Some Facts About the Correlation Between Future Success and Your College Education (from Warren Bennis’ Becoming a Leader)
- Many of our country's most successful people had liberal arts backgrounds. This includes roughly 38% of Chief Executive Officers and former Presidents such as Ronald Reagan
- Fewer and fewer of our country's Chief Executive Officers are Ivy League graduates.
After lecturing at multiple universities and hiring recent college graduates both for my own company and on behalf of my clients, here are some of my recommendations as to potential majors to choose, potential minors to combine with those majors, as well as majors that I would certainly avoid regardless of the school.
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The Bottom Line: Do grades matter?
Yes. To start your career off the right way, you need to have a solid GPA on your resume. Personally, I would be hesitant to hire anybody who had a grade point average less than 3.3.
Poor grades can and will close a lot of doors. Getting good grades in college does not take a huge amount of discipline and is well worth the effort. Your major might be impressive per se, but a 3.0 or 2.8 GPA will shut the door to a major-relevant job just as quickly as a non-related degree - often, even more quickly.
The Bottom Line: Does finishing college matter?
Absolutely. Simply stated, companies will not hire those who do not finish college. There are too many college graduates for companies to justify even considering those who did not finish. A college degree in and of itself, of course, does not connote higher intelligence, greater competence, or even a better work ethic than those who got their diplomas. Regardless, most hiring parties use a bachelor's degree as a (maybe arbitrary) minimum requirement.
Though, the bright side is that it is never too late to finish school and get your degree, though doing so in the current economy presents its own challenges. However, fail to finish college and there is not much of a bright side if you want to get into while collar related work.
The Bottom Line: Best Majors and Minors
Despite everything above, there are some hard and fast truths about the “best" majors and minors, if you plan on going into a professional career (as opposed to being a performer or artist by profession).
- In college, your minor should be for fun, not your major. I strongly recommend against simply majoring in, in lieu of either a double major or a minor, things such as acting or photography. With the latter, unless you are absolutely, 100% sure that you plan on making a career out of your study, all you'll end up with is (often) heavy student debt and little to know practical business skill.
As a recruiter, I see numerous people who never go into their area of major concentration (Sociology majors who end up in executive coaching, English majors who went on to excel in advertising sales). But a professional trajectory is harder to ramp up for those who graduate with fine arts degrees, already aware that the professional arts field isn't for them.
Having said that, if you begin your college career as a Dance major or an Art major and decide around junior year that you aren't cut out for the lifestyle, don't be afraid to change majors and graduate a year late, with a few more student loans. In the long run, what might initially feel like giving up will actually lead to a bigger pay-off.
- I favor business as a minor. Unless you want to be in finance or accounting, there is no reason to get into advanced classes in the topic, though knowing the basics is a must if you wish to open your own business. Economics is good, but I don't think it is as strong as basic business.
However, I would stay away from an entrepreneurship major. I just don't think many universities formulate a very accurate picture of what it takes to open a business these days.
The main point I hope to get across is that there is no one way to a successful career right off the bat after graduation. A Classics major with a Marketing and Entrepreneurship minor or a French major with a Business Management minor would have every possibility of success as an International Relations major with a minor in Economics. The key is to come out of school with knowledge of how the business world works, and with a drive to never stop learning, even with your diploma nicely framed upon the wall.