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by Abigail Van Buren

College Experience Opens Doors to Unexpected Careers

DEAR ABBY: "Confused With a Capital C," a senior in high school, feels torn because her mother wants her to become a doctor. She thinks she'd find teaching a more rewarding field. You advised her to go to college, keep her options open and follow her heart. Your advice was right on. Too frequently, college students have an irrational belief that life decisions will magically resolve for them.

College freshmen should avail themselves of the many opportunities in school to learn about themselves and about careers, and put that information together to make a well-informed decision over time. The time to start is as a freshman:

(1) Freshmen can begin career exploration at their college career center and continue until they graduate.

(2) Many colleges offer freshmen seminars, learning communities, freshmen interest groups and similar opportunities that include exploring various careers and career decisions.

(3) When possible, students should find work-study jobs and volunteer opportunities in a field they want to explore. This gives them firsthand information about the field, and provides references and mentors who can assist them. They will find out whether they like the field or are good at it.

(4) Finally, while in college, it's important to develop thinking skills. If people can think, write, speak, work well with others and express themselves clearly, they will go further in any profession they choose. -- JOEL NOSSOFF, DIRECTOR, NEW STUDENT PROGRAMS, UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO

DEAR JOEL: Thank you for a helpful letter. I agree with you that regardless of what field a person wants to pursue, the ability to think critically and communicate with others is vital. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: You neglected to remind "Capital C" and her mother of this basic truth: Without teachers, there would be no doctors.

When I started college, my major was phys ed, with an emphasis on athletic training. After two semesters and an incredible experience in my humanities and English courses, I switched my major to archeology.

College will open the doors to many subjects and areas of interest that young woman may have never dreamed she'd find exciting. Who'da thunk a 30-something woman like me would change her career path from being a professional football trainer to a scholar who digs in the dirt in hopes of piecing together ancient civilizations? Her future is not carved in stone. She should begin her college career and not worry about her mother. She'll find her career niche. -- CHEERING FOR HER FUTURE IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR CHEERING: My sentiments exactly.

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Confused," the words of Langston Hughes came to mind and are worth remembering: "Never lose hope in your dreams. For without dreams, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly."

I heeded those words, Abby. At the age of 48, I received my master of science in social work from the University of Tennessee. And at 57, I received my Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma. -- ARTHUR H. PRINCE, MEMPHIS, TENN.

DEAR ARTHUR: What a success story. You are an inspiration.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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