Picking a college major remains a crucial choice your student will make in college. A college major, after all, explicitly impacts the employment of a student upon graduation.
In essence, what a student chooses to study in college largely determines what skills they possess once they leave college.
Yet, for students, picking a college major often feels like this:
Good news: it doesn’t have to be.
What Changing Their Major Costs Students
Several posts ago, we discussed how much changing a major in college costs students. Overall, it costs them time and money. Each time a student changes their major, it usually postpones their graduation by a semester.
While this adds on more time spent in college, it also costs more money.
It usually takes a student 5.7 years to finish college, not four.
And as you can imagine, these expenses add up.
This is money that parents often end up paying. If not, it means racking up more student debt. Naturally, no one wants this: parents or students alike.
Before explaining the solution to this problem, it’s important first to understand the cause.
Two Problems with Students Picking A College Major
Many parents reasonably expect their students to methodically pick their college major. After all, we expect much from high school students. This is their career, after all, their future. And we want them to take the responsibility seriously. But… we also want them to do A LOT of other important things while they’re in high school.
We want them to make great grades. We’d like them to take tough classes and challenge themselves. We yearn for them to make good choices that reflect the values their parents have tried to instill in them. We also want them to have friends, hobbies, a community, and if there’s time, some fun. We want them to have ambitions for their future career and a plan to realize those ambitions. We want. We Want. WE WANT!
Problem #1: Inexperience
Even if students do everything their parents want, students still have one shortcoming. And this shortcoming is the pivotal problem students have.
What is that shortcoming? (see below)
ANSWER: Experience, or the lack of it.
Students are young, and with youth comes a lack of experience. We, adults, reflect on our experiences or use the expertise we’ve gained from experience to make the most effective decisions.
Thus, it’s tough to expect students with no career experience to make reliable career plans. After all, you wouldn’t want a poet to do your taxes any more than you’d want an accountant to write the next novel you read.
Why? Because they likely lack the experience required to be effective in those fields.
Ultimately, a young genius is still young.
Thus, students need help planning their careers. Yet, we usually don’t think of student career planning this way: as something every high school student needs help with. However, what skills and knowledge have students ever learned completely by themselves?
Parents taught them to speak. Teachers taught them to write, add and subtract, etc. Even if your student is fiercely independent and picks up new skills seemingly from nowhere, they likely had some help.
Now, that help may have been a youtube tutorial or an article, or a book. Whatever form that help came in, it was created, arranged, and organized to be a guide. And guidance, as it turns out, is exactly what students need in their career planning, not isolation.
So, expecting students to figure their careers out by themselves doesn’t do them many favors.
Problem #2: Self-Awareness of Talents
Hear me out. There’s a good chance that your student possesses great self-awareness. If so, they likely have a general understanding of their personality, character flaws, and interests. Some students may even have a solid assessment of the skills they excel in and those they don’t.
Yet, these self-assessments suffer from the bias of being self-assessed. There’s a lot of research showing that humans aren’t reliable when estimating their own abilities.
One study published in 1999 revealed something called the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a “cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence.”
In the study, students rated their skills in three areas: grammar, logic, and humor. Those who were the least skilled in these areas tended to give themselves much higher scores (60% average), while students with the most proficiency tended to rank themselves much lower.
In other words, often, students with the least expertise tend to be the most confident.
Echoing this sentiment, Charles Darwin put it this way:
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”
Yes. Even your student, with all their skill and talent, is likely to overestimate their skills or expertise, especially when it comes to picking a major. That doesn’t mean they’re bad kids, just inexperienced.
Thus, the knowledge students need to pick their majors isn’t the knowledge they currently possess. They need an unbiased tool to measure their aptitudes, not rely on their own self-awareness.
How to Pick the Right College Major
Ideally, students should find a career that capitalizes on their strengths. Picking the right college major will educate them and prepare them for that career.
Yet, how can students get the unbiased data they need to pick their college majors?
