Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Married to Your Major? Not at Wake Forest

Choosing a major is one of the most significant decisions students face during their time in college. The cost of higher education continues to climb upwards while the job market has been stagnant. As a result, the choice of major can feel like a life-or-death decision for students and their parents – especially when many embrace the inaccurate conventional wisdom that a student’s major is the primary indicator of his or her post-graduate employability and compensation.

At Wake Forest, students are not married to their major.  What one majors in does not directly correlate to employability or compensation. In fact, most employers are not primarily focused academic major content. But rather, the skills and work ethic that students develop in their courses, extracurricular activities and internships are paramount. Employers search for hires that can think critically, solve problems analytically, and form arguments which they then can defend both in writing and speech. Couple the classroom experiences with industry knowledge and technical expertise cultivated through extracurricular activities and internships and your student is an ideal candidate for many jobs and careers.

At our national Rethinking Success Conference, national thought leaders and employers discussed what they look for in new hires. Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, describes what he finds valuable in students:

Selecting a major that a student loves has many benefits. Foremost, students’ academic performances will be superior and their collegiate experiences will be more enjoyable when they study subjects that they are passionate about and interested in. Importantly, students will invest more time on subjects they find compelling and as a result, they will acquire more of the skills a liberal arts education aims to impart. Both an improved GPA, self-confidence, strong work ethic and additional marketable skills will place a student in an advantageous position in terms of employer interest and in securing graduate school admission or job offers.

Parents are very significant influencers when it comes to students selecting their major. Increasingly, parents have been steering their children towards majors with “high employability” to address their fears about post-graduate employment. However, studying a “practical” major can often lead to deteriorated job opportunities if it results in a lower GPA, lower self-confidence and enthusiasm, and fewer marketable skills. Encourage your child to pursue his or her academic interests and passions as it will not only lead to a more enjoyable time at Wake Forest, but will also help his or her career prospects.

Check out this WFU news story detailing four summer interns who have followed their passions, not necessarily their majors, to their current positions.  Also, see the variety of jobs that recent Wake grads have secured by major, check out these outcomes for each of the majors on the Explore Majors page.

Category: Major Selection