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Ask the Experts: College Programs

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Question Hi, I am interested in protecting our environment, what college majors will address my concern? Can you tell me some schools with good reputation in this area? Thanks! - Emily

 

AnswerWe are hearing from many students an interest in sustainability and the environment. Environmental science is probably the first place you should look for majors, though, depending on your strengths and interests, you might consider environmental engineering, astronomy, geography, biology, chemistry, or even, yes, majors like history, philosophy, or other humanities and social sciences. Many colleges allow you to combine majors or concentrate in a specific area, such as environmental economics, or environmental ethics, for example.

Check out this organization, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (http://www.aashe.org/about/about.php) for some good resources, and then do a search for schools with programs in your areas of interest. Some ideas: U Vermont, U Colorado Boulder, U Maryland College Park, Dartmouth College, Oberlin College, Bates College, U California Santa Cruz.

 

Question Is it possible to have a nonscience major when in college and still be accepted to medical school? - Kevin

 

AnswerYou raise a topic that is of interest to many college students who decide towards the end of their undergraduate studies or even after graduation that they want to enroll in medical school. There is a very good option for those who find themselves in this situation. A number of colleges and universities offer what is called a post baccalaureate premedical science curriculum. Completion of this program in good standing will lead to acceptance into medical school. The courses are demanding and the work load intensive, given the need to complete a full foundation in the necessary biology, human physiology, chemistry, and organic chemistry subjects to be prepared for medical studies. You can learn more about the particular content and requirements of the post baccalaureate program by checking out a few major examples: Columbia University, Bryn Mawr College, Goucher College, University of CT.

 

Question I have been planning to double major in American Studies and Pre-law, but it seems like the better colleges and universities do not provide pre-law as a major. Is it a garbage major? Should I just concentrate on American Studies and then go to Law School? - James

AnswerThere actually is no specific pre-law curriculum. All this term refers to is a combination of subjects across the liberal arts offerings that provide an appropriate foundation for law school studies. The subjects to take include political science, government, history, economics, English, writing, philosophy. Any strong liberal arts college or university will offer a range of offerings in these disciplines. American Studies is one good example of a cross disciplinary major. Critical reading, reasoning, and writing skills are the skills necessary to do well in law studies.

 

Question I was wondering what would be the best majors to earn if I were wanting to become a graphic designer making print ads, posters, designing websites, informational brochures, etc. So far I am thinking I should major in Marketing or Advertising and Graphic Design or Visual Communications. - Ryan

AnswerThe best preparation and training for successful entry and careers in the areas of your interest would be to major in graphic design with additional course work in studio arts, and information technology. If you are pretty certain that this is your major interest and talent, the best preparation would be gotten at college level institutes for the arts. You should do a search on Peterson's college search Web site with specific input of these programs as your priority interest.

 

Question I look forward to going to college, but I'm a little confused. For my career I would like to be a NFL agent, representing football players across the league. I am not sure what I should major in and what step to take to become a successful agent. I am writing you to ask you for some pointers on how to get started. Should I major in Business Marketing? - Karra

AnswerThat's a pretty specific focus, and one place to start is to look up some of the NFL agents on the web. They might list the profiles of those working in the field and their educational backgrounds. We suspect many have broad liberal arts degrees in their backgrounds, with graduate degrees in business, law, or communications. You can come at the agent career from different perspectives, with lawyers having more background and skills in contracts from a legal standpoint, for example, and those with a business background having more of the financial negotiating skill set.

Partly, you should focus right now on your current strengths and interests. If you are good with numbers and strong in math, then you might look into business programs and colleges/universities with programs in sports management or related fields. If you are better in reading/writing/humanities, then a future in the law might be more appropriate, and you should be applying to liberal arts colleges or colleges of arts and sciences at the bigger universities. Communications, and a background in broadcasting, marketing media, sport, and society, can also give you a lot of understanding of the NFL and its business and the television market, for example. If you can get your foot in the door at the NFL or with one or more teams, for internships, that could also be key for you down the line.

