Choosing a College and Major
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 Updated 7/3/18   Professor A   Please link to, use to educate, and share.




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  Choosing a College

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Editor's Note: Open enrollment for profit programs are a new name for trade/career schools s

1) I have been accepted at a good school and am afraid I can't do the work.
Unless you have excellent academic ability as indicated by the previous chart you should try to attend a school in which you are in the middle half of the freshman class. For most students college is more than an academic experience and competing against students that are much stronger academically will lower grades and deprive you of many nonacademic experiences. While standardized test are not a good predictor of success as measured by graduation, they do well predicting academic and career success. If your SAT is 1000 and the average at your good school is 1,100 then you may graduate but your grades and non-academic experiences may be low.
2) I have been accepted at a GOOD BUT EXPENSIVE SCHOOL, should I attend?
There are many positive aspects to attending an expensive liberal arts college away from home but the economic return for such an investment is negligible. Borrowing means repayment and most find repayment difficult. A tight post-college budget due to excessive loans is very difficult to endure especially after the sacrifice made to finish college. Live at home, go public, CC if necessary, and if after two years you think the added investment is worthwhile, go for it.

3 How can I maximize college financial aid.
Colleges compete for students and award financial aid accordingly.  

"According to Terry Connolly, former dean emeritus of Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University says “apparent stress-relieving benefits to students of early decision also mask a trifecta of big wins for the colleges: more students on [pay] full sticker-price tuition ...  ...and many students losing any tuition bargaining leverage.” ...the actual cost of any given college isn’t available until after a student has invested a lot of their time and emotional energy creating a kind of emotional “sunk cost”—it makes it harder to stay objective once the true cost is known. from The Counterintuitive Economics of Choosing a College

They start with your Expected Family Contribution. Students with high standardized tests scores are sought after. If relative to other freshman applicants your scores are high you receive more aid. Students with a desired skill be it the Arts, Sports, etc. receive more aid. If you have high relative scores or skills a private school close to home may be less expensive after financial aid than an inexpensive live-in public school. See Financial Aid 

Warning: Colleges will create a first year financial plan based upon your savings, grants and scholarships and a number of loans. Loans that may be federally sponsored, private, and even from the college. There is nothing logical for first year loans. Nothing. Loans can be as addictives as credit cards and just as dangerous.

  Choosing a Major
1) Do I have to choose a major right away?
Answer: Probably not. Many schools will ask you to declare a major after a year or two.
Department A of State U has accepted my application and Department B which offers my preferred major has rejected my application. I really like State U. What should I do? 
Most students change majors or end up working in a career field unrelated to their major. That said, attend Department A of State U, work hard to maximize your cumulative grade point average, and apply for a change of major to Department B.  A high paying STEM major may be worth the effort but be prepared to work very hard. See Not All College Majors Are Created Equal.

Students Personal Finance

3) Why is a major important
You should major in something you like to do, rather than something you like to study. You may like to study psychology, but do you want to get a master's degree and be a school psychologist. or work in social services. 2)  If economics return is important then major is important. At the very least choose a high demand minor. The vast majority of job openings will be in health care, education, business, and high paying STEM areas. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics pay the most. There are fewer really good paying jobs in liberal arts and social sciences.

4) Are there steps I should
follow in choosing a major?
Choosing a Career  2) Matching Careers to Degrees
Data on College Majors     

Ivy Obsession Falls Flat
College Majors Not Equal  
Well- Rounded Student Myth

Careers/ majors often not a match


Average Starting Salaries According to Payscale's 2015-2016 College Salary Report:

Academic Major Salary with a Bachelor's Degree Salary with a Master's Degree




Business Administration



Computer Science



Elementary Teacher Education









Mechanical Engineering






Political Science







College Access is About Guidance as well as Money

See A Compelling Argument For Ivy League Obsession Falls Flat