How to Avoid a Midlife Crisis: Choosing the Right College Major

When I was in seventh grade, I attended my first computer programming class and fell in love.  I got my first Texas Instruments computer and spent many hours typing in programs from Family Computing Magazine, debugging them, and running them one time before bed.  Looking into the field more, I realized that I could make the most money by knowing how to program, fix, and operate the computer. As I started my journey to college, I informed my counselor that I wanted to be a computer programmer, technician, and operator.  I was advised that I should major in computer engineering or electrical engineering, so that is exactly what I did.  Unfortunately, I realized my first year in college that electrical engineering was not the major that I should have chosen. Since I had only given myself four years to finish college, I could not afford the setback that changing my major would entail.  I received my degree, worked in the field for over twenty years, and experienced a midlife career crisis just as I was about to turn forty. I walked away from a high five figure applications engineering position to drive a school bus.

Although I had grown to love electrical engineering and performed in excellence, I knew that my life purpose was not being fulfilled. I drove the school bus for three years, did a great deal of soul searching, and found my passion in tutoring. I had been tutoring friends and family for free all my life, but never even considered it as a career.  Reflecting on the past, I saw that my purpose developed way before I was aware of it. As a first grader, I helped my older sister with her homework. My mother took me to her Accounting classes at a local community college so I could help her understand the material and complete her homework. I revised my friends’ papers in college and tutored at a local African school. I helped colleagues make sense of their business classes or certification material throughout my career. My ex-husband credits me with teaching him to understand wiring diagrams, thus allowing him to obtain a position at a major switchgear manufacturer. I had been fulfilling my purpose for years, but put it on the back burner in lieu of a profession that others thought I should pursue.

I host a workshop with the same title as this blog post.  In the workshop, I encourage students to reverse engineer their college pursuit.  Instead of starting with a list of colleges and settling on a major, I suggest that students look introspectively before choosing a college or career.

  • Determine what you think you want to do for the rest of your life
    • What do you love to do?
    • What would you do even if you were not paid?
  • Determine your college major based on these interests
  • Locate colleges that offer your major
  • Determine admission requirements for the colleges
  • Apply to the colleges that rank at the top of your list and give the greatest chance of admittance

There are many career inventories available to help students narrow their focus.  Students in Georgia can visit the Georgia Career Information Center, , to complete assessments. The site gives extensive explanation and guidance for intelligently choosing plausible career choices.  With some soul searching, students are able to choose a college major that will allow them to enter a career they love.