 

Question How while still in high school can I get some idea of what I want to major in? Because I have passed several AP exams I expect to have to decide on my major sooner right? - Margurite

 

AnswerThat is not correct. Advanced Placement credit will allow you to place out of certain introductory level courses, and perhaps gain credits toward college graduation. However, many students do not use the AP's to graduate earlier. Rather, they take courses they might prefer, or retake a course like Biology in order to really master the basic content prior to moving ahead to tougher courses. In most colleges, you will not need to declare a major prior to finishing your sophomore year. And, you can always change your major or add a major or minor in many cases if you change your mind.

That said, you can start thinking now about your strengths and interests academically while you are in high school and seek to challenge and enrich yourself in those areas. You can take courses at a local community college or online. You can consider careers in which you might be interested, and then research which majors would prepare you for such careers. That can help you in building your college list, because you can look for schools that have strong majors in these areas.

 

Question Hello, I am a junior in HS. I would like to go to Medical School in Southern California. After some research, I found out that USC has Pre-Med, but UCLA, UCSD or UCI do not. You mentioned that any undergraduate grad can apply for those medical schools. And I learned that about 27,000 applicants fight for 15,000 medical school admission nationwide. So my question is: Does it give any advantage for UCLA graduates to be admitted to UCLA Medical school? In other words, if I would like to go to a certain medical school, is it better to try to go in the undergraduate school of the same university?

Another question: what does pre-med mean? If you go though pre-med with USC, for example, is it most likely you can go to USC medical school? I have to make a decision very soon which way I want to go. I think I have a good enough scores and GPA for either one. But I do not like to go through the stress of choosing and applying for the school too many times any more. I love studying but hate competing with other fellow students. - Tom

AnswerYou are right that one does not have to be a pre-med to apply successfully to medical colleges. Pre-med could be a highly organized and structured program at some colleges and universities: planned course curriculum with a set sequence; a medical college adviser for pre-med students; MCAT preparation; application workshops; access to internships or volunteer opportunities; counsel on where and when and how to apply; special courses, including, as we have mentioned some accelerated or preferential entrance opportunities. Some colleges will have more or less of these elements in their pre-med programs.

Many medical college entrants have just taken the 7–8 courses necessary to qualify for admission and do well on the MCAT. About half have majored in a non-science area. Many graduate from small liberal arts colleges with some, but not significant, pre-med preparation.

Going to USC or another college with a medical school will not improve your chances of entering that medical school unless they have a special entrance program (not sure if USC does). You could do better getting into UCLA or USC for medical school after graduating from a small- to medium-size private or public college or university and excelling there. A small and supportive, but academically rigorous college could lessen the competition and heighten your preparation for graduate studies.

 

Question My son is a HS Junior this year. He's thinking about a double major in Business and Journalism. I'm thinking he likes both, but that he may want to preserve some options after college. Is doing a double major like this doable or advisable? Would it be better to minor in Journalism. - Garrett

AnswerMany talented students we advise are interested in combining university studies in journalism/communications with business. Is it possible to do a dual major in these two areas? Yes at some universities and no at others is the realistic picture. He should contact the admissions offices and ask if present or past students have completed this particular combination. Our own counsel is that it is more productive to concentrate in one or the other field and take elective courses, possibly enough to be recognized as a minor. Both of these fields of study are very intense and have many required courses for the degree. Your son should determine if his primary interest is in journalism and writing or in business management. Reviewing carefully the required courses in both fields will help him know what attracts him the most.

 

Question My boyfriend wants to become an investment banker as a back-up plan in case he doesn't make it to the NFL, and we were wondering if you could tell us what major he should study in college in order to become an investment banker and any other tips you have for pursuing this job. Thank you. - Jazmyn

AnswerWell, it's always good to have a back-up plan, especially since making it to the NFL and doing well enough to make your career there are so difficult. If he is interested in investment banking, he should include economics, business, and math classes in his undergraduate curriculum, as well as some government and English to build good writing and analytical skills. He doesn't need to major in economics or business, but those are likely places to start. Economics is the more "academic" major, one that he would find in most liberal arts colleges and universities. Business is more "practical," hands-on, and not found everywhere — mostly at the larger universities and now at a number of smaller and middle-sized private colleges and universities as well.

 

Question My daughter wants to be a vet. What college and what degree she needs before going to veterinary graduate school? - Lavinia

 

AnswerShe does not need to major in pre-vet medicine to go to a graduate veterinary college, but she does need to fulfill some intensive math and science course wherever she attends. She could go to a liberal arts college and major in philosophy if she wanted to, but make sure to take the 7 or so science and math courses that vet schools require. Alternately, she could focus on pre-vet programs at places like Cornell or the University of Connecticut and begin her focus at an earlier stage. Check out the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges web site, aavmc.org, for more information on options and requirements.

