The Cost of the Wrong Major
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) While picking the right college is a momentous life decision for many, so too is picking a major. A new study, however, shows a lot of college-bound students are failing at that choice.
A recent survey by the testing and research firm ACT Inc., shows only about a third of high school graduates selected a major that was deemed a good fit for their strengths. The new research titled College Choice Report Part 1: Preferences and Prospects" took into account 79% of ACT-tested 2013 high school graduates who reported a college major they planned to pursue.
The new study showed a majority of those graduates selected a major that was at least a moderate fit with their interests but only 36% selected one that was deemed a good fit. It also revealed 32% selected a college major that was a poor fit with what they listed as their interests.
"It's important for students to have the information they need to make the best decisions about their future," said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education and career solutions. "They should be made aware that choosing a college major that reflects their interests will give them a better chance of succeeding and could also contribute to their satisfaction and happiness in school and on the job."
Elizabeth Heaton, a college admissions consultant at the educational advising firm College Coach, said she was not surprised by the results of the ACT survey. She said she advises college-bound high school students to pick a school more for the opportunity and skill set it provides than the major you may think you want even before attending college.
"Your career path is not necessarily determined by your major," said Heaton, who is former senior admissions officer at the University of Pennsylvania.
The ACT report shows students' intended major can play a significant role in which college they chose. Nearly half of the students in the survey said the availability of their planned major was a major factor in selecting a college.
"Students who start out with the right major choice can save significant time and money, which is increasingly important given the rising cost of attending college," Erickson said. "Far too many colleges require students to select a major without looking at how well the students' interests fit with their intended program of study."
Heaton, however, contends developing traits that a future employer would find desirable is more important in college than your major. She said acquiring the ability to work with others, perform critical thinking tasks, independently prioritizing and developing a strong sense of ethics are all valuable skills that may help college graduates get a job more so than their major.