I remember in my first year of college, I was lost. I picked my major (psychology) because it happened to be my favorite course in high school. Never mind that I’d only taken Psychology 101, a beginners course, and that was my exposure in it’s entirety to anything psychology related.
I did well in my courses, but I came to realize after only a couple of semesters that there wasn’t much I could do with a psychology degree. I wasn’t willing to think far enough ahead in my future to commit to taking my education farther than a four year degree.
I took the summer off and messed around for a bit, until I finally decided that I needed to choose another route. The way I did that? I asked my mom what I should take, and listened to her advice.
My mom, wanting the best for her daughter’s future, told me to go to Business school. She was concerned with my post-graduate employability. I ended up graduating with my degree in Business Administration. I’m glad I have such a practical degree, as I found a job during school and my education is an investment that has paid dividends. However, I wasted a year not knowing what I wanted to do, taking a program I ended up leaving. Here are some steps that I wish I’d taken to figure it out before wasting my time and money.
Don’t Go Straight to College
If you don’t know what to take in college, I’d advise to either take some time off to figure it out, or take some general elective classes that can be transferred for credit to almost any program at the school.
This will also give you time to get to know yourself a bit more, do some soul searching, and get some work experience.
Look at Your Interests
I am not sure I believe that you should try to make a living out of a hobby, but knowing what you are interested and what will keep you engaged will help you make a career choice.
You want to be able to take something practical that you can use, but that you are interested in.
Look at the Job Market
Before you make a choice, look at what types of jobs are out there on the job market. Make note of the volume of jobs that pique your interest. Look at the the job descriptions of the positions and find out what the requirements are. Can you get the type of job you want with the length and level of education you are wanting to take? Do you need a ton of experience?
Put special consideration into industries that are expanding rapidly. For example, there is a high demand for cybersecurity professionals right now and that demand is sure to grow in the coming years as new technologies are introduced and an increasing number of organizations require assistance in securing their data. In fact, it is estimated that this career could grow by 37 percent within the next ten years, so there should be plenty of jobs available for new graduates. There is currently a shortage of qualified individuals in this field, which makes a B.S. or M.S. in Cybersecurity a solid degree to pursue.
I’d also recommend looking into entry level jobs in that field. After graduation, finding a job in the field can be the most difficult part, so you’ll want to make sure there are plenty of entry level jobs to go around.
Take Career Counselling
Career counselling can be surprisingly effective to help you find out what you want to do. The career counselor will typically give you a personality test, which will put some light on your skills and interests. These factors will be looked at when matching you with suggested career paths. You may find that your personality matches a career option that you’d never thought of.
If anything, career counselling can give you some good insight into your personality and what might challenge you.
It’s hard to choose a major for college, because it seems so final. Knowing what you have to choose something that you’ll be doing for a big portion of your life is daunting, but if I had taken these steps I would have been better equipped.
I also change my college course from Architecture to Engineering, I realized that I wasn’t really good in drawing and I’m better in Mathematics and analyzing, so I decide to take another course. I also wasted a year just like you did but I think it’s still worth it.
I’m glad you were able to find a program suited to you!
My husband earned his first bachelor’s degree in theatre arts and he regrets it to this day! It’s so important to choose a field where they are actually jobs readily available.
Haha theater Arts is definitely not the most useful degree!
Great advice, Daisy! I like taking a hard look at one’s interests. I might add to not let your parents or anyone else influence your choice outside perhaps someone working in the fields in question or the career counselor.
Have a moon pie Monday!!!
Thanks CJ. I think it’s good to listen at least partially to those who know you best, but not entirely!
I agree on taking general electives until you can get a better idea. One thing I wish I would have done too is look at they future job market. If I would have done that more, I think I would have chosen a different career than the one I’m in now. It’s a tough job market.
Definitely, but I think that many people would “follow their passion” regardless of the job market.
great tips! it always help to weigh everything before making the final decision when it comes to the course one should take up in college. I think they should really consider other options when their interest is not that marketable in the job market, because they will just find it difficult to look for a job after they graduate.
That’s just the issue. SO many people end up in a situation where they can’t get a job post-graduation.
This is really a tough one. There are so many possibilities out there, it’s opportunity “overload” for a teenager. How can we expect a 17 year old to decide what they’ll do the rest of their life?
I took a “gap year” (18 months actually) before starting school. I did an internship. It really helped. But I’ve seen others do the same internship and they didn’t end up doing anything with themselves.
I would encourage people to at least take one college course and get their feet wet if they have no idea what to do. At least they can go through the motions and not be entirely lost the first time they have to run through the application, signup, scheduling, get-your-books process.
Definitely taking at least one course is also motivating to stay in the college game.
I went into engineering only because I got high marks in math and science. I ended up switching to an honour science program. I really wish I had taken more time to think about my major before going to university and that someone had given me this advice. But I didn’t want to take a year off because I was one of the last few years to have OAC and didn’t want to start university even later. Ironically enough though, since I did switch majors, I ended up finishing later than I had planned on.
How come you didn’t want to stick with engineering, Karen?
This is such a common problem. I hear from everybody, but I didn’t get any advice to take a year off before I went to college, so thanks for writing this.
If I could have done it over again, I would have lived with my parents the first year out of high school going to a community college and then worked for free at jobs I would be interested in having the rest of my life. Then, hopefully after that year I could make a more mature decision about what degree to pursue.
Definitely living with your parents is a way to save money and figure things out before your forced to make a big decision.
I know it’s not easy for younger generation to pick what they want to do with their life, but they don’t realize that they have all kinds of research opportunities before the can make a final decision. Before picking your major it’s good to ask yourself a few questions, e.g. what is important for you in career: making a great living or enjoying your job even if it does not pay much? What kind of jobs can you land after college if you pick the one you think you might like? If you think of becoming a nurse, e.g. it would be a great idea to volunteer at the hospital and see if this career is for you, etc. I chose my career when I was 16 and never regretted it.
There is definitely ample opportunity for young people to figure it out, but not all know the tools.
I want to go to college and get a music degree to become a successful musician, but I know a music degree isn’t very practical. My second love is money and finances, so I am going to double major in music and Finance so that I can graduate with a practical degree. You are completely right about having a degree in something useful, that is what matters most in the job world.
Sounds like a great plan to me. You can do both and still have job opportunities in the end.
That’s a really interesting combination, but I think it’s great to have a practical major and a passion!
I went into the US Air Force prior to college to get the old GI Bill as well as to get my head on straight. I was much more motivated and more mature when I entered college afterward. I got my Mechanical Engineering degree in four years, and landed my current job right out of school. So I basically followed your Don’t Go Straight to College advice, but I would be careful that whoever follows that advice not get eventually get stuck with a “My life is good enough,” attitude and skip college altogether. I had a plan when I went into the military to use the GI Bill to pay for college when I got out. That is exactly what I did. People without a plan may skip college completely, and probably end up robbing themselves of the much higher earnings that a typical college grad makes.
So true- the “my life is good enough” attitude is a vortex that many graduates that don’t go straight to school get stuck in. Your strategy is an awesome one!