People Disagree With Us November 16, 2015

Ian Welham “People disagree with us.”


College planning should start with the 40-year career in mind first, then work backwards to finding appropriate majors and right-fit colleges.

Not everyone agrees. Many argue that college is our one-and-only chance in life to “find ourselves,” and that the real point of college is intellectual exploration. A valid viewpoint, certainly.

In fact, this very debate played out in a recent Wall Street Journal article (“Today’s Anxious Freshmen Declare Majors Faster Than Their Elders”). The article points out that skyrocketing tuition costs and student debt, coupled with a soft economy, has made today’s college students more career focused.

“People don’t go to college anymore to be fulfilled or to gain life perspective; they go to get a great job,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment and marketing at DePaul University in Chicago.

Indeed, at DePaul, the percentage of freshmen with undeclared majors fell from 31% to 16% over the past seven years. At Rollins College, 13% of first-year students were undeclared this year, versus 31% in 2006-07. At the University of Denver, the percentage of undeclared freshmen has declined more than 80% during the last 20 years. Today it stands at just 6%.

David Spight, the assistant dean for academic advising and career counseling at the University of Texas at Austin, cautions that freshmen may be too young to declare a major. “How do you know that you don’t want to major in anthropology, if you’ve never taken an anthropology class?” he asks.

I can’t help but wonder what my grandfather would have thought about this debate. I would love to have seen the look on his face if I ever suggested him writing a check for $200,000 for me or my sister to “find ourselves.”

I think about a friend who, back in the 1970’s, told his parents he was thinking about switching majors from engineering to liberal arts. His mother — who had never graduated high school — and his father — who never attended college — replied that they looked in the Help Wanted section and couldn’t find any job descriptions that started with “liberal arts.”

I think about our client Jim Coyle, who’s President of the Gateway Chamber of Commerce. Jim is an expert on particular areas of ancient Middle Eastern history. But he was also wise enough to earn degrees in economics. It’s his economics knowledge that he’s parlayed into a successful career. Jim is still fascinated by, and still actively studies, ancient history. But he doesn’t rely on that for his livelihood.

I don’t want readers to think I’m against intellectual exploration. College is a wonderful place to expand your mind, broaden your thinking, and explore new ideas. I’m all for learning about anthropology. But at top colleges today, each course hour costs upwards of $2,000. At that rate, a 3-credit anthropology course runs $6,000.

For $130 at, you can take an anthropology course with one of America’s foremost anthropology professors. And have enough left over to sponsor an archaeological dig.


Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101

This post was written by admin on November 16, 2015
Posted Under: College Funding

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