Community College is worth it!

I am a product of the Washington state community college system. By most measures, I did pretty well in life. My wife is also the product of the same system. She did as well. In fact, many of the people who I believe would be considered as successful have community college in their background.

Community colleges offer outstanding value in education. Class sizes are typically smaller, costs are lower, and the range of class offerings make exploration a real possibility.

I am not alone in my assessment. Here is a link to a Forbes article on this subject that is worth reading if you are thinking college plans.

About Change

[This is the text of a speech I gave around 2009 about FIRST]

Change. It is constant, reliable, and repeatable. Rather ironic isn’t it? Change is the most reliably consistent thing in our modern society.

Change has a couple of major flavors.

There is incremental change. Every few months, some basic change happens in our lives. Usually it is for the better. Upgrades, improvements, new ways of combining existing technologies. It makes our lives exciting and interesting.

The other flavor of change is paradigm shift. These are the big ones. Change to the fundamental way that our world works. Most of these are in the way we communicate, interact, work, and socialize. These are big changes affecting huge numbers of people.

Incremental change is important. It is where most people spend the majority of their efforts. This is where most established corporations live. They are the instruments of incremental change. Nothing wrong with incremental change, it has a long established history generating huge value to society.

In recent history, paradigm shift happens about every 10 years. Paradigm shift is most always the providence of the young, the energetic, the inexperienced, the new thinkers unencumbered by the warrants of incremental change. Visionaries without portfolio.

Start working backwards in our modern lives. The paradigm shifts are there. Some more mature than others.

Backup 5 years: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, MySpace. These shifted the basic nature of how we communicate. Using new technologies to their maximum limits, these companies created new ways for us to accomplish the old tasks of humanity.

Back another 10 years. Yahoo, Google, Amazon, EBay. Companies who took hold of new technologies to create a paradigm shift of incredible magnitude.

Back another 10 years: Dell Computer, Gateway Computer. Completely changed the way that people access technology at the retail level. Brought the technology to the masses at a scale that shocked everyone.

Back another 10: Microsoft, Apple. Had a vision that everyone should have access to technology in the home. Seems so obvious now. At the time, it was considered a silly idea by a bunch of nerdy high school kids.

I have picked just a handful of companies here. Some are now among the largest corporations in the world, doing great work in incremental change. Some are still small and their paradigm shifts are still in progress.

So, what is my point? If you are as keen as I am about keeping up with change then you need to look no further than recent history.

Every one of these paradigm shifting companies was started by a high school or college student, many of them in dorm rooms, with an idea, passion, and a set of skills to make it happen. If you could build a time machine, and roll back the years to invest in a company like Microsoft, Apple, Dell, it would be a complete no brainer. You would also be handing your investment to a teenager with a passionate dream.

Since we don’t have a time machine (yet!), the best we can do is try to find the next big paradigm shift. I have no idea what the next big thing is going to be. I do, however, know where it will come from. I am quite confident that the next big thing will involve a bright, energetic FIRST student with a passion and a supportive environment that will allow them to make their vision come to fruition.

We are at about the half waypoint of the current paradigm cycle. Get involved, this is your chance to invest in our future, establish a relationship with the stewards of that future, and improve the way our world works.

Advice for the college bound

[Originally posted on October 15, 2011 by Kevin Ross]

One of the great joys in my life is watching the students I work with head off to college. I am always fascinated by the depth of their passion for various topics. Since I am so heavily involved in FIRST, many students are rather surprised to hear that I don’t actually care what they major in. I have a soft spot in my heart for those who choose science and technology, but that is only because I am a nerd and feel the need to spawn new nerds! Honestly, my only hope is that all students use their time in college to find their passions. (Yes, you may have more than one!)

You have to love what you do to be good at it. The corollary is that if you don’t enjoy your subject of study, you are unlikely to do well at it. Keep this in mind for what I have to say next.

