I’ve always wanted to be an architect, but I have no internship experience and my high school didn’t offer any courses in architecture. My family and friends are doubtful that I could be interested in something I virtually know nothing about, which is very discouraging. Should I pursue it anyway?
Many people go to college without knowing what they want to do—and that’s totally okay. In your case, you already have a dream; now you want to know if you can or should pursue it. It’s great that you’re proactively thinking about your career already. It’s understandable that high schools have limited class offerings, but college is a great time to explore your opportunities and hone your skills.
In college, take related classes (calculus, physics, computer design, and so on) and internships, which will help you figure out if this is what you want to do. (This goes for other fields not typically represented at liberal arts schools as well, such as law or advertising or sports medicine.) Not sure whether you want to jump into those commitments right away? It might be helpful to find an upperclassman on a similar path, so you can learn about what they have done and decide if that sounds like something you might enjoy.
You may find that architecture isn’t what you want to pursue after all or perhaps you may realize that all you want to do is design the next greatest building in New York City. Whatever you decide, college will provide a solid base that will allow you to continue on that path.
My Asian parents are pushing me to apply to schools like Princeton and Harvard, even though my grades are not strong enough to get in. I’m also not sure if that’s where I want to be. They’re not open to me applying to smaller schools they’ve never heard of, even though they have many strong programs as well. How can I convince them to let me apply?
We’re sure you know that your parents just want the best for you, but sometimes it takes some (or a lot of) communication before everyone’s on the same page. First-generation Asian parents may have only been exposed to the big names, like the Ivy League ones that you mentioned, and assume that the smaller ones that they haven’t heard of just aren’t as good.
Before you continue your conversation with your parents, we recommend doing your research first: talk to alumni, learn about the benefits of going to a smaller school, and sign up for college tours, if possible. Perhaps after seeing the effort you make to ensure that smaller schools are right for you—and sitting down with some concrete facts and anecdotes—your parents will at least recognize that you are making a serious and well-informed decision.
If they are still adamant about you applying to bigger schools, you may need to compromise with them—see if they’ll let you apply to the smaller schools you’re interested in so long as you also apply for a couple of the big names that they’re keen on. And, who knows, perhaps your parents see something that you aren’t. Remember, high grades alone don’t ensure acceptances—solid recommendations, involvement in extracurricular activities, and well-written personal statements are also important factors—so don’t be afraid to aim high, too.
All my life, I’ve been telling everyone that I wanted to be a doctor. But recently I’ve been thinking more about what I want to do and now I’m not so sure. I don’t want to disappoint or embarrass my family and I don’t want my relatives and friends to judge me—but I also don’t want to be stuck doing something I may not want to do for the rest of my life. What should I do?
Don’t be embarrassed! Considering you’re only 19, it’s difficult to be completely sure what you want to do for the rest of your lives. Many students change their majors up to three times, and some people continue to think about what’s right for them years following graduation—not to mention how multiple career changes in a lifetime is common these days. What’s important now is that you take advantage of the resources available to you and try to sort through your feelings.
Because you’ve been interested in medicine for so long, we recommend giving pre-med another chance if you’re still on the fence. Take a few pre-med classes, volunteer at a local hospital, or shadow a professional before crossing medical school off your list. Take some time to figure out exactly what your reservations are and decide if those concerns are inherent in the field or if they might have to do with your limited exposure. You have counselors, career centers, experienced professionals, professors, and peers you can reach out to for advice.
If at the end of the day you decide that medicine is not for you, that should be what your academic and career choices are based on. Again, people grow and change, especially throughout the college years, so it’s no shame if your professional interests do too. Pursuing what you love is one of the key ingredients to success—just take Michelle Phan’s story as featured in this issue for example—and so long as you make something work for yourself, your parents should be happy and proud in the end.
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