36% of Adults Regret Their College Major — What to Do if You’re One of Them

college regrets

Raise your hand if you did college perfectly.

Yeah … me either.

If you’ve had second thoughts about the decisions you made when you were 18 — like where you went to school or what you studied — you’re not alone.

A recent Gallup Poll found that 51 percent of adults would change at least one of their major college decisions.

Curious about which ones lead the way? And what to do if you have college regrets? Keep reading.

The biggest college regrets (of grown-ups)

To collect this data, Gallup teamed up with Strada Education Network to interview nearly 90,000 American adults aged 18 t0 65.

The interviewers asked respondents about their education paths and experiences — and whether they’d change anything.

Here are the results.

51% of adults regret one of their college decisions

college regrets

Image credit: Education Consumer Pulse

That’s right: More than half of adults would change one education decision — whether it’s their degree, institution, or college major.

“It seems individuals’ desires to make different choices may … be a function of having made decisions without complete information, such as future employment opportunities, earning potential, or the long-term effect of student debt,” explained the study’s authors.

36% of U.S. adults would change their field of study

The biggest decision people would change? What they went to college to learn.

Thirty-six percent of adults surveyed would change their field of study. But for adults between 30 and 40 years old who earned less than $40,000, that number jumped to 44 percent.

“The concentration of second thoughts over field of study could be rooted in the challenges that consumers face in using their education to obtain their ideal job,” explained the study’s authors. “The field of study one selects in many ways dictates the skills an individual acquires which, in turn, influences how well they can compete and perform in the workforce.”

In other words, what you study could have a big impact on your future career and earnings, and many people who were interviewed felt they’d chosen incorrectly. (Click here if you’re still in school and want to see the majors with the biggest return on investment.)

Student loan borrowers have even more college regrets

The study also looked at adults with student loan debt, hoping to learn whether someone with high debt would have more regrets than others. As you might’ve guessed, the answer was yes.

college decisions

Image credit: Gallup and Strada Education Network

When it comes to borrowers with more than $75,000 of student loans:

  • 14 percent would’ve gotten a different degree.
  • 38 percent would’ve chosen a different institution.
  • 63 percent would’ve made at least one decision differently.

4 ways you can recover from college regrets

If you have second thoughts about where you went to school or what you studied, it’s never too late to take matters into your own hands.

Here are four ideas for recovering from your college regrets.

1. Go back to school

If you’ve discovered your career field doesn’t align with your degree, it’s not out of the question to go back to school. You’re older (and hopefully wiser) and know exactly which degree will get you where you want to go.

Take Tyler Hammett, for example. Although he got his first bachelor’s degree in psychology, he eventually decided to become a web developer and returned to college to major in information technology.

“Since I already had one degree, I didn’t need to do all the prerequisites,” Hammett explained. “So it’s going to be much quicker this time around — two years total. And I know it’ll help me get the job I want.”

2. Take online classes

You don’t have to seek an entirely new degree, though. If there are skills you didn’t learn in college, why not try to learn them online?

Platforms such as Udemy offer courses in everything from marketing to writing to Photoshop. You’ll be able to learn at your own pace, in your PJs, and for much less money than a college class.

Before going back to school, Hammett took Udemy courses in coding — both to get practice and to ensure he liked his new career path.

3. Pursue your passions on the side

Wish you’d studied art instead of business? Or business instead of art?

Well, your job isn’t the only place you can express your passions. You could start a side hustle that explores another side of you.

Just look at Becky Pospisal, who raked in $70,000 with her string art business last year. She wanted something that would let her work with people and be creative — and now it’s turned into her full-time job.

Even if it’s not a passion that’ll earn you money, you can enjoy it as your hobby. (Sometimes it’s better that way.)

4. Refinance your student loans

Many people regret their college decisions because of the high student loan bills that flood in after graduation. If you’re in this boat, you might want to consider refinancing your student loans.

Let’s say you had $40,000 of loans at an interest rate of 5.70% and refinanced at an interest rate of 3.99%. You’d reduce your monthly payments by $33 per month and save nearly $4,000 in interest over 10 years.

Run your own numbers with our refinancing calculator and see how much you could save.

When most of us think of college regrets, we picture things like late nights and missed lectures. But the reality is the bigger decisions surrounding our education can have a much longer-lasting impact.

So don’t sit around pining for a past that didn’t happen — start taking action today.

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