Maybe your teen has been planning on a particular career since fourth grade. Maybe your high school junior is just now starting to contemplate the future. Or perhaps your teen has a few ideas of possible college majors and hasn’t yet decided which one to go with.
The college major decision is a big one, and your teen could surely use some guidance. Here are four considerations for your teen to keep in mind:
Interests – Make sure your teen thinks about his or her interests. Maybe that’s being outside, working with children, helping others or working with numbers. Encourage your teen to talk with adult family friends and neighbors about what they do, and to start paying attention to the different types of fields and careers out there. It is fine for your teen to go to college with several ideas in mind, but it’s also good to start exploring fields and job duties that sound enjoyable and interesting.
Academic strengths – Your teen needs to do some research about the types of classes that different majors will require. If medicine appeals but science has never been your teen’s best subject, it might not be a great choice. Struggling through required courses could lead to a difficult college experience. That said, academic strengths alone shouldn’t drive your teen’s choice in major—and your teen should keep an open mind. Perhaps your strong math student has no interest in majoring in math. That doesn’t mean other math-related or math-adjacent disciplines aren’t worth a look, like medicine, healthcare, engineering or architecture.
Soft skills – Every job is different, and there’s so much more to a career than the day-to-day job duties. Your teen would be wise to reflect on what he or she is skilled at other than school subjects. For example, your teen might be great with people, an excellent communicator, a leader who is skilled at taking charge or an analytical thinker. Similarly, your teen needs to acknowledge that there are skills he or she doesn’t have or wish to strengthen. Someone who is people-driven and team-oriented, for example, might not be a good fit for an isolated job.
Stability – Salary matters, but stability matters more. Is projected demand for the fields and jobs in which your teen is interested strong? Realistically, most teens probably cannot visualize life 10-20 years after college, but they might one day have children, own homes and have a variety of financial responsibilities. It is smart to research the jobs for which each major will prepare your teen (and the career trajectory of those jobs) and how easily your teen will be able to support him or herself.
Despite all of this effort, your teen might go off to college without a clear plan. Don’t worry—the first year of college consists largely of general education classes and lots of opportunities to explore. It’s still worthwhile to think about now, but there's no reason to push your teen into something that he or she will regret or end up changing later.
This is your teen’s future, and the decision deserves plenty of attention. Open the lines of communication with your teen about college majors sooner than later. You’ll be glad you did.