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Psychologist Tells Parents Not To Push Their Kids To Choose A ‘Practical’ College Major — ‘The Goal Is Not To Build Careers’

Photo: Jacob Lund / Canva Pro
college student studying in library

It’s not hard to believe that the educational system in the United States is radically flawed. But, even with the widespread knowledge of its problematic standardization, it is still the most common route for young people after high school.

Even for people who’ve long since graduated from a university, it’s clear that many don’t look back on the experience as a foundation for their current career. Instead, it’s become a place for people to grow personally and interpersonally, developing the skills to be successful in the social world after graduating. 

So, for the generations of students heading to college in the next few years, psychologist Adam Grant took to Instagram to offer some advice. Throw out the idea of a practical education and, instead, focus on "broadening your mind." 

Grant urged parents not to force their children to choose a ‘practical’ college major, but instead to promote personal growth. 

According to Grant, being able to think, learn, grow, and socialize is foundational to anything a recent grad might pursue after college, and he suggested choosing a liberal arts education rather than a more focused educational pursuit. 

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Whether it’s the arts, language, history, or science, a liberal arts degree can help students prepare for a wide variety of careers

The misconception with a liberal arts education is that students aren’t receiving career-related skills and that the only way to be successful after college is to dedicate four years to a targeted field of study. 



Not only does a liberal arts degree equip young minds with a breadth of knowledge that can be helpful both in their careers and in their personal lives, but it also gives them the freedom to experience different subjects and to change their minds. 

It’s not a rare occurrence for students to change their majors, either. In fact, statistics show that as many as 50 to 75% of undergraduate students change their major at least one time before earning their degree. 

Whether or not they change their mind in college, there’s a great likelihood that they’ll change it down the road. In fact, the average American employee will change their career between three and seven times in their lifetime.

One thing parents need to remember as their kids embark on their journey into higher education is that employers are more interested in well-rounded candidates. The Association of American Colleges and Universities conducted a survey that found that 93% of employers agree that a candidate’s demonstrated “capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems” is more important than any undergraduate major.



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Some CEOs like Bill Gates suggested that liberal arts funding in universities was ‘a waste of taxpayer dollars.’ 

While some of the most successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates followed similar paths of disruptive innovation to acquire success,  they had very opposing views on education. 

Bill Gates suggested that the promotion of liberal arts programs, otherwise known as less practical majors for the job market, was not only a waste of taxpayer dollars but also caused a great deal of harm to job creation.

“In this era,” he declared in a speech to the nation's governors, “to break down and really say, what are the categories that help fill jobs and drive that state economy in the future — you find that it’s not across the board in terms of everything the state subsidies in higher education.” 



For Steve Jobs, however, Gates' view of modern education couldn’t have been further from his own beliefs. Before his death, he actively promoted a “Think Different” approach to the status quo and the educational institution at large. 

His perspective on learning promoted innovation, creativity, and diversity from the typical standard of education as it is now, and he believed that it was fundamental to being successful in cultivating the next generation of people. 

Outside of a liberal arts education, opportunities like internships or fellowships can be foundational to success after graduation. 

If you haven’t already heard the news from TikTok or Instagram, the 2023 pinnacle of horror is navigating post-graduate life. Not only is the time after graduating college already a tumultuous one trying to navigate adulthood with no safety net, but it’s almost impossible to find a job. 

A Harvard Business Review article confirmed the struggle. “Hiring efforts are no longer concentrated on entry-level jobs and recent graduates. (If you doubt this, go to the ‘careers’ link on any company website and look for a job that doesn’t require previous experience.)” 

psychologist says don't force kids to choose practical majorsPhoto: Syda Productions / Canva Pro

According to HubSpot, almost 85% of jobs are filled through networking — so regardless of your educational background, intellectual success, and interpersonal skills in an interview, the truth is you might not be getting jobs because you haven’t made connections.

So, how can you make those connections (and get ahead of the crowd early)? Internships. 

Internships and fellowships are short-term opportunities for people to gain professional experience, engage in research or projects, and gain mentorship from people in a specific profession or industry.



Oftentimes, internships can be a path to a full-time position, especially if you’re demonstrating growth and curiosity within the role. 

So, be curious and courageous in the choices you make at college. Take Grant's advice and broaden your horizons. The only person who has control over your life is you. Make decisions that will set you up for success both within your career and wholly as a person. 

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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture analysis and human interest stories.