Choosing a major in college can be nerve racking and even intimidating for high school seniors. I would argue that this can even be more challenging for non traditional students. Non traditional students have to make this decision while keeping multiple other mitigating factors in life such as; a spouse or significant other, children, aging parents or even debt. At the end of the day the decision process should be the same. I would like to start by dispelling some myths about college and schooling in general.
YOU DON’T GO TO SCHOOL TO LEARN
I wrote an article about this not too long ago which you can read here. In general, school does not exist to really educate you and turn you into a well rounded individual, you will have to do that on your own with the help of your parents and a few mentors. So start by forgetting this common myth because if you do not, you will be disappoint and this will in turn make you less likely to thrive in college.
YOU DON’T GO TO COLLEGE TO FIND YOURSELF
Okay, I am so sick of people saying they are going to college to find themselves. YOU are NOT missing! My personal theory is people who are so hellbent on finding themselves especially under the age of 25 are just afraid to go out and start living life. Just speaking from a logical perspective, you are less likely to find yourself 1000 miles away from where you grew with no family and friends around. I do however think that having a college experience away from family and friends is a good way to know yourself better. It is important that you get the experience of living life outside of the safety of your parent’s home that way you learn to trust your own decisions and develop your own instincts. At the very least living on your own will teach you a thing or two about budgeting and time management.
Now let us focus on how to make the decision of choosing a major. A lot of these rules may seem counter intuitive but I am guiding you to make a decision that your 40 year old self will not regret. I will give you 3 simple rules on picking a college major so here goes:
DON’T PICK WHAT YOU LIKE
Okay I know that this may be counter intuitive and may even contradict everything that you have heard up to this point. But one thing I know is, your likes will change and so will you. Picking what you like usually leads to cul-de-sacs of regret and next thing you know you will be working in a field that you vowed never to consider and your 40 year old self will be begging to get a job that you sneered at in your 20’s. Well if you can’t pick what you like, what should you pick then?
PICK WHAT THE MARKET LIKES
This is the most underrated piece of advice ever. Not only is it the best piece of advice when it comes to making a decision regarding job prospects it is the most logical one as well. For starters, your 40 year old self will thank you for making this decision. I made a decision to change my major from Mathematics to Nursing and I have never regretted that decision. While Math was way cooler and easier, Nursing was a booming field and had a stronger job market. I knew nothing about Nursing and when I left home (Cameroon, Africa) at 18, Nursing was not even a major it was just a vocation. My sister Roseline literally badgered me into considering Nursing as a major and once I did my research I was sold. I finished college in Dec 21st, 2006 and within a week I found a job working as an ICU/Stepdown unit nurse that offered me a $10,000 sign on bonus. I was working 3 days a week and I had 4 days left to do the things that I enjoyed. Or as some would say, I had that time to “find myself” as some would like to say. My advice is, it is easier to “find yourself” on a full belly. My friends who had counseled me to not switch from Mathematics to Nursing were jobless for a few months and eventually found jobs teaching middle school Mathematics.
YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU DO
There is this pervasive way of thinking in western culture which likes to permeate the idea that you are what you do. I for one do not agree with that way of thinking. I don’t believe that your job defines you. I have had all kinds of jobs. My first job was been a Popeyes cashier and that was a big deal! I eventually became a Certified Nurses’s Assistant (CNA), next I became a Registered Nurse (RN) and eventually I went back to school and became a medical doctor (MD). I am now completing my training as a Radiologist. However, none of those jobs defined me. There are a few roles that define me in life; wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, mentor etc. My advice to you is to not be so fixated on the job description.
YOUR PASSIONS CANNOT BE STIFLED BY YOUR PROFESSION
The full sentence really is; Your passions cannot be stifled by your profession but you will go broke if you only follow your passions. Nothing delays your dreams more than being hungry and broke. One of my greatest passions in life is to be a mentor. I love working with young and not so young people who are rethinking their career and life choices. I also love Math, I never got a chance to finish my Math major in college (I completed about 2/3rd of the core curriculum and graduated with Nursing). However, I have found a way to incorporate Math in every aspect of my life. I combined my passions and created my company CNATOMD (get it? from a CNA to an MD) which is really my passion in life. I have mentored young people for over 10 years on a volunteer basis (I recently began charging a small fee due to constraints on time). I assist them with life strategy skills and provide guidance with decision making when it comes to career and education choices. Simply put, I believe in finding the shortest, cheapest and fastest way to living out your passions while building a healthy financial portfolio. I believe in strategic goals and although it may seem like your career may not intersect with your passion for a few years they will eventually collide in an explosive manner. All you need is strategy!