Small Colleges and Pre-Professional Degree Programs
When it comes to academics, college students face two concerns, regardless of their major. The first is classroom size, the second is how well major will prepare them for life after college.
Students may be tempted to try to find the best of both worlds by choosing from among the small colleges that offer pre-professional degree programs that are more likely to be found in much larger schools.
Some small colleges do this because they are specialized in the pre-professional programs.
Babson College (MA), for example, is an excellent school with only 2,000 undergraduates that focuses on business and entrepreneurship. Olin College (MA), another excellent school, but with only 340 students, specializes in engineering and technology. These are only two of the many focused colleges out there. There are also maritime academies, culinary schools and others well known for their specialties.
There are also small colleges that are primarily liberal arts schools that offer pre-professional majors that take advantage of their surroundings.
The University of Mary Washington (VA), for example, a 4,000 student public college, was the first school to offer a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation. The university is located in Fredericksburg, one of the few U.S. cities where Revolutionary War battles and Civil War battles were fought. St. Mary’s College of Maryland, a 2,000 student public honor’s college, offers a minor in museum studies as well as a concentration in applied physics. Both capitalize on academic and internship opportunities that are available in the surrounding community. St. Mary’s, named for St. Mary’s City, the first capital of Maryland, helps to maintain a historical park and developed a relationship with the Patuxent Naval Base that complements the applied physics program.
And there are still other small colleges that liberal arts schools that try to mix a liberal arts curriculum with a pre-professional one.
Bucknell University, one of the country’s top liberal arts schools, offers engineering, general business and accounting degrees. The University of Richmond, another leading liberal arts school, has a college of business that offers six degree programs as well as a School of Leadership Studies. These schools have the money to develop and expand these programs, when necessary.
Here are some questions to ask when considering small colleges and their pre-professional degree programs:
- Is the faculty comprised of academics, experienced professionals, or both?
- Do students have a choice of faculty in the required courses?
- Does the degree program offer the opportunity to work closely with the faculty through courses, research or internship opportunities?
- How active will the faculty be in helping their students make connections to find employment?
- Do students who have decided that the degree program is not for them stay or transfer out?
- Has the career services office developed relationships with employers who are interested in hiring students who have the degree?
- Are there a sufficient number of alumni who work in the fields of interest to students in this degree program?
In terms of building a resume and finding a job, connections mean more than anything. A small college that has a history of making connections for its students can be just as helpful as a larger school. However, while a career center takes the lead in helping students find jobs at the larger schools, those who attend small schools must rely more on their instructors to guide them.
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