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Vandy vs. WashU Pre-Med

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Replies to: Vandy vs. WashU Pre-Med

  • LvMyKids2LvMyKids2 Registered User Posts: 573 Member
    @xatlas at Vandy I hear that the general chem is VERY hard - a definite weed out and I have a current freshman there. Also, Calculus is the same thing. VERY HARD. I think both of these classes weed out kids whether that is good or bad, I don't know. I have a child in one of those classes, that luckily is doing great....but they are hard!
  • XAtlasXAtlas Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    edited November 2017
    @LvMyKids2 I heard gen chem changed to mastering physics from sapling, but I don't think its "very hard." General Chemistry gives plenty of other free grades like (points from discussion, which is just attendance and simple quizzes, and mastering chemistry hw which you can easily find online if you are stuck). Compared to other premed track courses, general chemistry is by far the most lenient and simple. The tests are all standardized unlike the other classes and all the tests quite frankly require low problem solving ability. All the actual free response questions are simple; rather, students seem to get points taken off here and there from some specific true-or-false and multiple choice questions. After the first test, most students should be able to discern what to study and not to study in the textbook. I took the class last year.
  • bernie12bernie12 Registered User Posts: 5,144 Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    @LvMyKids2 : My sleep schedule is screwed up, so I will send you some chemistry material via PM to compare between the two (If you don't know how to compare, should to your student. Keep in mind that the chemistry exams at VU are standardized and that WUSTL basically only has a single section) and some other schools in its tier (or slightly above). VU is not one of the places where the chemistry courses are true weeders. I feel like biology and physics are more likely to do the job there, but the physics is on par with most elites in its tier (a good level to be sure- there is an oddball among, perhaps because it does not have engineering, but I would consider that place easiest in lower division physics and on par or rougher than some others elsewhere) and their biology is different (much more memorization oriented than similar schools who have veered away from that towards problem solving and experimentally relevant learning) but still tough enough to challenge a decent amount of students.
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 5,372 Senior Member
    @bud123's point is well taken: pre-med is a process designed to both thin the herd and lay the ground work for the volume and rigor of work once in med school. For people interested in grad school in the actual individual subjects (ie, physics, chem, bio, math) the more rigorous, thoughtful base described at WUSTL is particularly useful, but for pre-med it is the ability to keep a high GPA that is essential. The first cuts for med schools are done based on GPA and MCAT, and they won't pay attention to whether the GPA is from WUSTL or Vandy or your state flagship.
  • bernie12bernie12 Registered User Posts: 5,144 Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    It is understood that med. school admissions are silly in some ways and can hurt the intellectual development of students. However, I am tired of this idea that just because people score high on the SAT, they are expected to do well on appropriately challenging college level examinations. The fact is, most high schools do not get students used to CONSTANTLY taking exams or solving problems at a good level. You have like an AP or IB exam at the end of the course that has been completely coached (The instructor in college may drop some insight, but will not completely coach, will often not grade paper based HW. Most do not hold hands, and then the instructors who give graded problem sets of any kind are bound to be more challenging) or an SAT which has a million prep resources and is highly predictable versus a college instructor who can be highly unpredictable and will naturally put some curveballs to see how students think/make them more predisposed to thinking harder (many college students, even at elites will boldly admit that they are used to cramming/not having to study for midterms/more frequent assessments. Should I shed a tear that they must now not only study, but study in ways that really get them used to applying, analyzing, and maybe even be creative? Not gonna do it for pre-med or pre-grad students...for no one claiming to be a science major).

    It is not even fair to compare the two situations. I'm sorry, it just isn't, and I am over arguments that put students at elites on these pedestals as if they all received the correct training in HS. They did what they were told and that may not have involved deep level thinking, especially in STEM (SAT and ACT tests, even subject tests simply do not test at the same levels as a "good" class at an elite or anywhere for that matter). The fact is, the spoonfeeding and handholding just isn't as prevalent, students' days are not as structured...grades will initially shift downward. The goal of education anywhere should not be simply to "push people to the next step unscathed". That doesn't make any sense. We are basically talking about adults. When these schools cost 60 grand +, they should educate like it and yes, even pre-meds should be educated to think critically in STEM. Writing it off as: "They can't afford to be challenged that way or they'll be disadvantaged" is unacceptable and clearly isn't true. The WUSTL, Harvard, etc kids do just fine in admissions to medical school or wherever. At the end of the day, the medical school admissions rates at most of these places are better or even far better than average, so it clearly ends up paying off for most or it did not hurt most students at least. They are well learned and get what they deserve in the end (hint: This may be because they have compensating MCATs).


