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영문 칼럼 by Marie Kim: 대입 지원서에 쓴 전공의 중요성
05/06/2019 11:32
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IP 198.xx.xx.206

많은 학부모들이 교육섹션에서 읽은 칼럼을 자녀와 함께 읽기를 원합니다. 그래서 영어로 칼럼을 써서 보내주는 마리 김 원장(아이보리우드 에듀케이션)의 칼럼과 사무엘 김 원장(스파르타 카운슬링)의 영어칼럼을 이곳에 공개합니다. 저작권은 원작자인 칼럼니스트와 이를 게재한 LA중앙일보에 있음을 알립니다. 


2019년 5월 6일 

혹시 자녀가 대입 지원서에 쓸 전공으로 고민하고 있나요? 지원서에 전공을 일단 아무거나 쓰고 입학하면 바꾸면 된다고 생각하는 경우가 있습니다. 과연 대입 지원서 심사에 전공은 별 영향을 미치지 않는지 마리 김 원장(아이보리우드 에듀케이션)이 설명합니다.

Selecting your Intended College Major


“What academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably and why do they appeal to you?” (Yale University essay question)


“How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania?”


“For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the application. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.”


Each of these Ivies: Yale, Penn, and Columbia ask the applicant to talk about what he or she hopes to study one day in college. In other words, they want to know your Intended Major.


These aren’t binding questions on the Common Application that require a student to commit to a particular major for all four years of college. You can change your major several times in college, and for some college students, it is probably a good experience to do so. In fact, colleges expect students to flip-flop until they’re required to settle down, usually in their second year of college.


So why do they ask about your major, and does it even matter for your application purposes? How should you go about answering the Major question for your own applications? Is there a “better” major to select that increases acceptance chances?


I get questions about Intended College Major quite often from parents and students. One mom said, “My son wants to be a doctor and it would be our hope that he is pre-med in college.” Another parent said, “My daughter could probably be a lawyer one day, so she can maybe choose philosophy.” With the first parent, the student had actually demonstrated strong grades and scores in science, volunteered at a hospital, completed a few healthcare internships. The other student is a world-class musician who did a stint of summer camp debate back in middle school…but besides this, there wasn’t any other notable activity or coursework to relate to pre-law studies because most days, she was consumed playing the cello.


When Yale or Columbia asks, it’s because they’re trying to see how you might fit on campus academically and extracurricular-ly. If you indicate your interest in Biological Sciences, then, there’s a likelihood that beyond pre-med coursework you’d spend your time outside of the classroom volunteering at the university’s hospital or engaging in STEM research. If you declare Political Science, then, admissions officers can picture you exploring Comparative Governments as you join your college’s Young Democrats Club while you work at an embassy or the White House over the summer.


As admissions officers select the right candidates for their college, they’re thinking about their institutional needs while forming an incoming class with a diverse set of academic and extracurricular interests to keep anywhere from 50 to 70 majors on campus active and interesting?made possible by the actual students present in each class who are fit for those areas of study. Though it can happen, you’re less likely going to see a math whiz majoring in Classics or a youth poet laureate graduate with a degree in electrical engineering. And since the college doesn’t want the majority of their incoming class all studying to become doctors, this is where the Major question begins to play a role…and in some cases, a critical one.


But you have to provide evidence. You can pick an obscure major like Russian and European Studies or Medieval and Renaissance Studies thinking it might sound cool or look unique in your Common Application. However, if you can’t demonstrate you have an activity or two that shows you’re competent in the humanities and your SAT writing sample or college essays show you don’t even properly support a thesis and your critical reading scores or grades in History aren’t your strengths…then, you’re not fooling anyone. No, don’t simply check off French Studies; you need to show that you have what it takes to actually, pursue it.


This is where many rising Seniors shoot themselves in the foot. They start thinking about college applications once the Common Application opens up in August, the summer before their final year of high school. Once October rolls around, they’re now going through a variety of essay questions from schools, including the Ivy League…when they encounter the ostensibly straightforward (albeit, loaded) ? Major question. At this point, if you haven’t actually prepared for it in advance, then, you pretty much work with what you have. If you’re lucky, your activities and academic performance line up nicely with “Economics” or “Music.” If you’re not so lucky, as you select “Chemistry”?you could be staring at an activities list or SAT subject scores that have little to nothing in common with Chemistry.


Add to this, some majors are saturated as it is. In 2018, at Harvard, about 21% of admitted students declared Biological Sciences (for example: Human Evolutionary Biology or Molecular and Cellular Biology) for their Intended Field of Study and 24% picked a major within the Social Sciences (such as Sociology or Psychology). These two fields alone constitute nearly half of what the freshman class would be studying. When I applied to Harvard, I picked a Social Science, which wasn’t a strategically smart choice. My concentration at Harvard, “Government,” is one of the most popular majors at the college. By marking this on my Common Application, I didn’t make my acceptance chances any easier. But by graduating in the same major I had stated in my application when I had applied to Harvard as a prospective Freshman, I reinforced the idea to Admissions Committees that the major a student indicates on their college application can effectively reflect that student’s potential contribution once on campus. At Harvard College, I ran for Executive Office positions and served on student government cabinets, worked for Harvard Law School, tutored youth prison mates to do my part to enact social change.


So, who will you be in college?


