General Education

How to Help Your Teenager Pick a College Major

How to Help Your Teenager Pick a College Major
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Emma Yenko August 7, 2014

With the cost of a four-year college education on the rise, it’s understandable that parents want their college-bound children to hit the university grounds running.

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People use different criteria for choosing a college major.

Among other considerations, expected earnings as well as personal strengths and interests should figure prominently in this decision-making process. With the cost of a four-year college education on the rise, it’s understandable that parents want their college-bound children to hit the university grounds running.

Having a clear idea of which field of concentration your teenager is interested in always helps.

Keep the Focus On Your Teenager

It’s easy to fall into the trap of urging your teenager towards a college major based on the kind of job and income it can give her after graduation. After all, most employers count college majors as a crucial component when screening job applicants.

While it is true that future earning capacity and professional success are valid points to consider when deciding on a college major, try to keep the focus on your teenager.

  • What are your son’s strengths and interests?
  • What job can your daughter see herself doing for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks out of the year?
  • What are they passionate about? What work will they gladly do for free?
  • How do they want to change the world?

These are just a few of the important questions to consider.

Certainly not many 17 or 18 year olds have a clear idea about such all-encompassing topics. By keeping the search for a college major focused on your teenager, you stand a better chance of finding a field of study that they will gladly and seriously pursue on their own for the next four years.

What To Do About an “Impractical Choice"

If your teenager wants to pursue a life-long interest in a field with limited career options, don’t despair. Instead encourage them to take practical courses as electives while they earn their degree.

It may not be obvious, but business courses can be very useful for dance majors. A dancer’s career sometimes can be short-lived. When they are ready to hang up their dancing shoes, they can continue to pursue their careers by opening a dance studio, for which they will need business savvy.

There is a way to encourage your child to follow her dreams without having her floating on a cloud and losing sight of reality. As a parent you may have to work harder and look deeper to find this way, but it exists and a loving parent’s heart will always find it.

Change Can Be Good

In the course of their studies, as they learn new and exciting things and meet peers and professors from different walks of life, your child may have a change of heart about their declared college major. Be ready for this; let your child know that changing their mind about their college major midstream does not have to spell disaster.

At the same time, they should be aware that doing so may mean taking additional courses or delaying graduation. They should be prepared to deal with the consequences of this decision without being intimidated.

To ascribe the success or failure of your child’s future career based solely on their college major can be self-defeating and misleading. New opportunities in the workforce arise all the time, and interests change and evolve throughout life. It is better for your child to pursue a college major that inspires them, arouses their imagination and challenges their best abilities. Ultimately, it is your child’s passion, curiosity and adaptability that will determine not only success, but the satisfaction, happiness and sense of fulfillment that they derive from their profession.


Bolles, R. N., & Christen, C. (2010). What color is your parachute? for teens: Discovering yourself, defining your future. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.

Burrell, J. Parent misconceptions about college majors Web log message]. Retrieved from [

Goudreau, J. (2012, May 15). The 15 most valuable college majors Web log message]. Retrieved from [

Hansen, R. (2007). The complete idiot's guide to choosing a college major. New York, NY: Alpha Books. How to choose a college major. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Kearsley, S. (n.d.). A career planning course for parents. Retrieved from

Mayfield, J., & Mayfield, K. (2013, February 20). Take 5 steps before changing your major Web log message]. Retrieved from [

Selingo, J. (2013, April 29). Does the college major matter? not really. Web log message]. Retrieved from [


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