future earning potential.

Just my two cents!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I have a bachelors degree in accounting and am working on my masters. When I started college, I was an engineering major. I was an engineering major because I was a good student, it was a lucrative field, and I got a generous scholarship for being a female in the engineering program. After 3 years and two different schools, I realized that engineering made me miserable. After taking a break from school and working "in the real world", I realized what I really wanted to do. My younger sister, on the other hand, knew she wanted to be a teacher from about birth and completed her bachelors and masters in education. Our parents never really put any influence on what our majors would be. My mom's mom dictated to her what her major would be (Home Economics- and she has had only one job, right out of college, that the degree applied to in her 40 year career) so she always swore not to do that to us. It really is a Catch-22. I would have loved to major in art history or restoration, but I realized the chances of making a living in those fields would be slim. But, making mega bucks in a field you don't enjoy isn't going to enrich your life either.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

My parents played almost zero role in helping me pick a major. They allowed me to find what I was interested in and choose what fit me. I found that the few friends whose families helped move them along seemed to end up switching majors or hating them. Just an observation...

My son is not ready for college yet, but when he is, I think I will guide him more on his choice of school and not his major.

Guiding him in his choice of school is important so your children don't walk out of college with crazy amounts of debt (like I did). These days a college degree means very little in the working world as so many people have them. I know when I was in college, and the kids I talk to who are in college now, think that they will automatically make more money because they went to school. They could not be more wrong. Obviously certain fields will make some decent money, but in general, most kids are walking away with student loans and are walking in to a rough economy where they are going to be fighting people who have years of experience in their field. I think if you stress this early on, while they may not fully understand, it may help them to pick a reasonably priced school.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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answers from Biloxi on

My son is 14 and we have been having the "college talk" since he was in third grade and his home room teacher introduced the idea of college to them. So it has always been expected that he go to college.

Two years ago he announced that he wants to be a veterinarian. He has remained fairly consistent with that career goal and I am now working on facilitating that...helping him pick high school courses - biology, zoology, physiology - oh, my, the list goes on - that will give him a "leg up" in this highly competitive admissions process. I have researched veterinarian schools in our area - LSU and MSU, and their acceptance requirements, scholarship programs, etc. He began playing in band in the 6th grade and plans to continue in band through High School as another way to earn scholarships. I have talked to our veterinarian about his becoming a "volunteer" at the clinic when he turns 15 this summer to begin giving him experience about the profession - this is something that could become a paid job when he turns 16, giving him 3 1/2 years of clinic experience before he even applies to colleges. He is excited about "going to work" this summer and learning what it is that "Doc" does all day.

So, I would say that, working together, my son and I are truly planning his future.

BUT, I make it perfectly clear to him that if decides he does not want to be a vet, that he can change his mind. He like math, science, music and art, so he has considered other careers that meld those interests - architecture, engineering, even accounting at one point. As he expressed his interests we explored those career choices, and he is free at any time to change his mind. Well, preferable before I pay the first college semester's tuition.

We have also discussed "blue collar" jobs. I have told him that if he decides that he does not want to go to traditional college he could go to a technical/vocational school and learn to become a plumber, electrician, or contractor.

Ultimately, his career path is his decision. As a parent I want him to make as informed a choice as possible and will do everything in my power to help facilitate him on his path.

While my parents always expected us to go college, my father was not a great facilitator - I was rather directionless and confused in college about career choices and options. Subsequently, I only completed 3 years of, wait for it, and Anthropology major. I just want to give my son more direction and options than I was taught.

The only thing I will not let him do is live in my family room, eating pizza rolls, and playing on the PS3 when he is 25. LOL If it ever comes to that he will have to learn to ask "do you want fries with that".

J. - thanks for the question.

God Bless

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answers from San Francisco on

I had absolutely no direction from adults. My father died when I was young (he was a farmer who had a 2 year agriculture degree) and no one else in my family had gone to college. I was a very good student and went to university to study biology with plans of going to vet school. I could not compete when it came to the math/physics course work, but the real reason I changed my major is because I had always loved writing and literature and that is where my true talents happen to be. I resisted changing my major because, to be blunt, I came from a working class background and I knew that I needed to be able to support myself. I eventually got a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing. Then I went to graduate school for an M.A. in literature and composition theory. I knew that I wanted to teach at a community college and I put a huge amount of effort into making the happen, including working almost full time while in grad school. I am one class away from a degree in biology ;-) and I do not regret that at all because I have used the skills I gained in the sciences in my current career, which is a career I love. I do not make a lot of money, but I am very fulfilled by my work.

