Sending your child off to college is an emotional new adventure for everyone in the family. Being away from home for the first time is exciting and scary for your college-bound kiddo, and having to accept that your baby is off to make his or her own life is hard on the parents. But just because they’re no longer living under your roof doesn’t mean your child no longer needs your help.
One of the biggest decisions a college student can make is when they choose what they’re going to major in. Chances are, they’ll need your help deciding. Here’s what you need to keep in mind if you’re going to help your child pick the right major.
Understand that they may yet change their mind.
Most colleges don’t require you to declare a major until at least your second year, and even after that, tons of students change their mind. So you should keep in mind that your kiddo may pick a major and then change it once, twice, or maybe more. There’s nothing wrong with that. Very few people know with certainty what they want to do with the rest of their life at the age of 18 or 19.
Remind them that it’s okay to change their mind.
You worry about your kid. That’s a parent’s job. But remember that your kid is probably anxious and worried too about wanting to pick the right major. This is not the time to pressure them or say things that might increase their stressing over the decision. Remind them just how many college students declare a major and then change it. Remind them that this is the time to find out who they are and what they want to do, and there’s no rushing that.
Encourage them to follow their passion, but to also be realistic.
For everyone college student that wants to be an actor or a filmmaker, there’s a concerned parent wondering if their child is going to spend four years in college and then be a starving artist for the rest of their life. Helping your child pick the right major means assisting them in finding the balance between what interests them, and what they want to do with that interest.
Discuss possible career paths before your child declares.
Don’t wait until your child’s senior year to start thinking about looking for a job. Have this discussion before they settle on a major. Do research together and find out everything you can about the prospective job market, what sort of internships your student should look for, and what kind of jobs can be found after graduation. Match their interests to a career and a career to a degree. A career as a police or lawyer might require a criminal justice degree (learn more). The more you and your child know about the career path, the better you’ll both feel bout making a decision.
Remind them of their strengths and weaknesses.
It’s important to encourage your child that with hard work and dedication, they can pursue any dream, but don’t forget to also talk up their strengths which might point them in the right direction. Likewise, a hard-working kid can overcome their personal weaknesses, but if they’re thinking about a major that you know might be difficult for them, don’t overlook that aspect. Be honest, but encouraging.
Connect them with family friends who can answer questions or provide guidance.
If you know someone who’s in the field your child is considering, see if you can arrange a coffee date, or at least a friendly phone call so your child can ask questions, find out more about the career, and — most importantly — make a connection that might help them later on. After a conversation, your kid might decide that they’re not so keen on the career after all, but you’ll be one step closer to finding the right major.
- Don’t push too hard in any one direction.
You want the best for your child and you have the benefit of experience, but you’ll likely meet resistance if you try to tell them what to do. Your job as a parent is to help them pick the right major. You can do this by guiding them, informing them, being honest with them, and encouraging them as much as possible.