January 17, 2018

Help your student decide on a major or specialty (aka ‘How to make a doctor’)

“Paging Dr. Lloyd… paging Dr. Lloyd.”

As a parent it’s a given that our children are going to sometimes – well, more likely, often – reject our ideas and suggestions. It really doesn’t matter what age they are: It starts when they’re about 2 or 3 years old when you accidentally pose the question, “Do you want to wear this dress today?” What you meant was, “You’re wearing this dress today,” but since you posed it as a question you got an answer. “No.”

Then middle school rolls around and you ask whether your child is going to try out for the basketball team. No. Play an instrument? No. Finally, you realize this person who came from your loins has their own opinions, desires and dreams. But, don’t forget, that doesn’t mean you can’t – or shouldn’t – plant the seeds in their heads.

Case in point: When Amber was in elementary school she told me she wanted to be a pediatrician. I, of course, was thrilled and jumped on the bandwagon. “Paging Dr. Lloyd… paging Dr. Lloyd.”

I talked to her about the profession and asked why she was interested in it. Several years went by and her interest never changed. When she was transitioning from elementary school to middle school I began talking to her about the specialties that pediatricians could choose. Like oncology, cardiology or psychiatry. I took her around a hospital and pointed out certain things. Every medical professional that we encountered throughout her childhood was told what she wanted to do for a living. In high school, I tried to point her into the specialty direction again: What about a pediatric surgeon or ear, nose and throat? No and nope. And she gave me her reasons for wanting to have a straight pediatric practice.

A few days ago I received a call from Amber who said, “I didn’t really want anything I’ve just been meaning to tell you that I chose a specialty.”

“Really? What?”

“Pediatric Gastrointerology.”

“Yea? Congratulations!” We chatted a bit more about why that field made so much sense to her (she’s dealt with GI problems for the past four years) and how exciting the choice was. I, being the perfect mother that I am, did not say ‘I told you so!’

Do I think I was the main reason she chose a specialty? Of course not. But do I think I had some type of influence on her that helped her be open to the possibility when presented with it in college? Definitely.

Whether your student has decided on a major or not, the following tips can help you help your student narrow down their decision:

  1. Support their passion or hobby. With financial concerns under consideration do what you can to fuel their passions. For instance, provide books on their interests, take them to trade shows, exhibitions and related events that will encourage them and provide additional information. When feasible, purchase supplies that assist.
  2. Suggest and direct their extracurricular activities. If your student is interested in a career in music then they should be taking music lessons, involved with the band and/or chorus and looking into work or internships at theaters and playhouses.
  3. Make mentors matter. Those who speak of their success usually mention important and influential people in their lives. A lot of those times the mentors were discovered on their own path. Imagine how much trial and error can be surpassed if you assisted them in meeting potential mentors. Suggest professional organizations to contact, colleagues and fellow alumni, fellow church goers, etc.
  4. Lead by example. Making room for your own dreams, taking your own advice and using your resources to make your education and career decisions are obvious examples young adults may emulate.

There’s no step-by-step plan that will make this a fail-safe plan, but if you’re a proactive parent you can continue to lead your child – your young adult – through the most exciting, important and challenging time of their lives.

“Paging Dr. Lloyd… paging Dr. Lloyd.”

First-time college mom

About the Author: Petula Wright (23 Posts)

Petula Wright has about 17 years experience as an editor and writer who has written and provided editorial services for publications, organizations and individuals. Based in the Atlanta area, she continues to write web content and maintain her blog It’s a woman’s world at PetulaW.com. She says, “Writing is a joy and not a job.” If you need a writer or editor, she can be reached at petulawrites@comcast.net.

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