How to Choose a College Major

Every spring college recruiters across the country head into high schools to “help” students pick the perfect college and choose a major. All of them doing so with the ultimate goal of getting students to choose THEIR college and a major in something THEY offer. Students receive a billion pieces of conflicting advice and none of it is really relevant because colleges are failing their students. On top of that the reasons for getting a college education are changing, the cost is getting higher and choosing the right major is becoming a bigger deal because parents want to invest in a degree that will get their child a career. (Check out James Altucher’s posts:don’t send your kids to college, 10 more reasons not to send your college and 8 alternatives to college)

So, how should you choose a major?

Major in the thing that you are passionate about. (aka the easiest most fun major you can think of) 

Every time I give this advice to a college student I  hear a million reasons why they cannot major in Women’s Studies/Philosophy/English/Art History/{insert other fun random major that won’t get you a job here}. Despite the fact that I was a Philosophy major and I am not doing live readings on the side of the street for money; people still assume that I am an “exception” and that they won’t be able to find a job with a degree in whatever it is they are passionate about.

I am here to tell you that you are wrong. Here is why you can major in anything you want:

1.  A college degree is not a golden ticket
Getting a college degree does not guarantee you a job or a career or success. It doesn’t guarantee you ANYTHING. Your college degree is simply a  credential. When leveraged in the right way it can get you a successful career. When not leveraged in the right way it is just an overpriced credential.

2. You learn the basics in every major
Somehow colleges  have convinced students that their degree program will give them the skills that they need to build a great career in that a specific field. In all honesty, college teaches you the skills that MIGHT give you the ability to land a job but not such great skills that you will be any good at it until about five years in when you finally get a handle on how everythingactually works. Any degree program can give you the basic skills you need to land a job. In the beginning of your career, all employers really need to know is that you can stick to something for four years,  are responsible enough to get good grades, can network well enough to get a few recommendations and that you have interests outside of work through clubs and associations. Any degree program can give you those skills.

3. You will stand out from the crowd
If you want to work in marketing, public relations or business, you must know the importance of standing out from your competition. There are a billion and one applicants that have majored in business, interned at a local newspaper and applied to this random position. How many resumes have they seen from someone that majored in music composition and launched their own online music project over the summer that was featured in regional and national media? In order to stand out and land a great job there needs to be something different and interesting about you. I was “that Philosophy student that hangs out at all of the blogging conferences.” People remembered me.

4.     If you major in something you love doing you will be really good at it and have free time to build a career
You know all of those hours you spent preparing yourself to pass your finance exam? When you finally get into business the most “financial” thing you will probably have to do is expense reports and/or hiring an accountant. When you have to learn  skills that don’t come naturally, it is really hard and time consuming and not always valuable. When you major in something that you are naturally talented at you will find that you are much better at the work you are doing and that it comes easier. What can you do with the time you aren’t spending studying for exams that you shouldn’t be taking? You could be building your career, looking for new opportunities, launching new projects and networking. You should be building a foundation so that when you finally graduate college you will have a career in front of you.

5. Your degree does not define you (aka noone knows what they want to be at 18)
Just because you get a degree in a major that isn’t related to the career you want doesn’t mean that you can’t work in that field later.  Very few people with successful careers majored in something practical, got a job in that field and worked their way up the ladder. The CEO of my agency majored in Art History as did the SVP of Creative and Strategic servicesCatherine Connors, has her PhD in Philosophy and is the Director of Blogs and Social Media at Babble AND runs one of the most popular parenting blogs on the web. David Teicher majored in Philosophy and manages social media and events at Ad AgeJessica Gottlieb  got her undergrad degree in Kinesiology and a masters in education. Now she runs a popular mom blog and plays a lot of tennis. Kate studied education and now she is in Law School.  J. Maureen Henderson has a degree in international development and is a journalist at Forbes. Get the picture? Shall I go on?

The biggest challenge to majoring in something you are passionate about vs. something realistic is convincing your parents its a good idea. Send them this link.  They can email me with questions.