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Son totally undecided on career- start at Comm. college?

dogladyJdogladyJ 33 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
My son has high GPA 3.97 & SAT scores 1500 (Math770 Writing730). He has great aptitude for math & science, but if asked what interests him, it's music. His spare time is spent analyzing music, composing music, and marching band. He has no idea what he wants to major in. His scores in math and science (got 5 on AP Calc AB & a 4 on AP Chem test) point him towards engineering, but he has no idea if engineering would be something he would like to do. He is very cognizant of the cost of college and does not want to waste money while he figures out what he wants to do. He wanted to skip a year after graduating, but we parents think that is a bad idea. Since engineering usually means applying to the Engineering school/area within a college, it's hard to start undecided and be assured of transferring into Engineering later. We are in Colorado. Does it make sense for him to start at community college while he figures things out? Or do you have career suggestions for a passionate musician who sadly realizes that music is not a feasible career (doesn't want to teach)?
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Replies to: Son totally undecided on career- start at Comm. college?

  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5344 replies10 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,354 Senior Member
    edited August 2017
    I wonder if he wouldn't benefit from attending a LAC with distribution requirements. They cater to the undecided and even want the "decided" to do a little more exploring before committing to a path. They also recognize that someone like your son may not have encountered the discipline that mi ght be his love (i.e., geology).

    It doesn't sound like he's an unmotivated student, but that his interests are still evolving. While cost is really important, it's also important that he be in a stimulating environment that will help him find his way.

    Our CC is less good for exploring and better for basic requirements for those who know what will be expected when they transfer to the state u., but this really varies from place to place.

    After he is accepted, a gap year could be an option. Some schools even facilitate them.
    edited August 2017
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76129 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,792 Senior Member
    How much of a concern is cost?

    Starting at community college is often less expensive than starting at a four year school (particularly if the exploratory phase lasts more than two years), but a student with top-end academic credentials may be able to get large merit scholarships that could make a four year school less expensive (examples: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/financial-aid-scholarships/2006094-2017-automatic-full-tuition-full-ride-scholarships.html and http://competitivefulltuition.yolasite.com/ and http://nmfscholarships.yolasite.com/ ).

    As noted, community colleges do vary in terms of how good their transfer preparation offerings are. It may be worth looking into the offers in math, science, and music to see if they will be enough; note that if he is advanced in these subjects, he may run out of courses early (before transfer).

    In terms of careers, many people in music or other performing arts do that as an "extracurricular" with a community group rather than as a source of income, while working a job in something else to pay the bills.
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  • OttermaOtterma 1500 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,529 Senior Member
    His scores in math and science point him towards engineering
    Engineering is not necessarily the best direction for a really smart kid who is good at math and science. I second the suggestion that you look into liberal arts colleges with strong math and science programs. Run the Net Price Calculators for some of them to see what your cost would be. These schools nearly all have enthusiastic music environments but more importantly, good liberal arts colleges will provide personalized guidance to help him explore his interests in both the classroom and with real world internships and other programs.

    Several good LACs also offer dual degree engineering options. These programs offer strong STEM kids the opportunity to get an engineering degree from a very good university without having to commit to an engineering program immediately. Think of the presence of these programs as a kind of insurance policy that your son would be able to move in to engineering if that's where his mathy explorations take him but it will give him time to find other paths.

    ps. My kid is a math major who will ALWAYS have music in his life. It's as much a part of him as his eye color. He's been engaged in the music program at his college since before he got there. Contacting music departments at prospective colleges was a core part of his college search process. He was shy about contacting math or physics departments directly but he felt comfortable reaching out to the music departments.
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  • AroundHereAroundHere 3579 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,601 Senior Member
    Look at Oberlin, Lawrence, Bard and other schools that are good for combining music and other academics.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76129 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,792 Senior Member
    Agree that a gap year can make sense, but some meaningful activity that does not include any college courses needs to be done to make it worthwhile. Ideally, it should include activity that may help him decides what he wants. Examples include a paid job, participation in community music group, etc. (not mutually exclusive).
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76129 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,792 Senior Member
    Regarding engineering, does he show an interest in solving design problems? That is what engineers do.

    Engineering does have applications to music.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32224 replies336 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,560 Senior Member
    edited August 2017
    What says a kid should know at 16-17? All most kids have experienced is the limits of what their hs offers and career paths they see around them. I've referred to college as the bigger buffet of choices.