 

Question My daughter's talents and interests are in the performing arts. Her high school counselor and HS dance instructor have both suggested that she pursue a BFA degree due to her exceptional talents in dance and choreography. She is currently completing the two-year, higher level course in dance from the International Baccalaureate. Her academic skills are only satisfactory due to a mild learning disability.

As parents, we encourage her to develop her talent but we also need to look at the big picture - reality. After four years of study with a dance department, leading to a BFA degree, where will her career lead? With a BFA, as opposed to a BA in dance, will this degree preclude her from obtaining a teaching credential? I have been informed that requisites for teaching credentials are different by State. She comes from an international school and may even return internationally to teach in the future.

At present, her goals in dance are to perform and choreograph for dance companies, but, we are discouraged with the income outlook for that career. As a safety net for her future, we wish to give her the option to obtain a teaching credential for both elementary and secondary schools. Is there a pathway that you can suggest? The information that we have received from our research of the arts institutes and universities has not clarified the direction to which she should proceed. - Lorna

AnswerWe have counseled many artistically talented students over the years who want to build a career in the performing arts. The issues you raise are very important and relevant to take into consideration. Based on the experience of a large number of students we offer the following thoughts.

Your daughter's strong interest in dance and choreography may well be the result, in part, of her learning issues. If you are familiar with the work of such psychologists as Howard Gardner, you know that there are a number of very distinct intellectual talents or aptitudes. Artistic talent is one of these primary areas. Your daughter seems most likely to succeed and be happy in a higher educational setting where she can focus more on her talents than on traditional academic requirements that are more challenging for her. Thus the BFA degree could be the better degree program.

Also, she is likely to gain admission to a higher level college through the performing arts division than the strictly academic divisions if she auditions well. A BFA is considered a professional degree that carries a good deal of value in the world. She could qualify to teach at the college level, run a dance/choreography program of her own or within a school setting with such a degree and the training it represents. There are not very many top BA dance programs, and some of the best are in very academically demanding colleges and universities. We vote for the BFA route if your daughter remains passionate about the performing arts.

 

Question My son is a junior with a 4.0 in honors courses and made 97% on his PSAT. He is talented in several areas, but does not know what he wants to do. He is eligible for the national merit scholarship at this point. What is the best method to determine what area of study he should go into? - Fran

AnswerIf he is not too focused now on a direction, that is fine. Most students have no idea at this point in their lives, and those who do often change their minds. Colleges recognize this, and often remark that the first or second most popular major choice on entrance/applications is "undeclared" or "unknown." We have heard admission officers also comment that they love students who are unsure of direction, because they will be willing to take most advantage of the liberal arts education offered at most colleges and universities.

That said, your son probably knows more than he thinks he does about his interests and strengths, and what he doesn't want to do. That can be a starting point for course planning for next year, and for indicating to colleges what areas he tends to be more focused in. He can use this summer potentially to explore career or academic areas if he might have one, at college summer programs, internships, local community college courses, and so on. There is nothing wrong, however, with concluding that he wants a balanced liberal arts education and making that point to appropriate colleges.

 

Question I am in the tenth grade and i'm pretty sure of what i want to be when i get out of school and i was wondering what should i major in so i could become a neonatologist? - Whitney

 

AnswerYou're talking about medicine, which means you should attend a college that has a strong pre-medical program, good science courses, and a good track record for medical college admissions. You need to start by taking strong science and math courses in high school, and pursuing activities, internships, and/or volunteer activities that allow you to explore and show interest in this field. Work with kids, shadow a doctor, volunteer in a hospital.

 

Question Hi. I was wondering if you could help me find what types of majors to pursue.  I love to write, especially informative papers and I have received compliments from college-educated adults, even receiving awards and having poems published. I also love animals, and nature. Since I was little I have been hiking, rafting, rock climbing, wild caving etc. I have searched to see if a career combining these was even possible, and the careers of National Geographic writers have the perfect combination of my passions. In order to best equipped for such a career, what types of majors should I consider? Is there any other career that would involve a combination of my interests? - Amanda

AnswerWe encourage you to focus your college search on liberal arts colleges or universities because of your various strong interests. In a liberal arts program you will have the opportunity to select courses in a wide range of academic fields that can appeal to you. You should look at colleges that emphasize the importance of teaching writing skills throughout their academic courses. You may want to build a double major in the last two years of your college studies in writing/journalism and natural or environmental sciences. Many students today create a dual major on the basis of their several major interests.

