The college decision is one of the most exciting and overwhelming that a teen will ever make. Add to that the selection of a college major and it is no wonder many teens struggle to decide. Eileen Huntington of Huntington Learning Center tells parents of high school students that sometime during sophomore year is a good time for teens to start thinking about possible majors. “If a teen’s college search process during the last two or three years of high school is largely focused on where to go but not what to study, he or she is overlooking a big aspect of the college experience,” says Huntington. She suggests that as parents and teens talk about college possibilities, they also talk about field of study possibilities. If you need a little help starting the conversation, here are six questions to ask:
“Narrowing down the options” questions
- What do you find interesting? Encourage your teen to reflect on past jobs, school projects, volunteer projects and classes and think about the most and least enjoyable aspects. Avoid the pressure to probe about passions—perhaps your teen is still in discovery mode. Instead, focus on things that capture his or her attention and fuel inquisitiveness.
- What are you good at? It’s wise to talk about school subjects, but remember to explore other skills that your teen would consider strengths, such as working on teams, managing people, critical thinking, analyzing details or solving complex problems.
- Have you researched any possible majors (and if so, what did you learn)? Have your teen do some preliminary research on the fields of study on his or her mind to understand the major and what classes are usually required in that major. The College Majors 101 website is a useful resource for students wanting to learn more about majors, possible careers, and universities’ options for majors. The high school guidance counselor is also a good resource.
Deeper research questions
- What types of jobs are out there? It’s important to do some initial homework on college majors and the jobs that graduates of those majors often obtain, but once your teen begins focusing on a particular major, it’s good to also research statistics like employment rates and job growth. Check out information on the Center on Education and the Workforce, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, and O*NET Online websites for starters as well as the labor market organization websites in your state (find a list here).
- What matters to you? Family? Travel? Helping people? Working with your hands? Encourage your teen to think about his or her core values and personality while exploring majors and careers and picturing life down the road. Of course, it’s best not to think too far ahead, but a social butterfly who thrives working with others might be unsatisfied working in a laboratory or other independent type job.
- What type of education is required? As your teen researches careers, it’s important to consider educational requirements and whether he or she is comfortable committing to them. Does a job of interest require advanced education for employment? Does it require additional certifications? Teens who have their sights set on earning a bachelor’s degree for now should make sure that they will be employable with that degree after graduation.
“The more research and thought teens put into choosing college majors, the higher their return on investment,” says Huntington. “Our advice to parents is to talk early and often about careers and majors and incorporate this type of consideration into the college search process.” For more information about how to prepare teens for college-level academics or Huntington’s SAT and ACT prep programs, contact Huntington Learning Center at 1-800-CAN-LEARN.
Huntington is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington’s mission is to give every student the best education possible. Learn how Huntington can help at www.huntingtonhelps.com. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.
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