How do your students pick their majors? They "phone a friend"

Close friends and colleagues played a decisive role in choosing a college major for over half of American college graduates, Zac Auter reports for Gallup.

Gallup conducted a survey to find out who influences a very high-stakes and personal decision for many: what to major in during college. Gallup, in conjunction with Strada Education Network, surveyed 22,000 bachelor's and associate degree-holders between January and August.

The most common sources of advice

The survey found that an individual's social circle is the most common source of advice about college majors. Roughly 55% of college graduates have received advice about their college major from their informal social network, including friends, family, and people in their community. The next most common source of advice (44%) was authoritative sources such as college and high school counselors as well as websites and publications dedicated to college preparation.

The least common sources of advice

College graduates were least likely to receive advice from sources with whom they did not have a personal connection or whose job function did not directly relate to college preparation. For instance, only 32% of those surveyed reported receiving advice about their college major from faculty and non-advising staff at their college. And only 20% reported receiving advice from an employer or someone who worked in the field of the major they were considering.

Implications

Auter argues the survey's findings indicate a greater need for a model of advising that includes exposure to professionals in students' desired industry or the field corresponding to their major.

While students are least likely to seek advice on their college major from employers and other working professionals in their desired field, those who did seek advice from those sources were the most likely to report it as helpful in the survey, notes Auter. Additional exposure to industry leaders could come in the form of more vocational courses, internships, apprenticeships, and other forms of practical work experiences, Auter writes (Auter, Gallup, 9/25). 


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