 

Question I want to be an entrepreneur, and I'm not quite sure which major would help me reach my goal. Could you explain the difference between a business major and an economics major. Please explain which one leads toward more of an entrepreneurial career. I also wanted to major/minor in architecture. Is architecture a good compliment to economics or business? - Sherilyn

AnswerEntrepreneurs are typically independent-minded, active, creative people who do work well with numbers, and with people, but don't tend toward institutional environments or hours spent with theoretical principles. If you want to get out and do things, and make things, and be an active business-person, it's likely that a business major will work best for you. It's also likely that you'll want/need to take some economics coursework to deepen the major and give you an understanding of fundamental economic principles. Many architects are also entrepreneurial, working independently, in a creative and applied art.

There are very few institutions that would allow you to combine study of both architecture and business, since there are not many architecture programs for undergrads. Many architects study business after college, or even go on to earn an MBA, to improve their management of a small or larger architectural practice.

 

Question Do you think it is beneficial to apply to a college with a declared major, or to apply undecided? - Jacqueline

 

Answer"Undecided" or "Undeclared" is often one of the top three majors for incoming freshman at many colleges. Liberal arts colleges by definition are interested in providing students with a broad educational background. It's fine to apply undecided if that is what you are. Yet you can still talk about your strengths and interests in your application. If you do have talents leading to one or more directions, do consider indicating potential major choices. You are not bound to them, except if you apply to a particular college (engineering, communications, business, nursing, for example) within a university, and depending on the university's program. You will officially pick your major going into your junior year in most cases.

 

Question I'm currently a high school junior. I was wondering if it's normal to minor in an area totally different from your major? Because in thinking about college, I want to major in "Chemistry" since I want to become a physical therapist, but I'm also into the enetertainment industry and I was interested in minoring in "Communication and the Entertainment Industry"(a course offered at USC which is where I want to attend) So basically I was wondering if they were too opposite of each other? - Leslee

AnswerMore students are double-majoring these days, or modifying a major or combining a major and a minor in related or totally unique areas. Sometimes you can draw thematic connections between seemingly disconnected majors, but even if you cannot it is fine to pursue your passions while mastering coursework necessary for your chosen profession or graduate program. Especially in the sciences we are seeing students headed to medical school or a related field like physical therapy earn a science major while adding another major or minor in the arts, the humanities (philosophy or history, for example), or the social sciences (psychology, political science, etc.).

 

Question I will be majoring in american studies. What careers would this prepare me for and what classes should i take to achieve this? - Dan

 

AnswerAmerican Studies is an example of one of the new interdisciplinary, or interdepartmental majors or concentrations many colleges are offering. It involves a lot of history and government coursework, as well as English literature, sociology, and other areas. This major can prepare you for law school and a career in the law, for a graduate program in history, political science, or sociology, for a career in public service, for teaching, and many other fields. Your college coursebook will outline the menu of courses you will need to take, and then those which you can choose from in order to fulfill your major requirements. You might also consider adding another major or a minor concentration if you find yourself becoming very interested in one of the departments in which you take courses.

 

Question I am considering a bachelor's degree but am not sure what am I required to do for astrophysics. Also I'm worried because of lack of employment opportunity in taking this as major. Aren't there any other majors that i could do without leaving astronomy? and if yes what qualifications do I need? - abit

AnswerDepending on your strengths academically, you could take astronomy in a more or less scientific direction. In other words, you could head down the road of physics, engineering, and the hard sciences, to give you more of an in-depth, and marketable, set of skills and academic courses. Aeronautical engineering for example, or nuclear engineering, especially when combined with astrophysics, or adding computer science, or imaging technologies, could be interesting. On the other hand, perhaps you love the ideas associated with astronomy and would like to share them with others. Studying physics, astronomy, and then education and teaching would allow you to teach at the secondary school level. If you went on to a master's degree or Ph.D. you could teach at higher levels, with the Ph.D. necessary for research and teaching at the university level.

