Why Choosing The Right Major Is Key To Success

A college major is a subject area that students can specialize in and build job skills.

HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES are often faced with two significant decisions that will shape their futures: which college to attend and what to study.

Similar to the vast number of colleges, options for a major are numerous and wide-ranging. The decision on what to study can have a lasting effect, shaping future work experiences, earnings and other choices connected to a profession. Because of the importance of the decision, some advisers urge students to pursue their passions.

“You have to enjoy what you’re majoring in. That is key,” says Erin Moriarty, dean of undergraduate admission at Loyola University Chicago.

Typically a bachelor’s degree requires four years of full-time study, with a portion of that coursework dedicated to the student’s chosen major. The number of credit hours required for a major in college can vary depending on the program. Students may also choose to double major in college, studying two disciplines simultaneously, which requires coursework for both.

Work on the college major can be spread across the four years if a student chooses his or her field early on, or it can be concentrated in the junior and senior years, experts say. According to admissions officials, either way is fine for most programs.

Moriarty says some academic programs may require coursework in the first year, citing education, nursing and engineering as examples of majors requiring instruction from the start.

It’s important for students to decide on a major by the end of their sophomore year, notes Brian Troyer, dean of undergraduate admissions at Marquette University in Wisconsin, because “the upper division coursework within a particular major is going to be pretty heavy during junior and senior year.”

The most popular college majors, based on National Center for Education Statistics data on degrees conferred in 2014-15, were “in the fields of business (364,000), health professions and related programs (216,000), social sciences and history (167,000), psychology (118,000), biological and biomedical sciences (110,000), engineering (98,000), visual and performing arts (96,000), and education (92,000).

College majors can be conventional, such as business, or off the beaten path. California State University—Fresno, for example, offers majors in viticulture and enology through its agriculture program, where students learn about grape cultivation, wine production and the industry.

In a region ripe for wine production, graduates work in vineyards cultivating grapevines, working in pest control or making wine, says Sonet Van Zyl, associate professor of viticulture at Fresno State.

“There are more job opportunities than there are people available,” Van Zyl says.

That shortage of workers sounds familiar to Tom Cortina, assistant dean for undergraduate education and teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science.

“We, meaning academia, are not actually graduating enough computer scientists to fill all of the positions out there that are computing related. That’s how in demand (computer scientists) are,” Cortina says.

He adds that interest in the computer science major has spiked in the last decade. But even with an increase in the number of graduates, he says it isn’t enough to keep up with a booming industry. Cortina believes the need for workers in computer science will continue to grow. As it does, schools will need to produce more graduates to keep up with the already high demand.

Another field experts expect to grow is unmanned aerial systems, often referred to as drones.

“We’re coming up with new ways to use unmanned aircraft systems in everyday life all the time,” says Paul Snyder, assistant professor of aviation at the University of North Dakota. Snyder says uses for drones include agriculture, real estate, medicine, security and more.

Another in-demand major at the University of North Dakota is petroleum engineering, which fetches the highest median earnings among college majors, coming in at $136,000 annually, according to research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“Our graduates make a good amount starting out and move up quickly to make more,” says Bailey Bubach, a petroleum engineering instructor at UND.

While petroleum engineering comes in as the highest-paying major, social work is an example of a career track on the lower end of the scale. Georgetown research shows that entry-level psychology and social work graduates earn a median annual income of $28,000.

However, social work advocates say the field isn’t about the money. “It’s really hard work, but it’s incredibly satisfying. You get to help individuals and communities turn their lives around,” says Anna Scheyett, professor and dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia, adding that the “rich and meaningful” career trumps money. Declare Major on College Applications Three current college students share insights on this necessary application decision.Caroline Duda July 3, 2017

Like her peers in other fields, she sees her industry as one that will continue to grow. “I wish I could say that we are going to become obsolete because social problems are going to go away, but I think we’re a growth profession,” Scheyett says.