This is a great question as I find myself trying to help my students with this life choice.

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answers from Kansas City on

I have a couple of thoughts.

One, I still am the only college graduate in my family, I think. I came from hardworking blue-collar parents and I had no guidance. Well, I take that back, I had thought I wanted to be a teacher, but didn't do well at the local community college so I went to work as a nursing assistant and literally worked my way though my Associates Degree in nursing then my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. And to the poster who said they would have wished they had gone into nursing, sure you make decent money, but you work your behind off for it! I went on maternity leave 16 (almost 17) years ago from the hospital and never went back. It was HARD work! I worked in a hospital for 13 years before I left and worked in an office. Which had more regular hours, but as the only nurse in the office, I HAD to be there. I did do some contract work in the research industry and even a few years in the legal industry. I won't even get into that! ;) BUT even though it was/is hard work, I loved nursing and I miss it. I just know that being gone for so many years that I can't go back to the physical demands.

As far as our kids. . . We finally have convinced our almost 21 year old to quit wasting time, energy and money in college. He's been out of high school 3 years and is no closer to knowing what he wants to do than when he graduated. We have had many conversations about what degrees have potential of a higher income vs. a 'living wage'. We've tried to appeal to his champagne taste and beer budget by telling him that GENERALLY having a college degree increases your income by 50% But in today's world that is a BIG GENERALLY! Our 16 year old is another story, she's already directing her high school studies to a potential International Business degree. She has amazing math skills and has been doubling up on her languages which also come easy to her.

What I think is a better question of the point I think you are trying to get at, is why do we push these kids straight into college when many have little to no work experience. How do you know what you might want to do for the next 40 years of your life if you've never done it? As I mentioned before I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but fell in love with nursing once I HAD to get a job since I wasn't going to school. My husband dropped out of college because he was in a major to make his family happy, to get an internship in an technology department of a company. He now has his computer science degree that he got after we were married with kids.

But just as that college degree does not guarantee a big paycheck, neither will it guarantee happiness. We've impressed on our kids over and over, find you passion, what you want to do.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

This one hits really close to home with me...I actually have a B.S. in Marine Biology. When I could not find any jobs with this, I ended up going back to school and getting my M.S. in Environmental Analysis and Management. I had a very good job now. I couldn't have gotten the job I have with the B.S. that I have. Obviously, I want more than anything for my children to be happy. HOWEVER, I will strongly encourage them to go into a field that is marketable and can provide them with a reasonable living. I really cannot stand the thought of someone going to a 40K/year school to get a degree in underwater just doesn't make sense.

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answers from Austin on

First of all when you go to college now you do not have to declare a major till the end of your sophomore year or beginning of your junior year! Takes the pressure off of the 17 and 18 year old's entering college.

Our daughter is in college and she is a dbl major.

She has always been interested in Marketing.
So she thought it would be smart to take psychology as well as studio art. This way "if you know why and how people do things you can sell to them.". She said this when she was 15! Blew me away.

Anyway she has always been a very creative person and sees things very differently than others, so these studies have been good choices. She has always had a very natural ability of reading people through observation.

She was a little disappointed when she discovered there was no way she could go into child psychology. Through these courses she realized she was not strong enough emotionally to deal with some of the possible situations. We told her it was in no way a waste of her time, instead it was a great way to realize this while still in school.

So she has many possibilities at this point and is still trying to pinpoint if she wants to go for her MBA. This way with a business major she could really work almost anywhere.

We have always told her to follow her passions. There is nothing worse than being in a career that does not bring you pleasure. You want to enjoy your work/career, since you will be spending the majority of your life there. Even more time than you will with your family.

Our daughter has friends that are studying to be Actuarial's. You talk about dry.. but these kids love numbers and statistics and are expected to make a ton of money.. many have been courted by huge corporations since their sophomore year in college. One young woman purchased a larger home than he own parents own at the end of her first year of working! This would have been a terrible choice for our child. She is great with numbers and statistics, but it is too boring for her.

