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What is the whole college thing about?

QUESTION: This may sound stupid, but even though I'm a junior in high school, I'm still confused about the whole college thing. I know I want to be a doctor, and I have the grades to get into a good school, but what do I apply for? I start as an undergrad, right? I'm so confused. Signed, Need Navigation

Dear Need Navigation:
Don’t think that you are alone in your confusion. Most high school students and many college students are in the same dazed situation. The fact that you have some direction puts you ahead of most. Basically, as a high school senior you will apply to a college or university. You will then spend the next four years as an undergraduate. Probably during your sophomore year you will need to select a major area of study (i.e., history, English, biochemistry, etc.). To graduate in your chosen major you will have to take a required number of courses in the field. You may go to a school that offers a "pre-med" major, which is directed at students who want to enter the medical field, or you may go to one that doesn't. (Harvard, for example, does not have a "pre-med" major or even a "business" major.) Regardless of what your major is, you will probably take a heavy load of science courses because you see medical school in your future. After you graduate from your undergraduate college, you may take some time off to work or you may apply immediately to medical school.

Now before we get too far into your future, let us make a prediction. During your four years in college, you'll probably question whether you really want to become a doctor. You may find that other courses excite you and tempt you away. Very few of our friends at Harvard ended up in the line of work that they thought they would when they arrived as freshmen. We knew a math major who switched to government and ended up working on Wall Street. Another began as a mechanical engineer, realized he hated engineering, and moved on to business school. Remember that your undergraduate education is a time to explore and decide what you enjoy. For you, medicine may be your destiny. Or, you may go in as a doctor and come out as a museum curator. And that is what is so exciting about college.

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Gen & Kelly Tanabe

Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the founders of SuperCollege and the award-winning authors of 11 books on college admission, financial aid and scholarships. Together they were accepted to all of the Ivy League colleges and won more than $100,000 in merit-based scholarships to graduate from Harvard debt-free.