Choosing the right field of study at college is a very important, but also a very difficult decision. Many prospective students face a high level of uncertainty as they have little information on employment prospects and the wage structure of occupations they may work in after graduating. And they can often only guess whether their individual preferences will match the actual job characteristics. Hence, reducing uncertainty about the right field of study could result in substantial efficiency gains, leading to higher individual job satisfaction, higher overall productivity and a lower likelihood of changing the field of study or dropping out of college before graduating.
A new IZA discussion paper by Lex Borghans, Bart H.H. Golsteyn, Anders Stenberg points at an effective way to reduce this costly uncertainty. The paper provides evidence that an individual meeting with a study counselor at high school significantly improves the quality of choice of tertiary educational field. The results are strongest among students with low educated parents – a group which is likely to have the least information at the outset. Tentative analyses also indicate that counselors reduce students’ uncertainty about their own individual preferences at least to the same extent as uncertainty about objective measures such as employment prospects.