My best friend always wanted to be an attorney.. He was offered a job while still in law school. He was in Los Angeles raking in the money, meeting famous and exciting people, but he missed Austin.So he came back to Austin and has had a great career working for the state. It is not a ton of money and is not glamorous at all, but it has allowed him to have a nice home a nice car and travel. He is now also a co owner of a popular Yoga Studio in town and says it is now his passion and wishes he could quit his "day job"..

So I guess it depends on the persons priorities. What is it they want and need to be happy. They need to make the final choice, because they have to live the life.

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answers from New York on

My daughter is a sophomore in college - she picked the school, and also chose her major (Business, with a Psych minor). We didn't have much input on either choice, but feel she chose well on both counts. She is extremely focused, and has always been a goal-setter. She's had a job of some sort or another since she was old enough to work, and fully anticipates being able to find a good job in her field after graduation. My son, a HS sophomore, definitely will need much more direction with the whole college/choosing a major process. He is the artistic/musical type, and totally unfocused about what and where he wants to study. He's the one I'm nervous about! Back in the day when I was in school, my parents didn't give me too much direction as far as major went, plus there wasn't a great deal of career counseling on the part of the school either, which is probably why I ended up in grad school right after getting my BA. As much as I value a liberal arts education for its own sake, I do wish there had been more resources at that time to help guide me along a career path. If I had to do it all over again, I would have chosen a more practical field that would lead to steady employment. That's the advice I plan to give my daughter seems to have it all figured out already! It doesn't really matter to me if they choose a "lucrative" field, just one that will give them a decent paycheck and more importantly, make them happy to get up in the morning and go to work.

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answers from Dallas on

It's hard to ask a 18 year old to map out their entire future. I know I didn't know what I wanted to do. My parents encouraged me to not pick a major and take a variety of classes my first year (mostly requirements for graduation anyway) and then decide. It was perfect. Since you have to take these requirements anyway to graduate, you might as well take them your first year to see what is out there. It's necessary to talk to your kids about realistic salary expectations upon graduation, but asking an 18 year old to decide their future is unrealistic as well.

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answers from San Francisco on

Back when I had just started college I told my Dad one day that I was going to be a Business major because I figured it would be something I could make money with. My Dad's response was probably the best advice I could have gotten "why would you waste your time on something that you are just ok at and don't love when you could be doing something you love and be the best at it?" I promptly switched to an English Lit major then realized my passion for writing and switched to Journalism, then figured out a way to combine my love for writing, interacting with people and technology and graduated with a degree in Public Relations.

I think if you just encourage your child's passions and make sure that they know that it is ok to do what they love and not necessarily what will just make them a pile of money, they will be ok. I needed validation from my parents that I didn't need to be a millionaire right out of college and that success can mean happiness rather than money. :) Good luck to you!

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answers from Dallas on

I have a degree in Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising as well as Business. Lucrative field, no I added the Business degree because I felt like that would help me no matter what I did.

The business degree has helped in that I own a 3+ Million company with my husband and understand business. I also substitute teach at the elementary level and love it.

My husband is a great golfer and went to college on a golf scholarship and majored in accounting. He had the ability to be a pro golfer and still does but chose to continue education. He later got his masters at Duke.

As for our daughter, she is very business minded, she LOVES fashion design, playing her violin and cheerleading. She is in her 4th yr of Spanish and plans to continue that as well.

As of now, she's 16, we are visiting colleges and she is looking for colleges with good opportunities to study in Italy. Her top pick right now is Duke and we are going to visit there in June. We'd love it if she went to Duke because it is a great school and push the students not to just have a business degree but have your own business.

Her goal right now is to get a business degree, hopefully from Duke, she has the grades and activities, study fashion and music in Italy, come back with her designs.

She has a sewing machine and currently has several designs drawn up for dresses which are quite good.

We support her in dreaming big because if you don't have goals and strong desires to achieve them then you'll just be in a regular routine which does not lead to high wages and success.

Daughter has grown up in a financially successful and very stable home. She is like us, born with the drive to succeed and Never Give Up.

She is active in our current business as far as learning the ins and outs of how it works, positives of networking and succeeding.

We will support her in every way to help her achieve success.

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answers from Boca Raton on

My parents just emphasized college - never really a particular major. It was very important to them that we go, and I did - and then on to grad school. I am so grateful to them for putting me through my undergrad program. Back when I graduated (early 90's) less than half of all grads had student loans. Now it's something like 2/3's.

