Survey: Childhood Dreams Matter More When Teens Choose a College Major

Parents Wish Choices Depended More on Improving Future Job Prospects

RIVERWOODS, Ill.--()--Making money matters when college-bound teens think about their majors, but following a childhood dream means more, according to an independent survey of college-bound teenagers and their parents. The survey looks at what factors into important college decisions and was commissioned by Discover Student Loans, one of the largest originators of private student loans in the country.

Parents and their children rank influencing factors differently when choosing a college major. Parents are much more focused on increasing opportunities for employment after graduation, while children are more interested than their parents in the potential to make a lot of money.

         
Students     Parents      

When declaring a major, what should play a leading role when making a decision?
Among the most popular answers:

32% 31% Dreamed of a particular career since childhood
29% 41% Job opportunities/availability upon graduation
25% 15% Earning potential or the likelihood to make a lot of money
 

“A college education has lifelong benefits. Our survey looks at the discussions families are having around education and how aligned they are around important college decisions,” said PK Parekh, vice president for Discover Student Loans. “It’s apparent that most parents and their college-bound students are thinking about future careers and earning potential.”

Why Go to College?

As families discuss higher education, parents and their college-bound children are more united when it comes to the motivations for attending college – both have getting a job in mind. Both groups also place becoming independent and attending parties at the bottom of the list.

             
      Students     Parents       What are the primary motivations for attending college?

Leading
Answers

28% 34% Have a career in mind and need the proper coursework
26% 26% Have a career in mind that requires an advanced degree
 

Least
Chosen

7% 7% Gain independence
2% 1% Make new friends and go to campus events/parties
 

Getting a Job versus Getting Paid

Although both students and their parents believe that getting a job after college is important, they disagree on what students should gain from a college degree. While students want a job that pays well, parents hope their children graduate with skills that can apply to a wide array of jobs.

         
Students     Parents       What is the biggest benefit from attending college?
38% 29% Being ready to get a job that pays well
23% 38% A degree that allows one to work in a variety of fields/jobs
14% 11% The opportunity to go onto graduate school
11% 13% Learned something that could not have been learned without college
 

Both groups agree that gaining independence and expanding social circles are not the primary focus of what students should get out of college -- they received the lowest responses.

         
Students     Parents      

What is the biggest accomplishment after graduating from college?
Among the least popular responses:

8% 3% Independence from parents
4% 3% The ability to call themselves a college graduate
1% 1% A new group of friends that expands the social circle
 

“It’s clear from our findings that parents and children from the same household are not always aligned on important college decisions,” said Mr. Parekh. “We encourage families to start the discussion process early and research all options and outcomes from choosing a major to paying for a college education.”

About the Survey

The national survey was conducted in March 2013 by the Toluna Group, an independent survey research firm. One thousand (1,000) Americans were interviewed online – 500 parents and 500 of these parents’ college-bound high school juniors and seniors, and the results have a +/- 3 percentage points margin of error at 95 percent confidence.

About Discover

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a direct banking and payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. The company operates the Discover card, America's cash rewards pioneer, and offers home loans, private student loans, personal loans, checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and money market accounts through its direct banking business. Its payment businesses consist of Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation's leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance in more than 185 countries and territories. For more information, visit www.discoverfinancial.com.

Survey Results

National survey of 500 adults and 500 children 16 to 18 years old

who are planning on going to college.

Conducted March 2013 by Toluna Group

Margin of sampling error: +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence

Commissioned by Discover Student Loans

Motivations for Attending College:

Parents - What do you think are some of your child’s motivations for attending college? Select all that apply.

    25% - His/her parents/family expect him/her to attend
24% - His/her friends are going to college
24% - He/she wants to learn more about him/herself
53% - He/she wants to gain independence
35% - He/she plans to pursue a career but needs to take classes to decide which career to choose
65% - He/she has a career in mind and needs to gain the skills required through coursework

45% - He/she has a career in mind that requires an advanced degree, so an undergraduate degree is a necessary part of the process

39% - He/she wants to explore various opportunities and fields of study
4% - He/she wants to delay getting a job as long as possible

16% - He/she feels like it’s just something he/she is supposed to do

19% - He/she wants to make new friends and go to campus events/parties
23% - He/she wants to have the opportunity to experience things his/her parents didn’t
1% - Other
1% - I don’t know
0% - None of the above

Teens - What are some of your motivations for attending college? Select all that apply.

    34% - My parents/family expect me to attend
28% - My friends are all going to college
27% - I want to learn more about myself
54% - I want to gain independence
35% - I plan to pursue a career but need to take classes to decide what career I should choose

60% - I have a career in mind and need to gain the skills required through coursework

45% - I have a career in mind that requires an advanced degree, so my undergraduate degree is a necessary part of the process

41% - I want to explore various opportunities and fields of study

5% - I want to delay getting a job as long as possible

26% - I feel like it’s just something I am supposed to do

33% - I want to make new friends and go to campus events/parties

25% - I want to have the opportunity to experience things my parents didn’t

2% - Other

1% - I don’t know

0% - None of the above

Parents - Now, if you had to choose only one from the list below, what do you think is your child’s primary motivations for attending college? Select one.

