Finding a College Major: More Than Just Lists

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College is about having a plan. These days, common wisdom tells students that they should have a clear, well-organized map to how they will navigate their time in college. Good planning helps save time and, hopefully, money in financial aid, but does it make for a rewarding college experience?

Choosing the right college major can weigh heavily on students as they enter college. While it’s fun to play the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” game as children, as students approach college that same question takes on more importance and urgency. At the same time, college provides numerous new roads of study and interest that students may have never experienced.

Turning to the internet helps students gain some perspective some help on potential salaries or employment rates for potential career paths, but choosing a college major can, and should, be motivated by more than its place on a list of potential salaries. When categorizing a “best” or “worst” major, these lists ignore benefits and skills learned in areas of study that pay off when students are staring their careers.

While a performing arts graduate may not go on to Hollywood or Broadway, they will develop creative thinking and teamwork skills that will serve any workplace. Journalism majors don’t have to take a job at the New York Times to benefit from having developed the ability to work on a deadline.

According to the American Philosophical Association, philosophy majors tied economics majors with the highest average score on the Law School Admissions Test, ranking ahead of majors like engineering, finance and psychology. Philosophy majors also have the highest rate of admission to law school.

While a major will help a student specialize in an area of interest, it has less of an impact the further a student gets from college after graduation. The skills that are learned during college are often more important than knowledge. Certainly, many fields require specific technical knowledge. A creative writing major is not going to be the best choice to work developing medicines for a pharmaceutical company.

But as students balance their personal passions with the desire to find a college major that leads to the best-paying career path, they’d do well to remember that the skills developed during college are often just as important, if not more so, than the knowledge gained. While college graduates will want to make the most of their college degree financially, being able to have a job that they love is also important. Finding a major that combines the ability to develop skills and individual passions is one of the true benefits of a college education. That worth can’t be found on any internet list.

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