The most common ‘trouble’ that students find themselves in during the first year or two is the realization that they don’t actually like the subject they are working towards. I have some observations for you.

0) Coming out of high school, you are making a huge decision based on incomplete information. It is totally unreasonable to expect this answer to be correct. How should you know what you want to do for the rest of your life? I know senior citizens who still haven’t figured it out after 65 years.

1) You are not alone! An actual number appears to be difficult to determine, but many studies I have found cite that at least 75% of students will change their major at least once. Personal experience: I changed mine from theater to physics to math to computer science! What should you take from this? If you have a desire to change majors, do it! You are not a failure, moron, a flake, letting anyone down, or being indecisive.  You are evaluating a previous decision based on new information. To the contrary, it would be stupid to continue if you are not liking it or not doing well enough to succeed.

2) If your parents didn’t go to college, then changing majors may be difficult for them to digest. They often times have unrealistic expectations on how college actually works.  You will need to educate them that this is common. (Search “Percentage of students who change majors” in your favorite browser). If your parents did go to college, it is likely they will be more understanding. Since they might be footing the bill, you will have to work this out with them.

3) Remember your high school graduation party? All of those “So, what are you going to study in college” questions. It is unfortunate that everyone asks. Most of us come up with an answer and stick to it without knowing if it is a good answer or not. This leaves us in the situation of having publicly stated our plan and set expectations without knowing for sure. Ignore it. Your plan, your life, you can change it.

4) Try to be realistic. Not all majors are going to help you be successful. There are a number of easy majors which don’t provide you with marketable skills when you are done. Beware. Engineers make the most out of college because engineering is a hard program to go through. If you are changing your major, you need to evaluate what is going to work best for you.

I like to hear students taking a range of classes for the first two years. You will eventually get a major that suits you. Be sure to take the opportunity to learn how to communicate while you are there. A writing class and a public speaking class are critical. If you ever want to be a leader, you will need these skills to be effective.

Go forth, do what you love and love what you do. The world already has plenty of dispassionate people who don’t enjoy their careers. Do better than that.

Selecting a college

[Originally posted on May 16, 2012]

As I talk with students about their plans for college, I am often times party to the decision process behind the selection of schools and majors. I am sometimes awestruck at the quality of decisions that are made. Just as often, however, I am dumbfounded at other decisions. I wanted to take a few minutes to write down some of the best and some of the most horrid reasons I have heard for selecting schools.

So here are a few thoughts and opinions that I have developed over the years about how to select a college.

Selecting a college

The process of selecting your future school has many factors to consider. This can be a difficult decision that requires a fairly large decision matrix. Some of the big decisions involved in state, out of state, private or public, tuition costs, housing costs, and proximity to family or friends. These are the obvious, and I am sure you will be considering these.

My TOP 5 GOOD DECISION points for selecting a college include:

Availability of credible majors – This is critical to your success in college. As I have written about elsewhere, a vast majority of students change their majors at least once during their college careers. Being at a school with a selection of credible majors should be a consideration for you in the event you are in that majority who make a change. A benefit to larger state universities are the large number of majors available and the ease of transferring to a new major should you decide.

Reasonable undergraduate infrastructure classes – Every major will have a core requirement for a wide range of different subjects. Smaller schools will only offer these core required classes once a year. College is not always a linear path to success. There will be times when you will need to drop a class, or other conflicts that may prevent you from being able to take a class when the school offers it. Larger schools and community colleges do a better job at offering alternate times for certain classes. Smaller schools don’t always have enough staff available. This should be something for you to consider carefully. Does it make sense for you to take many of the undergraduate core classes at a community college? It is cheaper, schedules are typically more flexible, and classes are much smaller. Just a thought.

Transfer credits – Real life can sometimes cause you to make changes. Finances, health, family situations, or your experiences at your chosen school may require you to change your plans. If you were to select school A, how easy would it be to transfer those credits to school B? You should check into this, or life could end up costing you an extra year taking classes you have already taken to satisfy graduation requirements.