With my own teens (one of whom is getting close) we are being much more focused and intentional, mainly due to the colossal costs of higher education. Something is seriously wrong with the higher education system imho. People should not be "mortgaged" to the hilt for a bachelor's degree - to the extent that their loans won't be paid off until THEIR children go to college. And most student loans ARE NOT dischargeable in bankruptcy!

For us - we have to see clear potential return on investment (the same as if you were going to plunk $50-60K+ into any other investment or business endeavor).

Thanks for letting me say my peace. This is a very important issue and something that is on my mind frequently.

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answers from Detroit on

In my family, we were expected to go to college - it was just a given, we were always told that we were too smart not to go otherwise. Especially with me, my parents emphasized me being able to earn a living and support myself and be financially independent, regardless of whether I was married or not, and they figured the best way to do that was with a college degree. I was interested in animals and back in middle school decided that I wanted to be a veterinarian. My parents were the ones that put the idea in my head since they knew I loved animals and they wanted me to be happy, but also figured it would be a stable consistent way to earn a living. And guess what? I did become a veterinarian! And I am still really happy that I am (14 years after getting out of vet school), and as it turns out, I am the main breadwinner while DH is the stay at home parent with our 3 year old.

I guess the way I would present it to your kids is to make them aware that statistically, people with college degrees will, on average, earn more than those who do not have college degrees. However, it does depend on what field they want to study. If there is any particular career that they might be interested in, they need to research it, including the amount of education and training it requires, what the average salary is, and how much job demand there is. Sometimes just the fact that they have a degree (regardless of what it is in) will make them more qualified for certain jobs than others. But they also have to be aware that for some fields, having a bachelor's degree will not be enough - they may have to go further, and earn a master's or higher.

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answers from Boston on

I think you need to have some interest in your major but who really knows at 18 what they want to be when they grow up? I am just understanding myself now, and I am 50. My dad is an engineer and basically forced me to go to an engineering school. I had no real clue what I wanted to do back then, so off I went and got an Applied Physics degree. If I had to do it again I might study Finance or EE instead, but certainly not the Music degree I really wanted to go for. I will be forever grateful to my dad for pushing me into a financially lucrative career, I can play music now in my free time in the house we fully paid off this year and enjoy going to my job and being good at something that I can do well. I think that your kids need to know the reality that you cannot just study something you think is fun if there is no future in it. You would be better off putting the $30K or more per year into a fund for them and handing them that money after 4 years and letting them go to a local community college or travel with the peace corps for 4 years to get some real life experience in my opinion, than get a degree in basket weaving, no matter how much you enjoy basket weaving. I strongly urge your child to do what my cousin is doing - visit people who are doing what you think you might like to do. She visited an architect at work since she thought it would be fun to combine her interests in art and mathematics, but thought his day-to-day job was BORING and decided against that choice. Ask your high school counselor for options to investigate various careers, or take some aptitude testing to see where your strengths lie before wasting tons of money and 4 years just getting any degree that does not help you attain your life's goals. Now if your goal is to create the most beautiful woven basket ever..........

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answers from Dallas on

My mom told me right and I did wrong. She emphasized earning potential and potential job market - go into nursing - growing field yadda yadda yadda. I didn't. I went with my passion - political science. I thought if I followed my heart it would lead me into an eciting field that I would love. I wish I had listened to my mamma!

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answers from Rochester on

Not much influence. I was always told not to go into nursing (my mom is an RN and I always saw how exhausting it was and often unrewarding). I was interested in literature and medicine, so decided to graduate from high school early and major in English and go pre-med. I wanted to go into geriatric medicine, which my family supported very much.

After my first year in college I realized I sucked at Physics (hardest B+ I ever earned in my life!) and that I did not really want to be a doctor as much as I loved studying and discussing literature. It was a really difficult decision to drop pre-med, but I was interested in medicine to help other people and not to please myself, but I realized that teaching literature is still a way to help other people when I saw how much my professors and high school teachers had meant to me.

