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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW

gerald_bradshaw@post.harvard.edu

Bradshaw College Consulting

(219) 663-3041

Dear Mr. Bradshaw -- Our daughter has been accepted to Ohio State. With the state of the economy being what it is, she is undecided about a major.

As parents, we want her to pick something that will guarantee a job when she graduates. But we also want her to be happy with college and study what she enjoys. After all, a career is a lifetime commitment.

We recommend she study nursing or something in the medical field. She can always go for an MBA afterward, if that's the direction she takes. What choices and majors do you advise students to pursue? -- A Parent

Some freshmen should 'explore' various majors



Dear Parent -- Some parents are so delighted when their son or daughter gets accepted to a good college or university that they are tempted to choose a major for him or her.

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

Yet, many 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 that reason, many college freshmen need time to explore.

Keep in mind it is not necessary that all classes be taken toward a major. Most professional programs require students take classes in their freshman year to prepare for graduate study. Medical and dental schools have specific courses that must be taken in sequence as an undergraduate. But freshmen also may take a few courses outside their intended fields of study, if for no other reason than to avoid burnout.

A history or English class can be a real treat to a student otherwise grinding away in a rigorous premedical or nursing program, 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 disappointed in his or her profession often can provide valuable insight into choosing a career.

The opposite also is true. Many students who have parents who are happy with their jobs tend to follow in their footsteps. More than 40 percent of medical and dental students come from families where a parent is a doctor or nurse.

Adding an MBA to a nursing degree may be just what the doctor ordered if the student is inclined to the business side of health care. On the other hand, many in management are required to travel more than most nurses and could be away from their families. This might be important for students contemplating a business career in addition to a primary nursing degree.

One of the best ways to make a decision is to ask someone who works in the field. It is best to talk to a recent graduate, and you might hear a very different story about job opportunities and work-place culture.

Patient care might be more attractive to students who enjoy helping people one-on-one. Managing a large hospital or research program might attract students who enjoy interacting with large groups of people.

Either way, they're helping patients. And, with the aging population, it seems likely there will plenty of opportunities in the future.

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