May 3rd, 2020
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I enjoyed our email chat yesterday. Your comments echoed those of my high school Biology teacher who suggested that I should consider a career in medical research rather than general surgery.
I hope to be accepted at Stanford University. It is my choice for all of the obvious reasons – their diverse student body, internship opportunities and a world-renowned academic structure. The school boasts brilliant professors and study abroad opportunities as well, assuming the best when the virus issue is safely under control.
While it would be my preference to study medicine in graduate school, I would be interested in pursuing a PhD in certain fields as well. I have expressed my preference for biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and biomedical engineering majors at the universities on my list.
I plan to take four Advanced Placement (AP) subjects my senior year in high school and will work hard to get top grades so that I can get advanced standing in college and possibly avoid at least a year of undergraduate studies. I hope that this will lead to a double major or more in three years.
I have another question. Based upon what you know about me, and your knowledge of economic trends, which double major or major combinations would you recommend.
Advice: Interest In Multiple Majors
Your query is really two distinct questions – one is the idea of taking multiple majors, and the “sleeper” question is whether to take advantage of AP classes and skip most of your freshman year.
Based on my experience and reading the economic tea leaves, any of the majors on your list should bode well for the future, whether you go to grad or medical school. Your choices are all tough programs and will impress admissions committees if you do extremely well in them.
As an aside, I employ a tutor for the SAT who is taking triple majors in physics, chemistry and mathematics. Another one of my tutors is taking a double in Philosophy and economics. You might consider clustering the majors because that has the added advantage of cross-fertilization; the skills learned in one major often can be used in the other according to these students.
The other question I want to address is what I have called the “sleeper” and that is whether to take advantage of AP classes. It has been my experience that most college freshmen do not have a good strategy in mind for evaluating the advantages or disadvantages of taking advanced standing classes.
While it is possible to skip a year of college by taking advanced classes this might not be the best decision for all students. Loading up on AP classes and becoming a sophomore in your freshmen year, is a practice that often leads to lower grades and a lower GPA from which it is impossible to recover.
I advise students that the college freshman year is all about earning top grades. In the final analysis, you will need top grades in order to apply to medical or grad school. The grades you earn in the first year as a freshmen or sophomore, count the most toward establishing your overall GPA. If you have a bad semester or even dip to a “B” in a single class, it will have a negative impact on your GPA and statistically it is impossible to average it out in the second and third year.
Remember that if you take AP classes you will be competing with second year students, many of whom will have taken the introductory class that you skipped. And, in most cases, they will be better prepared for the second year. In other words if you opt for all AP classes you forgo the opportunity to earn an easier “A.”
Colleges want to see that you are taking the hardest classes available, but they also want to see you succeed in those classes and that you know your limits.
Gerald Bradshaw is a top US college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting.
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