Each fall, students begin their journey of a rewarding college experience. And each fall incoming freshmen are baffled about how to choose a college major. Identifying the appropriate college major that reflects a student’s passion and ultimately their career purpose can sometimes be challenging. The interest that they had in high school can sometimes shift directions upon entering into college. And the attempt that many colleges make to create a well- rounded student by promoting the opportunity to take classes in various general courses exposes students to perhaps a new found interest or it may confuse their decision making process regarding the appropriate college major.
As a result, college students find themselves often changing majors, sometimes more than once. Or taking a break from school to find themselves, and try to refocus on what they really want out of life. There are even situations where students taking a break from college may become comfortable with a lifestyle that does not include school and they become complacent and decide not to return to college at all.
The retention rate for college students across our nation is disappointing. Although colleges and universities are cognizant of this dilemma, most institutions of higher learning find that they are powerless against the fact that some students are truly unaware of and not able to accurately identify their college major. And the students who seem to be impacted the most are freshmen.
Approximately 30% of freshmen across our nation each year drop out of college; some of these students do return to school but not all of them return to the original college or continue with their original college major. As a result students’ will spend on average five to six years completing what is typically a four year bachelor’s degree. Not only do students take more time to obtain their degree, but the extra one or two years in college can add up, costing them more money than they would have spent if they had selected a college major that truly reflected their passion and purpose as a freshman and stuck with it.
As an advocate of higher education, a certified career consultant, and a college professor, I have seen this situation occur far too often. College students become discouraged with the direction that they should take and without the proper guidance or direction, they simply give up on obtaining the college degree that they had hoped for. I was one of those students who changed majors more than once and I can sympathize with what our freshmen are faced with today. However, giving up is not the solution; there are ways to tackle this problem.
Sometimes a break from college may be needed in order for students to gain a better or more informed perspective on their college major choice. Some students may even want to take a semester or quarter off to volunteer through an organization such as Volunteer Match (www.volunteermatch.com) or the Student Volunteer Network (http://www.svnusa.org/svn/register.asp) where they can focus less on themselves temporarily and more on others who could use their assistance and kindness.
Students could also consider gaining industry experience by opting for an internship to provide them with great professional experience and also enlighten them on the specific tasks and responsibilities of a career that they are interested in. This first hand experience could make or break their career choice. But the best part of gaining this experience is learning what works or doesn’t work for them as a possible future career.
At some college campuses, guidance counselors are available to assist students in how to choose a college major. Some college campuses even have a career advising department devoted to addressing these concerns. Both guidance counselors and career advising departments usually offer career assessments that students can take to narrow down possible careers and their specific college major. I specifically recommend using the Holland Code as a viable assessment option. Finally, career coaches or consultants are ideal for assisting students. They usually provide an in-depth and personal approach to assisting students one on one with their career or college major needs. Their expertise and experience can be beneficial to students who simply need to identify their passion.
Whatever option college students take to address the selection of an accurate college major, the take away from this problem is simple: do something, don’t give up. When it comes to obtaining a higher education the knowledge and experience that one gains during their college years is priceless.