transitioning to college

Can a student’s choice of major or degree have an impact on lifetime earnings?  According to recently released data from the US Census Bureau, it can.  Not only does a choice in major impact overall lifetime earnings, the degree, itself, can even have an impact on earnings for people within a given career.  Here’s what a few of our College Coach admission experts have to say…

Becky Leichtling:  Averages can be helpful, but never tell the whole story—that of individual people making personal choices. A college roommate of mine, for example, majored in Spanish, moved to Guatemala to teach English, returned to Boston to work at an immigrants’ rights organization (where she realized the value of law and policy), became a paralegal at a corporate law firm, and then went on to a Top 10 law school. Another old roommate majored in business, graduated with a consulting job making 6 figures, became more and more unhappy and unsatisfied with his work, finally quit to backpack through Guatemala (funny coincidence), and now lives in the cabin he built in Northern Vermont making pottery. Neither are in the career they imagined leaving college; both are happy with the choices they are making. Your college education and the major you pursue will create a wealth of opportunities for you to choose your own adventure, but the choice of major you make at 18 years old will not close doors that can never be reopened.

Meredith Herrera:  At a minimum, this article underscores the importance of pursuing education beyond the secondary level.  Should students at least think about the potential economic impact of their course of study before choosing a major?  Absolutely.  You wouldn’t buy a new car without taking a look at Consumer Reports.  So making informed decisions does matter.  But let’s be careful not to make an automatic correlation between higher income and increased happiness.  Working to make a difference in the world or feeling fulfilled play just as powerful a potential role in determining professional or personal satisfaction.  So in the end, a student will hopefully choose a course of study thoughtfully; one which he feels holds the most promise in helping him learn, grow, and keep the lights on!

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Written by Zaragoza Guerra
Zaragoza Guerra is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Zaragoza previously worked as a senior admissions officer at MIT, Caltech, and The Boston Conservatory.