Study Finds Teens Select Wrong College Majors

A new report reveals that teens are selecting college majors that do not match their interests. This year’s 2013 College Choice Report, released by ACT, focuses on students’ selection of a college major or program of study among the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013.

It is important for teens to choose the right college major, as it allows them to map out their path to graduation and also helps prepare to enter a specific career field. The study says students who select a major matching their interests are more likely to finish their degree successfully and on time. But few high school graduates are choosing a major that suits them, writes Kelsey Sheehy of US News.

According to the study, about 80% of ACT test-takers graduated in 2013 said they knew which major they would pursue in college. Of those, only 36% students chose a major that fit their interests. ACT used answers from the exam’s Interest Inventory, which asks a series of questions to determine career areas where a student might excel.

Beth Heaton, senior director of educational consulting at advising firm College Coach, said that there is no surprise that teens do not choose right majors.

“The vast majority of them have no idea what they really want to do when they grow up. Even the ones who claim that they do,” Heaton said. “How can you know? If you’re 16, 17, 18, you know so little of the world.”

According to Heaton, students should not panic, but they should use their first year or two of college to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. She said that high school students can take electives at their school or a local community college to gauge their interest and aptitude in fields like engineering or marketing. They can also get a job or internship in an area that interests them, Heaton said.

“If you think, ‘I think I would be great at event planning. That looks fun. I watch those shows on TV where they plan weddings and I think I would want to do that.’ Get a job working for a catering company or an event planning firm where all you’re doing is answering phones or cleaning up after an event,” Heaton said.

Heaton said that teens should not rule out an entire career field simply because they struggle in a specific subject.

“Let’s say you love the world of medicine, of helping people get better. Maybe you’re not a science person so you’re never going to be a doctor, but there are a lot of ways you can work in that industry without having to be on a science side of it,” she said. “Take a broader look at things.”