To help students narrow down their college major options, some schools offer online quizzes. Loyola University Chicago has a 35 question online quiz to help students learn more about potential majors. Moriarty says it’s built around common questions admissions officers hear from applicants, and students can match with more than 50 different majors.

“The goal of (the quiz) isn’t to say that this should be your direct path, but to provide options based on someone’s interests, to get someone to think outside of the box and understand what majors are really out there,” Moriarty says.

Marquette offers a similar quiz, but instead of suggesting individual majors, it groups students into categories such as communicator, entrepreneur, helper, problem-solver and thinker. When a student completes the college major quiz, suggested disciplines are matched to their results.

Troyer says offering this range helps students think about what’s out there. “Framing it in this way helps them think a little more outside the label of a particular major that a university may have or not have and makes them think about who they want to become,” he says.

While admissions experts say it isn’t necessary for students to know their college majors until the end of their sophomore year, there are advantages to deciding early. Troyer says students can research programs in their majors to help them choose a college, which also allows them to take high school classes that will complement their future studies.

[Read: Find the Best College for Your Major.]

While selecting a college major is an important choice, admissions officials say students shouldn’t feel locked into a major they don’t enjoy or struggle with. Students who wish to change career tracks can do so in college, shifting into another major that better suits them.

Moriarty urges students to discuss the decision with their advisers as soon as they can.

“You need to have those conversations with your academic adviser,” Moriarty says. “A lot of times, if you change early enough it doesn’t affect your four-year plan. It depends on what you’re changing to and what you’ve taken, and that’s where academic advisers are so crucial.”

And for prospective students feeling the pressure to choose a major early, Moriarty says they shouldn’t worry about their choice being factored into admissions decisions.

“For us, it doesn’t hinder their application or chance for acceptance,” Moriarty says.

How We Can Help With Choosing The Right Career Path

For more than a decade, we have assisted hundreds of students find a career path that fits them. The tools we utilize have propelled 92% of our students to graduate their 4 years in 4 years! This in return saves parents money on college and for retirement. Also, the student is less stressed and more focused on their studies.

Is your student unsure about their career path?

Do you want a more efficient way to save for retirement while paying for your students college?

We can help! To make sure that your student succeeds in college and in career, schedule your First Consultation below.

Article

Josh Moody, Reporter

Josh Moody has covered college admissions and international education for U.S. News since …  READ MORE

Tags: educationcollegesstudentscollege majorscollege admissions

Is Your Financial Planner Really Helping?

financial planner or personal financial planner is a professional who prepares financial plans for people. These financial plans often cover cash flow management, retirement planning, investment planning, financial risk management, insurance planning, tax planning, estate planning and business succession planning (for business owners).

However, when new or potential clients say to us, “We have a financial planner.” Our follow-up question is, “Did the financial planner sit down with you and take the time to educate you on a financial strategy that is tax-advantaged, pays for cars, houses, can fund for college, AND leave behind a legacy for your grandchildren?” The answer is ALWAYS, NO!

Why accept that if you don’t have too? Over the next week, I’ll be sharing some insight to the financial planner arena and what they SHOULD be doing, but probably are not doing. I’ll be sharing steps 4-6 on Wednesday, but find out the top 3 now.

Financial planning should cover all areas of your financial needs and should result in the achievement of each of your goals as required. The scope of planning would usually include the following:

1. Setting goals with the client This step (that is usually performed in conjunction with Step 2) is meant to identify where the client wants to go in terms of his finances and life.

2. Gathering relevant information on the client This would include the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the client’s financial and relevant non-financial situation.

3. Analyzing the information The information gathered is analyzed so that the client’s situation is properly understood. This includes determining whether there are sufficient resources to reach the client’s goals and what those resources are.

Is your financial planner creating a strategy for you, that you’re proud of?

If not, then come and get another opinion.

The OTHER College Companies

For over 15 years our firm has been studying how High School guidance departments, high priced College Prep Companies, Super high-priced consulting firms like IvyWise, College Planning Network, Top Tier Admissions, and small firms have been misleading and overcharging families with students headed to College for years.

