The Right Major Saves Money

  When a high school student imagines college, they might envision ivy covered brick buildings, sidewalks surrounded by lush greenery, and fountains where the water trickles out a lion’s mouth. Their parents, on the other hand, may have a different vision: ivy covered gold brick buildings, sidewalks paved with hundred dollar bills, and their liquid assets spewing from the lion’s mouth.   There is no doubt that the cost of attending college is rising. As is the amount of student debt after graduation. So, consider this challenging idea: even as a freshman in high school, you can start saving for college without putting a dime in your piggy bank or your parents starting a 529-College Savings Plan.   How can you do this? By actively planning ahead. Many students that do not spend time researching and trying out their career choice before college end up changing their minds and majors well into their second, third, or even last year of college. This can cause some serious financial trouble.   Take “Freddy” for instance. He was an All-State trumpet player and the Drum Major for marching band his senior year. His participation in band did not leave him much time to be proactive about his college plans. However, he had good grades, so he auditioned at a college with a fairly prestigious music program near his home town and received a scholarship. His parents were ecstatic!   After his sophomore year in college as a performance major, he spoke with an advisor and realized the two main career options open to him, teaching or playing, were not what he saw himself doing for the rest of his life. So, after speaking with his parents and friends, and doing the research he didn’t make time for in high school, he discovered that marketing and business were a better fit.   Freddy sat down with his advisor. Bad news: only a few of his credits would transfer to his new degree plan. He lost two years of progress and his scholarship as well. In addition, his loan debt would be doubled.  Freddy did graduate in six years and was happy with his new major, but wishes he had realized his true passion sooner.   While “Freddy” may be a fictional character, his story is one told by more students on college campuses than you can imagine. Financial planning starts at the beginning, not with the first scholarship search.   Believe it or not, college administrators are just as concerned about student debt as you are. Recently, Inside Higher Ed reported that Ohio Northern University had the highest student debt at graduation. On average, students are graduating with $50,000 in student loan debt, which is twice the national average. That’s a down payment on a new home!   Ohio Northern discovered that many of their students were switching majors after their second or third year of study. To turn this around, the school now requires students wishing to switch their major to seek out a financial aid representative to discuss the financial aspect of their decision.   CAA believes that financial aid really does start at the beginning. The first step to successful college planning is choosing the right fit career and major. Do your research and discuss careers with people who know you well. Can you see yourself in a particular career field? What jobs will be available when you graduate? What other careers would better suit your desires and personality?   Seek out a professional in the field(s) you find most intriguing and talk to them. Shadow, volunteer, or find a part-time job in the industry. Join a club at school that will help you learn more about the fields that interest you. There are so many ways to ensure you’ve chosen the right career for you. So get going and start planning for your future now!