    We don't know if you need him at a state school, for $ reasons or have some latitude. Nor whether he'll express any interest in engineering. (It can require its own sort of mindset and style.) Lots he could do with a math or chem major. In fact, take a look at the various types of math majors.

    Adding: if he doesn't have an idea, it could be tough to find a meaningful experience covering the whole gap year. Maybe he needs to explore short internships now, talk to math/chem adults to get ideas, maybe shadow.
    edited August 2017
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  • Conformist1688Conformist1688 1061 replies24 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,085 Senior Member
    Audio engineering might be of interest.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32224 replies336 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,560 Senior Member
    edited August 2017
    It's possible to take college courses during a gap between hs grad and applying to college. The key us you don't matriculate- i.e., you don't enroll in a degree track. Then you preserve freshman status.

    Once you have some colleges in mind, you can call and ask, to confirm.

    edited August 2017
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  • OttermaOtterma 1500 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,529 Senior Member
    edited August 2017
    It's always mystified me why people associate LACs with undecided students. They offer no advantages over colleges of arts & sciences in universities for undecided students.
    The best LACs can offer more personalized advising, closer relationships with professors, and earlier access to research opportunities. These things can be available at large universities too but they are part of the DNA of good LACs. It needs to be balanced against the down sides of smaller environment (which some students don't like), less access to engineering or grad level courses, and possibly less name recognition.

    The suggestion that they consider LACs was made as an alternative to what OP and son were talking about which was community college vs engineering school vs gap year. (For this student, gap year could be the right thing regardless.)
    edited August 2017
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  • bopperbopper 13872 replies98 discussionsForum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,970 Forum Champion
    I liked Math and Science more than Humanities so I majored in Electrical Engineering. I was not "passionate" about engineering but like to solve problems.

    Check out Case Western Reserve University...it has a Single Door Admissions policy so you can major in what you like and don't have to get into the "Engineering" school (it has a strong engineering school though!). They also have music opportunities for non majors. You can also get a $10,000 scholarship "A small number of scholarships of $10,000 per year are available to students who exhibit excellence in either music or studio art, regardless of whether they will major in those areas. "

    Also Oberlin is very good for computer science/music majors.

    I would encourage him to attend a 4 year college if he is academically inclined...
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 76129 replies663 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 76,792 Senior Member
    It's possible to take college courses during a gap between hs grad and applying to college. The key us you don't matriculate- i.e., you don't enroll in a degree track. Then you preserve freshman status.

    This is not universally true. Many colleges define a transfer student as anyone who has enrolled at a college after high school graduation.

    For example, the University of Colorado defines a "traditional domestic" transfer student as:
    You have enrolled at another college, university or another campus of the University of Colorado (including Continuing Education and Professional Studies) since earning your high school diploma or equivalent, but have not completed a bachelor's degree.
    See http://www.colorado.edu/admissions/transfer .
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32224 replies336 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,560 Senior Member
    edited August 2017
    Ucb, here the keyword is "enrolled," aka matriculated in a degree granting track. The note of Continuing Ed. I strongly believe, implies a certificate program, not just a course.

    Just taking a class isn't usually the issue. And I suggested OP confirm. Maybe U CO is a good place to call.

    edited August 2017
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  • mikemacmikemac 10228 replies150 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,378 Senior Member
    edited August 2017
    He wanted to skip a year after graduating, but we parents think that is a bad idea.
    I think it is a great idea. Did you know top colleges offer their students an opportunity, to defer enrollment after acceptance? Obama's daughter is doing it at Harvard (see https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/malia-obamas-gap-year-is-part-of-a-growing-and-expensive-trend.html) And Stanford allows students to "stop out" at any time, no questions asked. Other schools have similar programs.

    What your son is asking for is a gap year, not a leave, but the idea is the same. If you work together to set some ground rules (there are books about gap year) so that he doesn't just sit at home playing video games then it can be the best thing for him. It could give him the time to explore a few areas thru volunteer work, talking to people in the field, etc.
    His scores in math and science (got 5 on AP Calc AB & a 4 on AP Chem test) point him towards engineering
    Not at all!! Having the ability to do well in math/science has no correlation with actually wanting to work in the engineering field.

    edit: to echo advice given above, he is probably best off not taking *any* classes during a gap year so he doesn't jeopardize his ability to apply as a frosh. For the entire UC system, to give one example, any class taken at any college except in the summer immediately after HS graduation causes you to have to apply as a xfer student.
    edited August 2017
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