    1% - His/her parents/family expect him/her to attend
1% - His/her friends are going to college
2% - He/she wants to learn more about him/herself
7% - He/she wants to gain independence
13% - He/she plans to pursue a career but needs to take classes to decide which career to choose
34% - He/she has a career in mind and needs to gain the skills required through coursework
26% - He/she has a career in mind that requires an advanced degree, so an undergraduate degree is a necessary part of the process
10% - He/she wants to explore various opportunities and fields of study
0% - He/she wants to delay getting a job as long as possible
2% - He/she feels like it’s just something he/she is supposed to do
1% - He/she wants to make new friends and go to campus events/parties
2% - He/she wants to have the opportunity to experience things his/her parents didn’t
1% - Other (please specify)____________

Teens - Now, if you had to choose only one from the list below, what is your primary motivation for attending college? Select one.

   

2% - My parents/family expect me to attend

2% - My friends are all going to college

2% - I want to learn more about myself

7% - I want to gain independence

12% - I plan to pursue a career but need to take classes to decide what career I should choose

28% - I have a career in mind and need to gain the skills required through coursework

26% - I have a career in mind that requires an advanced degree, so my undergraduate degree is a necessary part of the process

12% - I want to explore various opportunities and fields of study

1% - I want to delay getting a job as long as possible

3% - I feel like it’s just something I am supposed to do

2% - I want to make new friends and go to campus events/parties

3% - I want to have the opportunity to experience things my parents didn’t

1% - Other

Declaring a Major:

Parents - When it comes time to declare a major, which of the following do you think should play a leading role in your child making a decision? Select one.

    2% - A family member or friend has that major and has a job your child is interested in pursuing
31% - Your child has dreamed of a particular career since childhood
15% - Earning potential or the likelihood to make a lot of money
41% - Job opportunities/availability upon graduation
1% - One that requires the least amount of coursework
5% - Other (please specify)_______
4% - Not Sure

Teens - When it comes time to declare a major, which of the following will be the primary factor when making a decision? Select one.

   

6% - A family member or friend had that major and has a job I would like

32% - I have dreamed of a particular career since childhood

25% - Earning potential or the likelihood to make a lot of money

29% - Job opportunities/availability

2% - One that requires the least amount of coursework

5% - Other (please specify)_______

Accomplishments for Going to College:

Parents - After your child graduates from college, what do you hope he/she has accomplished? Select all that apply.

    63% - Is ready to get a job that pays well
63% - Has a degree that allows him/her to work in a variety of fields/jobs
49% - Has learned something that he/she could not have learned without attending college
39% - Is independent from parents
24% - Has a new group of friends that will have expanded his/her social circle
39% - Is able to call him/herself a college graduate
37% - The opportunity to go onto graduate school
1% - I don’t know
2% - Other (please specify) _________

Teens - After you graduate from college, what do you hope to have accomplished? Select all that apply.

   

65% - Be ready to get a job that pays well

49% - Have a degree that allows me to work in a variety of jobs

48% - Have learned something that I could not have learned without attending college

46% - Be independent from my parents

32% - Have a new group of friends that will have expanded my social circle

43% - Be able to call myself a college graduate

37% - The opportunity to go onto graduate school

0% - I don’t know

1% - Other

Parents - Now, if you had to choose only one from the list below, after your child graduates from college, what do you MOST want him/her to have accomplished? Select one.

    29% - Is ready to get a job that pays well
38% - Has a degree that allows him/her to work in a variety of fields/jobs
13% - Has learned something that he/she could not have learned without attending college
3% - Is independent from parents
1% - Has a new group of friends that will have expanded his/her social circle
3% - Is able to call him/herself a college graduate
11% - The opportunity to go onto graduate school
Other (please specify) _________

Teens - Now, if you had to choose only one from the list below, after you graduate from college, what do you MOST want to have accomplished? Select one.

   

38% - Be ready to get a job that pays well

23% - Have a degree that allows me to work in a variety of jobs

11% - Have learned something that I could not have learned without attending college

8% - Be independent from my parents

1% - Have a new group of friends that will have expanded my social circle

4% - Be able to call myself a college graduate

14% - The opportunity to go onto graduate school

0% - Other

Contacts

Discover Financial Services
Rob Weiss, 224-405-6304
robertweiss@discover.com

A Discover Student Loans survey and infographic reveals that parents and their teens don't always see eye to eye on important college decision. (Graphic: Business Wire)

A Discover Student Loans survey and infographic reveals that parents and their teens don't always see eye to eye on important college decision. (Graphic: Business Wire)

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Release Summary

The survey looks at what factors into important college decisions and was commissioned by Discover Student Loans, the third-largest originator of private student loans in the country.

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Contacts

Discover Financial Services
Rob Weiss, 224-405-6304
robertweiss@discover.com