COLLEGE CONNECTION: The myths of choosing a college major – Part II


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The New York Times recently chronicled what it called “Six Myths About Choosing a College Major.” But are they really myths? Last week we examined the first three “myths,” and pointed out the veracity behind each one. Now we will consider the last three.
Myth 4: Liberal arts majors are unemployable.
Obviously, no educated people are “unemployable” due to their choice of college major. But that being said, numbers do not lie. While liberal arts majors are far from unemployable, they are not likely to reach the top salary range among those in their age bracket. With the sticker price of a four-year college education (including room and board) exceeding a quarter of a million dollars at many nearby institutions, students should certainly weigh the cost of their investment with the anticipated return in the form of lifelong salary.
According to recent statistics released by “PayScale,” the median pay for early career STEM majors is $51,400, while the median pay for early career liberal arts majors is $41,300.  Students should definitely consider the financial ramifications of “following their dreams.”
Myth 5: It’s important to choose a major early.
The New York Times, in labeling this a “myth,” asks “Why settle on a field of study before experiencing the smorgasbord college has to offer?” The answer to this question is time and money. Students who enter college “undecided,” or who change their major after beginning their studies, frequently end up spending more than four years at their college/university in order to meet the graduation requirements of the major.
Also, when students begin their college studies “undecided,” they later have to apply to be admitted to the department of their choice. There is no guarantee they will be accepted. So, once students decide that they want to be business majors, for example, if they are not admitted to the College of Business they either have to change their career path or transfer to a different college.
Myth 6: You need a major
The New York Times quotes a dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who states, “Majors are artificial and restrictive.” Dean Christine Ortiz is on leave from MIT to design a new, nonprofit university that will have no majors, no classrooms, and no lectures. That may be a flash of the future, but the reality for students attending college now – or anytime soon – is that you definitely do need a major. Some colleges allow students to design their own major, but you still need a major. No one is awarded a college diploma for taking a hodgepodge of disconnected courses.
Susan Alaimo is the founder and director of SAT Smart in Hillsborough that has been offering PSAT, SAT, and ACT preparation courses, as well as private tutoring by Ivy League educated instructors, for more than 20 years. Visit