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Monday, February 23, 2015

Does Your College Major Suck?

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It’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life. Yes… not only in college. Picking a bad college major can end up costing you for the rest of your life. While it may look like you only have to invest 4 years in a bad major, many students end up having to spend decades of their life trying to pay off the debt of that major mistake.

Do you remember those advisers telling you to “do what you love?” I’m sorry to have to be the one to inform you of this but they’re full of crap. Now, if what you love happens to be engineering or medicine then maybe they’re right. If you’re like most people, those advisers can end up costing you a good portion of your life.

How do you know if the college major you picked sucks?

The Market

That philosophy degree is probably a bad idea.

The first thing you need to look at when considering a college major is the jobs available after graduating. There is an exception to this rule though. If you happen to have the money to pay for college in cash and don’t expect to get a job after graduation then you can consider a major without looking at the market. Unless you happen to be rich, money matters.

College can end up costing over $30,000 a year. We’re talking about over $100,000 in debt. It doesn’t matter how good a college degree you get, that’s going to take a damn long time to pay off. College can be an investment or it can be a luxury.

If you don’t look at how marketable your skills are after graduation then it’s sure as hell not an investment.

There are two major pieces of information you need to gather. What do the jobs you can practically get out of college pay? What are the odds that you can actually get one of these jobs?

Many people look at salary websites alone to research their job options. “Oh, a philosophy teacher gig pays $xx,xxx a year. That’s plenty!” It’s absolutely essential that you take that information and consider it in the terms of competition. How many jobs are opening in the field every year? (How many people are going to be graduating the same year as you? Sometimes those numbers can be disturbingly close when you consider all the colleges in the country.)

If college is a luxury then sure, skip this step. If it’s an investment then it’s the most important step.

The Competition

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Do you want to get into law school or medical school? Maybe you shouldn’t…

You’ll notice that most of the issues this article deals with can be kind of painful. That’s the point, plenty of people will tell you what you want to hear. You don’t need to read an article on that stuff. The important stuff is the stuff people don’t want to tell you.

You need to look at how skilled in school you are before going into certain fields. A small minority of students make this mistake but it can be a very costly one in the long run. You need to go into a major that you can practically compete with the other students in. If you’re a mediocre student, don’t go to college expecting to compete well in the hardest fields.

I know. You may be able to succeed in the harder courses. That’s very possible. It’s much more likely that you’ll suck. At the very least, you’re going to be struggling to keep your head up. Just because a school lets you into a major, it doesn’t mean you should want to go there.

Ideally, you want to be in a college major that you can do amazing in. At the very least, you should be looking at college majors that you can comfortably compete in.

Sure, it doesn’t matter the grades you get in school after you get your degree (in most fields,) but getting the degree shouldn’t be a surprise to yourself or anyone else. That’s just risking years of work and tens of thousands more dollars. Constant failure and struggle is the cause of many high debt drop outs.

Your Preference

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You should not be getting a college major in a field that you don’t love without a damn good plan. Yes, I used the word love. If you’re thinking, I kind of like math, I guess I’ll go into math, then you’re not listening.

This can seem like a pretty high bar to have to jump over because it absolutely is.

The majority of high school students aren’t ready for college. Most students going to college right out of high school might as well be jumping out of their plane before they grab their parachute. You should love any field you want to get a college degree in unless of course, you planned it that way.

What’s that plan I’m talking about? Let’s face it. Some people are never going to find a college major they love. Colleges don’t cater to everyone’s preferences. That being said, college can be an investment if treated like an investment. You don’t need to always love your investment, you just need to be willing to pay the price. I would argue, unless you’re talking about a 6 month or smaller time investment, is usually not worth paying, personally. If you’re thinking about a 4 year degree at a nice university as your investment then you’re being downright crazy.

What if you like a certain field but aren’t sure if you love it?

That’s one of the best places to be short of finding a subject you love. If you have any doubt about how much you’d enjoy a particular field then get a job in it before college. If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, become a CNA. Sure, it’s not exactly the same but you’ll get to watch nurses work. If you want to be a math professor, become a math tutor for a while. If you want to run a business then heck, why not run one before you go off to college too.

You don’t need a college degree to get started in most fields. As long as you don’t make any foolish decisions, you will be able to go to college in the future.

I know it can be scary to head out in the real world when everyone is telling you college is the only smart option but just imagine how much more scary it’s going to be after college. Imagine spending another 4 years in school and building up tens of thousands of dollars in debt that you have to worry about. (You can’t afford to work minimum wage then. You better hope you made the right decisions in college.)

College can be an amazing investment but it can also be a costly mistake if you’re not careful. Don’t let other people push you into something that you’re not completely comfortable with. You know that “peer pressure” your parents talked about? It’s real and it’s exactly what everyone is trying to get you to succumb to. If you go to a bad college major then you might as well be walking off that bridge the old cliche talks about.

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