Who Should Decide Your College Major?

As an incoming freshman at IU, you are given a seemingly unending list of potential majors, ranging from animal behavior to the bassoon. Selecting the “best” major is a complex balancing act in which you must consider your interests, future job prospects, and how much effort you’re willing to put into studying for at least four years. Fortunately, I had a relatively good idea of what I wanted study and started with a Political Science major. But like 50 percent of undergraduates, political science wouldn’t be my ultimate academic path. For some reason, I got it into my head that adding Germanic Studies and History majors would be a good idea. (No, I don’t recommend triple majoring.) Once I graduated, I realized that I did not acquire enough marketable skills to find a decent job, so I ended up returning to IU as a SPEA masters student to study policy analysis and education. At least from my experience as a naïve undergrad, as well as a financial aid advisor, new college students do not have enough real world experience to make well informed decisions that will affect their adult lives. It’s also difficult to understand how soul crushing student loans can be until you start getting those monthly reminder emails from federal loan servicers or Sallie Mae.

This begs the question, who should choose your major? Perhaps the vicissitudes of the market should inform your decision. Or perhaps mom and dad should provide sage advice. Maybe the federal government, through grant programs, can cajole you into studying STEM subjects. (Note: IU’s SMART grant program for critical language and STEM subject students was cut several years ago.)

Celine James, from onlinecolleges.net, gives us some insights about how public policy can affect students’ decision making process. Based on a historical analysis, an international comparison, and recent vocational-oriented policies, she concludes, “as a student, your earning income and long-term job prospects should weigh heavily in the decisions you make about majors, degrees and programs. But remember, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, and you should weigh the research with your own personal interests and needs.” More of her analysis can be found here.

Mike Poletika


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