    A not so competitive state school would not be as challenging to such students, but it is challenging to the tier of students they have. I don't understand why people think elites should basically sit still and demand the same level of cognitive complexity (especially in STEM) that is demanded at such places just for the sake of inflating the GPAs/keeping them high for professional schools. That would be unfair. Newsflash! Despite all of the additional challenge at the selective publics and privates, the students generally still earn much higher grades than much less competitive/selective places: http://www.gradeinflation.com/

    I don't like that people who chose the route of the elite school, which will (or should) choose to challenge its level of students are now being viewed as victims or being treated unfairly. I guess I should say the same to less "inclined" folks at state schools where courses are pitched appropriately. I think if this issue is such a concern to the student and parent, just go elsewhere. In my opinion, students and parents should keep an open mind anyway and no one should come in "Pre-X or bust". If you have an open mind, the elite may pay off (assuming not that much debt) even if a student decides against one of the big "Pre-X" tracks because they have been trained in a way that is trusted by other post-grad. opps. and employers. These opinions that these students are just too smart or too hostage to a system to be challenged in a particular fashion seems to come from these ideas that students and parents should have tunnel vision about career paths and view any stumble or slight derailment as devastation. I just won't get on board with that style of thinking.
  • SincererLoveSincererLove Registered User Posts: 604 Member
    Vandy's chem mid term average is low 70 as well, even excluding the kids who saw their grades and dropped the class. Physics is the same. The questions you ask is very personalized...there are kids who study to 2am every night to get C or there are kids who finish daily work in two hours for the same courseload, and have diffident anxiety levels. You need to go to the campuses for visits, reflect and figure it out for yourself. How do you usually handle stress?, multiple tests coming up??

    Best of luck!!
  • bernie12bernie12 Registered User Posts: 5,144 Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    I'm sure those kids were counted in the average because hardly no teacher would go back and remove (or initially withold until) data points after students drop. The class is too large and that would be a waste of time. Either way, anything from 70-80 in a lecture format course, especially on midterm 1 or 2 basically screams: "standard". I maybe expect mixed and flipped models to perform better (like if you have good students, and give the flipped/hybrid section the same resources, say recitation or any source of supplemental problems, I am betting that such a section would yield more like 80 if not 80s) on standard level exams because they tend to work more mid-level problems themselves in class as opposed to watching an instructor work them or present content (passive "learning"). The high average results from the additional exposure. If the exam has some challenging items where students have to "derive" then maybe 60s-70s for flipped or hybrid course assuming solid students. The students can do the basic problem solving well, but naturally have varying degrees of ability to navigate the curveballs. When it goes below 70, you know they probably put some seriously tough items on it. It really depends, but many pre-health students struggle with chemistry in college, and if the tests are pitched at about their level, one would expect about a 75% (which is apparently accepted as reasonable/moderately challenging to a given cohort among science instructors). To get consistent means 80s on a chem exam at an elite, the instructors would basically have to write memorization focused exams or very short exams. It would look more like a high school exam (lots of factoids and stuff and less problem solving). Low 70s + lab +HW means something like B-/B mean once the smoke clears. This is normal and students won't necessarily be average in every pre-health core, so may it not matter but so much in the long run especially if they gain an upward trend and kill courses in their major. Students also get 3 exams and a final I believe. That is time to improve and figure out the lay of the land. Same at WUSTL with the lower means. You just ride the curve and try to aim for the "east side" of it.

    @XAtlas : Becoming a leader in a club or two? May be over-rated depending on the club. I'm sure a personal project with impact of some sort may be more worthwhile or at least equivalent. Even in the case of leadership, the impact of your leadership on the school or society probably is the most important. You can make huge impacts without leading it. No need to put that type of pressure on yourself or others. Just try to have some tangible impact that can be discussed and vouched for.
  • XAtlasXAtlas Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    @bernie12 Yea, as long as you have something like personal project or something outside of classes that one can show passion about is more so what I meant. I just mentioned clubs because it would be the easiest thing to do and to start off with, and, by leader, I meant more like an essential part of the club or student group (not like the dozens of members that just observe from time to time).
  • XAtlasXAtlas Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    @SincererLove It usually ranges from 70-80, and that's pretty standard. Averages are not robust and usually the medians for general chemistry is a little higher. There's always a handful of students that bring the averages down by getting 30s and 40s on the exam or even lower. General Chemistry at Vandy is not bad at all. Students mostly just underestimate because of the simplicity of the material and overlook certain details that could be asked in a true-false question or greaterthan-lessthan-equalto-notapplicable question. I remember exam three or 4 had a quite high average like >85. Plus, you don't even have to average an A in exams to get an A in the class.
  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 37,988 Senior Member
    edited November 2017
    Another option is to choose colleges that don't weed. And yes, they exist - look for collaborative, highly selective LACs. They "shed" students but don't purposely create tests designed to force excellent students out of the path they chose. If you choose Vandy or (even more so) Wash U, you go for a certain type of experience. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of experience, but if you choose one, think of the +/-s before you choose, and once you've chosen, make your peace with that choice and focus on doing well in the experience you chose.
    All decent colleges have good basic bio/chem/physics/calc classes, they can't afford not to as those are staples; and all students with top GPA's, regardless of college*, will be excellent, hard working students.
    You can up the level of challenge in advanced science classes in several ways but pre-med pre-reqs don't have to be extra hard, they already are.

