Imagine Grant Helps California Students Explore College Majors and Careers


It’s a scenario counselors know well: A student proudly announces they’re applying to college and plans to study physics.

So far so good. But then comes the kicker. What does the student hope to do with their degree? Cure cancer.

But as many counselors know, a degree in biology or in the health sciences offers a more direct route to cancer research, said Nicole Murphy, director of college access and financial aid strategies with PUC Schools, a California nonprofit charter school organization serving students in Northeast Los Angeles and the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

So this spring, Murphy launched a new initiative aimed at helping teens make connections between their interests and the college search process. Thirty industry experts and college department heads shared their insights with students during PUC’s inaugural College Majors & Careers Event in March.

The event, which served 520 high school juniors, was supported by a $1,000 grant from NACAC’s Imagine Fund.

“Students in 11th grade don’t have to have their whole career mapped out, and they probably shouldn’t,” Murphy said. “But if they start to identify what they want to be, it’s much easier to figure out what college will get them there.”

Data show that college students who have declared a major are more likely to stay in school and ultimately graduate with a degree. And students who thoroughly vet potential colleges during the search process are better positioned to select a right-fit institution, reducing the likelihood that they’ll need to transfer colleges to find classes and clubs that support their interests.

Photo courtesy of PUC Schools
Photo courtesy of PUC Schools

Through last month’s event, PUC students got a glimpse into a variety of college majors and careers, ranging from animation to architecture. Speakers also talked about their own professional paths and the steps they took building their careers.

“A lot of students think: ‘I’ll graduate from college and I’ll get a job,’” Murphy said. “Our speakers talked about all the other steps that go into really finding your place in the world. They talked about internships and job experience and how college majors connect to careers.”

The half-day event was so successful that PUC Schools has decided to offer it annually to both sophomores and juniors.

“When students find their passion and find their purpose, they’re able to make connections to not only what they’re learning in high school, but what they want to study in college,” Murphy said.

Donate Now: Imagine Fund grants offer financial support to individuals or NACAC affiliates. Funds are used to support professional development, as well as innovative programs serving students and/or the profession.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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