Advice for College Selection.

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Advice for College Selection.
By Thereishope (Thereishope) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 12:55 am: Edit

I am considered a math / science person. However, at this point in life, i have NO IDEA what i want to major or study at grad school other than it should be math and science related. What even confused me even more about what i want to do with my life is when i heard that people can major in Phyics, or get a degree in Engineering and still go to Business or Medical school. Could someone explain how this major and degree thing relate to what I might want to study in grad school and how it will affect my grad school admission?

Now, I know this might be too early. But i just want to start thinking about grad school and how my undergrad college will affect my entrance to grad schools. But i don't want to make the same mistake i did in high school - preparing too late. I was thinking of applying ED to Princeton and get a sort of liberal arts education for two years before declaring a major in the third year. Apparently, things are much more complicated than i have thought. People (HS students) have been telling me that if i want to get an Engineering degree, i should go for MIT as a first choice because it will help me to get to a better graduate school. So i am here to seek your professional opinion on this matter.

What do grad schools look in terms of admission?In my case, where i am still undecided, will going to a school like Princeton and get a well rounded education hurt my chance at Professional schools?

I understand that Princeton offers two degrees, AB or BSE, will it be a problem say if i get a AB degree but want to pursue a major in the BSE field for my grad school or vice versa?

My problem is that i feel insecure right now and i don't know if schools like Princeton and Yale offers the flexibility for me to choose what i want to study and give me a good shot (above avg) at the top graduate schools.

I know this post sounds a bit werid, but any comments on anything mentioned in this post will be very much appreciated.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 01:03 am: Edit

People going to law school don't have to take ANY required course of study prior to applying. You just take the LSATs, show them a good transcript, and with good recommendations (and have the money to pay for it), and they go about selecting. I always recommend music or art for potential lawyers, so they have something to enrich their lives when they aren't making money.

Medical school requires a series of courses (usually 9) for entrance and you take the med school tests. No major required - at my alma mater, a higher percentage of music majors go on to med school than do biology majors.

Engineering is likely a bit tighter, though I don't know much about it.

Grad schools are different - they usually require a good showing in a major or a strong minor before you can enter - in many grad schools, you will be expected to help teach (as a TA) the moment you enter, so if you haven't done the coursework previously, you are unlikely to be able to teach it.

Well-rounded is good - except literally when you get to be my age.

By Coureur (Coureur) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 01:03 am: Edit

Like any college, Princeton is stronger in some majors than others, but I cannot think of a single graduate program where you will actually be "hurt" by having gone to, and done well at, a great school like Princeton.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 01:55 am: Edit

>> i have NO IDEA what i want to major or study at grad school

Most of us have no idea what we want to do for the rest of our lives at age 17 -- even those of us who think we do!

That is why most of the top colleges in the United States don't ask you to declare a major until the end of your 2nd year.

Because of this (and the fact that good basic broadbased education is a good thing), the vast majority of talented students should look primarily at colleges or universities with the full assortment of majors.

Engineering is one of the few potential concentrations that requires a little more forethought in college selection. The courses an engineering major would take take in the freshman year would be largely the same as any other science major (math, physics, etc.) However, not all colleges and universities offer the engineering courses that you would take in your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years. Some do, some don't.

The question of a dedicated Tech school (such as MIT, Ga Tech, Harvey Mudd, Caltech) for undergrad study is an interesting one. For most students, it would only make sense if you are 100% positive that you want to study in an environment that is almost exclusively geared towards science, math, and engineering. If so, then it can be a viable option. Or, you can go to a liberal arts college or university, major in math, science, or engineering, and go to one of the tech schools for grad school Both approaches are valid.

By Midwesterner (Midwesterner) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 12:28 pm: Edit

You can also look at your education as though it were a cake, with one flavor underneath and another for the frosting. I know three math/science "types" who are very successful lawyers. One majored in accounting, one in pharmacy and one in economics. The combinations of undergrad disciplines and law degrees led them into specialized areas of law, much to their benefit. So, you don't need to determine your whole life at 17 - get some background in something you love, then see how someone with your talent and knowledge fits into the world.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 12:54 pm: Edit

One of the most prominent themes of the five Swarthmore seniors at the parent's Q&A related to science plans. Four of the five came to Swarthmore as science/math kids and dove headfirst into science/math programs. Of those four, three had either changed majors entirely, double majored, or created a special major -- all involving non-science fields.

All of them said that the biggest single piece of advice they would have for incoming freshman is to keep an open mind and sample all of the disciplines in the first year or two before commiting to a specific field of study.

By Thereishope (Thereishope) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 09:47 pm: Edit

Hey! wow, thanks for the great advices.

I am just wondering if going to a undergradute school that is not very well known for my major will hurt admissions at Graduate schools. Since i don't really know what i want to go into yet, so i was worried that IF i were to go into business and ended up at a school that is not well known for economics, but is well known for engineering, will that have any negative effects on my application to graduate school?

I am trying to make up my mind as to whether i should make the commitment of applying ED to Princeton since i do not know what to study yet. But i have done research and heard that Princeton is one of the best all well rounded undergrad schools anyway. What are you opinions on this?

I am thinking (as of now, since i have to declare which school i want to go into for Princeton on the app, but i am still not sure yet) that i might want to major in engineering then go to business school and get a MBA. So combine engineering and business. Which schools should i looking at?

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