Choose Your Career First—Not Your College

Approximately 80 percent of college freshmen have not declared a college major. Fifty percent of those who have declared a major will switch during college. Seventy percent of all college students will change their major.

These numbers prove that students are not being tuned into who they are before making major decisions—a costly mistake. Most parents who have saved for college plan on their child graduating in four years. What are the chances that a student who changes majors over and over or transfers schools will graduate in four years? Simply put: It’s not possible.

Your College Roadmap

The typical student embarks on the college search by first choosing the college they love, then a major, and finally choosing a corresponding career path. Students should instead embark on their journey with the end in mind—a future career. Instead of focusing on the four years spent in college, turn your attention to the 40+ years you will work after graduation.

The college roadmap should be tailored to the individual student. Students should first ask themselves, “What am I wired to do?” While there’s not one simple answer to this question, conscientiously dialing into one’s personality allows one to easily identify what they are not wired to do. From there they can consult sites like the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook and O*Net Online to categorize job prospects accordingly. Students should hone in on career possibilities that satisfy their individual needs and interests. In that regard, the Birkman® assessment tool can be helpful since it identifies 77 personality scores. When personality data corresponds to a student’s academic profile, the results can be profound. (Find out more about the Birkman assessment here.)

The Back-Up Plan

Once potential careers are established, students should back up to the majors that feed to these careers and research colleges that are respected in those fields. Sometimes it’s one major—as is the case with teaching or engineering—but often there are several options that feed into a given career. Most guidance counselors’ offices contain a copy of Rugg’s Recommendations, which is a great tool to start looking at majors within a college.

On the college-bound journey, career needs to be at the forefront of each student’s choice of major. Choosing career first is actually an investment in college savings, since knowing upfront where your degree path will take you can save a lot of time and money.


This article was written by Lisa Mader

Lisa Mader relies on extensive teaching experience, a master's-level education, and affiliation with some of the industry's most important accreditation boards to help college-bound students maximize their performance and find their best-fit college. Through her company LEAP, Lisa has helped countless families in the areas of test preparation, college selection/application, choosing a major and future career, and much more.


  1. vermafam

    This is the way we were taught back home. We had to pick our careers after 10th grade and thus career choices were made way ahead of anything. There was no excuse not to finish your graduation/ under graduate on time. It saved a lot of time and money. I totally agree with Lisa.

  2. Alexander woods

    Sapient material right there. However,the college one goes to and goes through is very important in shaping up his/her life, and influencing inner patterns. I have watched several interviews from people who have gone through Oxford and several other varsities,and the general feeling is that the exposure faced is heavier in value in comparison to the job gotten from a firm. It gives them flexibility and freedom they wouldn’t trade for anything. Still, there’s a whole lot to take from the article.

  3. William E. Huggins


    My name is William E., I have an AA Degree, I am seeking to get a Certificate or a BS and I am interested in Planning or two others areas that I am doing research on; (The Consultant Field, Quantitative Analysis then I am looking at some Courses in Geographic Information Systems, and I hope that with the Job market being tuff today, that I make a good investment in what ever decision that I come to.


    HI;I am Jasman your suggestion is too good.I like your suggestions I Hope all people likes your suggestions BUT I interested to be a good doctor BUT I am impressed your suggestion…………………….

  5. Chase Spruce

    Hi my name is chase, i have heard many good things about this school and i was thinking about applying as well. I am a junior in Highschool so its time for me to start looking at colleges and figure out what i want to do, and i was thinking about going for athletic training and i was wondering if this school has a good athletic training program?

  6. Samantha

    I very much like the suggestions you have made. I could use this in the future cause i need to pick a couple of colleges soon. Thank you.

  7. brad gibson

    I am a freshman and would like to get a job in graphic arts

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  9. Lorraine Jackson

    I am 51 have dreamed about being a nurse, chef, and a writer since I was a child. I have been cooking, and writing poetry since age 10. I just want to encourage all the young people and the ones my age and older that it is never too late to follow and live our dreams. I will be attending Baker for Nursing and Mott for Culinary Art, and English Lit and I’m going to enjoy it because I love learning and obtaining knowledge. Because i know how much power it holds once you have it. I have a 30 year old son he is a Minister and a college student in Detroit where I just moved from. I’m in college late because I had to sacrifice for him and make sure his life and future was secure before I could begin mine. Being a single parent is tough I raised my son alone and turned out very well. Anything you desire in life van be yours no matter what it is don’t be afraid to dream and live and achieve what you desire and never let dream killers and haters keep you from it!

  10. Mehkiyjah Boyd

    So hello everyone I am 14 years old in my freshman year of high school. I always dreamed of opening my own law firm and I have been cooking since about the age of 6 an I don’t mean noodles and cereal. I appreciate these suggestions because I have bee looking forward to attending Harvard but I don’t want to put to much pressure on myself.

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