Myths about choosing a college major


As soon as you are applying for college, many places will ask you what you are planning on majoring in – that’s a whole lot of pressure so early on! It’s no surprise then that around 30% of students end up switching their majors at least once. Most people are likely to get advice from family and friends, with only 11% having sought advice from their high school counselor and 28% seeking advice from a college adviser. Here are some myths about choosing a major.

STEM is the way to make serious money

Sure, computer science and engineering are at the top of the pay rankings, but what many people do not realize is that salaries within specific majors tend to vary considerably. For example, if you are in the top quarter of earners with an English major, you will be making much more than those in the bottom quarter of chemical engineers. Just because you have enrolled in a major that is generally near the top of the rankings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up making the big bucks – and vice versa!

Guys vs. Girls

Over 56% of all students are female, and they are also more likely to graduate than the men in their cohort; however, women are less likely to apply for the top paying majors. There are only 8% women in mechanical engineering and 20% in computer science, as women tend to go for generally lower-paying majors such as social work and education. Interestingly, if there were just 10% more women in the more male-dominated fields, the gender pay gap would close from 78 cents per dollar to 90 cents to the dollar.

You can’t get a job as a liberal arts major

This is a misconception that people tend to use as the butt of many jokes. Sure, there are not a lot of jobs looking for people who are able to interpretive dance, but that doesn’t mean that your arts major is completely useless. A lot of skills that are honed during this type of degree, such as synthesis, problem-solving, writing and creativity, for example, are in demand in many jobs. In fact, George Anders is the author of a book, literally called You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Education – it might be worth a read to persuade your parents!

You have to choose your major early

Over 20% of the freshmen who felt obligated to their major at the start of the year ended up selecting a new one before the end of their exams. Frustratingly, by doing this, you could end up costing yourself a semester or two, although if you continue with a major that isn’t for you, it will cost you much more! Several colleges have decided to group majors under broader umbrellas, and created ‘meta-majors.’ This allows the students to choose the area that they wish to study in, such as STEM or education, and choose their major further down the line when they have experienced more about the subject.

Choosing your major can be a real stress, but once you weed out the myths and find out the facts, hopefully, it will be a little easier for you!