Archive for May, 2017

It’s Not Just About Getting In

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Some students go to college knowing exactly what they want to do. But most don’t. At large state universities, it is not uncommon that over 75% percent of freshmen, even those who have declared a major, say they are uncertain about their major, and half will change their minds after they declare, sometimes more than once. That is one big reason that only 37% of students graduate in four years.

Colleges and universities have vested interests in students declaring early. Retention rates for declared students are better, and they are more likely to graduate in four years. But college officials also recognize that deciding on a major can be overwhelming, especially when coupled with the fear that a wrong choice will result in added semesters and tuition. Especially when coupled with the fear that a wrong choice will result in added semesters and tuition. Students no longer have the luxury of stumbling into a major or making mistakes, not that they ever did.

This requires thinking ahead. Teenagers are not expected to know what to do with the rest of their lives at age 18, but with coaching, they can cover the bases with prudent planning. Some majors have a curriculum that follows a tight sequence of courses. It’s easier to switch out of engineering than it is to take it up later in the college career.

The biggest mistake students make is failing to research what’s required of the major, and the profession. Nursing may sound attractive because a student “wants to help people,” but nursing students take the same demanding math and science curriculum as premed students, and the work is often technical and not for every kindhearted soul. It is also a similar track with Physical Therapy.

More niche filling additions to the list obviously reflect marketplace trends and student demand, like culinary science/culinology, digital arts, and sports communication. At Montclair State University in New Jersey, which offers 300 majors, minors and concentrations, new fashion studies major has been hugely popular, thanks to the university’s proximity to Manhattan; with Madison Square Garden and Giants Stadium in sight. It also guides the ambitious undergrad toward internship opportunities in a sports industry and event-planning major within its business school.

Still, it’s difficult to predict the employment market. That is why I will encourage students to think “outside the box”. In other words, if the job doesn’t exist…create one.  Many students choose majors they think will lead to jobs, but four years from now freshmen will be applying for jobs that don’t even exist today.

Most employers are looking for transferable skills…the ability to problem solve, work collaboratively, write and speak clearly and think critically. These can be developed in any liberal arts discipline. It makes no sense to “suffer through a major because you think it will lead to employment.

In the final analysis, wherever a teenager goes and does after high school, which I call “Crossing the Gap…Preparing for the Transition”, where they go does not matter as much as what they do when they got there.

The late great business philosopher, Jim Rohn, said this ~“A formal education will make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune!”  These two college graduates understood that. You can too! 1 (978) 820-1295