John is currently in his third year as an English college major. He thought he wanted to be a college English professor but says now that he’dlike to “do English” as a hobby but not a career. Often, peoplewho “like reading and writing” become English college majors only to find outit’s not what they thought it would be.

Costly effects of changing college majors

Science classes were always Connor’s favorite in high school. He loved being outdoors at the beach, rivers, and lakes. He was fascinated with fish and fishing. Although the parents didn’t know much about that field, they trusted that Connor had a career path in mind. It wasn’t until after he graduated that he realized that all the interesting fisheries jobs that paid well required a Masters or Ph.D. While Connor loved fisheries, he wasn’t willing to go back to school. After taking a career assessment and getting coaching he is thriving in Hospitality Management and he goes out fishing as often as he can.

There are thousands of stories of kids realizing they made the wrong choice for their college major. They picked their major based on a particular career. I was one of those kids, too. I went to school thinking I was going to be a marine biologist because I loved the water. You can hear more of my story here.

The U.S. Department of Education reported last year that about 1 in every 10 students change their major more than once. (see report)

While changing majors is not a new concept, it can be a costly one. The average costs for college can be up to $20,000 a year. Multiply that by at least four years, then you have a total cost of $80,000. If your child changes majors, then you are likely looking at them spending more than four years in college. Research shows that the average length has gone from four to six years. If they go six years, you are looking at a cost of $120,000. I’m not a math whizz, but I know that’s enough money to buy a vacation home or travel through Europe a few times! College, no doubt, is a huge financial investment.

Many students, like Connor, graduate in a field that they never get a job in because they realize it’s not what they want to do.  That’s not getting the most bang for your college bucks. The purpose of going to college is to get the education you need for your career, not your hobby.

So how can you avoid the costly mistake of your child picking college majors that end up being more of a hobby versus a career? Here are some tips:

Tip 1: Have your child talk to people currently working in the field they are interested in. This is a great opportunity for your child to find out what it’s really like to work in that field. They can find out the schooling they will need, what a typical day is like, tasks that are part of the job that they may not like so much.

Tip 2: Find out what courses are required to achieve a degree in that major. If I had done that, I would have realized much sooner that I didn’t want to be a marine biologist. My loathing for math was much bigger than my love of the water.

Tip 3: Enroll your child in a camp closely related to the field they are interested in. If your child is interested in being a video game developer, there are many camps where they can do this. This can help them decide if they really like doing it or maybe it should be a hobby, not a career.

Tip 4: Have your child take a career assessment. This is very beneficial for kids who have no idea what they want to do or if you want to make sure your child is picking a career versus a hobby. It’s a fast-track way to identify careers they will enjoy.  There are many different career assessments. You want to make sure they take one that is linked to data based on actual jobs.  Contact me at if you want to learn more about using a career assessment to help your child.

Remember, just because your child loves doing something doesn’t mean it’s a career and should be their college major. Take the steps to make sure you are helping your child plan for their future and keeping hard-earned money in your bank account.