Teenagers are notorious for making bad decisions. They have low impulse control, raging hormones, insatiable appetites and high school stress. Yet, at 16 or 17-years-old, they need to choose not only what college they will attend but also what major they will focus on. If they choose the wrong college, it’s not that big of a problem, as long as they still go to college. But picking a major affects the rest of their lives. If they pick the wrong one, they may waste a lot of time in classes, a ton of money on those classes only to want to switch majors during junior or senior year. Or worse, they graduate with a degree that they don’t like, find boring, or can’t find employment in.
In order to better prepare teens for making these life decisions, parents and educators should have many conversations with them. Not just one conversation and be done with it. Many conversations. Teens aren’t easy to talk to so here are some topics to discuss:
- Talk about their interests and whether they are “good” at these interests. This can be anything from math and science to arts and crafts to cars.
- Talk openly about their skills. (Be honest with them here. This isn’t a time to build their self-esteem.) Some kids are great with other people and can consider sales or management positions. Some kids aren’t so good with others and should probably look into more individualized work, like accounting. Does your child love to read and write? If so, you can look into fields like require lots of this. Does your child make straight A’s and will do fine in a pre-med courseload? Or should they try nursing instead?
- Talk about their desires. Discuss financial desires, logistics, and work atmosphere. Do they want to live in a nice house and let their spouse stay home with the four kids? Well, that will require a career with high earning potential. Also, consider other desires, like whether or not they want to work outdoors, or want to work weekends. Can they see themselves commuting everyday to a cubicle?
Parents should also explain the differences between career possibilities and hobbies. For most people, things like singing, painting, baking, and playing sports are hobbies and not full-time jobs. Sure, some people can make a living at these, but it’s also better to have a back up plan, just in case.
Parents can also discuss lots of career options with their kids. Ever wonder why when someone asks a kid want they want to be when they grow up, the answers are always: teacher, doctor, nurse, lawyer, etc? Because they don’t know very many other careers! These are the ones that they see on TV, see at school or at the doctor’s office. Do they know what a financial analyst does? What about a insurance adjuster, or a psychologist?
Opening up the lines of communication with your teenager will definitely help them make wise decisions about their college majors, and even the rest of their lives.