    * there is a variation, obviously, but as long as you attend a Top 100 University/LAC (or even 125), there's no problem whatsoever.
  • XAtlasXAtlas Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    @MYOS1634 that's a pretty interesting option I never considered. Probably shouldve looked more into LACs in high school.
  • bernie12bernie12 Registered User Posts: 5,144 Senior Member
    @XAtlas and @MYOS1634 : It depends on the LAC and how one likes to work right? Like if you prefer doing well or decently in a class by just taking exams and quizzes and maybe a light HW load, then the R-1 is probably a better fit. At some of the most selective (or even those not as selective. You'd be shocked at how over-represented those from LACs of all kinds are in graduate programs) LACs, you may get more consistently high levels of instruction, but you pay the price for smaller class sections(if you prefer a lower graded workload). If you don't like a heavy hitting workload in your STEM courses, they may not have been for you. Some STEM courses at these places look more like moderate or rigorous humanities and social science courses with a variety of assessment types from exams and quizzes, to p-sets, as well as decent sized projects at just the introductory level STEM courses. On top of that, the most selective schools (I am thinking your Swarthmores, Williams, Amherst, Haverford tier schools) give fairly challenging exams as well. I guess the difference is that students are more prepared for it because they've been getting constant exposure through many venues before the exam. And yes, it may be more collaborative because classes are smaller.



    I think the true difference is the distribution of grades as dictated by the syllabus. At the R-1, you are basically riding on high stakes exams for 60%+ of the grade (this is definitely the case with organic courses where instructors often do not have any sort of graded HW system at medium and larger universities. It is left up to you to solve several book problems as a foundation, and then solve supplemental problems created by instructors for extra practice. Given the difficulty that many students have managing their time in the more robust social and EC scenes of these bigger U's, this is a tall order in the case that an instructor that writes tougher exams than the supplemental problems they assigned. Students must find time to solve those and then think of ways the logic can be applied further perhaps to problems chapters or even semesters ahead). At the LAC, even if they make exams rigorous (and again, many truly do), you're talking maybe 40% of less and lots of ways to still demonstrate you know the material.


    The "don't make the pre-med pre-reqs harder than they already are" thing...I kind of see it, but it depends on how the upper division courses are pitched. Like it would not make much sense to give students a false sense of security in the lower level courses in terms of how they should learn for future courses. Like, I have seen students shell-shocked after taking heavy memorization based general biology instructors and then they go to the primary literature and case based section of cell biology and get slapped in the face their sophomore years realizing they had not really learned how to retain and then use material in new contexts. They had to basically start over. And these were sophomores fresh out of general biology while I was a senior mostly dabbling in chemistry courses at the time and had a serious case of senioritis. Not to mention, there are several courses that many sophomores take at my alma mater with primary literature discussion sections and boy, some students struggle terribly with that (especially those not in a research lab yet). I think the lower division courses, while maybe they don't have to be the hardest in terms of making students earn a grade, they should be designed to reflect what a department expects from students who will pursue upper division courses in it.

    Like if a school's bio department is more old school in the upper divisions and more instructors go for exams and courses that emphasize high intensity rote learning and regurgitation, then yes, lower division instructors that focus on that is appropriate (it seems like at VU, there is overlap between those who teach lower division and some intermediate courses so you basically get a similar style in both). However, if the upper divisions and intermediates want to focus on experimental/data analysis, and primary literature reading skills, the lower division instructors should use their course to build skills to soften the transition as much as possible. Again, this may pain freshman level students, but they also don't need to experience downward trends. Let us keep it honest and recognize that most pre-healths will major in a life science, and that some schools have lots of chemistry majors even. You don't want gen. chem to be like treking some gently rolling hills and then ochem or other intermediates (like analytical) like climbing the Rockies in comparison. That will certainly result in flat grades or declining grades. If anything, if pursuing an ultra grade sensitive career track, measure yourself up freshmen year, be imperfect, and then go to easier instructors for subsequent courses. The training from early on may provide at minimum a work ethic advantage.
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