Many Students Select a College Major That Doesn’t Fit Their Interests Well
IOWA CITY, Iowa—Only about a third of ACT®-tested high school graduates selected a college major that is a good fit with their interests, according to a new research report from ACT titled College Choice Report Part 1: Preferences and Prospects. The findings suggest that high school students need more help planning for college and career—and that the majority want such assistance.
ACT’s research looked at the 79 percent of ACT-tested 2013 high school graduates who reported a college major that they planned to pursue, comparing their ACT Interest Inventory profile with profiles of college students in the same program of study. Students complete the ACT Interest Inventory when registering for the exam. Interest profiles for students with the same majors were based on a national sample of undergraduate students with a declared major and a grade point average of at least 2.0.
Although the majority of ACT-tested graduates selected a major that was at least a moderate fit with their interests, only 36 percent selected one that was a good fit, while nearly as many—32 percent—selected a major that was a poor fit with their interests.
“It’s important for students to have the information they need to make the best decisions about their future,” said Jon Erickson, ACT president of education and career solutions. “They should be made aware that choosing a college major that reflects their interests will give them a better chance of succeeding and could also contribute to their satisfaction and happiness in school and on the job.”
Previous ACT research has suggested that students whose interests are similar to those of people in their chosen college majors are more likely to remain in their major, persist in college and complete their degree in a timely manner. Students who change their major while in college may have to take additional courses to satisfy degree requirements or even transfer to a different institution, potentially delaying their graduation.
ACT’s report indicates that a student’s intended major can play a significant role in which college he or she chooses to attend. Half of those students who indicated a planned major reported that the availability of a particular major was the most important factor in selecting a college.
“Students who start out with the right major choice can save significant time and money, which is increasingly important given the rising cost of attending college,” said Erickson. “Far too many colleges require students to select a major without looking at how well the students’ interests fit with their intended program of study.”
The ACT report suggests that students would welcome help with their planning. Around three out of five ACT-tested 2013 graduates indicated that they needed assistance with their educational and occupational plans. Among students who were undecided on a college major, the number indicating that they needed assistance rose to more than seven out of ten.
“We must do more to help students connect their majors and, ultimately, their careers to their interests, so they can be on a path for success,” said Erickson. “ACT offers a number of free resources to help students plan for college and career, and we are working to develop more to help in this area.”
ACT’s free resources include the World-of-Work Map, which is included with every ACT score report, and the new ACT Profile, the first college and career readiness social community. ACT’s website for students, www.actstudent.org, offers other free college and career planning resources, including tips, checklists, and information on topics such as academic preparation, choosing a college major, choosing a college, and applying to colleges.
ACT will release the College Choice Report Part 2 in July 2014.