When undergraduate education is only the beginning to higher education: pre-professional students

 

Professional schools, such as nearby Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Akron Law, are graduate schools that prepare students for specific careers.

These educational institutions often require applicants to have already taken courses in specific areas. Certain tracks of natural science majors on campus are set up to cover this required material.

Hannah Swiger, senior exercise science major, is one of the many seniors accepted to graduate school to continue her education. (Photo by Kaitie Fox)

Junior allied health biology major Dana Kennedy is a pre-professional student who intends to continue on to graduate school to become a physician’s assistant.

Kennedy said she did not start college on a pre-professional track.

“I came in just as a regular biology major. Then, I realized that the only thing you can do with a biology degree, I was told, is teach or get your Masters. I didn’t want to do that,” Kennedy said. “I wanted to do something in medicine, so I decided to become a physician’s assistant.”

Kennedy is a member of the Pre-Professional Club on campus. The Pre-Professional Club helps prepare science majors for graduate school.

Kennedy said the club is helpful in understanding different career paths within the field of science.

“It’s basically there to help prepare you,” Kennedy said. “It’s not just learning what the higher level is, but how to get there effectively.”

This summer, Kennedy will begin applying to P.A. schools. She will also soon start shadowing physician’s assistants as a requirement for graduate school.

Kennedy said her academic adviser, assistant professor of biology Nicholette Rodgers, PA-C has played a key role in helping her prepare for graduate school.

“She goes beyond just the knowledge that she gives us in class,” Kennedy said. “She teaches us about how to apply the material and how to be prepared for things like interviews and setbacks.”

Rogers is the adviser to science majors who want to go on to medical school, optometry school, physician’s assistant training, and other graduate programs.

Rogers said the process of preparing for professional schools can be challenging and complicated.

During her first year at Malone, Rogers said, an alumnus dental student studying at Case Western Reserve University came to talk to students about his experience applying to dental school.

“He had missed one of those deadlines, and so he had to wait a whole year to apply,” Rogers said. “At that point I thought, ‘You know, we really need to have something.’”

About a year and a half ago, Rogers and a few of her students organized the Pre-Professional Club. She said the club provides comprehensive preparation for professional schools, including a suggested timeline for undergraduate courses and entrance exams.

“It’s not just the application process, it’s all the years leading up to it that can be very complicated,” Rogers said.

In club meetings, outside speakers and upperclassmen offer help and encouragement for student members.

Rogers said one thing she tries to impress on students is that it is common not to get into professional schools the first time, so it is important not to give up hope.

“When I finished my Ph.D. and went on to become a P.A., I didn’t get in the first time,” Rogers said. “So I know that the Lord took me through that, so I can share that with my students.”

Recent Pre-Professional Club students have been accepted to the prestigious UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State College of Optometry, as well as other graduate schools and P.A. programs.

“Our students do well at getting in at these very competitive arenas and they also do very well once they’re there,” Rogers said. “I’m proud of our students.”

Other undergraduate majors outside of the sciences can prepare students for professional studies.

Phil Demarest is a 2009 political science alumnus currently studying at the Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach. Demarest will receive his Juris Doctorate in 2015.

After undergrad, Demarest moved to Pittsburgh and spent three years working. During that time, he was employed by The Pittsburgh Project, the Home Depot, and Allegheny Valley Bank.

“[Working] was an invaluable experience. There are people with me in law school who are 21 years old, who have only ever been in school, and I think it’ll be tougher for them.

“I was exposed to so many ideas that have led to a more enriched life,” Demarest said. “So, now I’m bringing all those experiences to law school and seeing how I can be a professional who can respect the viewpoints of a lot of different people.”

Demarest said his undergraduate education also strongly shaped his professional and educational choices.

“I came to Malone thinking I had life all figured out–just enough to have that all turned around,” Demarest said. “I was really grateful for all of my professors [at Malone] who gave me a broader perspective of the world.”

Demarest was also on the forensics team, and described that as an enriching and formative experience.

“It really taught me the meaning of comradery–how to collaborate with others and understand what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself,” Demarest said.

Demarest said he had come into college with the intention of continuing on to graduate school, but began to consider the different options during undergrad.

“Honestly, I kind of let the intensity of law school intimidate me, and I sort of backed away from my calling,” Demarest said.

After a series of conversations with a close friend, Demarest said his dreams and desire for a law school education resurfaced. He began to submit his applications in 2011.

Demarest said each law school’s application had slightly different requirements, but they all asked for an LSAT score, references, and a personal statement describing yourself and your career and educational objectives.

Demarest encourages students to strongly consider continuing their educations after undergrad.

“A law school education is an excellent education,” Demarest said. “I’d like to see more people who graduate from Malone go to graduate school–I certainly think they’re capable of it.”

Kim Farkas is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s