The Best Summer of Your Life

“What courses should I take in the fall of my first year in college? What should my major be? Robin Kim said to me late last week. “My parents are upset at the littlest things these days!” she said with that voice that indicated she was ready to go off to college.

The summer after the Senior year of high school has got to be the best summer of a teenager’s life. The college has been selected; the pressure of the previous summer to apply to college is over. Our high school students who are currently working on their essays are viewed with empathy by these newly graduated Seniors.

Summer before the first year of college, however, is a time for packing, a time for saying good bye but also a time for saying hello to new friends and experiences. It is also a time to pick the courses for the fall term of that first year of college.

Unless a student is studying architecture or engineering at most colleges, the general education requirements are typically taken in the first two years. Even if a student is majoring in business or communication, 60% of the curriculum is still designed to develop a strong background in the liberal arts. These liberal arts requirements are to build strong reading, writing, and analysis skills.

When I was at Boston University I worked with many students helping them select their courses. New first year students would come in with their planned schedules full of chemistry for the fall term. They thought that because they were going to major in chemistry, that they would load themselves up first with those major courses.

The best approach is to take a good combination of the reading, writing, textbook, and paperback reading courses. If a first year student has too many reading courses or too many math and science courses, they are leaving the other requirements for later on which then would also mean a concentrated term of one or the other areas listed above.

To select the courses, I recommend a student take at least one course that first term that would be potentially major related and be more concerned with satisfying the requirements. Colleges – unlike high schools – are typically generous in terms of the courses that are taken to satisfy the general education requirements. I have actually approved history courses to satisfy language requirements and I have also approved economics courses to satisfy other areas. Most advisors in colleges today take the students academic strengths and weaknesses into consideration when approving the courses which satisfy the GEs.

Over 90% of all first year college students change their majors at least once. Students are often encouraged to take courses that they would not normally think would be good to take to try out the subject area in anticipation of that final major choice.

The most popular major in college is psychology, so the major choice does not necessarily have to be attached to the career choice – but it could be. Pre med is actually not a major, but a series of courses taken to prepare for medical school. Students major in history, English, psychology, and still have room in their schedules to take the pre-med track. The college curriculum in the United States is very fluid, allowing for a great amount of choice by students.

Robin Kim’s complaint about her relationship with her parents this summer is typical. They were bugging her to take out the garbage one day and got very upset with her that she didn’t do it when they asked. An argument over the garbage developed into a battle. However, in the end, Robin commented to me, she and her parents started to laugh after it was all over. Robin and her parents realized that the simple argument was more about her leaving home than about the garbage.

I encourage students and parents to view this summer as a time of change, treasuring every moment, acknowledging this inevitability in the lives and loves of families….and look back on this summer as the best summer for parents and students alike — before the student leaves for college.

Mark Corkery
College Advance
© 2014 CollegeAdvance

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