Cross department cooperation – In the science and technology world, it is becoming rare to be involved only in a specific field. Electrical engineers, for example, are now expected to have a lot of computer science expertise. Mechanical engineers are expected to be able to handle electronics. Some schools have an excellent reputation for cross departmental projects and research. The University of Washington, for example, is very well known for collaboration between the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering. Can you find out about the school you are thinking about? This diversity will enable you to learn about subjects you might not otherwise be involved with.

Proximity to home – This is always a difficult decision for many students. On the one hand, staying in state and in fact staying close to/at home can be a huge benefit for costs and support. On the other hand, living on campus has it’s advantages of being immersed in the school experience. This is a decision you need to make for yourself, but keep in mind that having family support during school can make a huge difference. The costs are something you really need to consider. The difference between in and out of state tuition is a really big deal.

To counter these, here are the WORST 5 DECISION POINTS I have heard for selecting a college.

I don’t like the sports teams – Hands down this is the worst decision point I have run into in helping students with college. A student from eastern Washington who wanted to do computer science decided against the University of Washington mostly on the fact that he was a committed Cougar fan. The UW is among the top 10 respected computer science departments in the world. This creates all sorts of opportunities for students. Bottom line: Unless you are planning to be a professional football/basketball player or depending on some sports scholarship that you ALREADY have been awarded, selecting a school based on something this trivial is a huge mistake. This should not even be part of the decision matrix. Select a college based on your personal expected outcome, what the school is going to do to help your future career. Basing a decision like this on who is playing football for 10 games a year is the height of immaturity. Get over it.

I will be close to my sweetheart – The transition from high school to college will involve a huge number of changes to your personal life, attitudes, and interests. It is fairly common for high school students to make college decisions based on relationships that have lasted through a year or two of high school. The number of high school relationships that survive through college turns out to be extremely low. I can’t find a definitive number, but my research on the subject is suggesting less than 10% of relationships make the transition, and less than 4% end up in marriage. Please try to be objective about this, even though it is an emotional subject. Select a college based on YOUR needs and interests. Where your high school sweetheart ends up shouldn’t be in your decision matrix. If it happens you end up the same place, that’s nice. Sorry folks, this is a bottom of the list data point.

Proximity to home – Yeah, OK, it made both lists! I have worked with a few students who have decided on Maine and Florida as their schools based on their proximity, or rather lack of proximity, to home. They wanted to get as far away from their families as possible. This was a HUGE factor in their chosen schools. If this sounds like your situation, please take a couple of steps back and realize that the difference between schooling in Montana vs Maine is not really an issue. Yes, you may want to be away from your family for valid reasons. However, after a relatively small circle of say an 8 hour drive, there is no distinct advantage to getting your self stuck up in the opposite corner of the country. There are a lot of choices. If you are going out of state, you are already going to be spending a substantial amount more on tuition. Shop around, find a school that interests you, and don’t worry so much about dodging your family.

Surfing / Garage Bands / Rock Climbing – Boy, I don’t want to get listed as a killjoy but some students pick schools based on cool things to do after class. Schools know this, and will market at you the ‘benefits’ of enrolling at their school with extra curricular activities. My favorite (aka most disappointing) is the engineering student who decided against MIT in favor of UCLA based on his desire to learn how to surf and the lure of studying at the beach. He has since graduated and never did try surfing and found that the beach was a difficult place to study. Others have been swayed by everything from rock bands to rock climbing, mountain biking and skiing. These are all a great deal of fun. This should also be at the bottom of your decision matrix if even on it.

Party Schools – Ok, here comes Mr Killjoy again! Nothing is more disappointing to me than seeing students make college selections based on the party scene at the school. It happens a lot, and is a really really poor decision. Some schools have a reputation as having a very active party / drug / drinking lifestyle. I have had a number of students drop out of Western Washington, for example, after spending two or three years not progressing due to social pressures to party it up every night. This is your decision. I can’t make it for you.

