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  • You can help your student explore their interests, passions, and strengths, and draw connections to potential majors and career paths.
  • It’s important for families to balance the cost of college with the career prospects and earning potential associated with various majors.
  • Adding a second major or choosing a minor can help give your student a more well-rounded skill set—and better career prospects, too.

If you’ve helped your child navigate the college application process, you likely felt a sense of relief once they received their decision letters and settled on a school. But soon comes another big decision to guide them through: picking a major. As a parent, you want to be supportive of your student's passions and interests, but you may also worry about their future. Will they be able to get a job after graduation? Will they be able to pay their student loans and support themselves?

For parents who want to be part of the decision, it's critical to broach the topic respectfully for a productive discussion. Here are some tips for how to do just that.

Explore their interests

Talk to your child about their hobbies and skills, as well as the academic areas that excite them. Together, try to draw connections between these interests and various college majors and career paths. Some action items you can discuss or even do with your child are:

  • Talking about their strengths, passions, and interests. What subjects do they want to learn more about? What career prospects excite them?
  • Reading about various programs and department pages on the school’s website.
  • Utilizing resources from the college’s career center, such as counselors and skill assessments.
  • Registering for classes in areas they’re interested in to “test out” an academic department or major.
  • Looking for internships to learn more about a field or potential career.

Discuss career and financial prospects of different majors

It's important that your child chooses a field they're excited about But, it’s also important they understand the financial implications of studying that major in school and the earning potential and different careers it could lead to. To start the conversation, talk to your student about weighing the cost of college against potential salaries in the future. Use a tool like My College Plan, which helps students and families compare college costs, explore potential careers, and learn about the earnings typically associated with various college majors to determine what makes financial sense.

Suggest a minor or second major

If your child is passionate about a field or pursuing a career in which job prospects are slim or salaries tend to be low, you might be worried about their future and afraid of discouraging them by suggesting something else. Instead, ask if they are open to minoring in that subject or pursuing it as a double major.

Sometimes the right combination of majors and minors can provide you with more marketable skills and give you a leg up in the job market. For example, a student who has studied both computer science and psychology might be particularly attractive to an app developer who designs products that are intuitive to use.

Make sure it's a good fit

Before your child finalizes their decision, talk to them about things they can do to feel confident in their choice. They may also want to meet with a guidance counselor or an adviser who can help them get more clarity about the major, required classes, and typical career paths. They can talk to juniors and seniors in the program about their experiences and seek out alumni from the departments they are interested in to ask about their careers and for advice. Taking these extra steps will give them some perspective to determine if a particular major is right for them.

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