Tuesday, May 4, 2010


My cousin is a cadet at the Air Force Academy. She's also wicked smart. In spite of this, she recently asked me for advice on choosing a major. This question is really asking for career path advice, how to fulfill your calling. I gave her more than she probably wanted and decided it might be of use to others.

I was given great advice about every career I have dabbled in (ministry, radio and law). "If you can see yourself doing anything else, don't do this." I think that is a great way to look at life in general.

With that in mind, you don't have to be "pre-law" to be a lawyer. In fact, diversity is a VERY good thing to have as a lawyer these days. Most of the best lawyers I know weren't "pre-law."

If you are interested in all of those things (english, poli-sci/pre-law, civil engineering, or anything else), think about which of them you cannot learn on your own, or which one you NEED to have a formal education to pursue.

As far as English goes, the only thing you NEED that degree to pursue would be grad school in English, which you would only NEED to have to pursue a career in academia. If that is your certain goal, stick with that.

As for poli-sci degrees, I don't know the field that well, but my experience has been there is nothing (again, other than academia) that you can't learn from a couple of years of real world experience should you decide to go into politics in any capacity.

That leads to civil engineering. I really don't know exactly what that means, but it sounds technical. I know some civil engineers, obviously. It would seem something that you would have to have the formal training on your resume to get such a job. And while any of these degrees allows you to get into law school without a problem, there are a LOT of English and poli-sci majors applying, not as many civil engineer (or any engineer) majors applying.

Admissions folks want a diversity of degrees in each entering class. If you want to get into the most law schools, get AMAZING grades, have good intangibles (which being Air Force is a BIG one), and knock out the LSAT, which I think you could do.

If you were one of my girls I would REALLY encourage a science or business degree. I think there are fewer of them, and they are very diverse. You can also launch from those degrees into the arts with far less difficulty than going from the arts into the sciences or a business field. Further, EVERY field/industry has a place for business people and most have a place for science "geeks." Most of all, those degrees teach you a critical thinking that is more and more rare in our world.

FINALLY – What is your school known for? Which of their programs work well nationally? Which school’s graduates obtain success in their fields? Those degrees will give you the maximum “value” for your education. The best program will have the best network of well-placed people who will be able to help you get where you want to be.

It should be noted that all of this is coming from a radio/TV/film major, theater minor who may or may not have done it differently had someone given me the preceeding advice.

What are your thoughts?