For parents of college students, talking about choosing a major can be difficult. Parents might see each semester with an undeclared major as wasted money. Having experienced a tough job market themselves, parents might push for certain degrees that could provide a stable job after college. Students overwhelmed by the transition to college might avoid any big decisions, or they might rush into a major too soon.
With so many things to consider, it can be hard to see eye-to-eye. If your student is a freshman, start talking to him about his major now. Many student's are encouraged to find a major and stick to it by the second year of college. However, the timeline is different for everybody. Here is a list of questions to help guide the conversation with your student.
What do you love?
Encourage your student to think about his passions and interests. By brainstorming everything from sports to cities, your student will start the conversation on a positive note. Even if a passion like playing football is an unrealistic career to pursue, discuss specifics with your student. For example, ask them if they like being part of a team? Do they like the competition? Ask them what about their passion gets them excited? This conversation can help your student explore other careers that have similar qualities.
Where do you excel?
Help your student think about what he's good at. In addition to subjects in school, consider personality traits. Is your student a good listener? Is your student a "people person?" Is he good at organizing things? Do people always ask his advice?
What are your dreams?
Remember with your student what he used to talk about being when he grew up. If he's wanted to be a doctor ever since he was little, that dream might have changed when he realized how many years of school it would take to get there. However, it could still be a strong desire. Encourage your student to envision his ideal profession, and then work backwards to see what it would take to get there.
What practical issues do you need to consider?
If your student is in a serious relationship and plans on getting married right after college, that brings another person's plans into the picture. This will affect your student's career path. If your student will only have the finances to pay for four years of college, he will need to be strategic about every class, so he doesn't lose any credits. It's important to allow your student to dream, but gently bring him back down by reminding him of responsibilities and financial or personal limitations.
Who else can you talk to?
Help your student explore other resources that will help him with this decision. Talking to a college advisor, upper-classmen or professionals in a potential field of study will benefit your student as he makes this decision. Gathering information about starting salaries, required certificates or degrees, internship opportunities, and relevant experience will help your student see the bigger picture. This research will make deciding easier.
After exploring each of these questions, your student will have a better idea of what he enjoys, where he excels, what his dream job looks like, what his limits are, and who can give him more advice. These pieces won't necessarily fit together to spell out the perfect major, but they will provide a strong foundation for his decision.