They all (for the most part) tell you, “We will get your student/students into the College of your dreams,” or blatantly tell you if an Ivy league school is in your dreams, we will make that happen. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

A four year stint at Cornell, Penn, Stanford, or Yale, and my student is, to borrow an overused phrase, “Set for Life.” Unfortunately, this rah, rah B.S. it’s as effective as a cardboard cutout cheering at the new normal football stadium.

Over 70% of today’s graduates say that they are not using much of what they learned in College. Most are not pleased with their current job position and many have yet to find a job at all!

Professionals tell us the majority of recent graduates are back to that horrible habit that many of you are all too familiar with, hating Monday on Sunday. I am not referring to future professions like medicine, engineering, dentistry, law, and others where education and apprenticeship are integral to job satisfaction and performance.

We have graduates and even parents we work with who have stated to me, “All my College Degree represented to my employer was that I was trainable.” An excellent partner whom we have had the pleasure of working with for over 10 years, Emily Melious, the principle of Launch Consulting, has helped over a thousand students begin their life’s work on the right foot!

Using modern assessment tools like Kolbe assessment and OPgig, our team has avoided these frightening stats:

• 70% of people hate their job.

• 80% of workers feel stress on the job.

• 70% of low performing employees are working against their instincts.

• Just 8% of U.S. high school graduates complete a curriculum that prepares them for the workplace.

• College students change majors three times on average.

We have stated for years, that one of the most important services we provide our student clients is to help and teach them how to discover their economic passions and career path, which will give them a huge advantage in the marketplace.

Our firm takes pride in steering our students and their families out of the time-worn process of getting into a great College before we address Career evaluation, using today’s tools and of course, Emily’s award-winning services.

It is heartbreaking and a financial disaster when we see a very fine young student after two or three years of full-time College classes, not have a clue what type of work they prefer to begin as a career. After all, isn’t college supposed to be career training? Proper professional guidance and College Planning does work.

It is no longer necessary to ask your student “What do you want to study in college or what are you going to do for a living when you grow up?”

To learn more contact Jessica and learn first hand how we work with your student/students, how much time needs to be allocated to be successful, and how much our services will cost for your family.

We are now offering a complete no-cost College Entrance Report with your First Consultation (FC).

Do College Rankings Matter?

By Scott Jaschik

As they do every fall, high school students and their parents are deciding on college lists — figuring out where to apply and which colleges are on top of their wish lists. As is also the case every fall, U.S. News & World Report and others have released their rankings, suggesting which are the “best” colleges — among all and in certain categories.

Many students gravitate (regardless of what the rankings say) to public institutions close to home. But many others rely on rankings to identify potential colleges — or to convince parents that a particular institution is worth whatever it charges. And many colleges are banking on that, boasting about their scores in the latest rankings.

Educators have for years questioned the validity of the rankings, pointing out flaws with various parts of the methodologies of U.S. News and others.

A new study from researchers at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education examines all of the evidence about rankings and comes to this conclusion: the best way to find a college that is a “good fit” is to ignore the rankings.

Notably, the finding isn’t based on abstract ideas about the value of education not being something that can be measured.

Rather, the analysis is based on research about factors many students (and parents) say they take into consideration when they evaluate potential colleges: student learning, well-being, job satisfaction and future income.

If you care about those factors, the rankings will not steer you well, the paper says.

In summarizing the paper’s findings, Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford’s education school, said, “Research tells us that the most successful students, both in college and beyond, are the ones who engage in the undergraduate experience regardless of how selective a school may be. This is almost always the case whether a student attends the top-ranked or 200th-ranked college.”

Key factors in U.S. News and other rankings reward graduation rates and reputation. U.S. News has, over the years, placed more emphasis not just on raw graduation rates but “expected” graduation rates to reward institutions with higher than expected rates for students from at-risk populations.

But the Stanford study finds that graduation rates still reflect the student body being served more than the quality of the institution. And the study says there is no evidence linking reputation to anything but … reputation.

So reputation is “a self-fulfilling metric.”

