College Majors: Privilege vs Not-So-Much


I read this last week and this is bugging me and I cannot let it go. I don’t know this man and I don’t need to. But anyone who implies that it’s ok to go to college without direction or intention is dangerous. Or just rich.

“I'm a CEO and a dad. Here's the college advice I'm giving to my kids — including why I don't care what they major in.”

Let’s examine some of his profound statements:

“When I was a teenager stressing about my next step, my parents reassured me that an undergraduate degree doesn't have to define your future. In fact, it shouldn't.” 

True. No degree or college defines your future. But it strongly influences it. The critical years of 17-23 mold people and often set their life priorities. They see friends win and they see friends lose. This is when they decide if they want to be a winner or a loser. 

Another one:

“From their (parents) perspective, college was less about learning job skills and landing a career than it was about learning how to learn: developing critical thinking skills, exposing yourself to new ideas, and discovering how to communicate and defend your thoughts. My parents felt those lessons would be the most valuable in helping me find a suitable career path, and they were right. I couldn't see how at the time, but my French degree was critical in helping me learn about the world, and it eventually led me to a career in business leadership.” 

He fails to state that he has an MBA.

And one more:

Good for you. Or lucky you? Or can we say “nepotism?”

Define vs influence. Yes, I’m gonna pick through his words. College is too expensive for most American parents to pay for and not have a game plan for their kids. There are schools that cost $75K a year! If I have $300K for each of my kids to go to school, in principle alone, I do not want them to think that it’s ok to use that time to “find themselves.” Sure, I will encourage them to dabble in an elective or two outside of their intended major, but first things first, my kids need to know what college major and what career path best suits them before they even apply

I went to a liberal arts college and I was an English major. I knew prior to attending that I would focus on my strengths as a writer. Now, did my dad ask me every vacation “so what you gonna do with an English degree?” He damn sure did and I had nothing for him. Teaching made sense, but that meant I would be poor. I did it anyway. I struggled for years during and after college with the “what am I going to do?” syndrome. I asked myself “what am I skilled at?” “where do I want to work?” “How can I make money and support myself or even worse a family?” When a child goes off to college and after 4 years comes home and has less of a clue of what to do before he or she went in, that’s a problem. Or is it a privilege?

My company has counseled college-bound students for over a decade and overwhelmingly the majority of my clients believe that having direction helps their kids. It’s called guidance. Now, is it 100% foolproof? No. But children need parents to direct them towards majors and careers that they think -- not know -- might be best for them. Because in the end, who’s paying for it? Your money and their time cannot be wasted on being indecisive. Choose a major, learn some skills and prepare yourself to work or start a business. It’s what you will do for the next 40 years of your life.

When people shun “tiger moms”, I clap for them. To what degree you want to be that person is up to you, but the children of tiger moms are winning in the workforce. They have skills and discipline. Do they sometimes end up on a therapist’s couch wishing they would have followed their own dreams? Maybe. And while it’s not good to have regrets, regardless, they have a skill, they’re employable. In this day and age, your life has to have direction as early as possible. If not, your kid may end up back on your couch -- they don’t have a job or insurance to pay for a therapist -- and school was a waste. Or better yet, suggest a school for them that will equip them to start their own business. Whatever works for you.

This man can say this to his children because he’s wealthy. His company’s revenue last year was over $50M. I am sure that no matter what his kid’s major in, he will make sure they get jobs with him or through a family friend. 

What are you thoughts?