The 6 Reasons College Students Use To Justify Their Majors
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The 6 Reasons College Students Use To Justify Their Majors

And why most of them are not going to get us fulfilling careers.

The 6 Reasons College Students Use To Justify Their Majors
Smith College

If there's one activity I've spent too much time doing this summer, it's been researching which major to choose. Like many other college students, I entered college "knowing" what I wanted to do, as if 12 years of experience at school would give me any idea about the work environment I would excel in. However, while my endless Google searches haven't really led me to the career I was destined to have, they have helped me notice the reasons students use to choose their majors.

1. "I've always wanted to do this, in part because of a childhood experience."

This reason might be the most popular one and is often the one used by students who have just started college. "I used to watch 'Animal Planet' every night and knew biology was the right major for me," and "I worked at my mom's nursery and fell in love with the work," are some examples. This reason has led many of us to famously successful and fulfilling careers, (conservationist Jane Goodall and astronaut Chris Hadfield come to mind), but it may not take most of us where we want to be. Passions, fulfilling as they are, tend to change every five years or so.

2. "It pays well."

I am guilty of typing "Highest-Paying Jobs" into Google search too many times. I would re-read the same Forbes article several times, even though I knew the occupations from one to 10 by heart. Maybe I thought I missed my dream job the last time I read it, or reading "Electrical Engineer" the tenth time would make me realize that, oh my gosh, I would actually love to be one some day! If the pay is the only thing drawing you to a major, re-evaluate. Sometimes, tough life situations force us to forsake our interests to a job that pays well. However, many have gone down this path and regretted it 40 years down the line. It's definitely better to take financial risks when you're young, versus when you are in your 40s.

3. "It will give me job security."

Ah, the never-ending desire for security. This one is human nature. Who wants an unpredictable plan for the future? So you choose a major that gives people job security today and that will also probably be true when you graduate college, right? Probably not. Your decision might make mom and dad happy, but it's not the smartest reason to use. Don't believe what they say about the future; what ordinary person could have predicted Facebook, selfies and Airbnb? Embrace the unpredictable!

4. "I want to help people, help animals, change the world, save the environment, etc."

Yup, guilty for using this one, as well. It's true that the majority of young college students want to help other living beings, change the world, be good people and incorporate this desire into their careers. However, you can do any job at all and, if you do it well, you will be helping someone somewhere. If an ideal career requires skills that don't match up to your aptitudes and interests, the decision isn't the best. Besides, a good teacher will make more of a difference than a bad human rights lawyer.

5. "I took a class and I liked it."

You come into college as a biology major with a vague idea of going into research, but you've never done research before. Your first anthropology class wins you over. No one knows what they want until they try it. People with this reason often look back at their wild career journey, saying they wouldn't have changed a thing. My only issue with this reason, why it is only second-best, is that the college setting is sometimes not close to the work setting, especially if you don't plan to go into academia. You might love the class but hate working in the field. This leads me straight to the last, and best, reason so far...

6. "I interned, got experience in the field and I loved the work I was doing."

Doing research at school and starting a computer science course online, you can learn that that you do love the occasional challenge of a puzzle. But after volunteering at a non-profit, you discover that joy is second to the one you get when you help people. Only by gaining real-life, immersive and hands-on experience in a field or profession will you truly know whether the career is suited to your interests and aptitudes. The jobs will still include responsibilities that you don't love doing, but their high points will be enough to keep you working day after day.

Identifying your values, and keeping in mind they are subject to change, is crucial to making sure no matter what happens, you will be doing meaningful work. Most of the time, majors aren't going to decide your career, so don't sweat it (especially if you can use number six).

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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