How to Help Your Child Choose a College Major

The transition from a high school curriculum and major to a college curriculum and major is a huge step. For some high school students, a visit to a college campus may have resulted in a tour of the campus, but such a trip is a far cry from the reality of college life and the critical decisions made when choosing a major. In some cases, parents can help students choose a college major.

parents kid major

Your dreams are not those of your son or daughter

Many prospective college students have had a major dictated to them by parents holding the purse strings. When parents force their child into a major that will lead to a career as a doctor when the student wants to be a teacher, or coerce the student to major in law enforcement but the student wants a life-long career in performing arts, the choices made can backfire miserably.

If a college student took no advanced courses in science when in high school which would be extremely helpful in college pre-med curriculum, the student is already at a disadvantage. Poor grades, a feeling of being lost when encountering basic concepts and a fear of sounding stupid if a hand is raised may be the result. The student who majored in dance or theater in high school who is forced by parents to major in law enforcement when there were no classes beyond graduation requirements in Language Arts, which helps tremendously in the extensive report writing required in law enforcement, may receive poor grades on lengthy essay exams, typical in the college law enforcement program.

Parents can guide their children, and it is even okay to speak from “experience.” But it is not okay to force your student into a specific major because that is what you want them to major in. There are majors that may have limited long-term or lucrative employment opportunities, and this is where parental guidance in helping their students choose a college major is essential.

Providing guidance and direction

Parents must have a conversation with their teen while the teen is still in high school, not the day after high school graduation regarding the college major that their child will choose. In the Washington Post “Choosing a major in college; Do parents get a say?” Susan Ende, co-author of “How To Raise Your Adult Children,” explains the importance of talking to children about their prospective college major while they are still in high school. The Washington Post quotes her as saying that “I think it is fair and appropriate for a parent to tell his college-bound child that he is to choose a major that will lead to a job or the ability to get into a graduate program that will lead to a job.”

Taking Ende’s advice, this is the direction for a parent to take if their artsy high school student plans to major in pottery-making, but there are no potteries or opportunities for pottery-making jobs in your area. Ende says that the “kid” who picks a major that will lead to a job is going to be in a better position than the student who simply chooses a major he or she likes, or that is easy.

Don’t stress out over the major decision

Choosing a major is stressful for parents as well as the student. We suggest setting aside time for specifically discussing and researching colleges and the programs offered.

Additionally, the prospective student must get their own impression based on their reactions and the information that has been presented. The impressions should be their own, not their parent’s impressions, although parents may offer their reaction and impressions. The key is not to force a decision – doing so may result in the student making a rebellious decision that may be regretted later.

It is ultimately their decision

While parents can provide guidance and a great deal of information regarding college choice and the choice of major, the decision is ultimately up to the student. The student is now an adult of legal decision-making age, so the parents can no longer make decisions regarding what their child will major in. In ‘Helping your child choose the right college,’ Metro Parent says that several things must be taken into consideration. Whether your child wants to attend a small liberal arts college or wants to be in the center of Greek life, prefers small classes or large lectures may help to narrow down college choices. After the colleges are narrowed down, looking at the programs offered is critical to determining the major. Even when students “crash and burn” in high school, Metro Parent tells parents that “its never too late.” Students may start out in a good community college and turn things around, being able to transfer to a four-year university.

Once the student has been given all the guides, the option to visit one or more college campuses, reputable information from the Internet, resources available at their high school and any other tools the student and parents may discover to make the decision regarding the major, it is the student’s choice. Parents can guide their child, hopefully not at the last minute. Parents can offer advice based on their own experiences, but must not push their child into their failed dreams or aspirations of becoming a doctor, famous actor or owner of a large corporation.

When parents assist their students by giving them all the tools available to make the right college major decision, there will most likely be a positive decision made, resulting in the student embarking on a path to a major that will lead to a satisfying, rewarding career.