College Planning Myth #2

“Pursue Any Major You Want as Long as it’s at a Name-Brand School”

This column is as painful to write as it is to read as a loving, supportive parent.  We want the best for our kids.  We love them to the moon and back and want to support their dreams.  But we need to “get real” and face some hard truths that will impact some hard truths that will impact both our students as well as our financial futures.  

I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere that young peoples’ brains are not fully formed until after the age of 25…several years after they make that all-important decision of college major or “What do I want to do when I grow up?”  It’s not unusual for a student-athlete to want to major in sports management or kinesiology.  Did you know that there is actually a college major called “Sports Facility Management”?  Top-rated and discriminating UNC Chapel Hill will set you back a pretty penny for a degree in Sports Administration.  Or maybe your daughter starred in every high school drama production at her high school and wants to study theatre so she can make her way to Broadway.  Highly selective and very expensive, UCLA is in one of the entertainment capitals of the world.  Doesn’t it make sense to tap your retirement fund or get a second mortgage on the house so she can lead her best life?

We’ve spent our kids’ whole lives telling them they can be anything they want to be.  I get it, but the honest truth is that the best predictor of lifetime income and success is not the name-brand school to which you sacrificed to send your student but the major they chose.  Lots of people get it wrong.  They think a highly-ranked school on the annual U.S. News & World Reports list will ensure their child’s success.  It’s just not so.  The WSJ did a huge expose in late 2021 around the dismal job prospects and massive amounts of student loan debt that journalism students were faced with after graduation from highly selective schools.

Your child’s major matters.  Based on the most recent data from Glassdoor.com, the top highest paying majors fall into the following broad categories: Engineering, Information Technology, Healthcare and Business.  This doesn’t have to be the end of the world for your student who gets lit up by art or philosophy or French.  Think outside the box about carving out a niche in one of the above sectors that might interest your child.  Or talk about pursuing a practical major and then minoring in a subject that will allow your daughter or son to express their passions.  Please let common sense be your guide.

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