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Don’t Let a Magazine Pick Your College Major

Kevin McMullin

Money, Jobs, & College

I’m all for families giving careful consideration to the cost of college and the expected return on the investment.  The cost of college has gone up, the student loan crisis is officially out of control, and I encourage every student to carefully consider how their time at whatever college they choose to attend will help them prepare for a meaningful and rewarding career.

Still, every time I see an article (and I’m seeing them a lot these days) about the reported best or worst majors for college students, I become progressively more annoyed.

First, most of those lists focus on only one part of the return—the money.  What about whether or not the graduates enjoyed what they learned?  What about whether those majors helped them identify a talent to pursue after graduation?  What if they’re happy in their chosen careers and with their lives?  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, but to label a major as reportedly better or worse based only on the average salary for graduates is an awfully narrow view to take when deciding what to spend four years studying.

Second, very few successful people can draw a straight line backwards from their successful career today to their choice of college major.  Yes, if you want to be an engineer, you need to major in engineering.  But many people who begin college don’t yet know what they want to do when they leave.  For them, the college years should be all about learning, growing, and preparing for life after college.

We should talk about education.  We should talk about the price of college, student loan realities and whether or not the more expensive schools are actually worth those costs.  And we should talk about how your intended career should or should not influence where you go to college.  If you want to be a kindergarten teacher, it probably doesn’t make sense for you to take out $150,000 in student loans to attend an expensive private school and major in education   But that doesn’t mean that education is a worthless academic pursuit.

Think about why you want to go to college, what you want to learn, and how you think that might prepare you for life as a college graduate.  Pick schools that fit you and your budget.  Then have a remarkable college career wherever you go.

Don’t let a magazine pick your college major for you.

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Kevin McMullin

Kevin McMullin is the Founder of Collegewise, a national college admissions counseling company, co-founder of The Princeton Review and the author of If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted. He also writes a daily college admissions blog,, and has given over 500 presentations to discuss smarter, saner college planning.