Selecting schools to apply to is a daunting task – narrowing down from thousands to eight to 12 takes time and energy. While most students do not have a clue as to what they want to be “when they grow up,” some students have their hearts set on a specific profession. They take this bias into the college selection process. These students begin looking for schools that have a clear path to their desired profession and sometimes disregard the other aspects of the institution. The college list may narrow quickly using this process, but, many times, solid options are missed. In my experience, a significant percent of students change not only their major in college, but their professional aspirations (the investment banker gone college counselor, for example).
1. Do not disregard academic rigor and reputation during the college list creation process. A school may have a program in your field, but the overall academics of the institution may be well below your qualifications. Before adding a school to your short list, it should also meet (or come close to) your academic record.
2. Look for schools in your academic range and dig in to see if there is a path to your profession. Just because a school doesn’t have a pre-veterinary program does not mean that a graduate could not go to veterinary school. Do research on the school’s website and career services website, call the admissions office, and/or talk to current students. A school without pre-vet may send a dozen biology majors to vet school each year!
3. Keep in mind your other preferences. Just because a school has an academic program that sounds exciting, you must also evaluate the other factors of a school: size, setting, location, campus activities, etc.
There are many great institutions that may have smaller programs (or alternative paths) in your desired field. Graduating from a school that has a strong academic reputation may come in handy when you change your major for the fourth time. But, it will likely be equally useful when applying for graduate programs in the profession you originally chose!