My family was not thrilled with me dropping pre-med, but since I indicated I wanted to earn a PhD and teach college they were okay about it. The decisions the did NOT seem to like included marrying my husband our junior year after less than a year of dating and ultimately not pursuing a PhD. THAT had to do with the economy--I did not want to be unemployed with an expensive degree or forced to move to the middle of nowhere in a landlocked state just to get a job at a community college. My husband just finished his degree in history, so neither of us were really thinking "practical," but there are plenty of jobs that just require a degree but do not specify what kind of degree. Employability is only one thing to consider about a major. My husband can hype up his "communication skills" if he needs to since most employers do not care about medieval history. Someday, perhaps, he'll be able to "use" his degree, but for now he is much more enjoyable company than most people I know. :)

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answers from Pocatello on

I went to college for art.... My mom went to college for book-keeping and accounting....

Anyways... there are a few different theories to why a person goes to college... Do you go to "broaden your horizons" or do you go to get a degree so that you can earn a "decent living"...

So, in retrospect... financially my college was not worth anything to me. I ended up becoming a stay at home mom, and unless I move to a metropolitan area, there is not a lot of job listings for "fine artist"... BUT I wouldn't have been happier doing anything else, and what I learned about myself, and about my passion was priceless.

My mom's degree was practical, and I think she really would have liked me to pick a more "practical" degree... and minored in art. BUT- she is a practical type of person, and I am more of a "artsy fartsy" person who is less pragmatic. I really do think she was just happy that I went to school and did well- in the end.

The other thing to think about is - really honestly... how many people can say that at 17 or 18 they absolutely, positively KNEW what they wanted to do for the REST of their lives, career-wise... before they ever even had an apartment or a full time job? My husband chose a "practical major" - computer programming.... and he hated it! He still LOVES computers... and he works in that feild... but he would rather sell computers and fix them than create programs- even if he would get a bigger paycheck.

I say that college is great! But someday I think I will advise my daughter to go to school for whatever she wants- just go and learn and grow and have a BLAST! then get out, get a job- either in your field or not... and in a few years if you come across a career that you think you'll do well in, and can make some money at- then go back! Someday I will go back to school... but right now i am happy just being a mom! Live is too short to "grow up" the day you turn 18!


PS: by the way--- I do think price DOES matter though... I went to a small state school... on a full ride scholarship- Had I wanted to go to "Yale" or something I am sure my mom would have added a few more of her "2 cents" into the mix! I did have my heart set at one point of the Art Institutes... but they are $uper Ex$pen$ive! LOL... and my mom did say I would have to get some serious financial aid if I wanted to go there- and I better be sure I was ready to do what it took to USE that $120,000 degree if I did... so I settled. I am happy I did in retrospect, because if I do ever go back to school now I can smile back on my first time in college, and be much more content to pick something a little more "practical" the second time around!

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answers from New York on

Great job having that all important dialog with the kids. I find that studying them for a lifetime works much better than trying to figure things out when they are preparing to be off and on their way.

Knowing your kid's natural talents, aptitudes, interests, and temperment all play a powerful role and helping steer or guide them to their destiny. While a college degree may not necessarily mean making a living wage it does give the graduate a host of resources that the non grad doesn't have access to part of that isn't just limited to the ability to think outside of the box as it were.

I encourage the children around me to live there lives on purpose. To have goals and targets to hit along the way as they carve out a path toward being the best authentic them they can be.

So my kids (neices, nephews, son, step son, and youth from youth group and childrens church) are all encouraged by me to be the best they can be in what they were naturally made to do with the understanding that if you are doing something you are passionate about the money will come. You will put yourself in the best position to attract money when you are operating your life in your gift but your character must also be developed so you can maintain it.

I hope this helps. Continue the talks and their are loads of books out there and online tests to take to help discover the best range of work/study opportunities suited for your young people.

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answers from St. Louis on

My mom told me to major in the area that I loved, but make sure that it was a workable degree after I was done. I wanted to major in Sociology, but there wasn't a lot I could do with JUST a sociology degree. I found social work, loved it, and haven't looked back. She never really pushed the money factor, although I knew once I picked social work I would only be making so much. She felt it was more important that I was passionate about what I was studying. It helped me to get a 4.0 all the years that I was there, get into the top grad school for my field, etc. She got a teaching degree when she went to school, hated teaching, and then really struggled to change careers later.

