Why Are High School Grads Choosing Wrong College Majors?

Mar 27, 2022  •  7 min read

The number of unemployed workers across the OECD area reached 36.1 million in December 2021. The unemployment rate was 4.6%, while unemployment among younger people aged 15 to 24 was 11.5% in the same period (OECD,2022).

Researches show that young people are not interested in continuing their career in their major, and these choices have a significant share in unemployment rates. The Survey of Youth Aspirations by the World Economic Forum (2018) reports that for the 14% of respondents, not their interest but family and peer influence is the main reason for pursuing their respective fields of study.

Additionally, Frank’s survey recorded that at least 80% of college students change their major at least once in university after finding the field interesting in them (2021). Besides, the report from the National Center for Education Statistics, drawn from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (2016), found that 33% of bachelor’s degree pursuers who entered college in 2011-12 and 28% of students in associate degree programs had changed their major at least once by 2014.

During the university selection period, high school students choose a department that is not appropriate for them because of the lack of adequate guidance programs. Out of the more than 1.2 million high school graduates that provided data on their interests and planned major, only 36% chose a major that was a good fit based on their interests, while 32% selected a major that was a poor fit (Dame, 2013). Also, nearly half a million university students believe they may have chosen the wrong course to study (Garner, 2015).

On the other hand, the OECD career guidance report (2004) reveals that upper secondary students receive significantly less career assistance than students in general education pathways. According to a September Gallup Survey, as cited in the online blog (2017), only 11% had sought guidance from a high school counsellor.


Dame, J. (2013, November 15). Study: Many choose major not aligned to interests. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/15/major-not-passion/3583191/

Garner, R. (2015, June 3). One in three university students wish they had chosen a different course, says study. Independenthttps://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/one-in-three-university-students-wish-they-had-chosen-a-different-course-says-study-10295076.html

National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Persistence and Attainment of 2011-12 First-Time Postsecondary Students After 3 Years. NCES. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016401.pdf

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2004). Career Guidance. OECD. https://www.oecd.org/education/innovation-education/34060761.pdf

OECD. (2022, February). Unemployment Rates, OECD. https://www.oecd.org/newsroom/unemployment-rates-oecd-update-february-2022.htm

Mishra et al. (2018). Young India and Work: A Survey of Youth Aspirations. World Economic Forum. https://www.orfonline.org/media/2018/11/YA_Digital_-II.pdf

Selingo, J. J. (2017, November 3). Six Myths About Choosing a College Major. The New YorkTimeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/education/edlife/choosing-a-college-major.html

Statistical Office of the European Communities. (2021). Euro area unemployment at 7.4%. Eurostat. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/11563355/3-03112021-AP-EN.pdf/8841353c-11f6-7fab-efef-0e768ab13bfd

What Percentage of Students Change Majors. (2021, October 27). Frankhttps://withfrank.org/how-to-pay-for-college/how-does-college-work/transfer/what-percentage-of-students-change-majors/