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The College Conversation: The don'ts of choosing a college

July 19, 2010|By Lisa McLaughlin

We hear so much about how to pick a college, so let's address how not to pick a college.

When we ask our students if they have a particular major or career interest, one of three things happens. Usually, we get a blank stare. Sometimes, the student whips out a detailed résumé illustrating his undying love for, say, architecture. And then, there are those students who want to major in pre-med, pre-law, pre-education, pre-everything.

Rule No. 1: Don't narrow the field based on the availability of a pre-anything major. These are really hard to find. Why? They don't exist. All of the above are pre-professional pathways, and most colleges offer advising in these areas. It's true that some colleges have stronger pre-professional advising than others, and if your child is leaning toward graduate school, identifying a college's undergraduate preparation for grad school is essential.

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What also might be surprising is the reality that you don't even need to major in biology or any other science to be competitive for medical school. Rather, there are a handful of courses that an undergraduate must take to be considered for medical school. Outside of those, students are free to major in whatever they please, even humanities-based majors.

Future teachers — at most California colleges and universities — there are no education majors. Elementary teachers often major in liberal studies in order to achieve a broad-based education in a variety of subjects. Secondary teachers major in whatever they please, more often than not in the area most adored by them in high school. The training to teach comes in graduate school credential programs.

Same goes for medicine, law, physical therapy, dentistry and education. To achieve those careers, one needs graduate school.

Maybe it's due to our proximity to Los Angeles, but there are too many aspiring 17-year-old film producers in Orange County. Many industry professionals would agree that you shouldn't study film production if you want to be a cinematographer. They'll tell you to get a life first or analyze the lives of others. An excellent start for this investigation is to major in psychology, anthropology or even animal behavior. If the film thing doesn't pan out, you'll be thankful for your bachelor's degree in a different area.

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