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answers from St. Louis on

I've learned my lessons from the mistakes made by other parents in our circle of friends/family:

In mulitiple cases, the parents did 90% of the choosing of the career/university for their kids. As in, "this is what you are doing......if I'm paying, this is what you're doing". Each of these parents justified their actions by saying that they "knew best/this is an upcoming field/this will provide for your future/etc". In all but one case, the kids either dropped out or are pursuing a career out of the field of their study (1 diploma out of 10+ kids!). Honestly, most of them are on tiny wages, waiting for life to happen.

When asked, all of these kids say "it wasn't for me, even tho' Dad/Mom wanted it for me". When this first began happening, I thought it was just a case of bad attitude on the kids' parts. Nope, it's beyond's Dad/Mom making life choices for their children....not recognizing that their children are adults!

With our 23yo son, we stick to just stating the facts & it's his decision. With our 14yo son, we will do the same. I never, ever want to bear the brunt of this!

& as for your comment that a degree doesn't mean a livable wage.... I absolutely agree with you. Again in our circle, we have proof-positive of that sad, sad fact: two or our nieces graduated as RNs. Both live in a major city. One found a hospital job after 8 months of looking....with no offers prior. The other is now at 1 year with no job offers. RNs!!
Another niece graduated in Dec '09 with a degree in Biology. After 6 months of not a single interview, she made the decision to return to school for her Master's in Education...which I believe is a serious mistake! She has quite a few friends with degrees in Education....who graduated last May & are still without full-time jobs. Instead they are living on substitute teacher spots, working evening/wkend part-time jobs to survive. Not good!

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answers from Kansas City on

I had the very good fortune of having parents that let me discover who I was and what college suited me best. My father is a Chemical Engineer, who served in the US Air Force for 22 years. He followed his dream of being a fighter pilot and eventually earned a Masters in Psychology. When he retired he returned to school and received his teaching certificate in Math, Science, and Physics. My mother has a BFA in piano performance. She eventually pursued a Masters in Music Education. She spent many years teaching band and orchestra students all over the world.

When I was making my college decisions the best advice they gave me was pick something you love to do. You will be doing it at minimum 8 hours a day five days a week for the rest of your life. Dad did not put any restrictions on what I studied or where I could go. For a basic college education he preferred that I stay in-state. If I felt I needed to go out of state I was going to need to find a way to help finance it. He also wanted me to think of a plan. What I was going to do with my degree? He was not in the business of letting me go to school to "Find Myself". The plan could change so long as I had a plan for what I was going to do.

It took my last three years of high school to really lock down what I wanted to study. My passion turned out to be art. At first I was nervous about telling them I wanted to become an artist. I had been thinking of studying Veterinary Science, because I love animals. This is what he told me when I broke the news - "Who am I to question what you want to be. I chose to fly jets. Your mother wanted to be a concert pianist. If this is what you want lets sit down and figure out how to make it happen."

In the end we worked with my art teacher found an out of state private college that suited both my degree choice and the family budget. It meant I had to earn a rather large scholarship to help foot half the bill, but it was do-able. My years at college were everything I could have hoped for and more. By letting me do what I loved and knowing my academic strengths my parents helped guide me.


P.S. - I ended up married to a guy who has a BFA in Automotive Restoration. So lord only knows what our child is going to want to be in the future.

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answers from Dallas on

I haven't read all the responses. I personally feel you need to allow your child to make the decision of what he or she wants to do. I encourage my children to further their education after high school. My oldest is will be in 11th grade next year and doing pretty good. She wants to be a teacher. I also feel when she gets into college she may explore other options. My middle son will be in 9th grade next year and has always been very good with money. He's asked me about different fields and about how much do they make. He's very smart and has a good personality. I think he'll do good in which ever road he goes down. He already knows he wants to go into a field where he can make a lot as well as enjoy.

I work in higher education so I've brought my children to my work for years, and I think that is why they both are very big on College now. I tell them about my students and how they have earn their bachelor and master's without paying a penny because they had good grades and received scholarships. I've told them of the ones who took the AP classes in High School which then they had less to take in college. The students that earned their bachelor and master's degree in 3.5 years.

I do want my children to have great jobs, but I also want them to enjoy their job and hopefully it's more of a career not a job. They also have to make their own decisions, of course I'll try to steer them in the right directions, but it will be their life.

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answers from Anchorage on

I think what they major in should be souly up to them, it is their life after all.

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answers from Washington DC on

I think my stepson is realistic about his future. DH makes it clear that we all had to start somewhere and DH and I talk openly about our beginnings. The jobs we took. The pay we had. The things we did to make do or save money. How we got ahead.

