Tag Archives: Student

How Do You Choose A Major?

 

College

Choosing a major can be an exciting and nerve wracking time, but the earlier you start thinking about it the better.   I would encourage you to think about it slightly differently than most of your fellow students.

The normal thought process:

“I know I need to go to college.  That means I need to pick a major soon, or I could just go undeclared. But, what major should I choose? Should I pick something that has a lot of options so I can figure it out later? There’s no way that I’m going to know now what I want to do for the rest of my life so I probably should go general and focus on something later when I have a better idea of what I want to do. By the time I graduate college I should have a good idea of what that is.”  

The weird thought process:

“Where do I want to be in 5 years? What job do I want to have or what business do I want to be running? What do I what my life to look like? How much money do I want to be making? What do I need to do to get there?  Is spending money on college absolutely necessary for me to get there? Will the return on investment be worth it? If it is then what do I need to know or what degree is required for that position?”

The fundamental difference between the two thought processes is that one starts with where you are and looks forward. The other starts with where you want to be and looks backwards. The latter is significantly more effective. Hindsight is 20/20 after all; and though you are not actually looking in hindsight you are effectively doing the same thing.

Colleges are a lot like car lots.  Some people go without knowing what they want. They see a lot of pretty shiny cars and after a little time with a good salesman they find themselves in a brand new sports car. It’s fun and exciting at first, but usually ends with buyer’s remorse. It all happened so quickly! They realize about 6 months, and 6 car payments later, that maybe they should have researched a little better.

The people who leave the car lot the happiest are those who knew what they wanted before they ever got there. It’s simple for them. They walk on the lot; look and see if the dealer has the car they want within the price range they set, if not they leave. If it does, then they buy it. Simple. Smart. Weird.

You need to know beforehand what you want.  The colleges you apply for should be based on what major you have chosen and the major you have chosen should be based on what your career is going to be.  Start with the end goal in mind and work backwards looking at everything you need to do along the way to get there.

Passion, Talent, and Economic Model:

The major you choose should absolutely be something you are passionate about, have some level of talent at, and have a clear plan to make money with.  It has to be all three. I’ll say that again. It has to be all three.  It doesn’t matter how much you love art history, if you don’t a have a legitimate plan in place to make money with it don’t major in it.  If you stink at math going into college, don’t major in accounting hoping you’ll get better; and no matter what you do, don’t choose a major based on what you think will be most profitable unless you really like the respective field.

Remember:

A fulfilling and profitable vocation is made up of three things: passion, talent, and an economic model. Before you even think about choosing a major, you need to have a plan for your future career path that addresses all three of those areas.

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Run! (from normal)

Normal1nor·mal
 adjective \ˈnȯr-məl\
: usual or ordinary : not strange

 
Usual, ordinary, not strange; that’s the definition of normal according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. Normal could also be defined as the common accepted behaviors among a group of people. Or simply put, normal is what everybody is doing. Usual, ordinary, not strange, is that how you want to be defined? If it is, please disregard the rest of this post. If not, keep reading.

Still here? Great!

Let’s take a look at what normal people are saying about planning your future and choosing a major. This excerpt comes from a popular college resource site.

“Realize that you definitely do not need to know what you want to be doing ten years from now. College is a time of exploration and discovery. Many prospective college students have not yet been introduced to the fields that will define their future careers. The majority of students will change majors before they graduate. Many students will have careers that aren’t directly connected to their undergraduate majors.”

Hmm, it sounds good but what kind of advice is that really? All I hear is:College

“That’s right folks; don’t come to college with a plan…please. You can figure that out once we get you on the conveyor belt.  As a high school student you can’t possibly know what jobs are out there nor have any information on them without going to college and taking exploratory classes. Plus, you’re probably not even going to be getting a job in the field that you just spent four years and a ton of money to study.”

Let’s look at the advice the colleges are giving. This excerpt comes from a universities’ website.

“Many new students come to college with the skills and abilities to succeed but without a clear idea about a college major. At Anonymous University, we welcome the undecided (EXPLORATORY) student.  By declaring “exploratory” as your major choice when you come to Anonymous University, you will have the opportunity to learn about different majors and minors, take self-discovery inventories, and meet faculty and students who will help to guide you toward choosing the best major for you. Students who choose Exploratory Studies receive one-on-one advisement to help with their individual needs and concerns about choosing a major.”

Again all I hear is:

“Don’t know what you want to do yet? That’s okay; we’ll take your money anyways! We don’t mind influencing your decision about your future based on courses we have available and needs we have within the university.”

That same university went on to propose:

“You can live with other exploratory students as a part of the Explore, Discover, Decide, Living, Learning Community.”

I know when I have no clue how to do something, or when I’m trying to figure something out it always helps me to surround myself with other individuals who are equally as clueless… oh wait. Never mind.

My point in all this is to simply encourage you do push past what is normal and do what is extraordinary.

Extrodinary

ex·traor·di·nary
adjective \ik-ˈstrȯr-də-ˌner-ē, ˌek-strə-ˈȯr-\
: very unusual : very different from what is normal or ordinary
: extremely good or impressive

 

Merriam Webster defines extraordinary as very unusual, and that’s what I want for you.  Be that weird student who actually knows what you want and has a plan to get it.  You don’t need to go to college to have someone tell you what you can do. Figure that out now so that you can be ahead of the masses. You don’t have to go to college and pay top dollar to intern in different fields and learn what you like and what you don’t.

Intern now.

Job shadow now.

Volunteer now.

Take the initiative and do something now.  Be extraordinary. Identify your passion, discover your talents, and create an economic model that makes you rich doing what you love.

Bottom line: Run from normal and you’re well on your way to becoming extraordinary.

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Quit college for $100,000

Quit college, get $100,000, and start a business.

That’s the deal that co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, Peter Thiel, is offering to 20 college students this year.  These students, Thiel Fellows as they are called, are given the opportunity to pursue innovative scientific and technical projects and develop the leading-edge companies of tomorrow. His gift to them: $100,000 and entrepreneurial mentorship.

Thiel has been making this deal since 2011 and continues to stir up controversy each time he does. In making this offer, Thiel is reinforcing the idea that going to college is not the only road to success.

Apparently this is a pretty touchy subject among the population at large. College is not Insurance

Yes, college graduates, on average, earn more than those who do not have a degree. But, college does not guarantee you anything. College is not an insurance policy. Let’s be honest, how many of you know a college graduate who still lives at home with mom and dad working at Starbucks?

Everybody.

Self-motivation and drive are much better indicators of future success. Entrepreneurship is just one of the many paths you have before you as you decide what you want to do next.

 

 

Learn more about the Thiel Fellowship program and check out some great articles about education at, http://www.thielfellowship.org/.

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Control your College Experience

I’ve already addressed the fact that starting your college career undeclared can be hazardous to your wealth (see Let’s Make a Deal).  College is just too expensive of an endeavor to be taken lightly. Taking a year of non-degree specific courses can set you behind once you do chose a major, often adding an additional year of college expenses.

Taking general education courses will not reveal to you your passions and plans for the future. Very few people have ever been inspired sitting in an introductory math 101 course. But all too often as undeclared students find themselves coming to the end of their freshman year of college they realize that they HAVE to choose something.

You can’t major in indecisiveness. You panic. You pick something that you may have a passing interest in or that you think you will be moderately good at. The bottom line is that you still have no idea what you really want to be when you grow up.

Don’t put yourself in that position. You wouldn’t get on a plane without making sure you knew where it was going and that its destination is where you want to be.  Likewise, don’t head off to college without a plan. You control your college experience, don’t let it control you.

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