October 19, 2012

Hunting the Elusive Backup Plan

Cartoon courtesy of
We here at the Froshblog meet lots of students who purposely avoid creating a Backup Plan. They have Plan A. But, ask them about other options or what they'll do if Plan A doesn't work, and they either stare at you blankly, or look like you like you’re Voldemort. Why are "exploration" and "backup plan" dirty words?

Some students are legitimately unsure of what other options they have. Some are employing the "head in the sand" method of ignoring that there are other options. Others believe that by formulating a backup plan, they'll somehow undercut their main goals. That's like not saving for retirement because you're afraid to jinx your chances of winning the lottery.

Seriously, though, there is a common misperception that if you create a backup plan or try other options, then you are not committed to plan A. Premed students are probably the biggest offenders of this way of thinking, but it happens across many majors and career goals. But, think about it:

If you were on an admissions committee, wouldn't you be more interested in a student who had tried different options, come to a greater understanding of themselves and possible careers, and THEN chosen medicine for all the right, realistic reasons?

Photo by flickr user the-starkeys.com
through Creative Commons license
When students proclaim, "I've wanted to be a doctor since I was 4," they think they are communicating the depth of their devotion.  Instead, I wonder why they think their perceptions of medicine at such a young age would have anything to do with the realities of the profession. What they see as admirable focus, I experience as willful blinders. I’ll take an informed decision over blind devotion any day. And so will every medical school admissions committee.

As one of our colleagues likes to say, adults have backup plans. We live in a rapidly changing world where even all the best planning and preparation may not ensure we get everything we desire, and where new opportunities are created every day. If you're ready to take a look around, consider meeting with your academic adviser, attending the Major Fair, completing the online Career Assessments, even consulting O*Net for career information. If nothing else, the view is better when your head is out of the sand.

October 5, 2012

Down & Dirty Advice from the Deans

In the mudder that is your college career, you are going to encounter tons of obstacles and opportunities. In the semester-long lap, we are now at the four-week mark, and you should be shifting from “just beginning” to “picking up the pace” as exams and papers are coming due.

So, for this week’s Fill in the Blank Friday, we decided to wipe the proverbial mud from our eyes and look ahead by looking back. We asked the SAS Advising Deans to fill in the blank:
“Looking back, I wish I had ________ when I was in college.”

…taken more Art and Music classes - Dean Van Riper
…taken advantage of internships - Dean Arroyo
…gotten more involved in student organizations - Dean Kieval Brill
…studied more, partied more, worried less - Dean Patterson
…mastered a foreign language! - Dean Diamond
…taken more courses outside my major - Dean Spear
…learned something about Art History - Dean Traxler

passed calculus the first time! - Dean Bruning

…spent more time getting to know my professors - Dean Delauro

And the Number 1 answer, given by nine of the SAS advising deans:
Remember, it’s a long race and you don’t want to miss anything. Take time to consider your opportunities and obstacles, and plan to take advantage of all that Rutgers has to offer!

(Thanks to Minna & Kenny, proud Scarlet Knights, for use of their pics!)