Monday, August 17, 2015
It is always best to talk to a recent graduate for a fresh perspective on course offerings and campus culture.
Many parents are so delighted at the thought that their son or daughter stands a chance of being 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 or brilliant daughter become the family's first physician. 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 freshman needs time to explore. It is not necessary that all of classes be taken toward a major. A few professional programs require students to take classes in their freshman year to prepare for graduate study, and medical and dental schools have specific courses that must be taken as undergraduates. I suggest that freshman also take a few courses outside their intended field of study, if for no other reason than 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. Parents can add an element of reality for which no amount of classroom training can prepare students.
MBA's 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 someone who is contemplating a business career but is not interested in becoming a globe-trotting executive.
There is also a question about which schools offer the best education for an intended profession. Experts say some colleges are better suited to teach certain subjects.
While many parents and students still use the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings to help make a decision on where and what to study, it is by no means the final word on where to get a good education.
What can help you with your choice of a college? One of the 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 on a Pell Grant coming from a disadvantaged background.
It is always best to talk to a recent graduate for a fresh perspective on course offerings and campus culture. I would also urge a campus visit if at all possible.
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant owner at Bradshaw College Consulting.
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