However, consider this: Your success in the future is built nearly entirely on the work of people who have come before you. As an engineer, you won’t need to invent the transistor. Shockley, Bardeen, and Brattain did that for you. You are working from what they did. You don’t need to reinvent the C computer language, Kernighan and Ritchie did that for you. You are working from what they did.  A huge group of people partied their way through high school and college. It was the 70’s and the 80’s. We have been there already. It didn’t work, and was a poor decision. You are working from what we did. Do better!

Selecting a college major

One of the challenges for most students is deciding on a major for college. It is true that some students know what they want to major in. It is a small minority of students however. Most of us have a few ideas, but nothing concrete.

Selecting a major is a collection of decisions, assumptions, sole searching, trade offs, and researched ideas. Take it seriously, this is a big decision. Take your time, it isn’t easy. Take comfort in the thought that it isn’t a final decision. It can be changed if life takes you in another direction later. Putting effort and thought into this decision can end up saving you a lot of time, anguish, and a ton of money.

Allow me to share with you some thoughts about selecting a major. I am going to present a few foundation ideas before delving into the details of selecting a major.

The Foundation Ideas

Your major really does matter – When I started college in the early 1980’s, the prevailing wisdom at the time (mostly among people who did NOT have a degree) was that any major was good enough. The thinking was that by having a degree, any major, you have shown yourself to be educated and have the ability to learn and that is what future employers are looking for. This wisdom turned out to be wishful thinking!  What you major in really does matter for your future success in the job market. This is becoming more and more defined as the population of under-employed people with ‘worth less’ degrees increases in size (please note the space in that term!).

Allow me to define what a ‘worth less’ degree means before I get into serious trouble. When you earn a degree in something, you have been certified as having developed a certain level of expertise in a given field. In our free market society, some fields are valued more than others. I purposefully am avoiding saying that some fields are more important than others. That is a subjective argument beyond my willingness to engage. It is an objective and measurable fact that some areas of expertise are valued higher in the markets. For the past hundred years, science and engineering have always been at the top of that value list because they are positions that are directly tied to creating new products, technologies, and generating wealth. These are degrees that are not easy to earn, require a lot of work compared to other degrees, and graduates are in short supply. Other majors are, according to the job market, valued lower and are therefore worth less in the free market system we live in. Electrical engineers start at about $90,000 per year. Theater majors usually start at the prevailing wage of Starbucks or Home Depot: $20,000 a year (I was once a theater major, so nothing but love to my brothers in the arts!).

I have opted to use the term “worth less” to be slightly offensive, to shake you into realizing that there are options and differences between majors that you really want to consider.

My point here is that you are likely to have a list of potential majors you are interested in. PLEASE do some research to determine what a degree in that major might be worth after graduation. It may or may not change your thinking, but for your own benefit be sure you fully understand what the implications are before heading down that road.

Supply and Demand – You are headed for graduation an into a market where people compete for financial success. There are two sides to this market. One is supply, the other is demand. The relative value of a person in the market place of employment is the value and supply of their skills vs demand for those skills.

Dishwashers work very hard. It is tedious work that is very low on the compensation scale. Why? Dishwashers require about 20 minutes of training. Replacing a dishwasher is easy since just about anyone who can fog glass with their breathe can do the job. This is a case where the supply is large relative to demand. Expect to get minimum wage.

Engineers also work very hard. A good engineer has many years of college. They are not easily replaced. They are short in supply. The demand for engineers is greater than the supply of engineers. This is a good situation for the engineers as they tend to have a wide range of opportunities that all command high salaries and usually very good job security. Replacing a skilled engineer can take a company up to a year. Companies will typically do everything they can to attract and retain engineers. Expect to get maximum wage.

