Large university vs. small liberal arts

Hannah Dvorak DvorakH at
Tue Nov 22 16:10:20 EST 1994

I tried to post this the other day and it bounced.  I see another post
(from Pat Wilson) has now addressed many of the issues that I mention, so
I'd just like to tack on my views in support of hers.

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.
> > 
> > 
> > 

Here's my $0.02 worth, bearing in mind that I'm only a grad student
myself, and don't have as much life experience as others on this group:

All in all, your current situation sounds great; and I agree that if you
publish as an undergrad, you can probably write your own ticket into
med/grad school.  In the long run, where you did your undergrad work won't
be nearly as important as where you do your grad work (and postdoc, etc.);
so you shouldn't feel pressured to go to a "big name" school now.  And, in
addition to the availability of research opportunities, class sizes should
be smaller at a small school, which is a major bonus.  (I went to a school
with 12000 undergrads, and didn't have a science class with less than 50
people in it till my senior year.)

On the other hand, you may want to keep in mind other factors.  If you
stay at your local school, does that mean that you'll still be living at
home?  I found that one of the most important experiences I got out of my
undergrad years was living away from my parents for the first time.  Also,
a larger school may also have more to offer in the way of extracurricular
activities.  You don't want to spend all your life in the lab!

It might be more difficult to get into a research lab as an undergrad at a
larger school, but most of my fellow grad students here spent at least
their summers in labs, and many did research during the academic terms as
well.  Also, you don't want to lock yourself in to one particular field at
this early stage in your education; at a larger school, you'll probably
have more labs to choose from.

Either way, it sounds like you'll do all right.

Good luck!


Hannah Dvorak                               |  
DvorakH at               | Ceci n'est pas un .sig.
Division of Biology, Caltech, Pasadena CA   |

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