Posts filed under ‘Northwestern Univ.’

So You Want to Be a Doctor

Does your student really want to be a doctor?  I”m not talking about someone who wants to be McDreamy or McSteamy on Grey’s Anatomy, or whose parents want her to be a doctor for the money or the prestige, but a student who truly is ready to head down the med school track.

Several of the schools we have visited – Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, and CalTech/UC San Diego come to mind – offer programs for students who are sure they want to go on to medical school.  Usually these are highly competitive programs in that they only admit a handful of students.

What do they offer:

  • Guaranteed admission to the university’s school of medicine (assuming grades, etc., stay up to par).  In other words, you won’t have to sweat out med school admission…assuming that’s still your med school of choice 4 years from now.
  • A little extra handholding, attention, lectures, mentoring, shadowing, or other opportunities that you might or might not get if you were not in that program.
  • At some schools (such as Northwestern), save an entire year of college, because they condense the curriculum.  This could save you $50,000.
  • Bragging rights, which might help a student get other fellowships or scholarships or research opportunities along the way.
  • The opportunity to start a longitudinal research project as an undergrad and continue work on it through med school.


  • Will a student feel locked into that medical school or not explore other options that might have been a better fit or enabled exposure to a wider variety of professors, more ways of doing things, more challenges – simply because she doesn’t want to hassle with the med school application process?
  • Worse, will a student feel pressure to become a doctor when that’s really not the best fit?  They won’t force a student to go to med school, but I suspect there would be some serious “convincing” going on if a student wanted to drop out of the program.

Note that those drawbacks are things the student can control, so they aren’t real big issues.  I was really reaching to come up with some drawbacks.

Northwestern’s program also offers the option of becoming an MD/PhD and, in general, the program is geared toward more gifted students than the general NU student body, with accelerated courses in the science curriculum.


December 10, 2009 at 7:38 pm Leave a comment

To be a journalist

Early on, my daughter wanted to be a journalist, so we investigated the renowned journalism schools at the University of Missouri (Columbia) and Northwestern University (Chicago).   Then she did an internship with The Dallas Morning News, where everyone told her, “Don’t major in journalism.  Journalists are a dime a dozen.  Major in something else that will give you subject matter expertise, then look for a job in journalism or go to grad school in journalism.”  (That was before so many major city papers filed for bankruptcy, so the advice might be more negative now.)

So I thought it was interesting that the University of Chicago wrote my son about – amongst other things – their approach to journalism:

Students seeing to become influential journalists have a tremendous preparation in Chicago’s broad, deep, and rigorous liberal arts education with its emphasis on critical thinking and creative inquiry.  Students in the Chicago Careers in Journalism program represent 46 of Chicago’s 49 majors, and have received internships everywhere from The Economist to NBC’s Meet the Press to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.  Between 300 and 400 students participate in award-winning student publications every year as editors, writers, production assistants, and photographers.

Bear in mind that the University of Chicago competes directly with Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

I think that first sentence succinctly makes the case for a liberal arts education.

July 27, 2009 at 5:34 pm Leave a comment

My son’s list

As of summer before senior year, here is my son’s short list (in alphabetical order):

  1. Carleton College, Northfield MN – the only small liberal arts college on the list.   A comfortable fit. Size-wise, Carleton is at the bottom of his preferred range.
  2. CalTech, Pasadena CA – Really small, but a fantastic school as long as he doesn’t change direction and decide he wants to major in something other than math or science.  Incredible job placement track record.
  3. Harvard College, Cambridge MA – We were more impressed than we expected.   Strong residential program makes the size manageable.   Financial aid is generous.   Boston is a plus.
  4. Northwestern University, Evanston IL – Has some special programs he wants to explore more.
  5. MIT, Cambridge MA – Like CalTech, but bigger and more widely known.  His original dream school when we started this process 4 years ago.
  6. Stanford University, Palo Alto CA – A little big for my tastes but he loves California and there are more options for majors than at CalTech.
  7. University of Chicago, Chicago IL – The intellectual’s school.   More discussion-focused.
  8. University of Oklahoma, Norman OK – Fantastic financial package for National Merit Scholars and, surprisingly, he feels comfortable at a school with 19,000 students.  Very compact beautiful campus, and he can live on an honors floor and get priority class registration rights.
  9. Yale, New Haven CT – The difference between Harvard and Yale comes down to whether he would take advantage of what Boston has to offer….like pro hockey games.

We’ve visited all of these and now he needs to do more research on their websites to see if he’s still interested in any of the special programs and happy with the course offerings….as well as to get more fodder for the question “Why do you want to attend XYZ University?”.

In case you’re wondering…

  • We never really investigated any other Ivy League schools, other than Penn, so don’t take this as a conclusion that Harvard or Yale are better than the others.
  • The schools with really lucrative merit scholarship programs generally did not appeal to him (which may be why they offer such great scholarships).
  • Originally, he was focused on MIT and CalTech, but, as time goes by, he’s seeing an advantage in leaving open his options for pursuing a non-technical major…even though that’s not what he’s interested in now.
  • My daughter is attending a college that, at one time, was on the bottom of her short list, so I’m well aware that this list could change.

