Our View: Freshmen: Choose your major wisely--and buckle down

May 26, 2011 12:16:00 PM



A new crop of college graduates is entering the workforce. On their heels are a fresh crop of college freshmen. 


Freshmen, listen up. That crop of graduates, out there right now scrambling to find a decent job, are learning a lesson that we''ll teach you now. 


Chances are, you''re going to graduate with debt. The average college graduate enters the workforce owing about $27,000 in student loans, from both government and private sources. 


That compares to an average of about $14,000 in 1993. Students leave college today saddled with twice as much debt as they did only 20 years ago. 


That startling fact is included in a new study from George-town University that analyzed which degrees, specifically, pay the most money. We all know that a college degree means more earning power, but Georgetown parsed through new Census numbers, which include data on specific degrees for the first time. 


So, college freshmen: If you decided to major in petroleum engineering, from a financial point of view, you chose wisely. That degree has the highest earning power, according to the Georgetown study, with majors pulling in $120,000 on average. They''ll have the easiest time repaying their $27,000 debt. 


If you chose to major in psychology, you may need counseling. Psychology and counseling majors have the worst earning power, bringing in $29,000 annually, on average. They''ll have the hardest time repaying their $27,000. 


Joining those psych majors in the rear are education and arts majors. 


Remember these numbers, freshmen. Choose wisely. Right now, most of you are more concerned with which social club, fraternity or sorority you''re going to join, than which job you''re going to do when it''s time to join the workforce. 


The last thing you''re thinking about is how you''re going to repay your student loan debt. 


We''re not suggesting that every college student can or should aspire to be a petroleum engineer. Far from it. College also offers students an opportunity to find their bliss, if you will; to seek a field for which they are well suited, will offer fulfillment and (we hope) provide a livelihood. 


Whatever you major in, remember this: A college education is worth it. All college graduates, on average, have higher earning power than those without a four-year degree. 


We just ask you -- we implore you -- to reflect seriously on what you want to do the rest of your life, because the rest of your life starts right now. Choose your major wisely. Then, buckle down, and treat your college career like the job that it is. You don''t realize it now, but your future depends on this. 


Many recent graduates, just four years older but many years wiser, wish they''d learned that lesson sooner.