When my stepson was looking at schools, we had him write down what majors he might like and then he applied as an engineering major b/c you can get in easier in the beginning. He changed and ended up Poli Sci and because we had encouraged him to attend a school with all his interests, he didn't have to move campus. He took a semester to try out classes in other fields before settling on a new major.

He's now exploring his options and looking into internships and figuring out what he will do post-grad. Many people do not work in their chosen field right away or at all. I'm sure he will be fine wherever he lands. My sister is a graphic design major who discovered a talent for billing which has taken her far in her current company.

So...lucrative does sometimes depend on the degree, but I won't push my stepson to be a lawyer if that's not where his heart is. I wouldn't want him to have money but be miserable making it.

My mom said that if I did teaching I be prepared to not make big bucks. I needed to do it for the love of the job. I ended up going with English and becoming a tech writer after a few years of bouncing around.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I majored in Computer Science in the late 1970s. I needed to pick a major that would get me a job and get me OFF the FARM. It worked! My parents had no influence on this decision, they had no understanding of computers, of college, of working in "the cities".

Two degrees later and I now work as a career coach. I recommend the book "Strengthsquest" by Clifton, Anderson, and Schreiner for young people deciding on a career path. Also, "A Whole New Mind" and "Johnny Bunko: the last career guide you'll ever need" by Daniel Pink who writes about the future of the work world and careers for young people. It is a changing world, and ongoing education is a necessity.

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answers from St. Louis on

My daughter is graduating in May with a BFA in Stage Management from a private school (insert $$$). She will never make a lot of money but she will be happy. She is passionate about what she does. Several years ago she had a friend that got a degree in something she hated doing but made lots of money and my daughter came to the conclusion that she would never make a lot of money but would be happy. Isn't that what is all about? My niece is having the same problem...her dad wants her to go to the college he went to and is scoffing at what she wants to study because she will never make a lot of money. But how does the cost of happiness weigh in?

I vote for happiness over money. Of course, there are good choices to be made during this process.

We also knew early on that college would not be direction my son would florish. He just had to make a plan and work the plan. Get some advanced training. He worked in a bike store and got additional training. Then joined the army. I keep encouraging him to get additional training while they are paying for it. Keep common sense in the picture.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My parents didn't emphasize any particular major, they just wanted me to go to college. Actually, they wanted me to be a doctor, but after I decided against that, they thought that as long as I got a degree, I should be fine. Unfortunately, I have a bachelor's degree in psychology, and so far it hasn't translated into any kind of career at all. I'm at the point where I really regret my degree, because not only does it not translate into any kind of career, but I also have thousands of dollars in student loan debt that I regret taking out. So right now I'm trying to go back to school for nursing with the hope that I will have an actual career after I graduate. I couldn't justify taking out more loans in order to pay for a master's degree in psychology or sociology, because I can't even pay off the loans I currently have. But a cheaper community college education in a field that actually translates into a career is what I'm planning to do now, and what I wished I had done in the first place.

When my kids are older, I will encourage them to go to college and do what they believe will make them happy, but I don't want them to take out any student loans (or a very minimal amount) unless they are majoring in something that actually translates into a paying job. With the economy being the way it is right now, it's hard to say what kinds of fields fall into that category...but hopefully it starts getting better soon.

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answers from Chicago on

A guidance counselor will tell you it really doesn't matter what degree they start out majoring in 95% or kids will change at least once before settling on a degree. Having said that I can say that I have encouraged my kids to choose degrees in things they enjoy doing. It won't matter how great the degree is if the kid hates whatever it is they won't get a job doing that and it will be a waste of a lot of money. My son started at carthage planning a degree in some kind of math with a great scholarship . He told us half way through his freshman year he was switching to vocal and performance arts. WHAT? HELLO? $39,000 a year to pay off and he wants to sing. He did and switch to a double major, math and music/vocal performance. Junior year he switched again to Actuarial Math and a minor in vocal performance. Is graduating top 2% of his class. Unlike some of his highschool friends who dropped out after a year of college because the parents were forcing degrees in things like accounting etc that the kid wanted nothing to do with. They start with mostly basic stuff the first year anyway. and maybe 1 class a semester of whatever they want to graduate with. We were lucky that my son got some really big scholarships. So out of a $160,000 in college expenses he only financed about $60,000 of that. and is paying it off himself. Make that a big part of your conversation. How much it costs. how much the payments will be etc and the question "how do you plan to pay for that" it will mean a lot more if they are paying it themselves. My next son is a junior at NIU also paying his own way. he opted to commute the hour each way to save money. and is paying his own way. no loans for him at all this year. my youngest is a freshman in highschool. we are already talking and he is opting for a trade school type thing. he doesn't want to start his life with loads of loans to pay back lol