 

Question i am 16 years old and looking into getting my Bachelors in chemistry i want to work in crime labs. I was wondering if there are any classes i need to take to better my chances of getting into a good college. - Jessica

 

AnswerYou're really looking at forensic sciences, but should plan to build the same kind of background that you would for the medical sciences (a pre-med orientation). In high school, try to take advanced chemistry and biology. Some schools offer forensics, but if your school doesn't, perhaps you can attend a summer program that does or take an introductory class at a local community college. In college, look for institutions that have a forensic sciences major, a criminology major (usually housed in the department of sociology), and good pre-medical training. It may take you a couple of years to see which way you want to come at this. It's possible that along with criminology you might head toward the law, and combine that with some study of forensic sciences.

 

Question I plan to be an education major. I am interested in teaching secondary english but I have not ruled out Elementary Education. I am finding it difficult to find a college that has both. I was informed by a counselor that for elementary education a student majors in education and minors in what they specifically want to teach. For secondary education, they major in what they want to teach and minor in secondary ed. Should I be looking to major in English and minor in secondary ed? - Allison

AnswerThese are very good questions about how to become a teacher, and you are onto an important point: to give yourself your best career options and become a stronger teacher, you should consider majoring or minoring in both education and a particular academic subject (such as English or writing, history or a science, etc.). Depending on the college, you can double major, major and minor, modify a major, and so on. It will not matter that much which goes first. After your first year or two of college, when it comes time to actually declare and confirm your choice of major(s), you should know and be able to work with an adviser to determine the best option for yourself.  

There are many strong undergraduate programs offering education and liberal arts and sciences majors. Many are in the public flagship colleges and universities and other public colleges around the country. Examples would include the University of North Carolina, Miami University of Ohio, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Wisconsin. Many private colleges and universities also have specialized education-related programs for undergraduates, sometimes in separate schools of education within the university. Examples include Vanderbilt University (the Peabody School there), Syracuse University, the University of Denver, and Boston University.

 

Question My Spanish teacher told me that if I were to major in a foreign language, it would be smart to go for teacher certification also because she says you can do the same things as with a basic degree plus teach, is this true? - Christopher

 

AnswerIf you want to teach, and have the most opportunities available to you, then getting a certificate makes sense — you'll be able to teach at both public and private schools. Many colleges and universities don't offer certification, but you can pursue it while getting a master's degree in education or teaching after college. Another good point is that getting at least one other academic major in college in addition to education or certification is important, since you will be better prepared to teach an individual subject, and/or pursue a master's degree in that discipline.

 

Question Hello, i would like to study criminal law. Im hope to go to Harvard College for my undergraduate studies, however, Harvard does not offer any pre-law studies. Do students who wish to go to Law School have to take Pre-law classes? Will i still be able to attend Law School? - SMADAR

AnswerA number of colleges list "pre-law" as a major, but in fact there is no specific concentration required for law school. A broad-based liberal arts education that emphasizes studies in the social sciences and humanities will qualify a student for admission to a quality law school. One does not have to go to an Ivy League university like Harvard in order to qualify for law school studies. Any of the several hundred top undergraduate liberal arts colleges will serve a serious, goal-oriented student well.

 

Question I'm a high school junior and I've always loved math and science. I'm looking into majoring in Engineering, but, don't want to narrow my options too soon. Is it better to select your major before going to school, or waiting until once you are there? Is it true that i will miss out on core requirements? - cait

AnswerSuccessful engineering students have a strong foundation in the physical sciences (chemistry and physics) and advanced mathematics (calculus) and, just as important, they enjoy these subjects. Many universities offer excellent engineering degree programs within broad-based liberal arts curricula. If you feel that you have a fairly strong interest in the study of engineering and a career in one of its very many specialized fields you can enroll in the engineering division of a liberal arts university and change fields of study after the first or second year if you are not happy with your studies. This direction makes more sense than enrolling in a more narrow curriculum of a technical university.

It is also possible to enroll in a liberal arts, more generalized college, and include the physical sciences and mathematics in your program as a background for graduate studies in engineering if you find you do well in these subjects. You can also consider interning with an engineering company during the summer to learn more about the field before you choose your field of study and appropriate college.

