Parents of high school juniors and seniors might feel daunted when called on to play career counselor to their offspring. Thomas J. Thomas, dean of University College at Wilkes University, has advice for guiding offspring through the process of choosing a college major and, potentially, their life’s work.
Thomas has more than 30 years of experience advising students in making such decisions. For 18 years, he worked with high school students in the Wilkes University Upward Bound program, helping to guide them to continue their education in college. More recently, he heads a team of counselors who help Wilkes students decide which academic field to study and what career options may be open to them as a result of their choice. His first piece of advice to parents is to embrace the fact that a high school student’s early career choices and their initial choice of acollege major are rarely final.
“In my experience with high school and first-year college students making these decisions, the vast majority of their initial career decisions are tentative,” Thomas says. “They will quickly admit this to a counselor or advisor which means they are also flexible to consider new options.”
Studies have shown that about 35 percent of college students change their major after entering college. Add the students who enter college without declaring a major and that number rises to as much as 50 percent who will change their minds or arrive at a decision after starting their higher education journey.
Knowing that few decisions are final can help to take the pressure off both parents and children. The best role that parents can take is that of a guide as opposed to offering strong opinions about the best fields of study
“I recommend that parents and guardians guide the decision-making process, especially by asking questions. Taking the time to ask specific questions shows interest as well as provides an opportunity to focus on the most critical aspects of making these decisions,” says Thomas. “Most of all, our questions can insure our children give serious consideration to those elements of the workplace that we have learned from (our own) experience.”
Thomas has written a short article with suggestion for parents who want to help their sons and daughters make decisions about majors and careers. Download a copy of the article here.
The article also was published in the August 1, 2020, issue of the Times-Leader. View the article on their site here.