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Ask Your Kids These 5 Questions to Help Them Pick a College Major

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The choice of what to study in college is an important one. A future college student might want to seek guidance on this topic from their parents. Parents can help by asking their children these five guiding questions.

A ''Major'' Decision

If your child is thinking about college, he or she might be struggling with the question of what to major in. Not many teens are completely sure about what they want to pursue in their education and career, but the decision of what subject to major in will have a significant influence on their choices. In order to help your child explore the options and settle on the ideal major for him or her, we recommend that you ask the following five questions.

A mother talking to her child about her college major

1. What is Your Dream Job?

Open up the conversation by having your child imagine his or her ideal future career. Why? Well, if your child has a passion for a certain field, it's definitely worth considering a related college major. Not all people are lucky enough to feel truly inspired and impassioned by anything specific, so it's worth finding out if your child is one of those few. If he or she does have a dream job, allow questions 4 and 5 to help you decide whether or not it's feasible to commit to it as a college major.

2. What Are Your Skills and Talents?

One thing that can guide your child's choice of college major, especially if he or she isn't feeling particularly passionate about any one field, is what types of subjects and abilities your future professional already has an aptitude in. This is a more pragmatic and measured approach to the decision. Studying something that he or she is already good at will hopefully give your child an advantage in school and beyond. After all, studies have shown that people are most successful when they focus on improving their strengths rather than overcoming their weaknesses.

A parent helping her child pick a college major

3. What Do You Value Most in a Job?

Ultimately, the question of what to major in is really a question of what field your child wants to work in. An important consideration, then, is what type of job your child wants to end up with. If your high schooler isn't sure about the exact type of work he or she wants to do, it's still worthwhile to find out what your aspiring professional may value in a position and workplace. Consider the following questions:

  • Where do you rank salary in importance compared to other career-related factors?
  • Do you want a career with a good work-life balance?
  • Do you want a job that will give you the opportunity to travel, or would you prefer to stay near home?
  • How much do you value stability in an established field as opposed to a new, cutting-edge industry?

Getting to the bottom of this question will help provide guidance as to what types of fields might be a good fit for your child.

4. What Career(s) Could You Pursue With This Degree?

If your child is starting to gravitate toward a potential major, ask him or her to make a list of all of the possible careers that could be pursued with a degree in the field. This will allow you to identify a few key points.

First, you'll be able to determine whether a particular major limits your child to one or two potential career options, or gives him or her more possible career paths to work with. Additionally, your child will be able to look at the list and decide just how much he or she would like to have one of the jobs on it. If your high schooler can envision being happy in more than half of the options on the list, it's probably a safe major to commit to. But if your future professional is feeling less than thrilled by most of the career prospects listed, he or she might want to consider a different option.

A future college student writes a list of potential careers

5. What Will Be Your Earning Potential?

Even if your child said that salary isn't one of his or her most important career factors, it's still worthwhile to think about how much money he or she will be able to earn by choosing a certain major. You and your child both want to make sure that he or she will be able to be self-supporting and make a comfortable living. For example, you can do a little research online to find information about the earning potential of different fields and jobs to help you answer this question. Once you've found this information, your child can think about a minimum salary he or she would want to make in order to feel comfortable; you can then eliminate any majors that wouldn't meet that requirement.

Declaring a Major

We hope that these five questions help you and your future college student come to a decision that you're both comfortable with and excited by. And remember: your child can always change his or her mind, or even apply to colleges without declaring a major first, which will allow for more decision-making time. The choice of a major is an important decision, but not a permanent one. Good luck!

For more college and career guidance, check out Study.com's library of articles.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
October 2018
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