Picking the Perfect Major

With national unemployment rates still hovering around 8%, many college students are picking degrees that will give them better odds at getting a job post graduation.

More than 20% of freshmen head to college unsure of what they want to major in, and about a third end up changing their mind in the first or second year of school.

“We tell students it’s ok,” said Marty Sauer, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at North Central College. “It’s actually more than ok to be undecided coming in. We think that higher education just provides a really good opportunity for people who are in that situation. First year especially is a year to explore, discover some different opportunities for you.”

Once students do make up their minds, many are picking majors in science, education, and business hoping they will get a more secure job post graduation.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams. Students are still choosing majors in the arts, media, and sports.

“What we have seen are students thinking a little more practically about those kinds of careers,” said Sauer. “So they’re asking us questions about what else they can combine with it. You know ‘what should I add to my theater major, my art major, my interactive media studies, that might make me a little more marketable, might allow me to get my foot in the door.’”

“Nobody going into this business goes out into the world thinking they’re going to get a job and it’s going to be easy,” said Carin Silkaitis, Assistant Professor of Theater at North Central College. “We set them up for success with their coursework, and teach them to treat their career like a business, take a business in theater class, attending conferences, and looking at yourself like an entrepreneur.”

Many graduates are realizing that in order to get their dream job, they have to work for it.

“After looking at the job descriptions, I noticed I need a lot more experience and I decided that going to grad school would probably be my best option,” said Kelsey Tumpane.

Parents are also getting involved. Schools are seeing a lot more families helping their kids select a major.

“I know some folks feel we’ve moved away from the students focusing on their college choices and making their mind up themselves,” said Sauer. “It’s a family decision and when parents are investing the kind of money that they are, and students are taking on some amount of debt, which is typical in today’s higher education arena, I think those kinds of family informed decisions are important.”

To find a list of the 15 most valuable college majors, visit forbes.com.

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