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answers from Honolulu on

... Ultimately, to me and how I was raised, the child has to LIKE what they are going to major in and potentially be employed in.
They should not study or major in something, that is just based on earning potential.

My parents, are highly educated and were highly successful both academically and in their given careers.
BUT, they have always guided us, per college... in studying and majoring in something that WE choose... and loved and had a talent for.
It was not based, on earning potential. That was not the 'criteria'... for us going to college.

I have degrees, in Fine Arts, Anthropology and the Behavioral Sciences.
My siblings as well, are all double majored or more.
All highly successful both academically and career wise... even if they did not major in a standard cookie cutter type major based on earning potential.

IF a person, truly loves what they do and majored in... then, that is "success" and they will be HAPPY in their given careers.

You either, go to College/University, based on your paycheck, or based on what you truly love and have a talent for.

But yes, a kids this age should know about earning potential.
And just the knowledge of how to survive in the world.

all the best,

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answers from New York on

My parents didn't get overly involved in the decision-making process with respect to my major (psychology and biology), but did make sure that I had a "plan" b/c my major was not something that came with "real skills" that could be applied immediately after college. They also made sure that there was a back-up. In my case, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school but they insisted that I apply for consulting jobs "just in case" to make sure that I had a path after graduation.

My husband, on the other hand, researched his strengths in highschool (chemistry and math) and figured out which field would have the most long-term stability and earning potential and went with it- chemical and mechanical systems engineering. His parents were completely hands-off, as evidenced by his twin majoring in Art History, which resulted in multiple "job changes" and living in my basement for an extended period of time.

There's a difference between "do this b/c I'm paying for it" and "let's talk about whether or not this makes sense". My parents did the latter and I hope we do too when the time comes!

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answers from Albany on

I have one away at school, he's a computer engineering major in a 5 year BS/MS program. While his earning potential is very high, it is also a very popular major and when he graduates so will a gazillion other computer engineers.

My next son is a junior this year. He is interested in sociology/psychology. He understands the earning potential of a job using only a BA in either one is just not that great. On the other hand it's a very unpopular major these days, there will be less job competition when he graduates.

However, earning potential and job markets were only one factor in working with them to find the right major and school. I've tried to point them in the direction that reflects their natural strengths and interests more than anything else. After all you can have a fantastic paying guarenteed job, but if you HATE the line of work, what's the point?

And frankly, whatever degree you choose, having a DEGREE of ANY KIND gives you WAY WAY more options in life than not, you can ALWAYS change your mind. In fact, YOU yourself can change your mind!

I've also got a 14 year old in 8th grade who has already decided she wants Northeastern's 6 year doctorate program for physical therapy. She may change her mind of course, but we've been talking about college as an exciting opportunity since they were born, so it's always been in the back of their minds.

And no, I do NOT think they REALLY understand all the information they are given about college and the outcome of their own choices. But they'll make their own way, of that I AM sure!


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answers from New York on

I am not sure how much guidance I got per se; however someone somewhere along the line told me to look at what was hot when I was entering college and that that particular major would be over saturated and have little earning potential when I left. Back in 1996, that was anything tech related. I graduated in 2000 with an environmental engineering degree. This is really hot now! And an area I had a passion for so it works out well. That would be the other advice I got, get an education in something you do/will enjoy and are passionate about.

I know I did some career shadowing prior to getting into college through the GSs and through a "Young Women's of Excellence" program at the HS. Shadowing can be set up on your own and/or by your child. Most professionals are receptive. Shadowing actually saved my Hubby from going into physical therapy. After several hours of shadowing, he realized he could never do that all day and would be bored and miserable with the job (and possibly his life). He is now an ER RN and a paramedic - he needs the adrenaline rush! LOL.

Good luck! Guiding the future generation is tough.

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