 

Question My son wants to major in computer engineering and is required to have a minor. What would be a good minor to compliment computer engineering? - Holly

 

AnswerMany engineers take their skills into the business world, and pursue a graduate degree in business after working for a few years. Your son might want to consider minoring in business as an undergraduate, or in economics, making sure to take quantitative courses in addition to the engineering requirements which would help him learn about business and be eligible for graduate school entrance. He might consider computer science, which would help him with the software/language/programming side of the tech world. Depending on his interests and skills, he could also be creative and go with a humanities/social science minor — English, history, a foreign language, for example — and present quite an interesting transcript.

 

Question I am a high school junior. I would like to be an Ambassador when I grow up. Which college/s would help me reach my goal, and what majors and minors would I have to sign up for? - Christal

 

AnswerYou can reach an ambassadorial position in two main ways. One is to be appointed politically by the President. That would mean being very well connected politically and probably making a lot of major campaign donations. Sometimes major corporate leaders (such as former CEOs) are appointed as ambassadors late in their careers. It's hard to bank on those options happening.

If you're interested in diplomacy and serving in a foreign relations position, you should make sure to attain fluency in at least one foreign language spoken in the areas of the world in which you're interested. You should study political science, international relations, foreign relations/service, and American history/studies. You want to be well-grounded in the U.S. system of government, history, and culture, as well as skilled in dealing with foreign cultures. You might choose to work in a university for a while, or join the U.S. Foreign Service (the U.S. State Department), rising up levels to the top of the civil service corps, and, potentially, an ambassadorial position.

Undergraduate and graduate programs of interest: Georgetown, Harvard, Tufts, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Stanford, University of Southern California, and others. You can pursue an undergraduate degree in foreign affairs at a place like Georgetown's Walsh School of Foreign Service, or study government and languages and history in a liberal arts college and then go to a Georgetown, Harvard, or Tufts type of program for a master's degree. You can also pursue an academic Ph.D. in political science with an emphasis on international relations and/or comparative politics.

 

Question I'm considering a major in Japanese and I was wondering what my career options would be with such a degree. Thanks! - Christopher

 

AnswerYou could go in many directions with a major in Japanese, but in order to expand your options, you should consider combining your major in one or more directions. One would be international relations/affairs, which would open more options related to diplomacy, public service, government, and international non-profit work. Second would be business and economics, which would help create opportunities for international business. Third would be Asian Studies and political science, opening up more teaching and academic work, as well as consulting. Finally, you should consider adding Chinese, which would expand your ability to work in the rest of Asia, and which represents the wider spread and faster growing of the two Asian languages.

 

Question My dream has been to study Business when I get to college. However, I really wanted to focus on the international aspect of business and I figured I should study International Business. Should I just major in International Business or study Pre-Business and then decide my major - Lys

AnswerYour question about business school is a classic one, and brings up a common discussion about whether to major in business as an undergraduate or focus on the liberal arts and plan to pursue a master's degree in business (MBA) after working for a time after college. Some colleges also offer a 3/2 or 4/1 degree program, where you can combine liberal arts study with one or two years of business and receive either two bachelor's degrees (one in the arts and sciences, and one in business) or a bachelor's and a master's. We find many universities with a business major for undergraduates continue to require students to take two years of liberal arts courses prior to beginning intensive study of business.  

To prepare for business in college, make sure to take strong courses in high school math, and to attempt economics and any business courses your school may offer. If you are interested in international business, you should also make sure to stay with at least one foreign language all the way through college. You will need to research schools to see which offer international business as an emphasis, as opposed to standard business coursework. You will likely want to be able to study abroad as part of your program.  

When you enter college, you do not need to worry about international versus regular business — pick a college that offers both and make sure to fulfill early requirements for the business major or undergraduate business college at the university. When you need to declare your major, usually just prior to junior year, you can make an informed decision about whether to go for business, or to stay with the arts and sciences (liberal arts) or another field.

 

Question Do you have any advice on trying to become a lawyer? - Karen

 

AnswerYou should plan to major in an area that requires you to do significant writing and analytical work, and gives you a background on the U.S. legal system, international law and human rights, governmental systems, and the judicial system(s). That suggests a bachelor's degree majoring in government/political science, history, and/or international studies. During college, you should try to get internships with law firms, with departments/ministries of justice at local, state, regional, or national levels, here in the U.S. or in your home country, or with not-for-profit, non-governmental organizations working in law-related areas. In the long term, you will need strong LSAT (the law school admission test) scores and possibly work after college in a law-related area, or as a paralegal.

