By Jamie Helyar
While students pursuing pre-professional courses of study have concerns about advising programs meeting their needs, those interested in a career in education currently lack formal support.
Student leaders in the Stanford Pre-Education Society (SPREES) have started conversations with Undergraduate Advising and Research and the Career Development Center regarding the establishment of pre-education advising.
In a recent interest survey administered by SPREES, 50 out of 60 responding students expressed an interest in K-12 teaching. However, unlike undergraduates interested in pursuing careers in Medicine, Law or Business, there is still no formal pre-professional advising program for students interested in education.
“I think the reason there hasn’t been education-specific advising is because there’s this myth, this belief that Stanford students aren’t really interested,” said Julia Quintero ’15, SPREES president.
Quintero founded SPREES last year to address this lack of advising.
In the meantime, the group is already gearing up for its first campus-wide event on Oct. 29, aiming to generate discussion on why Stanford needs to prepare students for careers in education. Speakers will include President John Hennessy, Claude Steele, dean of the Graduate School of Education (GSE), Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and Rachel Lotan M.A ’81, M.A. ’83, Ph.D. ’85, director of the Stanford Teacher Education Program.
Quintero hopes that the positive response to SPREES on campus will encourage the University to create pre-education advising.
“I think there’s a big interest in education that we’re just now teasing out, that we didn’t realize was there because [students’] needs weren’t being met,” Quintero said.
However, students cite gaps even among current pre-professional advising programs.
Though pre-medical students are not required to undergo pre-professional advising, Stanford offers two pre-medical advisors and one part-time advisor to address the needs of hundreds of pre-med students—many of whom have felt that their advising experience is not individualized enough.
“For specific questions, they were good at referring me to other places,” said Adele Xu ’14. “They gave me good, general information.”
Xu said other mentors who she worked with have played a larger role helping her through her pre-medical experience and the application process for medical schools than did her pre-med advisors.
Recently however, pre-medical advisors have incorporated more personalized components into their advising. Some pre-med advisors, like Patricia Lewis, encourage students to keep a reflective journal.
Trevor Mooney ’14 said journaling was the most helpful aspect of his advising experience for applying to medical schools. “When it came time to sit down and actually write my essay, it flowed really well,” Mooney said.
Mooney also cited the mock-interviews conducted by advisors as a strong resource for prospective medical school applicants.
Still, students feel there are still more changes to be made. Students noted that none of the three pre-medical advisors have backgrounds as physicians, which puts them at a disadvantage when seeking insight on the application process.
“There are other sources where you can get experience from someone who actually applied themselves, had gone through the process themselves,” Xu said.
But according to Lewis, while medical doctors make good mentors for students, it is the job of pre-medical advisors to stay updated on current developments in medical school applications, MCAT guidelines and pre-med curriculum.
“[Doctors] may have matriculated in med school 30 years ago,” Lewis said, whose background is in education. “The rules change completely. The admissions have changed.”
Stanford’s pre-medical advisors aren’t the only pre-professional advisors to lack formal background in the profession they oversee. Sally Mentzer, the advisor for pre-business students, did not attend business school.
In addition, many pre-business students do not even know advising exists for their field.
“I wasn’t aware of the presence of pre-business advising at Stanford,” said Kemar England ’14, who plans on applying to business school after graduating.
Many pre-professional students are still hoping changes will be made to advising programs.
Vanessa Ochavillo ’16, a pre-med student, said she would like to see the premedical advising department offer more immersion programs similar to those like Cardinal Free Clinics—student-run clinics providing healthcare to the uninsured—but without the current high levels of selectivity.
“The programs that give you those opportunities are very, very competitive,” Ochavillo said.
Contact Jamie Helyar at jhelyar ‘at’ stanford.edu.