If self-assessment can’t be trusted, students need an empirical tool to assess their talents. While such a tool exists, though, it’s important to understand why we would want to measure talents in the first place.
Another word for talent is aptitude. Aptitudes are natural abilities students possess. These abilities predispose them to excel at certain tasks.
To help illustrate how aptitudes work, let’s take the composer Mozart as an example. You and I can agree that Mozart likely put in the time to get “good” at music.
This makes sense. People don’t become world-class musicians or classical composers overnight.
However, while Mozart may have put in thousands of hours (if not tens of thousands), we also agree that Mozart had something special. This special sauce gave Mozard an advantage which made him more naturally inclined to excel in music.
The special sauce is aptitude, or natural ability or talent. And you can measure them by taking a reliable aptitude test.
Use Aptitude Testing to Pick A College Major
Aptitude tests don’t measure skills, interests, or personality. They measure raw, natural ability. Now, this doesn’t mean that skill or interests have no place in picking a college major. In fact, a student’s skills and interests are vital in picking a career. However, they’re just one piece of the puzzle, and they’re easy to measure.
Additionally, skills and interests change. Aptitudes don’t. You’re born with them. Lastly, aptitudes are a lot more difficult to measure.
The magic happens when high school students develop skills that complement their aptitudes. When this happens, you have a prodigy or at least something that looks like one.
This is why using an aptitude test is vital in helping your student pick their major. With the right aptitude testing, you can find careers that naturally with your student’s inborn abilities.
Pick the Right Aptitude Testing Service (NOT THE SCAMS)
In our last we post, we went over how to pick the correct aptitude test for your student. For a more thorough summary, give that post a read. Suffice it to say, you want to avoid personality tests.
In fact, if you type the words “aptitude test” in a google search, you won’t find one. Instead, you’ll find personality tests and skill assessments, which are not aptitude tests (see below).
The google search above doesn’t link you to a reliable aptitude test. It links you to personality quizzes and career skills assessments.
Personality tests or quizzes have their place, but they can’t measure your student’s natural talents.
What Does Aptitude Testing Measure?
The right Aptitude Test can show your student their array of cognitive abilities and strengths. Here are a few of the traits an advanced aptitude test measures. Don’t worry about remembering everything, as the list is long!
- Problem Solving Ability
- Spatial and Structural Affinity (think engineer aptitude)
- Foreign Language Talent
- Visual Memory
- Musical Aptitude
- Administrative Talent
- Reading Speed and Memory
- Learning Aptitudes (whether by reading, sound, movement, visual, or number)
How Does An Aptitude Test Help My Student?
Our aptitude testing includes detailed reports that connect talent with career data (see below).
However, the reports don’t just give you a list of careers you have to research. Your reports are linked to ONET, the department labor’s database for almost every career in the US. So, when you click on any of the careers, you’ll see all the data the Department of Labor has on said career. This data includes the following:
- Required Skills
- Required Education
- Typical Personality
- Technology Most Used
- Job Outlook
- Average Salary
- Average Salary by State
Having all this data at your fingertips simplifies your career research. In fact, it cuts your career planning in half or even smaller fractions by saving you time. Additionally, students and parents can be confident that their career options are solid, data-driven opportunities based in the student’s natural abilities.
How Will Parents and Students Make Sense of the Aptitude Testing Reports?
Only a certified aptitude testing consultant should guide your student through this process. The key benefit students have with using our aptitude testing services is the debrief they’ll receive after completing it. Each student will receive a 1.5-2 hr debrief of their aptitude testing results.
In this debrief, I review their scores, help them interpret their results, and show them how to use their reports.
Advanced Aptitude Testing is the key ingredient to picking the best college major for students If you wish to use advanced aptitude testing to guide your student, schedule a free consultation today.
Help your student pick their major with data-driven confidence. Empower them with self-awareness as to what their strengths are.
Finally, taking an aptitude test will give them the edge they need to avoid changing their major. This saves them precious time and parents money.
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 Hanson, Melanie. “College Graduation Statistics” EducationData.org, June 12, 2022,