 

Question what are hot majors in the states now? which schools have good programs of those major? - Howard

 

AnswerFirst of all, popular majors aren't necessarily the best majors, for you personally, or for your preparation overall for a career or graduate school. Think about all the students who rushed into internet technology programs in the late nineties before the stock market crash and bursting of the tech bubble. Many are now back in school looking for more "traditional" careers. You should consider your own strengths and goals for the type of work you'd like to do, and then try to find academic programs that seem well suited to your interests and abilities. 

That said, there are some trends here. One is in the direction of business. This has become one of the most popular undergraduate majors. Many students follow a business program because they want more "practical" career preparation — something they can take right away into a job after college. Many state universities, as well as private institutions like Boston University, Washington University, Franklin and Marshall College, and Tulane offer good (and very different) undergraduate business programs.  

Engineering sciences are also popular for international students who want technical skills and training they can bring to graduate school (including graduate business school, medical school, or engineering school), and then possibly take back home to work on economic development in their country of origin.   History and government are always popular. These days, interdisciplinary programs (which combine several major fields) in international studies, especially Middle Eastern and Asian studies, are very popular.

The American Council on Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the U.S. Department of Education offer a variety of data on what students are studying.

 

Question How do I define what exact area of study I should pursue? I "want" to be a film producer/director — the guy in charge. After visiting Chicago's Columbia College, sitting in on the orientation I became concerned that I could sign up and take years of classes that I don't know if they meet my needs or would be taking them in a manner that may not be best timed out for my future endeavor. 

Is there an interest test? Or something like that that would help pinpoint "the where I should emphasize my strengths and likings"? My folks are at my side throughout this process, but too are confused as to how to get the fine tuning of applying and choices of course studies. 

We live near New York and I've already visited NYU, would LOVE to attend the film department at NYU — but not sure if my SAT will get me in ... I'm not a great test taker — it's always been a weakness of mine — I retain info, but at times hesitate a bit too much during the test taking process — so my test scores might hurt me to get into an academic college. Please help me! - Chelsie

AnswerYou have a very good idea in mind regarding the wisdom of verifying as best you can your interest in a specialized field of study and career at this phase in your life. There are interest and aptitude tests that you can take through your high school's guidance office, such as the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment. These are personal surveys in which you respond to your preferences from a great many choices that add up to a composite picture of the kinds of activities you most prefer to be engaged in and the type of personality you demonstrate. These findings or images can then be matched with occupations and careers that match your personal preferences and personality type. While not an exact science this assessment can help guide you in certain directions.

You should also interview professionals in the film industry to gain a firsthand understanding of what it takes to succeed in this competitive field. Successful professionals are always pleased to share their experience with interested young adults.

If you are uncertain about committing to very specialized studies too early in your academic career, step back and decide to enroll in a more general, broad-based college program and explore lots of interests, including film studies. You can always pursue this field in graduate school, including top flight programs like NYU. If you have a strong grade point average in undergraduate college you will have a chance for acceptance in a top graduate program regardless of test scores.

 

Question I want to go into web designing what major should I go into and what colleges should I be looking at. - Levi

 

AnswerPeterson's college search will lead you to institutions that offer a major concentration in web design. Many of these are professional schools of art and design, while many others are two- and four-year colleges that emphasize technical studies. Some more general liberal arts colleges include a major in web design. So the message you should take from this is that there are a good many opportunities to prepare for a career in this specialized field.

You must decide if you want to study in a more narrowly based technical curriculum or a highly focused arts college environment or a broader, more diverse liberal arts college. We suggest you look into some examples of all three models, including visiting a few if possible to sit on classes and talk to students and faculty, in order to determine which educational environment feels right for you. Be as certain as you can of your long term commitment to this career before you choose the more narrow, focused academic program.

