Higher Ed: Why The College Major May Matter Less Than We've Always Thought

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Choosing a major is a rite of passage for higher education students, and it can feel like a – dare we say it –major decision with lifelong implications. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss what could – and sometimes should –go into choosing a major plan of study.

Sometime in a student's higher education career, a decision has to be made about a major, that set of courses a student chooses to study a subject more deeply. The decision can feel like a significant, irrevocable one that can impact the rest of their lives. But Ed suggests dialing back the stress to make that one, perfect decision.

"The major itself is not as important as the experience and the growth opportunities that come from that major," he says. "That's why you hear so many people, especially in the liberal arts and science, talk about how it doesn't even matter what your major is. As long as you're involved and interested and engaged, you will have that growth experience that will allow you to become better and to figure out the next thing you do, and that leads you to the next thing ... because you're constantly going toward your passion."

Ed also believes timelines that require students to declare a major at a specific point in time during their college career can discourage academic exploration and excitement about discovering new fields of interest.

"I'd like to see people declaring majors when they really are intellectually fired up about the thing, rather than it's time to do it."

Listen to the full episode for more about the process of academic discovery that can lead to declaring a major. It is also time for the solution to the puzzler about escaping a room while avoiding scorching heat and a fire-breathing dragon. Think it can't be done? Wait til you hear the oh so simple solution!

This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.

For all of the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.