Five Common Myths About College Majors

Five Common Myths About College Majors

Myth #1: Applying "undecided" will hurt my college chances

Untrue. Many admissions reps will tell you–and Princeton even affirms it on its website–that applying as “undecided” won’t affect your chances. And there’s reason to believe them. Bucknell University reports on its website that about a quarter of its accepted students enter as "undecided," while the same is true for about one third of students at the U of Oregon. And what’s UCLA's most popular major for incoming freshmen? Yup. Undecided. (My friend works in the admissions office there; she told me.)


Myth #2: Once I've picked a major I have to stick with it.

Nope. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 80% of students change their majors at least once. (I changed mine twice.) So, chances are, you’ll change your major too.


Myth #3: My major is my career.

Not necessarily.

  • Anecdotal evidence: During a workshop I led I once asked a room full of about 100 adults, "How many of you changed your major in college?" Almost all raised their hands. "And how many of you are currently working in a career that's directly related to what you majored in?" One hand stayed up.

  • Hard numbers: according to a recent report, only 27 percent of college grads work in a job that matches their major. 



Myth #4: If I get a humanities or liberal arts degree I’ll be “unemployed and unemployable” because I won’t have any marketable skills.

Nope. One recent study suggests, in fact, that over the long haul humanities and social science majors out-earn those who went through professional and pre-professional programs. One reason, suggests Danielle Moss Lee, president and CEO of the Harlem Education Activities Fund, is that many graduates in more practical fields may find their skills are outdated within 5-10 years, while liberal arts students have the chance to invest in skills like writing that will be useful to them throughout their careers. If you’re interested, there are two good arguments for a liberal arts degree here and here


Myth #5: At some point I’ll have to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

As Mary Schmich said in that awesome Fatboy Slim song: "Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't."