The high school student who knows exactly what s/he wants to study in college or university and has a solid rationale for the path chosen is a rare find. Such a student has often been interested, even mesmerized or obsessed with a given subject since elementary school. Some of these students are involved in activities out of school that are closely related to their first love (science, journalism, history, athletics, music, art, the social sciences, etc.). Others spend most of their holiday time continuing to work on what they love in school while their peers are racking up hours on ski hills or beaches.
These students are possessed of hungry brains. They can’t get enough of what they want to study. The hungry brain loves the library, the laboratory, the debating club, languages, sports, music. The book lover is constantly reading, the lab rat spends all spare time conducting experiments and helping the lab techs set up for the next class. The debaters and lovers of language are constantly arguing and finding ways to perform their poetry or publish their stories, sometimes in multi-lingual school publications. The athletes are playing sports, talking sports, or training during much of their free time. The musicians play, sing, write, and learn new instruments with what seems an easy commitment.
When the hungry brains enter college or university programs, they should concentrate as much as possible on their passions, taking core and other courses to meet program requirements, but not for the sake of dabbling. These students should immediately be looking for co-op, internship, and research opportunities in their areas of interest.
As the hungry brains look at universities and colleges while still in high school, they should concentrate on finding institutions that will allow them to specialize early, take co-op options, and become involved in high level undergraduate research. The hungry brains do not want to wait until they enter graduate school to be invited into research labs and institutes.
These students will want to enter graduate schools soon after finishing an undergraduate degree. Some may simply want to start a graduate degree right out of high school. Some universities allow this and others will allow the undergraduate to switch into a graduate degree program early in the undergraduate program. Keeping the momentum going within one’s interest area is also easier if summer work relates directly to academic interests. If a student does not have a summer co-op term, self-discovered interest-related work is the next best thing.