Helping Online High School Students Choose a College Major
With no school and fewer commitments, summer is a great time to encourage your online high school student to refine his or her college plans. Many teenagers find selecting a college major in particular to be a time-consuming process—one that loses its appeal when it competes with school and other activities. Brainstorming over the summer allows time for the exploration and reflection needed for your teen to decide on a major that meshes well with his or her goals for life. Here are some pointers that can help you smooth the way.
Why is choosing a college major important?
Selecting a college major while still in high school can be a significant advantage for your teen. Knowing their education goals enables students to take high school courses related to the fields that interest them. Identifying a major also makes it more efficient for your student to start researching appropriate colleges. Additionally, students can work with school counselors to tailor their current curriculum to fit the requirements of a specific college or program, enhancing their chances of college admission.
Having a major selected before beginning college also increases the odds of graduating in four years. In particular, some specialized programs in career-oriented fields like mathematics, engineering, nursing, and design require students to declare the major early due to the required number of courses that must be taken in order. When a student delays selecting a college major, or changes majors, it can impact the time it will take to graduate.
Taking time for self-reflection
In a year, the average person spends about 2,000 hours, or 22.4%, of his or her time at work—so encourage your child to find a career that’s a good fit! Use the following prompts and other discovery-oriented questions to get your student thinking about the qualities and requirements he or she values regarding education, career, and the future.
- What do I like to do?
- What am I good at doing?
- What are my interests?
- What subjects to I enjoy studying the most?
- Do I have job experiences that I like or dislike?
- In what sort of setting would I like to work?
- With what or whom do I want to work?
- Do I want to be very involved in my career, or do I want to work 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.?
- Do I want to make a lot of money or make enough to pay my bills?
- Do I need to provide for myself or a family?
Exploring the possibilities
Your student’s self-reflection responses, coupled with his or her academic history, can be used as a guide to establish a list of possible college majors and careers. Many resources are available to help your student evaluate how factors like personal interests, goals, likes, dislikes, skills, aptitude, temperaments, and value system can apply to his or her future.
The links below provide ways to connect potential college majors to a broad range of associated career choices for further investigation. Using these sites is a great way to start finding potential majors or careers that will most likely result in success and satisfaction. On them, your student can:
- take a college major quiz to find out what fields of study match his or her personality
- explore academic areas of interest and the correlating majors
- research areas of academic interest and corresponding careers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
- learn about hundreds of occupations
Don’t forget to have your student reach out to his or her school counselors for additional guidance on choosing a college major prior to starting college.
But what if the answer is an “undecided” college major?
Relax! While making college decisions early can be helpful, it’s not required for your student’s success! Colleges understand that not every applicant has decided on a college major. In fact, many students change their major after enrolling. There will always be students who apply to college as “undecided.”
Some colleges offer exploratory programs designed to allow students to experiment with unfamiliar disciplines and perhaps discover a passion and career path while completing general requirements.
Most colleges will allow students to declare their major through the end of their sophomore year or by the beginning of their junior year. Students who begin as “undeclared” will work to complete general requirements before declaring a specialization.
While selecting a college major is a big decision, it is also a personal one. It is important to support your child in choosing a college major that’s a good fit. Using these tips and resources should help you provide the guidance necessary that will ultimately lead to a career that makes your son or daughter feel happy, satisfied, and successful.
What strategies have you used to help your teenager plan his or her future? Share your most successful ideas in the comments below.