Between these two extremes are where most people exist. One of the hard parts you need to do is figuring out how to find where you can be comfortable on this supply and demand curve. The ideal is to have a job with the highest demand and lowest supply that is something you find interesting and rewarding.

Value in specialization – Specific knowledge can be a key way to keep yourself in demand. Generalized degrees are often not in high demand. You might find a major in ‘General Philosophy’ to be of personal interest. However, you don’t often see job listings for people with General Philosophy as desirable educational background. There isn’t market value there. Many other general degrees are interesting and socially worth while, but are not going to generate market value for your skills. As a very broad generalization, anything degree that ends in “Studies” tend not to be specialized to the point of increasing your value in the market.

Part of your balancing act is to find a level of specialization that increases your value to future employers yet preserves your own passions and interests.

Your life is going to change – I know a lot of students who have passions they have developed in high school. I love passions, I support passions. Not all passions make good career choices. This is especially true in high school environments which tend to have measures of success and social status that don’t transfer into the larger and more complex ‘real world’. Your hard earned successes in high school athletics, cheerleading, band, and other activities in school are not likely to follow you into or after college.

This can be a bit of a challenge. You have built your high school success on a series of choices and infrastructures that really only exist in high school. You are now about to leave those, and it can be a little difficult to make the transition. Sorry, you are going to have to prepare for it. While you might have easily made the cheer leading squad at your high school, don’t make the assumption that getting into the cheer leading squad (or football team, soccer team, etc) at college is going to continue your success and social status. It won’t. College is different. Though campus might really appreciate the football team as a whole, most students couldn’t pick a specific football player or cheerleader out of a lineup. You might have been a big fish at your pond back home, but you are now in a much bigger lake with a lot more fish.

My point here is that your college choices need to reflect your future, not your past. You should be very proud of your accomplishments in high school. You should also consider if trying to continue your high school endeavors is a useful expenditure of your time and money. You need to decide that, but please put some thought into this. Make informed rational decisions.

Lets talk about Passion – If you spent much time at all around successful people, you will find some common traits. The biggest trait is passion for what they are doing. They typically enjoy their work. They are typically good at their work. The two are correlated. Most will tell you that you need to love what you do and do what you love. Sounds like sage advice, but it is also vague advice. Let me expand on this subject a little.

Passion is important – Before you run off and declare yourself an engineering major, you need to self reflect on your own passions. There is much more to selecting a major that you will be successful at. Don’t select a major based on a chart of the highest starting income. You need a major that you have a passion for. This is a difficult thing to do as a high school student. Typical students don’t have a very wide range of experiences to draw from.

To make a good transition, think about your high school passion and try to diagnose why you like that passion. What is it about that activity that makes you want to do it on a constant basis. Make a list, and be brutally honest.

There are going to be social aspects to this that you can’t ignore. Being a cheerleader (or football player, soccer star, lead in the high school play) is going to get you recognition and social status in high school. It is OK if being popular and recognized is part of your list. It is important. You may feel a little self centered admitting it. That’s fine, we are doing a very self centered activity in exploring your passions.

There will also be interest and personal achievement that make an activity a passion.

Lead by example! Here is mine. In high school, I was really good in shop classes. I mean really good. I was a star in the wood shop, metal shop, welding shop, and was the shop teachers assistant for several periods a day. I was very well known for being able to do just about anything in shop. At graduation, I was given an award for outstanding achievements in the industrial arts. Of course, when I left high school I fully intended to be a cabinet maker or carpenter. It was my passion and a place that I really felt comfortable. Being ‘shop guy’ was part of my identity. I ended up not doing that! Hmmmm…. Not making my argument for passion very convincing!

