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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 23, 2007

Advisers help students develop pre-professional track

by Dave Gieseke, LAS Public Relations

  • Myth No. 1: You can major in pre-law or pre-med at Iowa State University.
  • Myth No. 2: Medical schools will only admit students with majors in the life sciences.
  • Myth No. 3: If you're not a political science major, you can forget all about law school.
  • Myth No. 4: In order to be accepted into a law school or medical school, you should plan on getting your undergraduate degree there as well.
LAS advisers

(L-R) Emily Hurm, Bruce Allen and Jennifer Owens are academic advisers in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but they help any student - regardless of major - interested in pursuing a pre-professional program such as medicine or law. Photo by Bob Elbert.

These are a few of the myths that pre-professional academic advisers Jennifer Owens, Emily Hurm and Bruce Allen face day in and day out. Owens and Hurm work with pre-health students at Iowa State, while Allen assists pre-law students in seeking admittance to law school after graduation. All three are academic advisers in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS).

"I like to tell students that it doesn't matter where you go to school, but what you do while you are there, that matters," Owens said. "It's a myth that if you want to go to a medical school, you should do your undergraduate work at the same school. That's absolutely not true.

"And many medical schools are changing their tunes about the undergraduate degrees they recommend by broadening the programs they seek. Many now seem to prefer psychology and philosophy majors because they've been taught how to relate to people. The science can come later," she said.

This semester, she has more than 1,000 Iowa State students on an e-mail listing who are interested in a pre-health profession.

"There is an upward trend into this area," she said. "After 9/11, the thought of helping people entered more students' minds. Plus, there are more jobs in the health professions and there will continue to be more jobs as the Baby Boomers grow older."

Owens estimates that more than half of all students applying to medical school from Iowa State are accepted, which is on par with the other Iowa regent institutions. That includes students with majors in business, psychology, liberal studies and even the life sciences.

"We have students majoring in engineering and music who are applying to medical school," she said. "Two years ago, our top candidate was actually a Spanish major. Iowa State does a very good job of preparing our students for professional programs, regardless of their major."

"For me, medicine is something that I really want to study, but biology is not my best subject," said Molly Jubeck, a sophomore who still is undecided on her major. "Also, I don't know for sure that I will end up going to medical school, and I want to be able to keep my options open with a well-rounded education."

Interest in pre-law campus-wide

Allen said that while more LAS students apply to law school than from any other college at Iowa State, students from every undergraduate college on campus participate in the pre-law program. More than 350 students were in the program last fall.

"While you can't major or minor in pre-law at Iowa State, that designation enables us to identify students to prepare them for law school," Allen said.

A majority of students in the program don't come to campus with the sole intent of becoming an attorney. However if students want to "major" in pre-law as freshmen, he encourages them to find a course of study they are interested in.

"I encourage students to take courses that will enable them to develop skills and a knowledge base needed by a competent lawyer," he said, "and choose a major that they find interesting so they will have something to fall back on in case they don't get admitted to law school, or change their mind."

"My academic studies haven't been concentrated around my desire to be an attorney, but rather on a desire to learn," said Valerie Berg, a senior political science, Spanish and criminal justice major who plans to attend law school. "No matter the area of study, if you work hard and are determined to learn and do well, you're preparing for law school."

Almost 40 Iowa State students were accepted into law school last year. A majority of those were accepted to either Drake University or the University of Iowa.


Through its pre-professional advising program, the LAS college offers a wide variety of preparation programs for pre-professional students, including:

  • Campus-wide advising, regardless of major
  • Support to campus academic departments and programs
  • Numerous presentations to orientation and senior seminar programs
  • Meeting with prospective students
  • E-newsletters on the programs, distributed to both students and academic units.

In the past, Allen has offered a learning community for pre-law students to help them understand the basics of getting into law school. That will change next fall, when a seminar course with the same goal will be offered to juniors and seniors.

That's in addition to a pre-law section of LAS 101, the freshman seminar course offered in the fall.

Allen also serves as the adviser to the Pre-law Club, which organizes speakers and trips to regional law schools.

Students praise the counseling skills of all the pre-professional advisers.

"Bruce has helped me narrow down where I want to go to law school," Berg said. "Every month or so, I schedule a meeting with him to make sure I'm on the right track.

"He doesn't tell me what to do, he gives me great direction."


LAS advisers help students from any college prepare pre-professional study programs.


"Iowa State does a very good job of preparing our students for professional programs, regardless of their major."

Jennifer Owens, academic adviser