Ditch the Majors and Find Your Passion at New Aberdeen

Classical Pedagogy

By Ryan F. Smith, D.M.A.

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This article is a companion to a previous blog, “Dad, I Need to Pick a Major!”

Are you stressed out about choosing a major? You’re not alone.

I remember calling my undergraduate advisor during my junior year of college in fear that my major would not create the professional opportunities that I hoped for. Just last month, I met a Christian student at a public university who spent an entire year as a computer science major, only to realize that his mathematical aptitude is too weak to remain in that field.

Statistics reflect these patterns. A recent study shows that “by the time students have attempted their first 20 to 35 credit hours, roughly a quarter of students have changed their major.”[1] Other reports suggest the percentage is even higher, with one article claiming that “80% of students in college end up changing their major at least once.”[2]

Even more telling, a majority of college graduates express dissatisfaction with their college major. According to a recent poll, more than sixty percent of college graduates regret their choice. Specifically, roughly 35% of Gen X, 33% of Baby Boomers, and 35% of the Silent Generation wish that they had chosen a different major so that they might better follow their passions.[3]

Clearly, the American approach to college majors is not serving the majority of America’s students. What is the solution to this ill-fitted rite of passage? Let’s ask it this way: ought adults to expect eighteen-year-olds to commit to a specialized course of study without first ensuring that this path aligns with their calling?

Sure, some people enter college with a clear and specific career path in mind. These students are often quite driven, continuing with a family business or occupation, or have experience in a particular vocation. But these students are not in the majority.  

New Aberdeen answers this dilemma by reclaiming the classical Christian model of education established in the medieval university model and later offered in America’s once-prestigious universities (e.g. Harvard, Yale, or Princeton).

How will a classical education prepare you for the 21st century? Many college-bound students do not need the pressure of deciding on a major as freshmen or sophomores. Instead, you need to learn how to think clearly and critically, establish thoughtful independence, and develop new lifelong relationships outside of your normal space. You need to learn the value of money and how to pay for your utilities and food. You need to build healthy habits and spiritual disciplines, learning how to serve in your local church community. These traits, not a specific major, will make you eminently employable and prepared to thrive in the workforce.

Not only that, an education that gives you tools to be a “free man” is precisely what students need today. And, this is exactly what the liberal arts were originally designed to provide. Unlike during your parents’ generation, employers now care less about your degree of study and more about your values and your skills. They want men and women who are able to attend to details , and work with vigor. Adaptability is highly prized.

New Aberdeen embraces the classical understanding of the liberal arts – seeking to develop true Renaissance men and women imbued with virtue, and equipping students to pursue a wide range of occupations rather than limiting them to a few.

But, classical learning on its own is insufficient for the Christian student. Rather, New Aberdeen exists to train young men and women to be free to pursue the calling for which you have been created. Christians need to stop approaching our calling from a secular mindset and think about it more biblically.
Ultimately, you need to view your vocation (and thus, your career preparation) as a part of your God-given mission. Ephesians 2:10 states that “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has called all of us to good works that reflect Christ’s lordship over us, but He has also uniquely prepared good works for you individually. Those good works are a function of your particular mission. Even the best secular career placement program cannot contextualize your calling in that light.

What New Aberdeen and its sister schools understand is that apprehending your calling is a process. Just as you need time to mature into adulthood, cultivating your life mission takes time. In his seminal book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, Richard Nelson Bolles writes, “I have learned that if you want to figure out what your Mission in life is, it will likely take some time. It is not a problem to be solved in a day or night. It is a learning process that has steps to it.”[4]

At New Aberdeen, we are committed to helping students develop a theological understanding of calling and take practical steps to walk out that calling. You’ll take assessments and meet with a certified Christian career coach to help you understand your strengths and where you can thrive while fulfilling your mission. We will connect you with pastors, teachers, and local professionals who can provide you with direction.

Ultimately, your education and career is not simply about you. You have been called by the God who made you to serve Him in this time and place. And we at New Aberdeen want to equip you learn to how to cultivate a fruitful, industrious life.

[1] Patrick A. Denice, “Choosing and Changing Course: Postsecondary Students and the Process of Selecting a Major Field of Study,” in Sociological Perspectives. 64, Issue 1, February 2021; 82-108.

[2] Cassandra Crawford Ciglar, “Normalizing the Norm of Changing College Majors,” University of Tulsa, website. https://utulsa.edu/news/normalizing-the-norm-of-changing-college-majors/. November 5, 2020.

[3] Reece Johnson, “New Survey Finds Most College Grads Would Change Majors“ on BestColleges, website. https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/college-graduate-majors-survey/

[4] What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers. New York: Ten Speed Press; 2019. 265.