Even measures that might seem inherently good — such as the percentage of class sessions that are small — may not actually mean much, the study says.

“While small classes are often seen as desirable, this metric is problematic … When schools offer more small classes, there is less space for students in those classes, meaning fewer students actually get to take them. Consider, as an extreme example, a school with 200 students where each student takes only one class. If there are nine classes with two students each, and one huge class with the remaining 182 students, the average class size at the school would still be only 20 students, and a full 90 percent of those classes would be considered ‘small’ classes.”

The report doesn’t say that it’s impossible to measure qualities about colleges that are important to students and parents. But real analysis would require examining the actual learning experience at colleges in ways rankings do not, the study says. For instance, the report cites Academically Adrift (University of Chicago Press), the 2011 book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa that found a lack of rigor and heft in most undergraduate syllabi, and a corresponding lack of learning. The findings were based on looking at what students were asked to read and write, among other things, in their courses. (Others have disputed Academically Adrift‘s findings)

“What does correlate with student learning?” the Stanford report asks. “Time spent studying. This is true regardless of institution and for all kinds of students. In other words, a student who studies hard at a nonselective school is very likely to learn, while a student who slacks off at a selective one is less likely to learn.”

Likewise the report points to research by Gallup on the factors in one’s college experience that predict whether one will appreciate that experience and find personally fulfilling work.

According to these Gallup surveys, the key predicting factor is not prestige of institution, but whether graduates look back on their college days and remember having had a professor who cared about them, made them excited to learn and encouraged them to follow their dreams — which Gallup called being “emotionally supported” while in college. (Note: Inside Higher Ed works with Gallup on some surveys but did not play a role in this research.)

Broadly, Gallup identifies a series of practices for students to seek out at any college as likely to increase their engagement with learning — and their satisfaction. These include “taking a course with a professor who makes learning exciting,” and “working with professors who care about students personally” and working on projects across several semesters.

The Stanford report generally suggests that students looking at potential colleges focus on finding places where the right conditions exist for the students to make the most of their opportunities. And that kind of review needs to focus on concrete measures or conditions that typically aren’t what makes a college rise or fall in U.S. News.

A key point of the report is that there is no single right focus for a college search — and that the selectivity-driven measures used in most rankings may be appropriate for a minority of students, but misdirect most others.

“For some students, deciding where to go to college may depend on academic factors, such as access to cutting-edge researchers in a beloved field with opportunities to be involved in graduate-level work, or a well-established professional preparation program,” the report says. “For others, the decision might be influenced by location: a college close to home, or far away, in a small town or in a big city. Or it might have to do with extracurricular programming: a robust student activities program, intramural sports, or the arts.

“The decision might include cultural opportunities: a university with a strong international languages program, a culturally diverse student body, and a track record of successful study-abroad exchanges. The presence or absence of a Greek system or a large Division 1 athletics program might be important factors for some students. Perhaps religious denomination, institutional size, or comprehensive support for those with learning differences may sway the decision. And of course, financial aid and cost are key factors as well.”

The report adds that “rather than choosing a school based primarily on a flawed scoring system, students should ask whether they will be engaged at the college in ways that will allow them to form strong relationships with professors and mentors, apply their learning via internships and long-term projects, and find a sense of community.”

Robert Morse, who leads the college rankings effort at U.S. News, said via email that he and his colleagues were still reviewing the Stanford analysis.

He noted that the paper did not reflect the most recent changes made by U.S. News in its methodology, changes that the magazine says placed a greater emphasis than in the past on rewarding colleges that promote social mobility. (Critics have said that the change are largely cosmetic and that the rankings continue to reward colleges primarily for being wealthy and serving the best prepared and generally wealthiest students.)

Morse also noted that U.S. News does not just release annual rankings, but lists of top academic programs, colleges with good internship programs, innovative study abroad and more.

Just because U.S. News publishes rankings, Morse said, doesn’t mean it believes that’s the only way students should evaluate colleges. “We have always encouraged consumers to use the rankings as a start,” he said.