David Stone was not cut out for law school. Not more than a minute and a half of it, that is. "I went to law school for one day and about a minute and a half into the first lecture I said, 'I don't want to do this,' " the 1988 College graduate said recently. " 'I want to be a producer. I don't want to be a lawyer.' " Stone did not set out to be a lawyer. It was only after a year working for a New York theater production company that he decided that the legal aspects of his job made getting a law degree the logical "next step." His day in law school made him decide otherwise. "A lot of people are going to law school these days because everyone else is," or "because they don't know what to do and think it will be a good background," Stone said. Several career counselors across the country echoed Stone's assesment that some graduates use law school -- or to a lesser degree other graduate schools -- as a way to put off tough career decisions. "I worry that they're not clear about why they want to go, that there's a lot of pressure from their parents and their peers," Career Planning and Placement Counselor Jane Finkle said last week. Finkle said that when students choose law school early in their senior year "they know what they're going to do next year instead of taking a risk and trying something in the work place." The phenomenon occurs across the country, and, according to University of Michigan Law School Director of Placement Nancy Krieger, is not at all new. Krieger said some students feel medical school and law school are the only choices after college. "If you don't like blood, you go to law school," she said. But students who expect law school to postpone their career decisions by three years may be in for a surprise: they've already made a choice. Despite a growing number of dissatisfied lawyers seeking to transfer legal skills to other professions, Krieger said that "virtually all" law school graduates take traditional careers as lawyers. "For those people who have some direction, a law degree can be a wonderful added value for a career, but to graduate from law school and expect doors to open for you in the non-law world is, I think, probably naive," Krieger said. · According to a 1989 CPPS survey, more and more College graduates are choosing to put off graduate study for a few years while they try their hands at jobs and other short-term activities. Still, almost one third of the College class of 1989 went on directly to graduate school, and many more may find their way back to the ivory tower within a few years. Students who wade through the daunting battery of tests, recommendations, applications and even interviews can choose from a variety of graduate programs. And across the board, the chances of getting in are overwhelmingly good for University graduates. Last year, for example, over 90 percent of University applicants to medical school were admitted, according to CPPS Counselor Gail Glicksman. In fact, "the only school that sends more people to Havard Medical School is Harvard," said Frank Rybicki, a 1988 College graduate who serves on the Havard Medical School admissions committee. Like law school, most graduate study in any field leads to a job in that field. So the first step along the road to graduate school is choosing the right field. For applicants to doctoral programs in the humanities and sciences, this choice usually involves close consultation with an undergraduate faculty mentor or advisor, who in many cases provides the inspiration for choosing graduate study. In other cases students decided what kind of degree they wanted long ago. Students bound for medical school must complete a basic undergraduate science curriculum before they begin their medical training, and most students start freshman year. Fortunately for a growing number of University graduates, the door is not closed to students who choose to become doctors later. Many schools across the country -- including the University -- offer post-bachelor pre-med programs that can bring any student up to the required level in about two years. · But from there, the path to medical school is perhaps the most rigorous of all the graduate school application processes. In addition to the applications themselves, applicants must take the Medical College Admission Test, submit recommendations and pay some hefty fees. Perhaps the most widely feared part of the process is the gruelling MCAT, a day-long battery of multiple-choice and essay tests on physics, biology, reading comprehension, math and reasoning skills. The test directly examines achievement in the pre-med curriculum and calls for thorough preparation. To prepare themselves better, many students sign up for review courses at private test prep schools like Stanley Kaplan or Princeton Review which can cost more than $600. [See story, right.] Although the review centers promise a rise in scores, several CPPS officials said they were skeptical of the programs. Career Counselor Glicksman, who advises students applying to medical school, said that she has seen "frankly no" difference in scores between students who prep and well-disciplined students who prepare on their own. Despite common student fears, Glicksman said last week that medical schools do not set minimum MCAT scores for admission. "I suppose you can see that most successful applicants to medical school fall in certain ranges, but there are no specific cutoffs," Glicksman said. Moreover, Glicksman said that University students usually perform well on the standardized test, a tendency she credited to the University's science instruction. Registering to take the test is expensive. Although fee waivers are available, basic registration costs $105, with additional charges to send out scores. A typical list of ten schools can run about $250. Moreover, many schools require supplementary application fees which run around $50. But these fees pale next to the first year tuition. With few scholarships available, most students can expect to pay almost $18,000 for a year of private medical school or $6000 for a home-state institution. The application procedure is very similar for law school, except there is no required curriculum, and CPPS's Finkle said that law school admissions committees favor "diversity." Just as for medical school, applicants are required to take a standardized test -- the Law School Admissions Test -- and subscribe to a costly score compilation service. · During the early 1980s, when a tight academic job market was flooded with fresh Ph.D. graduates, placement offices across the country scrambled to transfer the graduates' academic skills to other fields. But now the academic job market has opened up, and most Ph.D. graduates are happy to fill the positions, according to David Laurence, the director of English programs at the Modern Language Association, the trade association for English professors. Answering the call for new professors, more than 90 percent of current Ph.D. graduates take jobs in academia, Laurence said. New doctoral graduates from the University and its peer institutions are so much in demand that they can even chose between different universities, said Mary Heiberger, the CPPS counselor responsible for graduate students. The outlook for current college students who want to become professors one day is also bright. Most professors hired in the 1960s to teach the "baby boom" generation will be retiring in the next few years and will need to be replaced, several career counselors noted recently. Steven Ochs contributed to this story.Comments powered by Disqus
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