Among the multitude of brochures available at the MU Career Center is one that asks students to “Imagine Stanford Graduate School of Business.”
But MU students with such ambitions are often left imagining, according to the results of a survey published last Friday in the Wall Street Journal.
Although MU does send students to top medical schools, it trails many of its peer institutions in producing graduates of four-year programs who continue their educations at the most prestigious graduate programs. MU also lags behind in Rhodes, Marshall and Fulbright scholars, according to the survey results.
The Journal’s survey examined the top graduate programs in medicine, business and law to determine which American universities send the most students to those programs. MU did not appear on the list of 30 public universities that send the most graduates to top-tier programs such as Harvard Medical School, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Yale Law School.
Stuart Palonsky, who deals with many of MU’s most talented students as director of the Honors College, blames the chasm on a lack of funding to hire academic advisers for scholarships and post-baccalaureate studies. Admission to the top graduate programs is less an indictment of MU’s student body than an indicator of how MU has been at developing advising and counseling services that help students get in the best schools, he said.
“I think we have the same quality students as other schools in the Big 12,” Palonsky said. “But you are not going to get into Harvard by accident. It takes grooming.”
An exception to the survey is MU’s record of sending students to the top medical schools. Last year, graduates went on to study medicine at Harvard, Stanford and Vanderbilt. MU’s pre-med students meet early and often with advisers from the Honors College, Palonsky said. Students hoping to get into the top graduate programs in law and business do not have nearly the same counseling opportunities, nor do students who apply for scholarships and fellowships.
Among the top so-called “feeder” schools, Pomona, a small liberal arts college in California that ranked 13th on the Journal’s survey, has an entire office dedicated to helping students win fellowships and admission to top graduate programs. Likewise, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University have scholarship advisers to help students with applications for Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall and others.
Palonsky would like to implement such a system at MU, but said there is no money available.
Dale Wilcox, coordinator of advisement for MU’s College of Arts and Science, agreed that MU has enough talent in its student body to do better. However, Wilcox blamed MU’s showing on the students’ lack of interest in attending the top graduate programs.
“Many of our students do not want to attend these programs because the programs don’t always offer what the student wants,” Wilcox said.
Some MU students agreed with Wilcox, saying that they had no intention of applying to top programs. Others said they thought individual achievement was more important in the admissions process than the undergraduate institution.
“It does surprise me that we are ranked so low,” said Jeni Campbell, a junior in business who said she may consider a master’s of business administration. “But I think it depends more on the record of the individual student.”
Dalia El-Khoury is a graduate of Duke University, which ranked sixth on the Journal’s list of top “feeder” schools. El-Khoury is a doctoral student in counseling psychology at MU. She said her admission was helped more by her experience, including the academic papers she has had published, than by the fact that she went to Duke.
“We have some very good students at MU,” Palonsky said. “And you can do anything with good students. But the current system probably sells many of them short.”
The University of Michigan was the top public feeder school, with 156 students going on to prestigious graduate programs. Indiana University and the universities of Illinois, Wisconsin and Oklahoma were also among the top 30 public feeders on the Journal’s survey. For the full list, go to www.collegejournal.com.