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Friday, March 9, 2007

Post-Tribune
Merrillville, Indiana

Educated Advice Columnist
Gerald M. Bradshaw

College freshmen need time to explore



Quite a few parents are so delighted at the thought that their son or daughter stands a chance of getting admitted to a top college or university that they are tempted to choose a major for the child.

It is not unusual for parents to wish to see their talented son to become the family's first or for their brilliant daughter to become the first doctor. Of course there are bragging rights that go along with having a bright, motivated child. All the years of sacrifice are finally paying off.

Yet, students need some breathing space between gown and career. High school is a structured place where little experimentation is allowed on an advanced placement schedule.

For those reasons, the newly minted college freshmen needs time to explore. It is not necessary that all of their classes be taken toward their major. A few professional programs require students to take classes in their freshman year to prepare for graduate study. Medical and dental schools have specific courses that must be taken as undergraduates. But freshman also should take a few courses outside their intended field of study, if for no other reason then to avoid burnout.

A history or English class can be a real vent to the student otherwise grinding away in a rigorous math or science sequence, especially if the professor teaching the class is an outstanding scholar.

This is not to say that parents shouldn't have some influence in choosing a major. A parent experiencing disappointment in his or her profession can often provide a valuable insight into possible careers.

MBAs travel more than most doctors and may be required to be away from their families more than in some professions. This might be important to know for who is contemplating a business career, but isn't interested in becoming a globetrotting executive.

Parents can add an element of reality for which no amount of classroom training can prepare students.

There is also the question which schools offer the best education for the intended profession. Experts say some colleges are better-suited to teach certain subjects.

Many parents the US News & World Report annual rankings to help make a decision on where and what to study. Although this report may be helpful, it is by no means the final word on where to get a good education.

Deciding on which college to attend is mainly a function of the school's overall reputation. Few students have the knowledge to distinguish between departments within a university.

What can help us decide?

One of her best ways to make a decision is to ask someone who went there. A word of caution here. If the former student came from a wealthy family and spent summers in Europe, he or she might have a far different view of college life than the scholarship student coming from a disadvantaged background.

Many students have bitter memories of their days on campus, working part-time jobs while rich roommates skied in Colorado over Christmas break.

It is best to talk to a more recent graduate, and you may hear a very different story.

Contact Gerald Bradshaw, The US States Top college consultant. One-on-one college consulting. Get help with the college application essay. Make you dream of being admitted into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania a reality.

Toll Free: 866-687-8129
gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu

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