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Discovering Higher Education

Payton Jones

About the Author

- Greetings from Mercer University! My name is Payton Jones and I am an admissions counselor here at Mercer. I am here to offer some advice as you navigate the college search process.

Are you ready to start planning for your future but not sure where to start? That’s okay! At Mercer, we recognize that navigating the world of higher education can be unfamiliar and intimidating, so we want to simplify the process as much as possible.

Typically, students must complete a preliminary degree before moving on to a more advanced pathway. Think of it as a ladder: you have to finish climbing one rung in order to reach the next.

To work toward an advanced degree, you will first need to obtain an undergraduate degree, otherwise known as a bachelor’s degree. Most four-year institutions, like Mercer, offer pathways that lead to a bachelor’s degree in four years once all required coursework is completed. Traditionally, you will choose a major, which will be your main area of study. Your major is usually related to the graduate or professional program that you may want to pursue after you complete your undergraduate work. At Mercer, common majors include Biology, Business, Engineering, Marketing, Nursing, and Psychology. We offer more than 65 majors, so there’s something for everyone!

Mercer also offers 17 pre-professional tracks. These pathways ensure that you are enrolled in the correct courses and completing the preliminary work required to be successful in your desired graduate or professional program, such as medical school, law school, or physical therapy school. Many students choose a major and pre-professional track in a similar field. For example, a popular combination is to major in Biology on the Pre-Medicine track. Pre-professional tracks are helpful pathways to prepare you for success in your next level of education.

After you complete your undergraduate coursework and graduate from college, you may want to continue your education. Some careers may require an advanced degree after you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree. This is where graduate school comes in! Mercer also offers a variety of graduate programs for students to work toward a master’s degree. Not every field requires a master’s degree, but many of them do. For example, if you are considering a career as an occupational therapist, school counselor, physician’s assistant, or industrial engineer, you will likely need to complete a graduate program and earn a master’s degree in the corresponding field.

If you plan to study at the doctorate level, the process can vary depending on the field. You will still need to complete your undergraduate work in order to advance to a doctoral program, but you may not always need to earn a master’s degree first. Some programs allow students to earn a master’s degree and doctoral degree simultaneously, while others—such as medical and law school—allow students to pursue a doctoral degree right after a bachelor’s degree.

It is important to remember that you have different resources to help guide you. Your admissions counselor is more than happy to help and share about Mercer’s academic programs and opportunities. Your high school counselor is also a wonderful resource to help you navigate your journey into higher education.

Enjoy the rest of your school year, and remember that we’re here to help as you start your journey to higher education!