What Should Your Child Study in College?

So, I’m going to be a lone and stupid voice…but I want to save you all the heartache in life I possibly can.

Tiringly, parents incessantly nag their kids into pursuing careers that they are suited to only mildly if it at…and mostly because of money. Now, before you think about an exception–just leave it there, it is an exception. The Grand Mistake is Pursing a Job Path in College as Your Primary Goal.

Here’s the truth—when you check it out, you find that about 85% of Americans are not in the career field they studied (for) within 10 years of graduation. Do you see the problem yet? 100 folks study hard and in 10 years only 15 of them are still in that field (surely engineers are an exception!) The reasons are likely multiple, yet understandable. Industries are dying and rising before our eyes—change-and-retooling is the climate in this increasingly face-paced world. However, another reason is even more likely— most people find out they basically HATE the field they study for! They were young, they looked at where the money was, and they didn’t give ‘what do I want to do / what do I love?’ a second thought.

That’s too bad.

Here’s a different viewpoint. Go get EDUCATED, don’t go get an EDUCATION. What I mean here is something to do with developing a particular skill. The skill is simply ‘learning how to learn’. Just think about it. If you can teach yourself anything then you are ready for everything. Need to retool? No problem. Need to advance your career by learning something? No big deal.

The point of education should really be to learn how to learn. Learning how to learn is the traditional idea behind ‘Liberal Arts’. The word ‘liberal’ in education used to be connected to the words liberty and freedom. Once you have learned how to learn, then you are free to pursue whatever you’d like.

May I tell you the big secret about ‘what to study’–it doesn’t matter. OK, maybe if you are going to be an engineer it will, but for most other things it really doesn’t matter. If your child will study something he loves in college, then he is likely to do pretty well at it…which means he has a shot at learning how to learn (because he was successful). It’s even better if he has the goal of learning how to learn in the curriculum he chooses.

My dad wisely told me to study English (we thought I was going to be a lawyer) because, as he said, if you can read and write you can learn and communicate. What more do you need? Exactly!

My son, Tripp, finished at the University of Texas (Austin) with a degree in Studio Art. People used to ask me ‘what can you do with that’? Nevermind they cool ways artists are used in the design businesses… I simply told them that he loves it and has a goal of learning, not a goal of a particular job. Also, if you learn how to take nothing (blank canvass) and make something (painting)….well, that seems like a pretty sweet skill for the rest of your life. Currently he has been employed to study public policy issues and map the causal loops in systems-dynamics presentations. He’s thinking next is seminary and a Phd across the pond. Not exactly Studio Art (though he has sold a number of paintings).

Again, what does that have to do with art? You’d be surprised! He has learned how to learn.

Focus on learning the skill of learning…you’ll be surprised how valuable (and FUN) that path will become for your student and your life.


Fred Lybrand


And Jody Added:

I love Fred’s post here. I will confess, when Tripp first wanted to study art I was a bit hesitant. But Fred is right, it is about learning to learn. Tripp has really done well in his job and has very high praises from his boss on how quickly he learns.I was just reading a book on how so many people are so unhappy in the field of work they are in. This book was telling of the importance of finding out what you love, what your good at, what is fulling to you. Not, what jobs are really hot now, what does the family want me to study, what field makes the most money…
Thanks Fred,

Fred Ray Lybrand

Dr. Lybrand and his wife (Jody) of 34 years homeschooled their 5 children from birth to college, where they all excelled in academics and community (University of Texas & Abilene Christian). With their combined degrees (2 BA's, 2 Masters, 1 Doctorate), Fred and Jody have stuck with their faith and their obsession with practical learning. As a result, the overall theme of "Teaching Them to Learn How to Learn" invades everything they offer. Dr. Lybrand pastored for 25 years and currently coaches, consults, and trains businesses, churches, and non-profits. Among his client list are the U.S. Air Force, CRU, Be Broken, Continental Resources, State Farm Insurance, and Pioneer Natural Resources.Of course, his favorite interest is helping homeschoolers excel, and does so with the 10 Courses of The College-Ready Collection.Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand Jr. www.fredraylybrand.com

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