You’ll need to start the process of selecting a major sooner (like this summer!) than later because it would likely be more advantageous for you to do so. If you haven’t considered your major until senior year of high school, then, you could have missed some opportunities from previous years where the activities you joined or how you spent your summers could have been more aligned to your Intended Major. Ideally, if you can start in 9th grade with an eye towards some major, it’s better than frantically grasping for things to do this summer because, for example, you have nothing related to Philosophy in your application and your first application deadline is now five months out.


Let’s go through an example of a student who has planned ahead in terms of her major so that she won’t be flustered when she sits down a year from now about convincingly writing about her interest in studying Architecture in college.



The Prospective Architect Major

A student who enters college as a prospective History or Biology major has a pretty solid idea of what he or she will likely study, so in high school has probably taken A.P. courses in these subjects as well as completed college-level courses elsewhere. But for the would-be architect, chances are, the student doesn’t get either the classes in school or the activities on campus to prepare for a major like this. Then, how can a student demonstrate “current and past activities, either academic or extracurricular,” that equip her to major in architecture?


At only fifteen, Sonia (not her real name) has already traveled the world: Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Columbia, Croatia, Canada, Australia, Japan, Fiji, all major U.S. cities, to name some. Raised in Los Angeles, Sonia attends private school near her home in Malibu, California, where she lives with her M.D. mom and developer dad. When Sonia met me, she said she wanted to maybe be a doctor, like her mom.


As I got to know her overtime, I learned that Sonia spends a few times a month at Open Houses because it’s her favorite thing in the world to do. When she was little, her dad would bring her on site to the homes and buildings he was building and let her help out, even if it was pulling out weeds in the yard. In her spare time, you will catch her in her dad’s office going through his architecture books and blueprints. The one or two times I may have heard her speak about the medical field, she certainly didn’t light up the way she did as she talked about the Pantheon or the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


How about architecture, Sonia? I brought up to her in passing, one day.


Sonia’s a 4.0 student at an elite high school but before I’d met her, she didn’t know what her future looked like. She’s grown up with so much handed to her and hadn’t really had to think about setting up for the future the way some other kids have to. But the moment I mentioned it, it was like I’d unleashed a fire in her. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? Some of it had to do with her lack of confidence. In her mind, she hadn’t done anything concrete related to architecture, but since she had studied Biology in school, for her, it sounded more reasonable to say “Pre-med,” not “Architecture.”


With a couple of years still ahead of her, though, she had an opportunity to explore it and in my eyes, I couldn’t think of anyone more fit for the career than someone like her. She already has an edge over her peers in terms of architecture; as someone who has traveled the world and seen first-hand, everything from the Louvre to the Sydney Opera House and the Golden Pavilion?this has informed how she understands art, beauty, structure, and life. She’s dined on Saint-Denis in the heart of Montreal, explored the Old Walled City, surveyed the Chateau Frontenac. Sonia is more cultured than most people her age. How could she not use these remarkable experiences to shape her true interest in becoming an architect someday?


I introduced her to Ed Ogosta, the award-winning L.A. architect and Harvard graduate. Notable for achieving a rare trifecta?Local, State, and National architecture awards?Mr. Ogosta previously worked on the Hammer Museum and the Getty Villa. As he shared with her how he’d become an architect, what he had done to get to where he is now, the knowledge and experience he opened up about cemented in her the desire to pursue architecture in college fully.  Shortly thereafter, she began taking a masterclass with Frank Gehry where she learned how crucial it is to consider a building’s context and surroundings as she immersed herself in Gehry’s design philosophy. Since Sonia spends each summer in Telluride where her family owns a home, she interned for a local architect there, as well.


Applying her skills as a talented ceramicist, she got a sketchbook to begin compiling drawings and diagrams to take visual notes during class trips she took through the National Mall in Washington D.C. in an Architecture Youth Scholars program she participated in. She met with more architects at award-winning design firms including RTKL, Ayers Saint Gross, Hord Coplan Macht. She also learned Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and INdesign and spent all-nighters in the design studio drawing, sketching, drafting, and model-making.

Beyond this, she became a teaching assistant for students from low-income neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois to help out in workshops encompassing design, architecture, digital fabrication, and basic instruction. Working with middle school students who would otherwise have little to no access to an introduction to architecture (a field that is traditionally dominated by white males), Sonia channeled her intellectual passion to address the unequal status quo and to support diversity in this professional space by educating the next generation.


Back at school, Sonia took Physics since it is required for architecture candidates and will continue with four years of math since it too, is required, including Calculus. By the time she graduates from high school, she will have completed Studio Art, 3D Design Sculpture, Advanced Sculpture, and Expressions in Design and Media Arts.


Fortunately for Sonia, she anticipated the intended major college application question, so she planned ahead?from her activities to academic courses. Rather than dabbling in electives with little connection to architecture skills, she improved her competencies in those areas that impact this major: painting, sculpture, ceramics, woodworking and freehand drawing.


It’s still a work in progress, but the difference for Sonia now, is that come next fall when she’s filling out college applications and gets to the question that asks her to discuss reasons that make her passionate about architecture…she’ll go in with a variety of rich stories, memorable lessons to anecdotes to speak about. She can incorporate technical knowledge as she tries to explain how her desire to expand further on this in college would help her get closer to her dream of becoming an architect someday.


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