College students trade dreams for paychecks

College student dream
Students have their hearts increasingly set on their paychecks and not the footlights, a new report finds.
Credit: Thinkstock

Satisfaction in the pocketbook is trumping personal fulfillment for incoming college freshmen, according to a new study.

ACT, the nonprofit testing company that helps students prepare for college, released a report last month regarding how today’s students choose a major. It found that close to a third of incoming freshmen are enrolling not in a field that interests them, but rather one that will help them land steady, well-paying jobs after graduation.

It sounds like a practical — though less than exciting — college plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s a wise move.

This isn’t the first time this trend has surfaced. “It’s interesting that this phenomenon is happening again,” says organizational psychologist Dr. Billie Blair. “It was a prevalent practice 20 to 30 years ago when so many were encouraged to go into medicine because of the excellent pay.”

A steady paycheck is a wonderful thing, especially right out of college. It’s important for freshmen to remember, too, that their sanity and happiness also come into play when choosing a major. “No doubt about it, in today’s economic environment students need to be practical in selecting majors,” states Carol A. Sitterly, dean for academic success at American International College. “But they also need to select majors and career fields that they can feel passionate about over the next 40 years of their working life.”

Keeping that passion alive and active isn’t always easy when graduates are struggling to find work. Like so many things in life, being able to strike the right balance can make all the difference.

“The critical question is whether [students] can find a space in that world that they are good at and that they can get excited about even as they chase a paycheck,” says Rita McGrath, associate professor at Columbia Business School.

McGrath reminds us that no matter how much time a student puts into the decision-making process, things can change while at school. “Very few students find that their careers unfold as they predicted, so the choice of major is probably a much smaller determinant of ultimate outcomes than we might assume,” she says.

Switching majors

The dreams versus paychecks debate isn’t just for incoming students, it also affects current students who are thinking about changing majors. The best way to figure it out is with the resources that are already available. “Students thinking about changing majors should take an interest inventory and talk with an academic or career adviser about what jobs match their interests,” says Sitterly.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

Movies

Interview: Robert Rodriguez doesn't mind that Jessica Alba…

In making a Hollywood-friendly adaptation of Frank Miller's gritty "Sin City" graphic novel series, Robert Rodriguez learned that some things have to go — namely…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to longterm happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. A new…

Parenting

Fun family activity: Off-Broadway show for pre-teens

"The Love Note" is an off-Broadway musical your pre-teen won't roll his or her eyes at.

Parenting

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung to release…

Barnes & Noble releases the first full android tablet optimized for reading.