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Many Americans Regret Their College Choices

Graduates of Baruch College participate in a commencement program at Barclays Center, Monday, June 5, 2017, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Graduates of Baruch College participate in a commencement program at Barclays Center, Monday, June 5, 2017, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Many Americans Regret Their College Choices
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A majority of Americans say they would change their choice of college, degree or field of study, if they could do it over again.

Gallup, an American research-based company, and the Strada Education Network reported in June that 51 percent of Americans regret one of their college education choices.

The study also found that 36 percent of Americans said they would change their major if they could. Twenty-eight percent of Americans said they would choose a different college or university. And 12 percent said they would choose a different degree program.

Precious A. Smith is the Deputy Director for the Center for Academic Excellence at Howard University. Smith does not want people to think that 51 percent of American college graduates are unhappy with what they are currently doing.

She says the students “might have just made different choices if they had different information at the time they were picking a major or picking an institution to graduate from.”

Students often end up choosing between a career that will make them happy and a career that will make a lot of money, she says. Many students therefore end up picking a major that they are not very satisfied with.

Beth Davis is a graduate of the University of Maryland. She says, “I went to college because everybody else was going to college.”

Davis says her degree in history and English has nothing to do with her current job. She never took a business class in college but she now runs a successful construction business. She believes that on the job training may be a better option for many people.

“The things that I am interested in, I always would have learned about anyway. I didn’t need a college degree to do that,” she says.

STEM and technical students have fewer regrets

The poll found that there were two groups of students that were more satisfied with their educational decisions. One included students who completed trade, technical or work-related study programs. And the other included students who specialized in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, an area known in American education as STEM.

The poll also found that individuals with higher student loan debt are more likely to say they would change at least one educational decision.

Smith of Howard University says that some former students “probably didn’t realize how much that loan debt was going to affect their current lifestyle.”

She advises students to be flexible with their career goals. She says students need to understand that “your career goal at the end of high school and your career goal at the end of college are going to look a little bit different.”

Ashley Riley is a developmental specialist at Early Intervention, a service that works with children who have developmental delays.

Riley wishes that she had more information about other majors and career options when she attended college.

Riley said it was her current job at Early Intervention that, in her words, “opened my eyes up to all of these other majors that I have never really been exposed to in my college career.”

If she could go back to college again, Riley said she would have majored in occupational therapy or speech therapy instead of education and psychology.

The poll also showed that a person’s desire to change their educational decisions is related to the kind of college or university they attended.

About half of students at public or state universities, which receive government money, would change at least one of their educational decisions. The number is higher for private and for-profit schools.

The research was part of a three-year study to help colleges and students complete education with a purpose.

The researchers collected information from June 29, 2016 through March 26, 2017. They spoke by telephone with over 89,000 people throughout the United States, including the District of Columbia.

I’m Mario Ritter.

And I’m Olivia Liu.

Olivia Liu reported this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Do you regret any of your education decisions? Let us know in the comments section.


Words in This Story

major n. a subject chosen as a field of specialization

degree – n. an honor given to a student after his or her completion of a study program

technical – adj. related to a job specific skill

flexibleadj. willing or able to change

occupational therapyn. a type of treatment for those recovering from illness