Updated: February 25, 2014 6:13AM
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 daughter have a successful career. And there are bragging rights that go along with having a bright, motivated child, because all the years of hard work are finally paying off.
Yet, students need some breathing space between doffing their high school gowns and choosing and pursuing a successful career. High school is a structured place where little academic experimentation is allowed on an advanced placement schedule.
It is for these reasons that I say that a newly minted college freshmen needs time to explore college courses outside of what they believe may be their academic concentration, if for no other reason than to avoid burnout.
A few professional programs such as medical and dental schools require undergraduate students to take classes in their freshman year to prepare for graduate study. A history or English class can be a real vent to a student otherwise grinding away in a rigorous math or science sequence, especially if the professor teaching the class is an outstanding scholar.
And, this exploration may lead to a career path interest that was not apparent in high school.
This is not to say that parents shouldn’t have some influence in choosing a major. A parent experiencing disappointment in his or her own profession can often provide valuable insight into possible career choices.
For example, a college graduate with an MBA likely will travel more than those in other careers, and may be required to be away from their family more than those in other professions. This is a fact that might be important to know for someone who is contemplating a business career, but isn’t interested in becoming a globe-trotting executive.
Many parents use the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings to help them make a decision on where their child should go to college and what they should study. Although this information may be helpful in narrowing choices it should by no means be the final word on where to find a good education.
What can you do to help your college-bound student decide on a school? One of the best things to do is to ask someone who went there.
Find out what the school is really like in an academic sense and inquire about the campus culture. Remember that brand is not everything and that the composition of the college community will have a lot to do with the learning experience.
Choosing the right college requires time and a great deal of thought. Whenever possible I suggest that you visit the campus. If the school offers an opportunity to sit in on a class by all means do so.
In some instances a smaller school without a national profile may be the best home to nurture your child’s talents and academic acumen.