OPINION: Why Most Grads Regret Their Degree Choice and How You Can Avoid It

Photo by Charles DeLoye on Unsplash

Recent studies have shown that two-thirds of Americans regret their college choices, and even attending college at all, which raises concerns for both current and future college students. It’s important to explore the reasons behind these regrets so students can make the most out of their college experience, ensuring they make informed decisions and create lasting, positive memories. 

Picking the Right Major 

Choosing the wrong major is another significant cause of regret. A Federal Reserve survey shows that 40% of adults who attended college regret their major of choice. Students often pick a major due to parental or societal pressure, without considering their passion or long-term career goals. 


  • Consider doing an internship in the field you aspire to work in. It can help you get a sense of what the job would be like in reality. A lot of people regret their career choices after discovering they don’t enjoy working in their selected industry. Doing an internship early on can help you find the career you truly want before it’s too late.
  • Take elective courses in various fields during your first year to explore your interests. 
  • Speak with professors, advisors and professionals in potential fields of interest.
  • Reflect on your long-term goals, and choose a major that aligns with your passions and aspirations. 

Example: Mike initially chose a pre-med major, but later switched to environmental science after discovering his passion for nature conservation and taking an elective course in ecology.

Most Regretted College Majors:

Understanding which college majors are most often regretted can help guide students in their decision-making process. Some of the most regretted majors include the following: 

Anthropology and Archaeology: These majors can lead to limited job prospects and lower earning potential compared to other fields. 

Communications and Media: Graduates in this field often face fierce competition and a lack of job stability. 

Fine Arts: Students pursuing careers in fine arts may struggle with low salaries and inconsistent job opportunities. 

Philosophy and Religious Studies: These degrees may offer limited career prospects outside of academia. 

It’s crucial to note that having a passion for a subject may outweigh these potential drawbacks. If you genuinely love a particular field, consider pursuing it while also developing marketable skills or a complementary minor to broaden your career options.

Choosing the Right College 

One of the main reasons for regret is attending the wrong institution. Students often focus on prestige and rankings instead of considering factors such as location, campus culture and available resources.

A college, not its branding, should fit you. Don’t go to college because you feel you have to. When investing in higher education, you should have a specific goal in mind for where you want it to get you. Know what you want to achieve with your degree and make sure it aligns with your goals.


  • Research multiple colleges to find the best fit for your personality, interests and goals.

  • Attend open houses, campus tours and speak with current students or alumni.

  • Consider factors such as class size, faculty-to-student ratio and availability of internships or research opportunities. 

Example: Instead of choosing a prestigious Ivy League school, Jane decided to attend a smaller liberal arts college known for its strong community and excellent science program, ultimately feeling more satisfied with her choice.

Unrealistic Expectations 

Some graduates have unrealistic expectations about their careers and salaries post-graduation, leading to disappointment and regret. 


  • Conduct thorough research on job prospects, earning potential and career paths related to your major. 
  • Seek internships or part-time jobs during college to gain real-world experience and a better understanding of your chosen field. 
  • Connect with professionals in your desired industry to gain insights and advice on navigating the job market.

Lack of Networking and Mentoring 

Many students fail to recognize the importance of networking and building relationships with mentors during their college years. 


  • Attend networking events, join professional organizations and leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field. 
  • Seek guidance from professors, advisors and alumni, who can provide valuable insights and support throughout your college journey and beyond. 
  • Engage in collaborative projects or group activities to expand your network and develop teamwork skills.

Balancing Academics and Social Life 

Finding the right balance between academic and social life can be challenging. Overcommitment to either can lead to burnout or a lack of fulfillment. 


  • Set goals and priorities for both academics and extracurricular activities. 
  • Practice time management skills and create a schedule that includes study time, social events and self-care. 
  • Join clubs or organizations related to your interests, which provide an opportunity to socialize with like-minded individuals. 

Example: Emily, a dedicated engineering student, made a conscious effort to join the campus salsa club, providing her with a creative outlet and a chance to connect with others outside of her major. 

Taking Advantage of Opportunities 

Many students regret not taking advantage of the numerous opportunities available in college, such as internships, research projects or study abroad programs. 


  • Actively seek out internships or research projects in your field to gain hands-on experience. 
  • Consider studying abroad to expand your cultural horizons and gain a global perspective. 
  • Attend workshops, guest lectures and conferences to broaden your knowledge and network. 

Example: Josh participated in a semester-long internship at a tech company, where he gained practical experience and built connections that ultimately led to a job offer upon graduation. 

Student Loan Debt

Many American employees regret their college degrees due to one main reason: student loan debt. Many people choose to attend an expensive institution without considering the debt they will have to pay off in the future. Student loan debt is one of the biggest causes of financial instability for college graduates.  Debt makes it hard to make major purchases like a house or a car and accumulate wealth. To avoid this financial trap, consider attending a community college instead of a fancy university. Community colleges offer affordable and high-quality education.

While the majority of Americans may regret their college choices, you don’t have to be part of that statistic. By following the advice provided in this article, you can make informed decisions and create a fulfilling college experience that sets you on the path toward success and satisfaction.