Tips for Talking Majors, Careers, & Bridge Years with Family

Claire Cornell
Tips for Talking Majors, Careers, & Bridge Years with Family

Going home for break can be relaxing while you spend time with friends and family as well as having some time away from school work. Often times, students encounter questions from parents and relatives asking about school, major, and career choice. Below are some tips to talk to family about your major and career!

Be confident!
Have an open mind. Your parents and family want what’s best for you, so if you might feel bombarded with questions, keep in mind their intentions.
Listen. You may have finished discussing your plans and interests, but it’s important to hear what your family has to say. They may even offer helpful advice or give you new perspectives.

Questions you might encounter:
“What are you going to major in?”

  • If you already decided on your major, you can discuss what classes you plan on taking for the upcoming semester, why you’re interested in it, or how it may help you with your future career. 
  • Undecided? Talk about how you’re still exploring different classes--list ones you’re currently taking or really enjoy. Share something interesting you learned from a class. Tell them about any extracurriculars or volunteering opportunities you’re participating in that may help you lead to your major decision.

“What are you going to do with that major?”

Perhaps you’re majoring in something non-science related but want to pursue a pre-health career. As long as you complete all the necessary pre-reqs for potential professional schools, then you’re on the right path. It’s not uncommon to major in something that interests you that is not biology or chemistry.

“What’s your plan?”
This may feel like a loaded question and vague, but answer in parts and have a clear direction how you want to lead the conversation.

  • If you want to go straight to graduate/professional school, then talk about what classes you plan on taking, when you might take the entrance exam/apply, or that you plan on researching potential schools.
  • Interested in bridge year(s)? Discuss what you might do during that time off whether that is working, taking more classes, traveling, or volunteering.
  • Talk about extracurricular involvements, volunteering, shadowing, or current/prospective job opportunities.
  • You may even want to explore different pre-health careers and that’s totally fine! Let them know that you’re still exploring and make a plan to shadow different practitioners or research different health careers.
  • Meeting with a pre-health advisor helps too! Plan to schedule an appointment after break and go over any questions or concerns you may have

Tips on Discussing Bridge Years

"Why would you need a bridge year?

A bridge year(s) between graduation and entry to a health professional school has become increasingly common. In previous application cycles, over 80% of successful medical school applicants from UVA took at least one bridge year, and 100% of successful Physician's Assistant school applicants took at least one bridge year! The average matriculant age for many health professional programs now ranges from 24 - 28 years of age. Students who engage in a bridge year go through the same application process, however the timeline is extended over an additional year. Events such as completing the entrance exam, completing school applications and attending interviews occur one year later.

Highlight the benefits: A bridge year can and should be used for a variety of purposes, all of which depend on a careful assessment of your candidacy for your health profession of choice. Consider your preparation in the following areas: academic, career/clinical exploration, personal growth. If you determine that you have weaknesses in some areas, use that bridge year to strengthen that area of your application! Schools want to see dedication to the field, informed decision-making, and application at the strongest point in your candidacy! 

Provide examples of bridge year options: Fulbright, Peace Corps, Teach for America, Scribing (Scribe America, ScribeKick), Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), hospital volunteer, clinical research, Post-Bac academic programs (academic record enhancer programs- for students who completed the pre-requisite coursework required to apply but hope to enhance an existing undergraduate record, career changer programs- for students who did not complete health professional program pre-requisite coursework during their undergraduate degree), and so much more!