Help with College Major for My Son

Updated on August 18, 2011
J.C. asks from Chicago, IL
19 answers

My son is a senior this year and has narrowed down his interests for college study and has visited some schools. I'm looking for some ideas from others too. I love the diversity and backgrounds on this site so I thought I'd ask all the mamas (and papas).

My son is interested in education (secondary) as well as coaching. He also has interest in maybe teaching at the college level some day. He is also interested in something like sports therapy, sports medicine, athletic training, and the like. He is a smartie, too, and has a GPA over 3.8 and scored just shy of 29 on his ACT. He is very successful at track and cross country and has colleges showing interest in him for that also.

So, my question is, what would you suggest for majors and minors? Any experiences from others with the same interests for suggestions of what to do or not to do? I am welcome to all ideas, from the obvious to "gee I never thought of that." Thanks mamas!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much for all the great suggestions! It's very helpful and I love all the advice! We are trying to at least narrow down some choices, as he wants a school with track and cross country and not all of them do. Also, some have certain majors he's interested in and some don't. He does have the math thing going for him, so that sounds like it will serve him well.

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answers from Washington DC on

If he is interested in teaching, he should major in science with a minor in PE. Then he can get his teaching certificate in a subject that will allow him to actually get a job -- those PE jobs are hard to find. Then he can go on to get his masters degree in Physical Therapy or something like that.
From there he can coach, be a trainer, and still teach. If he wants to go in to sports medicine, he might consider medical school with a concentration in orthopedics.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Denver on

My ds was really undecided. He enrolled in the community college, dropped out almost immediately, then tried another school, and dropped out again. He's smart and talented but was at a loss as to how to pursue his education.

Finally, after some long talks, we arrived at this: There was a gentleman we knew of, who was in a particular skilled and technical profession, and my son said "I want to do what he does, but I don't know how to do it or what I would need to learn. But I KNOW I want to be what he is, but I don't even know what it's called".

Aha! A light shone.

We called the gentleman, asked what it is that he does, he was very gracious in giving our son pointers on schools, certifications, etc, and what his type of engineering is called and so on.

We found the college that focuses on that, and my son enrolled and now has graduated with a near perfect GPA and absolutely loves what he does. He never looked back or even considered changing his mind. When that man explained what he does, and how my son was well suited for that, the floodgates opened.

So, is there a coach or teacher who has meant a lot to your son? Or a doctor or sports clinic or trainer who has had a good influence? Is there someone about whom your son could say "I would love to help other kids like he has"? Could your son talk with him and pick his brain a little? He might have some good insight into what kind of athlete your son is, whether he might make a good teacher or a better therapist, or he might have advice about what careers are better, etc.

Hope that helps!

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answers from Los Angeles on

You have some excellent suggestions already, but I wouldn't be too concerned about his major right now. From what I understand, less than 15% of college students graduate with the major they set in their Freshman year. Most students change their major several times.

I would suggest he has a major that is interesting to him. He should concentrate on getting the general education requirements done first. It will help him if he changes majors. The GE requirements will probably be the same for the next 4 years.

I would also suggest he take his first two years close to home so he can save room and board. That will save on his student loans.

Good luck to you and yours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

University of Oregon has an excellent school of education, and they have an amazing track and field program. The founder of Nike is an alumni and built an incredible stadium there, it's where they hold the US Olympic trials!
I really wanted my son to go there as he is also interested in teaching and is a runner, but he found another school he really loved and will be heading there next week (Northern Arizona University.)
Have fun, it's an exciting time!

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answers from Austin on

Here is the good thing, you do not have to declare a major till the end of your sophomore year or beginning of Junior year.. in colleges and Universities.
It is not like it used to be..

So he can take course in his basic requirements with an education and anatomy, physiology etc.. He can study to be a physical therapist, Trainer, all sorts of things, but still have a teaching degree..

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answers from St. Louis on

I would suggest teaching for a major with a minor in sports therapy to help with his coaching later on in life.

With teaching it is easier to compete this degree as many classes are not offered during the eveing and you have student teaching. With the sports therapy and sports medicine you can do most if not all of those classes during the day or at night.

A double major may also be something of interest to him.

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answers from Boston on

I'd steer away from any school that requires him to choose a major at this point! Most schools don't require it until the end of sophomore year. Look at diverse schools with a variety of departments and an emphasis on letting students sample courses from different disciplines. My son was required to take a variety of humanities and sciences. He also runs track and XC so it sounds like our boys have a lot in common! You'd be surprised how many kids change their majors after being exposed to different subjects, and that's the great thing about college. Nobody should be expected to choose a future career at age 17. A university with various colleges within it will give him a lot of freedom and also the chance to meet a tremendous range of kids. Look at schools with a strong residential life program that encourages interaction and cooperation in the dorm, and something with a good coaching program for his sports as he will spend a lot of time in practice. My son runs about 100 miles per week so it's pretty time-consuming.

