Large university vs. small liberal arts

Sarah Swanson swanson at nature.berkeley.edu
Mon Nov 21 19:00:42 EST 1994


In article <Pine.3.07.9411200902.A4488-b100000 at acme>,
acaudy at FREENET.COLUMBUS.OH.US (Amy Caudy) wrote:

> >       I am a high school senior in the midst of the college scramble.  I
> > plan to major in microbio or molecular bio.  I have had a long
> > relationship with a local university of fairly good regional reputation
> > where I work on lots of DNA recombination, PCR, and some free radical
> > stuff.  It is a wonderful relationship, but the school is small.  Of
> > course, I would be able to continue my work and not have to beat my way
> > into labs for permission to wash petri dishes.  However, the department
> > has only 11 people (including zoo, botany, and microbio).  Alternatively,
> > I am considering some larger universities (Duke, Case Western, MIT,
> > Harvard).  Being with other highly intelligent students (as well as having
> > a critical mass of professors in research) appeals to me, but I want to be
> > sure that I have plenty of opportunities for research as an undergraduate.
> >  I plan to go for PhD if not also MD with the plans of becoming a
> > researcher.  My mentor at the small college has told me that I would
> > really be a hot graduate prospect if I got several papers out as an
> > undergrad.  He has said that the opportunities for publication would not
> > be as easy at a larger place.  I would be delighted to hear about any of
> > your experiences, either personally or on the net.  Thank you.
> > 
> > 
> >  I just graduated from Knox College, a small liberal arts school in
Illinois.  The atmosphere at this small school and the opportunities that
were given to me were probably what got me into graduate school.  I had
the opportunity to do 3 years of in-depth research.  My advisor insisted
that I take every opportunity possible to present my research --this made
me very comfortable with public speaking.  I also made contacts with
professors at graduate schools. The other advantage to being at a liberal
arts school is that your study options are not narrowed as quickly.  I
graduated with a BA in biology.  Currently, I am in a plant biology
program. If I had attended a larger school, I would have had to make a
decision between plants and animals much earlier.  You seem to be worried
about the size of the faculty at smaller schools--this wasn't a problem
for me. The faculty at Knox always knew someone who could help with a
research problem if they didn't know the answer themselves.
   The only disadvantages to liberal arts schools tend to be the size of
the library (I found that inter-library loans are extremely inconvenient)
and that you might not be able to take all the classes you will need for
graduate school--I am currently making up several classes that were not
offered at Knox.  
   I suggest that you keep looking at the liberal arts schools if you are
interested in research and especially if you plan to go to graduate
school.  You should, however, look at more than one liberal arts
school--I've found that each one has its own personality. You might think
about Knox College--it has a very strong biology department.  Good luck in
your search!



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