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4 Ways To Help Students Choose A College Major

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Choosing a college major isn’t as simple as following your interest. In the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, they tell of a story of Dave who misperceived his teacher’s good teaching as his interest. Dave did well across all subjects but he particularly liked biology because his teacher made it interesting.

Dave went on to pursue a degree in biology at Stanford only to realise that he hated the subject and failed miserably at it. After two years into his job as a marine biologist, Dave finally decided to change his major. As a mechanical engineer, Dave found himself successful and happy.

Some people are not as lucky as Dave. Many are stuck in their jobs for decades and never find a career that they are truly satisfied in.

Determining your future career path can be a daunting task for a 17-year-old. Here are 4 ways that parents and educators can help students decide their college major:


Encourage Information Seeking

In this age of the internet, getting information is as easy as a push of a button, or at the mention of, “OK, Google!” 

Encourage students to ask specific questions, not just about the subject that they are interested in. Look into the potential career paths, day-to-day activities and even lifestyle of the person holding these positions.

For instance, it’s easy for people to covet the CEO title. However, not many realise that the sacrifices and demands that come with the job may not align with their values.

Gathering information regarding various career paths can help students make a more informed choice. 


Practice Self-Reflection

Although students shouldn’t pick a major based on interest alone, students should definitely study a subject that they enjoy. More importantly, students should dig a little deeper to gain self-awareness.

There are various personality tests that can help students understand their strengths, weaknesses and potential career paths. Additionally, students should also find out their core values to work towards a career that complements them. 

Remind students that their interests may change as they grow up. Therefore, it is important to determine career anchors, goals and personal values to help them move in the right trajectory.


Speak to an Industry Practitioner

If students already have a major in mind, connect them with industry practitioners so they can truly understand what goes on in real-life.

A mentor can identify areas of development and guide students towards the habits and behaviours that help them succeed in the industry. Cultivating these practices early can also ensure a stronger steer to success.

This process can also help students get a clearer understanding of whether their chosen major is the right one for them.


Join Career Exploration Workshops

There are various career workshops that take students through a process of discovering their strengths, personalities and potential career paths. Good workshops expose students to real-life scenarios to give them a better understanding of how their life would play out as a result of their choices.

Career workshops bring up important career theories and best practices that can help structure early awareness about the world of jobs. Students can also learn how to navigate the working world by equipping themselves with the right tools.

Read more on how to find the best workshop for students here.

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