Posted in HS4CC

Parent Question: My teen doesn’t know what he wants to major in. Is it so bad if they change majors in college?

As many as 3/4 of college students change their major at least once! The numbers tell us that MOST students don’t have a good idea of what they want to study until they get in there and start studying it. That said, since changing majors can cost a lot of time and money, I have 3 suggestions to keep the chaos to a minimum.

“The right to choose your own path is a privilege. Use it. Dwell in possibility.” –Oprah Winfrey

  1. Stop accumulating college credit so fast. Being able to complete classes quickly is easier than ever with distance learning and nontraditional credit, but that is only an advantage when you’re moving towards a goal. Randomly collecting college credit can actually backfire because it (a) turns up the pressure to choose a college (b) turns up the pressure to choose a major (c) can limit access to financial aid if you exceed the number of credits in your degree by 150% or more. Solution? Slow down! If you’re worried that high school classes will be too easy, opt for non-credit college classes or take them as an “audit” student.
  2. Spend more time learning about the field. In this case, instead of taking yet another psychology class, why not spend time exploring the profession of psychology? This can be done independently and very robust in design. In fact, your teen can earn high school credit in a career exploration class if you allow them to dive deeply. Include research into the occupation, interview professionals doing the career, take time to intern or job shadow a professional, volunteer time or service in the field, create a spreadsheet about the pros and cons of various aspects of the occupation. In other words, learn about what the “work” looks and feels like, not just just the academics.
  3. Reinforce what your teen already knows about themselves. I think this is so important! Teens might say they don’t know what they want to do professionally, and parents sometimes tell me that they don’t know what their teen wants to do, but I don’t believe either. I think that everyone already knows, but for some reason they are just not willing to say it out loud, or it doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of others.
    • I met an older teen who struggled with drug addiction. He overcame his addiction and was 1 year sober when we spoke. He told me he didn’t want to go to college, it was too much pressure, but he did think he wanted to take the addiction certificate program at his local community college and help others in the way he was helped. His local counselor encouraged this and even promised him a spot counseling others in the program he “graduated” from. His parents, however, didn’t consider that option prestigious enough, so instead enrolled him in a 4-year bachelor’s degree program to become a social worker. I trust that parents always make the best guidance counselors, and I like where they were going (applying wisdom to their teen’s passion) but in this specific instance, I would have recommended to the parents that he complete the certificate first and then if he was successful, to enroll in the bachelor’s program. This would have met everyone’s needs and goals while taking a road that was more manageable. He starts in the fall with his general education courses.
    • A parent sent me the question that prompted this post. In her case, the student was deciding between nursing and graphic design. The community college offered dual enrollment in both, and she wanted to work a plan that kept her daughter’s options open. In this case, which could have been educationally complex, the parent told me her daughter was an introvert and didn’t really enjoy being around a lot of people. She was torn because she was sure nursing was a “better” career path and had a “secure” future. Graphic design was her daughter’s passion, but she might not be able to find a good job. While I don’t disagree that some majors are more secure than others, with 100% certainty I will say that some majors are also exceptionally challenging. Someone who isn’t very committed to a field like nursing will not be successful in a nursing program, and someone who doesn’t like being around people won’t last very long in a profession that demands daily service to people. This is a perfect example of a parent already knowing the answer, but hoping for a better one.

Peer pressure is real, and I don’t just mean it with teens. I mean with parents! Homeschooling parents can be especially sensitive to what their teens do after high school …isn’t that a reflection of whether or not we made the right decision to homeschool our teen?

“Most people are searching for a path to success that is both easy and certain. Most paths are neither.” Seth Godin


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit