Whether they are strolling across campus in suits, frantically printing their resumes in the Computer Center, or spreading the news of their new jobs, the seniors are very visibly involved in making their plans for next year. Following the trend of the last 15 years, approximately 20 percent of the class will include further studies at graduate or professional schools in those plans. Williams has a system to guide them in their studies, and they tend to fare well in the admissions process.
Assistant Dean Peter Grudin is the College’s Graduate School Advisor. “It’s part of my general job description, but I’m not aggressive about seeking people out to advise,” he said. When students do come to him, he offers general suggestions on obtaining Masters and PhD’s. “After giving them general advice, I send them to their respective majors,” he said.
Grudin said he actually tends to advise students to take a year or two off before attending graduate school. “It seems like too much unbroken pressure to go through a school like this and then go straight into graduate school,” he said. “I tell them to have some fun before the long, dark night of graduate school descends upon them. I don’t want students to finish graduate school when they’re 30 and realize that they have missed their youth,” he said. He recommends travel and work.
Students who remain committed to further study consult their major Graduate School Advisors. Every department has at least one professor who serves as an Advisor.
For example, Professor of Mathematics Susan Loepp is the Co-Graduate Advisor of the Math Department. She said students seek information from her on the GRE’s and fellowships.
“They will come in and ask for advice on which graduate schools to apply to. They ask their thesis advisors about what graduate schools are best in their specialties,” she said.
For students who wish to pursue further study in professional fields, the Office of Career Counseling offers general advice.
“We tend to do business school, law, education, public policy and international affairs,” Katie Case, Projects Coordinator for the Office of Career Counseling said. Some career advisors specialize in pre-law.
Williams has a more defined program for students interested in the health professions. Lecturer in Biology Karen Thieling serves as the Health Professions Advisor and the Chair of the Health Professions Office. The office was formerly called the Premedical Office, but “Health Professions is more inclusive. It covers what we do more,” Thieling said. “Most people who are interested in health go to medical school, but every year we have some who go to vet school and dental school. Physical therapy is increasingly popular. We’ve had a few students pursue the public health school.”
Thieling’s involvement with prospective health professions students starts early. She holds her first meeting with them during First Days.
Thieling said the initial contact serves to guide them in course selection and activities.
Over the course of the next four years, her involvement never ends. She explained some of her roles. She has students submit autobiographical pieces. She gives them pre-application interviews to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their applications.
Thieling also arranges workshops on the applications and interviews for medical schools, and she meets with each student personally to perfect their interview style. She spends her summer writing recommendations for all applicants. In addition, “I help them target a realistic list of schools to apply to,” she said.
“Thieling is excellent. She was really helpful in talking about MCAT reviews and essays,” pre-med student Tammy Brown ’98 said.
“The pre-med process here is so well done. You start doing it early so you don’t get backed up when school is ending.” Brown said the checklists, the list of schools, and the meetings with Thieling were especially helpful.
Whether through the Major Advisor, the OCC or the Office of Health Advisors, Williams students tend to fare well in graduate school admissions. Though the overall numbers are unavailable, the numbers in certain areas are telling.
Loepp said math majors are usually accepted. “Everybody who has applied has gotten in places.”
19 of the 22 seniors who applied to medical school have been granted admission, making for an acceptance rate of 86 percent.
Thieling said the national average rate of medical school acceptance is 37 percent, and Williams students exceed that by at least two-fold in any given year.
She said the overall number includes the fact that her office does not turn away anyone who wishes to apply. Even if scores and grades are low, leadin to a lower chance of acceptance, Thieling said she would give each application her full endorsement.
Thieling said Williams students fare well in admissions because of the school’s national reputation. “Getting into medical school is extremely competitive right now.
Williams has a national reputation for excellence and that does a lot,” she said. “The most important fact is that you all receive outstanding educations. There’s recognition of that at the other end.”
“I feel like everybody has done so well,” Brown said of her pre-med peers. Brown herself has been admitted to two of her top three choices for medical school.