How to Choose a Major

If you’ve started applying for scholarships already, you may have noticed that some scholarship applications are already asking your student to indicate a major of study. But not many sixteen-year-olds have a firm grasp on what they want to do with the rest of their lives! It’s completely normal for your high school student to delay choosing a major as she explores her interests and passions. However, it’s also helpful to have a general direction for her academic path. Choosing a major starts in high school, and narrowing down potential careers is easier than you’d think.

The Intersection of Skill and Strength

“Find what you love to do and get paid to do it.” That’s how one of my own college professors defined calling. I like to define calling as “the intersection of strength and skill”. Strengths—or passions—are given to us by God, our natural bent and gifting. Skills are acquired through education and experience. When fused together, these two result in a life work that is fulfilling and motivating for years to come.

But how do you determine what is strength and what is skill? There are a few ways to do this. First, consider having your student take a career test, such as CareerDirect, which will ask her a series of questions, then match her with potential careers on a percentage-match basis. I also love the StrengthsFinder 2.0 test. Review the results together and see if any of the careers pique her interest, then find job shadowing opportunities in these fields. Job shadowing is as easy as calling up another homeschool family or your relative who works in the field of interest, asking if your child can follow them at work for the day. This allows her to get an accurate picture of what that job looks like in action.

Narrow down your options to three or four favorites and do some research to find out what college programs prepare students for these jobs.

Think About the ROI

Once you have a few prospective majors in mind, it’s time to think about the return on investment (ROI) for these majors. Any educational pursuit requires an investment of time, money, and personal effort, but higher education specifically often comes at a high financial cost. Even with scholarships and financial aid, the amount of money invested into a student should produce a return worth that investment.

For example, a student who loves books may want to pursue a degree in Librarian Studies. Before she attends the best college program for Librarian Studies, price out the cost of annual tuition. Then take a look at the average starting salary for librarians on the national scale. If a Librarian Studies degree costs $100,000 for four years, but her starting salary will only be $30,000 a year, she will be at a significant disadvantage at the beginning of what could have been a thriving career. This is not a positive ROI.

You have two options in a situation like this: pick a program and career with a greater ROI, or find a way to attain the Librarian Studies degree with little to no debt. Another possibility would be to major in something broad—Business, Communications, or English, for example—and work a job that allows the student to do what they love on the side (nowadays called a “side hustle”).

Here’s a great article on the fastest growing job markets of 2018:

Questions? Email [email protected].