 

Question I choose my major as Biomedical Engineer, which subjects should I take in the first two years in college to transfer to a university?? Thank you - Chou

 

AnswerBioengineering is a multi-disciplinary degree program that combines training in a school of engineering, arts and sciences division, and medical school of a particular university. There are very important foundation courses that you should study prior to transferring into such a degree program. They include these: organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, introductory biology and human physiology, calculus for science majors, introduction to mechanical engineering. You should plan for five years of study if you are to complete all the very specialized courses that lead to a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering.  We recommend that your review the course offerings and requirements of an outstanding program in biomedical engineering to understand what you will need to study.

 

Question I am looking for a good college in the southern california area that has strong programs for pharmacy, biomedical engineering, or clinical laboratory technology. Do you have any suggestions on what colleges to look into? What programs should I be looking for in a college if I intend to be a pharmacist or pharmacytechnician after I graduate? - lindsay

AnswerWe'd suggest doing a search on Petersons.com for particular programs in California or other areas which offer those specific majors. UC Irvine, U of Southern California, UCLA, and UC San Diego are likely to have a lot of what you are looking for. In general, if you want to go into pharmaceutical sciences, you should pursue a curriculum similar to that for a pre-med: high-level math (including calculus and statistics), chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, etc.). Find a particular pharmacy undergraduate and graduate program, and then look into the major and degree requirements to see the kinds of courses you have to take, and the courses you can take, to see if they fit your interests and skills.

 

Question I'd really like to go to Wharton business school. Should I apply to U of P for undergrad, and if I do and get in, will I have a better chance of getting into their grad program? Thanks. - Val

 

AnswerIf you want to go to Wharton, you need to consider the reasons why, and, if you are primarily focused on business/finance at this early stage, whether you want to go to an undergraduate, rather than a graduate business program. You can do either at Wharton, so you might consider applying there for college, though it is more competitive to get into than the liberal arts college at Penn. There are many other strong business programs for undergraduates, such as those at Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon, Boston College, Michigan, Indiana, Babson, and many others depending on your preferences.

If you want a broader liberal arts experience as an undergrad, then by all means you should be thinking about how your undergraduate experience will prepare you for a high level graduate program, in business or another field. You will need to attend a good college, though not necessarily the highest ranked, and shoot for at least a 3.5 GPA as a goal.

Going to Penn as an undergrad will not give you better odds at getting into Wharton. To the contrary, it may be harder to stand out in your competitive class at Penn, and Wharton will be looking to admit a highly diverse and talented national and international pool for its graduate program. Go to Penn as an undergrad if it is the university that fits you best for this stage of your life and education.

 

Question I would like to become a doctor and am considering applying to Hopkins pre-med.  If I go there, will this better my chances of getting into their med school or should I look at going to a different school so that I will be in a better position when applying to med school? - anthony

AnswerYou'll want to be in a college where you can take a demanding curriculum, including the 6–8 courses you'll need to qualify for med school, while getting that 3.5 GPA and doing things to help you stand out for med school and work in science areas. However, you need not major in a science, as about half of all med school entrants are non-science majors these days.

You could find, and this is hard to predict, that you might find a hard time standing out at Hopkins, where the pre-med program is highly competitive, and where the Hopkins medical college will be looking to admit a highly diverse class, including lots of students not graduating from JHU as undergrads.

You do not need to go to a college that has a major medical school as an undergrad to be highly qualified and advantaged in applying to graduate medical schools. Many small liberal arts colleges, from Amherst to Bates to Mount Holyoke have very strong records of med school admissions.

 

Question My son is very interested in digital video media. We need to know what major he would look for in trying to find a college. He has been videoing, editing and producing snowboard/skateboard videos since he was 15. He has finished his 3rd video (just for fun). We are having trouble trying to find a college that would "fit" these interests. - Tina

AnswerIt sounds like working with film and video is a real hook for your son — it's an increasingly popular one for many students we see. There are a number of formal programs out there in film and video production, as well as more liberal arts/humanities oriented programs in film studies.

He may find his home in a communications program, with film but also media and broadcasting, journalism and public relations offerings. He could look at a college like Ithaca, in New York, that offers all of this, or Syracuse's Newhouse School of Communications, or Indiana University at Bloomington's radio and TV program. Boston University and NYU, as well as the University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles have excellent programs.

The issue is determining if he wants to jump into a more "pre-professional" hands-on film and production program, or find a more balanced liberal arts environment with humanities, sciences, arts, film, and so on. Visits and research on the program opportunities and requirements will help.

 

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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