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answers from San Francisco on

I went into college thinking I would major in Engineering. But a funny thing happened during my freshman and sophomore years. Sure, I took all the engineering pre-requisites (calculus, physics, etc), but I also took Greek & Roman Studies, French language, English Lit, and so on. I decided to take advantage of the Study Abroad program and went to live in France for a semester my sophomore year. I feel in love with the language, the culture, and the literature! I ended up majoring in French with minors in Sociology and Theology. Now, you might wonder what on Earth I did with that major? I became a construction manager! (Yes, really.) I guess it's further proof that you should do what you love, and everything else will come to you.

I have friends who were pre-med, and ended up being lawyers, and I know one woman who wanted to major in Physics/Astronomy, but ended up majoring in Ancient Languages, and is now a professor at NYU! (And goes on all these wonderful archeology digs in Israel, Egypt, and other fun places.) Some of the most successful people I know had no idea in college what they wanted to be when they grew up.

I think you should encourage your son to take a wide variety of classes. Who knows what he will find of interest? He can declare a major at the beginning of his junior year and still have plenty of time to get his major completed.

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answers from Seattle on

I would suggest just starting out with a general degree and then pick from there after he has some classes under his belt. When I went to college everyone had to take a certain amount of courses from different areas. I started out in Pre-Med and almost failed out of college. I stayed in that for 2 years and then changed to nutrition. I didn't like all of the accounting and business classes they wanted me to take and eventually changed to English Lit and graduated with a BA in English and Minor in Nutrition. I then went on to get my Masters In Acupuncture a few years later. Interests change so much especially when you are young that you never know what you will end up being in. Good luck to your son.

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answers from Dover on

One thought would be to major in Education and minor in Sports Management. Another would be to go in as undeclared, start w/ the core courses while he's deciding.

I can tell you that York College of PA has a great Sports Management program. That is where my son attends and that is his major.

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answers from Springfield on

If he is interested in teaching (even if he changes his mind), he will need to major in the subject he would be teaching, not in education. If he is good at math or science, I would start there. Math and science teachers are hard to find, and he would have a much better chance of finding a job than if he majored in p.e. If he's thinking about physical therapy or related field, you might talk to someone in those departments at a university about what makes the most sense.

I would seriously consider biology, physics, math. Many med students majored in biology, but I've heard there isn't much you can do with it if you don't go into medicine. You can get a teaching certificate with biology, though Chemistry and Physics teachers are harder to find so more in demand. Math teachers are a very rare commodity (that was my major), so that's a good choice as well.

P.E. teachers are a dime a dozen. Math & science are going to be his best bet for getting a good teaching job right out of college.

Don't sweat it too much. There are lots of general education requirements he'll need to take, so he really does have time to decide.

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answers from Chicago on

As an educator, jobs are tough to get. Science, math and special ed with the sports med minor may be good but even those subjects are getting infiltrated. The only education field that is still in a huge need is Speech and Language Pathology. He could also coach with that or possibly be the athletic trainer too.
As others have mentioned, you don't have to claim your major until Junior year so he can take a variety of courses to see what he likes.

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answers from Dallas on

I've read articles that suggest a business degree of any kind can be utilized in almost any field and so could prove useful, no matter what career he ends up in. That said, he might also consider choosing a minor in a subject that he is especially fond of. He sounds like a very well-rounded kid that will be an asset anywhere! Best Wishes!

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answers from Chicago on

Have him meet with a Career Counselor at the college or take a career planning class as one of his electives. Meeting with the counselor is usually free to do.

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answers from Albany on

Aim high. Pre Med. The world can't have too many quality orthopaedic surgeons!

(I should mention my daughter who is a retired gymnast, only a freshman in HS, but has years of injuries and PT under her belt, is already looking at Northeasterns 6 yr Doctorate in PT)


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answers from Houston on

With the way things are going now and his interest in other things, I wouldn't go with a teaching degree. They laid off some 500 teachers in our school district last year and all the teachers I know are struggling to find work. It may be different in your area but we live in the 4th largest city in the country and our teachers can't find jobs? Or at least good paying teaching jobs?

I would go with sports medicine with minor focus on sports therapy and athletic training. That way, he will have medical under his belt and can still have training experience b/c he is on the field and working w/actual coaches and players.

gl to your son!

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answers from Washington DC on

Also, find a school that has most of his possible majors. When my stepson left Engineering for PoliSci, he was able to do so without loss of credit or transfer. We deliberately narrowed it down to schools with both for just that reason.

Most secondary ed teachers also have a specialization other than education, like English or History or Music. When I considered it, it was like having a double major. I needed all the things for an English major PLUS everything for education. Throw in technology requirements and he might be looking at a 5 year program, depending on the school.

We also suggested that my SS start in Engineering as it was easier to get into the program as a freshman than it was to get in later. Should he change his mind (as he did) getting out and into a new major was easier than had he started out PoliSci and tried to get into Engineering.

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