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How to figure out a college major

6 Sep

You can learn a lot about majors at a college bookstore!

As you’re making plans to apply to colleges, one question comes up repeatedly.

What will be your intended major?

That’s a biggie, seniors, because you want to apply to colleges that have a strong program in that major. (The answer to that question will be in next week’s blog.)

But how can you know if a major will be a good fit?

That’s also challenging at this point, but there are a couple good ways to find your academic niche.

First, on a university’s website, find the list of required courses for a major that interests you. Then go to the link for the required courses of that major (not the general ed courses).

Read through the actual course descriptions–the short paragraph that tells you what the course will be about). Do these seem interesting to you? If so, that could be a good fit for you.

Yes, you’re allowed to look through college textbooks.

Another strategy is to visit a college’s bookstore and head toward the section that has the books required for the various college classes (yes, you can do that!). Find your major and the various courses in the department being offered that semester (or quarter). Thumb through them. Read a page or two.

I’ve been known to ask students these questions. “Do these books seem interesting to you?” “Can you see yourself reading this material?” “If not, do you think this would be the best major for you?”

If you do NOT like the material in the textbooks, then peruse the bookstore for academic books that DO interest you. Maybe that will be your fit instead.

Happy major hunting . . . and keep in mind that some universities will allow you to apply “Undeclared,” which means you have not yet decided on a major.

Hey, reader . . . 50 Life Lessons for Grads–written by 50 college grads–will be released in April. Look for it for the perfect gift for all the grads you know.

 

What admissions officers want

30 Aug

My youngest is currently getting a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

While some four-year universities may simply use GPA and scores to determine acceptance, others may consider many criteria in the admissions application, including a combination of the following:

 

 

  • School achievement (GPA)
  • Test scores (SAT or ACT)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay(s)
  • Personal (or telephone) interview
  • Activities, including leadership, athletics, and community service.

It is important to carefully review a college’s admissions considerations, so you can make decisions about where to apply. It is NOT a good idea to apply only to one or two colleges, because that doesn’t leave much wiggle room if the response is negative. Here’s a traditional guideline:

  • Apply to a couple “safe” schools — those to which you (or your student) will certainly be accepted.
  • Apply to a couple “challenge” schools — ones with good reputations that probably will accept you.
  • Apply to one or more “reach” schools — ones that are more selective.
  • Think about a mix of both public and private universities. Public universities usually are more affordable, while private universities can usually offer more free financial assistance, as well as graduation within four years.

The College Board began tracking admissions considerations in the early 1980s and has consistently found that the most important considerations for acceptance are the student’s grade point average and the rigor of courses taken (College Counseling Sourcebook, 4th edition, 2007). Colleges have found that students who challenge themselves in high school and achieve in difficult classes will also succeed at the college level. So, if you have not performed all that well in high school and are counting on the fact that you are student body president this year . . . you may be disappointed.

What I have learned is that I cannot always predict whether or not a student will get into a certain college. My oldest got into all five colleges to which she applied. The next two kids got into most of the schools to which they applied. The last one got into three of the six even though she had the strongest profile of our four kids — and the school she attended (UC Berkeley) was the most selective of those six. So, who knows?

What I do know is that for selective schools a student must have stellar grades and scores . . . and a unique leadership quality that has been demonstrated consistently over the entire high school career. Leadership is demonstrated in a couple ways: holding a presidency or vice presidency in a school, class, club, or other organization or organizing (as a committee chairman or event chairman). Generally, only serving as a member or other kind of officer doesn’t demonstrate “leadership.” So, an ASB president title slapped on during the senior year when no other leadership was demonstrated in earlier years may not be enough for some admissions folks looking for something to tip the scale in the student’s favor.

Community service is fantastic on a student’s profile, but the volunteer work should be focused and cumulative over many years, rather than spotty endeavors in this cancer walk or that food drive for the shelter. Additionally, the college applicant should be able to show that she ORGANIZED the various events, not merely attended or participated. Again, colleges want leaders, not followers.

So, this week’s assignment:

  • Make a list of what schools to apply to.
  • Write the deadlines in your planner.

And understand this: The early bird generally gets the acceptance AND the best financial aid offer. So, make your weekend “job” college applications this fall .  .  . and get them done!

To what schools do you plan to apply?

Sign up for last-minute tests

23 Aug

If you’re not happy with your ACT or SAT scores, you can still take them this fall. Typically, though, four-year colleges want seniors to have their tests completed by December.

To sign up for the Sept. 9 or Oct. 28 ACT, go here:

http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act.html

To sign up for the Oct. 2, Nov. 4 or Dec. 2 SAT, go here (you still may be able to get into the Aug. 26 test as a standby–but act now!):

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/

Those links can also direct you to free practice tests, which you should take seriously NOW. Work on them daily so you’re prepared.

Remember: Good scores equal not only better admission chances but also opportunities to earn scholarship money. Colleges typically base their scholarships heavily on test scores.

Coming April 2018 to an online or mortar bookstore near you, 50 Life Lessons for Graduates–a perfect gift gift for high school and college graduates. Save time, money, and heartache from 50 millenial college grads who share their best life lessons.