Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Care Packages for College Students

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Students love care packages from home. Lena, a college freshman, was thrilled to get her favorite chocolate chip muffins in a recent care package from her mom. Care packages are always welcome but they are particularly appreciated around exam time when every student needs a little encouragement. Many universities including Harvard and Cornell have sprouted businesses that specialize in assembling and sending care packages for that special student. Although the thought is the same, using your credit card to buy a gift package is not quite the same level of care as something with a more personal home-made touch.

So what kinds of care packages could you assemble for your student?

1) The bakery package- Home made cookies, brownies, muffins, biscotti etc.

2) The chocolaholic package -M & Ms, small chocolate pizza, cocoa mix, chocolate covered pretzels, home-made fudge etc.

3) The Halloween package- Scary mask, can of plastic string, face paint, gummy worms, gummy bats, and gummy spiders, chocolate pumpkins, popcorn balls, apples

3)The movie night package-Italian sodas, Gourmet popcorn, pistachio nuts, pretzels, gummy bears, Hershey's kisses etc

4) The comfort package- Dry packaged chicken noodle soup, Celestial Seasonings variety of tea, ginger ale, shearling flip flops, microwaveable neck pad, special interest magazines

5) The Asian food lovers pkg.- Wasabi peas, rice crackers, sesame candy, variety of green teas

6) The sleep tight package- Ear plugs, sleep mask, mellow music mix on a CD,lavender oil

7) The exam package- Protein bars, Tazo tea variety pack, trail mix, ramen noodles, chocolate covered espresso beans

It is great to include a personal note with the package. They can be humorous or serious depending upon the occasion. Expressions of encouragement are especially helpful when the student is not feeling well or is facing exams.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Should Undergraduate Research be Considered in College Selection?

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This week I attended an information session at the University of Scranton. The admissions official spoke proudly of the opportunities for science research at the university. The research focus made sense at Scranton because of the many students interested in health careers. This got me to thinking about the importance and timing of research for undergrads. Students can't usually participate meaningfully in research until after they have completed some basic coursework in their freshman year. Undergraduate research is particularly important for those interested in the physical sciences, engineering or medicine. In some engineering programs(such as WPI pictured above), student research is incorporated seamlessly into class projects. In other disciplines such as history or anthropology, research can certainly be a plus on your resume but it is not as critical.

Many colleges talk about their lively undergraduate research programs. However, there is an intense level of competition to get into these programs at large universities. Many professors take on no undergrads at large research universities and some only take them if they can remain for the summer. Smaller liberal arts colleges make an effort to involve more of their interested students. Davidson, Middlebury, and Lawrence University are all colleges that I have visited recently with impressive numbers of students involved in undergraduate research. Students or parents should ask about the numbers of professors offering opportunities in undergraduate research when on college visits. The ratio of involved profesors to either number of undergrads or undergrad science majors will give you some sense of the competition required to participate.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pharmacy Schools and Chemistry

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"Better living through chemistry" was a promotional slogan formerly used by the American Chemical Society that was later adopted "tongue-in-cheek" by recreational drug users. This dual slogan use does point out an important fact. The study of chemistry and pharmacy are closely related. In talking recently with Erin (a high school junior), I was surprised to learn that she was interested in becoming a pharmacist. She said "I enjoy working with people and I could make a good salary". I responded, "Science wasn't your favorite subject though, especially chemistry." Erin thought she could just "get through" the chemistry classes as her cousin did in a nursing program.

Generally, students need to enjoy at least some of their courses to be successful and pharmacy is 75% chemistry, whereas nursing only requires a few courses. Sometimes, students look at the jobs that are in demand and just try to train for those jobs. Chasing jobs is a dangerous career strategy because needs often change quickly, leaving students who pursued those jobs for the money with few good options.

I recently visited the Albany College of Pharmacy,
in Albany, NY. The admissions officer there said that they looked carefully at the science GPA when admitting students, especially their chemistry grades. The campus has the advantage of being right on top of the Albany Medical College with cross-registration available. It also has the advantage of being a small college of 1600 students with access to major up to date facilities. Many colleges of pharmacy are part of large universities such as the University of Connecticut or the University of Rhode Island. St. John Fisher is another small private college in upstate (Rochester) New York of about 2700 students with a brand new Wegmans College of Pharmacy. These smaller pre-professional programs give students the individual attention and small labs they often need as undergraduates.