My self reflection on this: I liked building things, the recognition of being good at building things, being king of the shop. When it comes to building things, I liked not only the act of building, but the creativity in designing. I possessed the skills needed to express my creative ideas in physical form. I liked planning the details, adding features, thinking about how things would get used, serviced, maintained. I liked fretting about little details, selecting materials, thinking through the steps and processes on how to build. Details like the fit and finish made for much bliss. I appreciated how the tools work, how the tools helped. I appreciated the ability to make my own tools if needed. I liked the recognition of others when I finished a project. I like success. It validated my efforts. It validates my identity. I loved the applause.

Could it be that my passion wasn’t actually in the specifics of shop, but more in the ability to plan, design, build, and finish projects? I am thinking, now that I have had many years to reflect about it, that I really wanted to be an engineer but just didn’t know it. That is where I ended up. I am an engineer.

My point here is that your activities and interests often times are masking your true passions. Your passions are likely to be wrapped up in the answers to ‘why’ you like your subject rather than the specific skills. Think about this for yourself.

Is it a Passion? – Is there a way to measure passion? I have been trying to consider this for a while. What is the measuring stick for passion. Passion is important because people who are passionate about a subject or idea are the ones who will be most likely to succeed. There are hundreds of years of evidence for this. Most recently with a HUGE population of passionate people in just the last 30 years starting all sorts of new projects. But how can I give you a way to measure your passion for something without having to be tested for it?

Here is my simple check list: If you went to Barnes and Noble and hung out in the magazine department, what would you browse? What is the last non-fiction book you read or purchased? What activities do you consider a high interest hobby? What do you think about doing before falling asleep at night? What would you get up for at 5am to do?

These are my cheap and unscientific indicators of what might be a passion.

My point here is that a true passion is a subject that you will teach yourself. A subject that you will research yourself. A subject that you will seek assistance in learning. A subject that you are eager to try and learn more about. If you don’t have one, do not worry. We just need to find yours. Many people don’t find their passions until they have experiences in college. You do NOT need to make a final decision on your major or your passions to head down a path in college.

Is it YOUR passion? – Be sure to consider this carefully. Is the thing you are passionate about your passion, or that of someone else? Parents are often times guilty of imposing their passions on to their children. They do this with all of the love and great intentions one can muster. They are really trying to be helpful and are still in the parent mode of mother knows best. She has been making decisions on your behalf for nearly your entire life. They can’t help it, it is their world. It sometimes works out, but often times does not.

It is true that students may end up following career paths that are familiar to them. Nothing is more familiar that the career path of your parents. There is nothing wrong with this if you as an individual decide this is what you wish to do. However, insure that it is something you are passionate about. For every success story about the doctor who had parents and grandparents who were doctors, you can find three or four stories that started that way and didn’t work out.

Passions with an ‘s’ – Hopefully, you will have multiple passions in life. You don’t have to pick just one and ignore the others. That would be a shame. I liked wood shop. I liked metal shop. I liked science and technology. I liked theater. I liked being a stage hand. I liked the art of keeping very busy. I liked big machines. I liked being responsible for projects. 30 years after high school, turns out I still like all of these things.

Passions Change! – Being passionate about a subject is very important. As with all things, your passions are likely to change over time. I still like woodworking, but honestly I haven’t done much in the past 10 years. I have the tools, but my interests of just changed to other things. Your passions are also going to change.

Is there a career path for your passion? – This can make the use of your current passions as a direction for the future a little more fuzzy. You might be a star at riding motorcycles or BMX, but will that passion build you a career doing that? Probably not. Not a lot of 45 year old BMX riders make a living. Might it inform your decisions? Of course. Perhaps you would like to be in the industry, but as a business person, engineer, or other person who has talents that can be applied to the industry.

This is actually true for a lot of passions. Your involvement in the passion might be through another avenue rather than as a practitioner. You might like to play video games and would like to make a living in the video game industry. The people who can make a long term living in that industry are the onces creating products and services for the practioners. Software engineers and marketing people are the ones who make a living in the video game industry.

