Choosing a college major: The case against online assessments and the trouble with passion

We are pleased to feature this Guest Blog Post from Getting at the Core.

As parents of today’s college-bound kids, we can feel….behind.  We have so much to do.  SAT/ACT, summer experiences, jobs, extra-curriculars, homework, tests, and more.  Every step moves your child closer to the choices ahead: career, major, and college. Maybe your child has a clear picture of their dream college.  Usually, the more challenging task for our students is choosing a major/career. How will they decide? What might they be good at or enjoy doing in the future?

If you Google “how to choose a college major,” you’ll get some dangerous advice. US News suggests waiting until college to try out classes and see what your student likes. Why is this risky? With the cost of college today, most families cannot afford to pay for a 5th or 6th year for the students who change their majors repeatedly.  Only between 19 to 36% graduate in 4 years! In addition, how can you select a college excelling in the program your student will eventually choose? When your student has a strong sense of their ideal major, the choice of college becomes much easier.

Photo: “Four Year Myth”, Complete College America, 2014

In the US News article, a dean of student affairs says “name … one 18 year-old that can say, ‘For the rest of my life, I want to do this.'” No one has the magic wand to give your child this answer.  However, At The Core knows that with guidance, students can discover their interests, preferences, values, and enjoyment level—the knowledge needed to make the best choice in career, major, and college.

So don’t online assessments help with this? Your student has probably been exposed to these assessments as a tool to identify an ideal career. We’ve heard story after story of frustrating, confusing, or just plain humorous results. Online assessments have pitfalls—they can’t see the whole picture (no face-to-face contact), they force an answer from a limited set of choices and they are limited by the quality of the software behind them.  Students can answer “aspirationally,” which isn’t helpful for such tools, and often, no one helps them interpret the results.  Frustrating, for sure!

Finally, why on earth would we have trouble with passion?! Back to that web search, you can find advice to “follow your passion.” Yes, having a passion leading you to a fulfilling career is wonderful. But many students may never find one and feel they have failed.  Cal Newport argues in So Good They Can’t Ignore You that most passionate professionals did not start out passionate about their career field.  Interesting to ponder, isn’t it?

What can we do to help our students? See if At The Core’s Guided Self Assessment is right for you. Students who complete the process discuss their experiences with a trusted facilitator, yielding key foundational insights about their strongest personal traits.  We analyze the student’s input and create a custom report filled with suggestions, next steps, and careers to explore.  When the next decisions arise, they will evaluate the options with this new information at the top of their mind, guiding them to work they love, a perfect fit college, and situations playing to their strengths.  Families tell us it’s an incredible gift to give their child.

No matter how they do it, we highly recommend your child invests the time in self assessment.  If you would like to learn more about At The Core’s Guided Self Assessment program, call us at 614-404-0646 or visit www.GettingAtTheCore.com.

http://completecollege.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/4-Year-Myth.pdf