June 2013 E-Newsletter

posted May 19, 2013, 3:53 PM by Glenda Durano
Do Majors Matter?

It’s a seemingly simple question that strikes fear into the heart of every high school student: “What are you going to study in college?”  Some students have an answer, polished and practiced—although in reality, the response is probably more of a defense mechanism designed to placate their adult interrogators while others who don’t have such a reply risk placing themselves in the midst of a discussion about what they should be doing with their lives for the next half-century. 

I’ve always been a person who believes that God does have a purpose for each life, and I believe that the seeds of that purpose are planted before we ever take a breath, however, our purpose and our career are two different things. 

Unfortunately, because of our career-oriented society, students feel a lot of pressure these days to study a major that will offer a high “return on investment.”  For some students, this makes complete sense—students who are gifted in figuring things out and creating devices should consider being engineers; students who love helping others and have shown an affinity towards science should consider healthcare; students who find great joy in crunching numbers should look at the wonderful world of accounting.  However, not every student’s field of study is going to be geared so directly towards a profession.  Parents, don’t panic.  God has a way of making sure your student will be prepared for his Ultimate Purpose

 Preparing a student for a career is only one of the purposes of college.  While some students will earn a degree geared specifically towards a profession, other students will gain a “tool belt” of thinking, writing, and communication skills that will be useful and usable in any number of careers.  In fact, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, more and more CEO’s are looking at students who have a broad base of knowledge—who are able to communicate and think critically and logically—as their top picks in leadership.  In other words, they are choosing students with backgrounds in history, English, and international studies to help move their companies forward.

 I’m not saying career-directed majors are right or wrong anymore than a more general liberal arts degree is.  What I’m saying is that every student has strengths, and one of our jobs as parents is to help our student develop those strengths while he is still in high school by providing appropriate growth opportunities.  By the time a high school student is a senior, he may not know exactly what he wants to study in college, but he should be aware of his strengths and passions as well as his weaknesses.  Bear in mind also that strengths are not merely academic.  Scientists tell us that there are a variety of intelligences that people can utilize including interpersonal intelligence, musical intelligence, and spatial intelligence.  That’s the way God made us, but sometimes we may not know we have a certain intelligence because we’ve never tapped into it.  For this reason, parents need to seek out a variety of opportunities for students while they are in middle and high school because we discover our passions most clearly through experience.

 College is a transition into adulthood, and while I thoroughly believe that students should NOT wait until college to begin exploring their passions—it’s very doable and highly advisable to do in high school—we need to realize that the average student changes his major 5 times!  While that’s not a sin, it can certainly be costly.  This is why I work through career, personality, learning, and interest assessments when I first start working with a student—in order to gain some possible directions.  Yes, college is a place to explore, but a balance must be found since college is also a financial investment.  It’s simply too expensive for parents to pay for additional semesters while a student goes through the initial exploration process when he could have surveyed his interests in high school.

 Therefore, parents, help your student explore two or three areas of commitment while in high school that could turn into possible professions.  Urge him to go beyond the superficial level of exploration—simply doing something he enjoys (e.g., sports, theatre, music) and allow him to demonstrate the full range of his potential through leadership, service, shadowing, or part time employment in that field.

 “But he’s just a kid,” you may be saying. “Aren’t we rushing this a bit?” When I talk about a student demonstrating his potential, I’m asking a student to explore a vehicle for his God-given purpose.  I’m not asking him to decide what he’s going to do for the next 45 years.  I’m asking him to seek God in a tangible way by exploring his interests.  If God has planted the seed, it is our responsibility as parents to nurture that seed (which often appears as an interest or an ability), and give it the opportunity to grow, while at the same time, not being overbearing or too restrictive in the exploration process. 

 Only God knows your student’s purpose—and God is big enough to communicate that purpose to anyone who sincerely seeks Him.  As Romans 11:29 promises, “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” Our prayer is that God would make His calling clear to our students; that we, as parents, would provide a nurturing and dynamic environment in which a student can explore his purpose; that families would be open to God’s creative use of our strengths; and that students would be sensitive to God’s direction.

 So, back to the question, “Do majors matter?”  Yes, I think so.  Majors give students the opportunity to develop skills that will facilitate their passions.  While some students’ majors may be more career-directed, others’ majors will be grounded in liberal arts.  Either path works as long as it is the path to purpose. 

If you have a student who is in high school and needs one-on-one guidance, please contact College Advising and Planning Services at 505-918-7669 or write to glendadurano@gmail.com.  Our comprehensive program includes career assessments, activity advising, financial aid information, creation of a college list, tips on school visits, application assistance, essay editing, and much more! 

As always, please forward this newsletter to other friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.

Additionally, you can “like” our FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.