I think as a general statement: Transferring your passion into a career may take you into diverse fields of study. It is a very good thing for you to have diverse knowledge. It opens your world to a host of different options. You can also use the fact that your generalized knowledge about a subject may have better market value that extremely specific knowledge. An engineer who can design a BMX bike is likely more valuable in the market than a BMX rider.

Selecting a major

In case you hadn’t noticed, I have a lot of opinions about passions. I think you get the gist of what I want from you. Now let us switch gears and talk about some of the decisions that you need to consider to find a major.

There are a lot of decision points that go into selecting a major. You may already have a list for yourself. I am going to throw out a few ideas. Unfortunately, no algorithm or spreadsheet can help you make this decision. I think making a list of the pros and cons for a wide range of issues may help solidify and confirm the decisions you are making. In the end, you will need to decide your level of commitment, your passions, and your prospects for completing your major successfully.

My list of things to consider

I tried a few ways to present this, and I think a list is as good as anything else! So here is my list of ideas.

When in doubt, pick a general area of study as a starting point – There are a few broad categories that you could consider starting down without getting too specific. For example, most science oriented fields will have very similar pre-requisite classes. Same is true for the arts, business, and other courses. So if you are thinking of doing something in science but don’t know for sure, start out with classes that head in that general direction. Most engineering classes, for example, require calculus and engineering physics. Doesn’t matter if you can’t  decide between mechanical, electrical, or computer science. They all have the same requirements. As you become more comfortable in that area of study, you will find something specific to major in.

Finances vs your major – This is a big one, especially if you are considering using student loans as a funding source for your major. You need to investigate the expected salary that your field of study may produce and set some spending limits on your education. There are a number of horror stories out there about students with art majors and $150,000 of student loans to pay for them. These folks are graduating from college so far under water that their chances of post college success is limited. My very rough rule of thumb is that your 4 year total student loans shouldn’t be more than 0.72 times your expected starting salary. How I arrived at that number is the subject of a very long discussion. So if you plan to borrow about $15,000 a year for 4 years, you will owe $60,000 on your loan. To do that, you need to make $82,857 a year to be comfortable paying that off. That is a LOT of money. DO THE MATH! If you need, find help from someone who can help with the math.

Double Majors – Many students feel the need to express their multiple passions in the form of a double major. Something just sounds wonderful about saying “I double majored in computer science and history”.  There is another side to this. As a manager hiring engineers at Microsoft, I was always stymied at what to think of double majors. Did this person focus on what I need? Are they really good at computer science or history? Are they actually now a passionate expert at both, or am I about to hire someone who is just OK at two subjects and not expert in either?  There was a distinct chance this person was very well rounded in their education, but still I often felt that this person was distracted or indecisive. I think I passed on most of the double major candidates. Please consider this carefully. Why are you double majoring? If you are doing it because you have a very strong desire for two degrees, so be it. If you are doing it to make a more impressive resume, I would suggest single major and do really well at one valuable thing.

Honestly I would have been more impressed with a BA in history and a masters in computer science.

Geography vs your major – You should consider some practical knowledge about your future plans. If you were born and raised in South Dakota, your family is in South Dakota, and you someday wish to raise your family in South Dakota, then majoring in theater, film, marine biology, deep water diving, aeronautical engineering, or commercial investment banking may not make the most sense! Will you be able to find a career in that geography? Probably not. Some majors are only useful in geographic areas that support such industries. Many industries have centers of attraction. Aeronautical engineers tend to be in Seattle for example because that is where the majority of the work is found. Chances of finding work as an maritime engineer in Oakesdale, WA are pretty slim.

The bottom line – I have talked about passion, touched on a few points about marketable skills, and a few points about finances and direction. Did any of this help? I hope so. But what about your major? That my friend is up to you to figure out in a rational, thoughtful, and well researched way.

Can you know your complete path today? Honestly, no, you won’t know exactly what that path will hold. You can, however, arm yourself with some rational decisions and researched information to start heading down a road that will bring you success.