There’s a lot of decision-making during the college admissions process, and choosing the right major is one of the more nerve-wracking challenges. While an undeclared major isn’t the end of the world, there are considerable benefits to entering school with a chosen major.
Your student’s major should be one of the core drivers for the purpose of their education. If they go in with no idea what they want to do, it can be difficult to determine which college is the best fit for them. Without a chosen concentration, your student may not know if a school has the right academic options to match their interests, talents, and abilities. A bachelor’s degree is at least a four-year degree in the United States. Even more, if they decide to do graduate work. The process is long and costly enough without extending it with transfers or extra classes. Sometimes those things can’t be helped, but choosing a major based on your student’s authentic self is great prevention for those kinds of disruptions.
It’s important to consider all of those things, but before you drive yourself and your student crazy, remember: nothing is ever set in stone. My own undergraduate degree is in music business – I didn’t go into higher education until I was in graduate school – and that was the right choice for me at that time. Things change all the time, and that includes college majors and career paths.
Your student may not yet have an idea about what they want their major to be, and that’s okay! That’s what this newsletter is for. Consider this food for thought while thinking about choosing the right major.
I recently did a webinar on LinkedIn about this very topic. If you want to dig a little deeper, you can check it out here.
Uncovering your natural talents
What someone enjoys and excels in high school doesn’t always translate the same way to a career path. It’s also important for students to understand who they inherently are, and that includes their natural gifts. These start to appear around age 15, and they theoretically don’t change over time. If someone were to have a brain injury or receive medication to treat ADHD, it’s possible for things to shift, so if that’s your student, know that their experience may differ. Otherwise, these natural talents should be fixed. So how does your student figure out what theirs are?
At Ivy Insight, we use an assessment called the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB). While students may have taken tests in the past that identified their interests or passions, the HAB measures their abilities based on performance rather than self-perception. The assessment tests different learning channels, and how they perform on each individual learning channel indicates their strengths. This information can help guide students toward a major and career path that will be compatible with who they are and what they’re best at. While we can all learn new skills and improve our performance, your student will achieve fewer results and far less satisfaction doing work that doesn’t align with their natural talents, gifts, and abilities.
The results can vary widely. For some, talents are specialized, such as a gift for music or design, or a gift for theoretical thought. For others, talents may be more generalized, such as a talent for leading teams or the abilities that make teaching, selling, or writing easy. The HAB also identifies personal style, and how your student functions as their best self. Are they introverted or extroverted? Do they like to be more specialized in something or do they prefer to wear a lot of hats? Are they a short-term thinker or a long-term thinker? All of this information allows students to look at themselves as a whole person, not just someone who is good at calculus or who scored a 4 on their AP English exam.
While the HAB can teach students a lot about themselves, the major they choose is about more than seeking academic and career success. Choosing the right major must also reflect their own personal values, expectations, and goals. It’s about how college fits into their goals, not the other way around. When they picture your future self, what do they see? Are they in a high-profile position or a career with more flexibility? What kinds of things help them feel fulfilled – socially, artistically, spiritually? What other aspects of life are important to them? How do those things fit in?
No one is one-dimensional, and within a course of study, there may be hundreds of career paths. What does your student enjoy? Students should think about their major more broadly than just the academic subjects that they’ve had in school. They may not know that there are majors that combine many different topics. Say they enjoy English, history, science, and foreign languages. For a student with that kind of profile, one of my favorite majors to recommend is sociology, the study of society, social forces, and how they impact the people who live in that specific society. Anthropology is another favorite major of mine, which studies human behavior, cultures, and linguistics. It can be studied through many different lenses. Culturally is most widely known, but it can also be studied from archaeology, so from physical artifacts. They can even study anthropology from a cellular level, through biological anthropology.
Listening to your story
A personal narrative is more than a college essay prompt. Your student’s natural gifts, personal style, values, interests, passions, goals, experiences, and the lessons they’ve learned… All of these combined make up their personal narrative. It’s the story of who they are, their authentic self, and listening to that story is the best way to discover the right path for them.
Choosing a major isn’t easy, but the right fit is out there. With some assessment, self-reflection, and some exploration, your possibilities are limitless.
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