Posts filed under ‘MO’

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

Admissions gets more competitive

I’ve been wondering whether, with a tough economy, applications to private colleges would go up or down.  It’s probably going to vary by college, but my first data point came in this week.

Washington University in St. Louis reports that they had 23,000 applications (up 4.5%  from the 22,000 last year) for 1400 spots in their freshman class.  That means they will enroll 6.1% of applicants, down from 6.5% last year.

But is this indicative of what is happening in the entire country, or is Wash U drawing more applicants because its reputation is growing or because parents figure their hefty endowment will ensure better financial aid?  We’ll have to wait and see what other colleges report.

March 15, 2009 at 12:20 pm Leave a comment

Honors dorm or regular dorm?

Should a student elect to live in the Honors dorm?

My daughter has been accepted to the Honors Program at one of her 6 colleges.  They give her the option of living on the Honors floor (which unfortunately is not in one of her top 3 dorm choices).   Or, she can just take the honors curriculum and live elsewhere.  Caveat:  the honors floor is only an option for freshman year at this college because most upperclassmen live off campus, so this is a one-shot opportunity.

One of my regrets about my college experience is that I did NOT join either the honors program or the honors dorm at Stephens College.  As a high school senior, I got it in my head that the program was elitist.  In retrospect, I’m jealous because the students in that dorm developed stronger relationships with each other and with the college, relationships that continue even 30 years later.  ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’  So my bias is to encourage my daughter to go the honors dorm route.

March 4, 2009 at 9:21 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

College Visit Report: Wash U.

Over Thanksgiving, we took my daughter on a return trip to Washington University in St. Louis to attend the architecture school’s information session, and brought along her cousin & our son to hear the regular info session.

The architecture session was interesting, but by the time we visited the studios, saw the complexity of the models the students were building, and heard that they are often in their studios until 3 a.m., my daughter had concluded that she wasn’t cut out for architecture.  I’m not sure if it was the calculus requirement or – more likely – the late hours, but she’s decided she’s more interested in urban planning or urban studies than in actually designing the individual buildings.

The general info session was just as incredible as the first one we attended, mainly because they had the same environmental engineering professor as one of the 3 speakers.   I was surprised, though, that my son didn’t get more excited about their science and medicine offerings.  Wash U has one of the better med schools in the country.

November 27, 2007 at 8:37 pm Leave a comment

College Visit Report: Washington U & Mizzou

What a contrast!  If only colleges realized the impact of the speakers at their information sessions!

On our way to the University of Missouri to check out their journalism school (“J-school”), we stopped at Washington University in St. Louis on a lark.  My daughter fell in love with the “collegiate Gothic” architecture.  We decided to crash the information session.  Wow!  The elderly environmental engineering professor was such a great speaker, touting the flexibility of Wash U, the research opportunities, and the desire the faculty has to get to know the students personally.  By the end of the info session, my daughter said, “I don’t even know what environmental engineering is, but I want to take it to have him as a professor.”  My husband’s reaction was “he makes me want to go back to college.”

Contrast that with Mizzou, where we attended only a J-school info session.  The presenter talked ex-cru-ci-a-ting-ly slowly, depicted the journalism program as incredibly rigid & the opportunities to follow the concentration you want as slim (particulary if you want to get into “convergence journalism” which he pitched as the place to be), and left my husband saying “now I remember why I hated college”.

Notwithstanding the speakers…

WashU has an interesting approach to encouraging research, actually encouraging students to take a 1-credit course where professors explain what research they are conducting, so you can figure out who you want to do research with.  The overall mantra was “flexibility”, particularly in designing custom majors.   Lots of great speakers, especially political, and a well known architecture school.  For music majors and non-music majors, football games feature a drop-in pep band – no practices, just pass out the music in the stadium, sight read, and have fun!  The stadium, by the way, is a National Historic Landmark, so it will always have that close-to-the field feel, free of skyboxes and retractable roofs.  But don’t let the small football stadium fool you  – WashU is one of the best-endowed colleges in the country.

Mizzou, of course, is know for having the best J-school in the country, the one that all the others model themselves upon.  The college actually runs the main daily paper in Columbia, and we toured the newsroom, saw the Post-It note story board where the editors were meeting to decide which stories would make the paper that day.   Students clearly get real-world experience here and the facilities are top-notch.

But my daughter’s take is that Columbia is too small of a town for her.  She concluded that the only way she would attend Mizzou was if she absolutely positively knew she wanted to major in journalism.

July 17, 2007 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

Insights and advice from a parent of two gifted teenagers



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