July 20, 2009 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

College Visit: Northwestern University

My husband describes Northwestern University as the biggest medium-sized college he’s ever seen.  It seemed like we walked for miles and still didn’t see half the campus.  The sciences are primarily in a complex called the Technology Institute, which has an incredible 17 miles of corridors.  (Guys, you’d better learn to ask directions if you want to arrive at class on time.)

My son is intrigued by some of the accelerated programs (HPME for medicine, Integrated Science Program, MENU for accelerated math).  Be careful about choosing NU for these special programs.  Not only are they very limited in numbers but some are incompatible with each other or other programs.  For example, engineers can’t be in MENU, yet those who want the Kellogg certificate (the only business-oriented option for undergrads) MUST be in MENU.

Engineers: take note of Northwestern’s innovative approach.  Freshmen tackle a real-world problem as teams.  At places like Harvey Mudd, these hands-on projects are done as seniors.  Northwestern wants to give freshmen a good feel for whether engineering is really for them. NU also offers engineers a one-year (handsomely) paid internship program called Co-op, that often results in an employment offer.

My daughter originally was interested in Northwestern because of its journalism program, but ended up deciding that she didn’t want to attend there unless she was going to major in journalism.  After interning with a newspaper, she decided journalism wasn’t for her.  Now here we are again…my son thinks he’s only interested in NU if he decides he wants to be in one of their special programs.

July 8, 2009 at 6:36 pm Leave a comment

The Selected Six

Hooray!  My daughter has completed her college applications.  The final six selections are (in alphabetical order because she still doesn’t know how to rank them in order of preference):

  1. Clark University, Worcester, MA – smallest research university in the US, appealed to her because of the college’s close ties to local government for internships and the sense that the campus is involved in social change
  2. DePaul University, Chicago, IL – she loves Chicago and they offer urban planning & environmental studies
  3. Fordham University, The Bronx, NY – their international political economy major combines all her interests
  4. Macalester College, St. Paul, MN – she felt she would “fit in” best here – perhaps influenced by the fact that Michelle Obama was speaking the afternoon of our visit
  5. Northwestern University, Evanston, IL – originally made her list when she wanted to be a journalist because they have a great journalism school (and she didn’t like Mizzou’s journalism school), but she still liked it well enough to want to go there even if she’s not going into journalism.
  6. Washington University, St. Louis, MO – strong political science program, gorgeous campus, beautiful new dorms, fun pep band (no practices required – just show up and have fun), best info session ever, and generally a great place.  Grandpa is rooting for this one because he lives at the end of the light rail line so he hopes he’ll see her regularly.

If she gets accepted by all 6, it’s going to be a tough choice!   I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed until April 1st, when the last of the acceptance or rejection letters goes out.

December 11, 2008 at 8:49 pm Leave a comment

SAT Writing Test

Our high school guidance counselors are still telling the kids that the SAT writing test, which is fairly new, isn’t a big deal.  But we heard otherwise at Northwestern University.

The Assistant Dean (or was it Provost) for Admissions said they have determined that the SAT writing test is a strong predictor of success as an undergrad.  They recognize that most students don’t do all that well at that, but someone who scores high on the SAT writing test rises to the top of their lists.

So don’t blow off the writing test!   For some kids, it will be an opportunity to shine.

July 22, 2007 at 8:36 pm Leave a comment

College Visit Report: Northwestern

After visiting Washington University & Mizzou, we drove up to Chicago to check out Northwestern University.  On paper, Northwestern and Wash U are more or less equal, at least in selectivity and scope.  My daughter’s interest stems from their great journalism school.

Another great info session, this one led by the Assistant Dean or Provost of something of Admissions.

Interestingly, both Wash U and Northwestern are differentiating among their highly qualified students by creating special honors programs.  At Northwestern, they were upfront that they are trying to reach out to the highly gifted kids with two special programs.  The Honors Program in Medical Education is a med school track that essentially pre-admits a student to med school and focuses the curriculum such that one year of college is eliminated.  Clearly, though, only students who are truly convinced that they want to go to med school should pursue this track.  The other option, the Integrated Science Program, is a broader science focused accelerated curriculum that integrates math, but that lets students explore multiple disciplines rather than track directly into one narrow speciality.  I wish my son had been with us to hear about it.

I was excited by the idea of themed dorms.  Some dorms are designed to appeal to students in a particular discipline – say, political science – and they have faculty lunches with professors in that area, guest speakers, and a faculty member living in the dorm.  A great way to find friends who share your interests.

The tour guide was excellent and he was a great example of a student who took advantage of Northwestern’s willingness to create interdisciplinary majors.  He somehow combined an interest in theatre, sociology and forensics into a major.   This flexibility really struck a chord with my daughter.

Greek system, but not dominant.  Big campus, but beautiful.  Right on Lake Michigan, which looked gorgeous and inviting today (but I know how wickedly cold it can be).  Lots of different places to eat on campus. Cute shops and restaurants adjacent to the campus and right by the L-train to downtown.  Football team and marching band, but you have to try out to get in the marching band.  (My daughter just started play clarinet.)

We didn’t hear much about the journalism program, but we wandered through the journalism building.  Lots of impressive speakers!

The campus seems a little big for my comfort.  They even have a intra-campus bus to take you from dorms to classes, which they said comes in handy when the temperatures are below freezing.

All in all, we were impressed by the resources and the caliber of education here.

July 19, 2007 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

Insights and advice from a parent of two gifted teenagers



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