UM offers advising resources for pre-med, pre-law

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After graduation, some students seek higher education at professional schools, such as those for law or medicine.

However, preparation for these programs often begins freshman year, since admission to these schools requires certain GPAs, entrance exams like the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) paired with strong resumes.

Because the admission processes for different professional schools vary, UM offers a variety of advising resources depending on the track a student chooses.

Pre-health

For pre-health advising, students can visit the Office of Pre-Health Advising and Mentoring, which is led by Michael Gaines and Tiffany Plantan.

The office helps students prepare for the MCAT, collect letters of recommendation, determine which schools to apply to and ensure that students take the correct classes.

The advisers are also responsible for writing committee letters that certain applications require. These letters are an overview of an applicant’s academic and extracurricular history. Last spring, Gaines wrote 200 committee letters for applicants planning to matriculate in 2015.

Gaines recommends students visit the office once a semester. Last year, about 900 pre-health students visited Gaines in order to figure out the “puzzle” of applying to schools.

“We want to guide students into becoming competitive applicants,” he said. “The pieces have to fit together.”

Gaines also helps students understand that pursuing a career in medicine can include many different fields, including dentistry and optometry.

Until last year, the pre-health office was housed in the Ashe Building and only helped pre-med students. This year, the office moved to the Cox Science Center and now advises all students who are looking to go into healthcare.

“I wanted to make the office more accessible and the process more consistent and efficient,” said William Green, senior vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

According to Green, President Donna E. Shalala encouraged the move and was actively involved with the pre-health program on campus.

Alice Mathew, treasurer of the Minority Women in Medicine student organization, sees this change as one for the better.

“The pre-health office has changed a lot in the last two years,” she said. “The amount of resources they have now is impressive.”

But Mathew still feels that job-shadowing opportunities are hard to come across.

Pre-law

The role of pre-law advising is different than pre-health advising, because the requirements for law schools are less stringent than those for medical schools.

There are currently three pre-law advisers at the School of Business Administration (SBA), the College of Arts & Sciences (A&S)  and the School of Communication (SoC). Students from all majors are encouraged to see one of these advisers.

Pre-law advisers mainly help students build their resumes, prepare for the LSAT and complete applications.

“Pre-med is very centralized, while pre-law is very decentralized,” said Elisah Lewis, the School of Business Administration’s pre-law adviser.

According to Lewis, students looking to go to law school can have any major and get admitted to a law school with GPA of 3.0. In 2011, the average GPA for incoming medical students was 3.53, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Preparation for the LSAT exam also differs from the MCAT. The LSAT tests reading comprehension and analytical and logical reasoning, while the MCAT covers the biological and physical sciences. Because of this, students who want to take the LSAT do not have to take any specific classes.

“For pre-med, you have to memorize, while for pre-law, you have to practice,” Lewis said.

Like pre-health advising, pre-law advisers also expose students to specialties within law, such as criminal, international and finance.

Some students, like Rebecca Garcia, are generally pleased with the available professional advising services.

“The adviser’s been really helpful,” said Garcia, who is on the pre-law track.

However, Garcia does recommend visiting professors to learn more about the variety of specialties within law.

Arthur Simon is a political science professor who holds a law degree and frequently advises students about applying to law school.

“When thinking about your career, the more people you hear from, the better,” Simon said.

However, senior Aryanah Eghbal believes that the pre-law program could be improved.

“Unfortunately, because pre-law is just a track and not a major, the advising is pretty simple and not very informative,” she said.

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