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UPJers who aspire to later degrees and majors sit in “pre” program purgatory

Vivian Chen Liyi, Staff Writer
April 3, 2012
Filed under News

While Pitt-Johnstown’s “pre” programs share a similar designation, some are required steps to declare majors while others are pre-professional programs for graduate school preparation.

Pre-education, pre-business and pre-engineering are categories that students have been accepted into on the presumption that they will eventually declare it as their major.

While all require applications, pre-education and pre-business programs have fixed requirements while pre-engineering programs judge on individual cases.

Education Division Chair Jacob Easley said in order to get into the pre-education program, students need to have 45 credits and an overall 3.0 grade-point average.

According to assistant management professor Douglas Reed, students have two options to declare a business major and one of six concentrations – accounting, economics, finance, management, marketing and management-information systems.

One option, for pre-business students with a 2.7 grade-point average or above, requires completion of four courses, two of them with a C grade or better. Also, the students must get a C or better in a course in their intended concentration.

The other option, for pre-business students with a grade-point average of 2.0 but lower than 2.7, requires the same, with the additional completion of two courses.

Engineering Technology Director and Pre-Engineering adviser Jerry Samples said students with qualified high school grades and SATs can enter the program as freshmen, otherwise, first they may be first accepted as pre-engineering.

Samples said he makes appointments with the applicants and evaluates their situation to decide whether they are qualified. Some key factors he looks at are mathematics, physics and chemistry.

“There’s no fixed requirement.” said Samples. “It depends on individual cases.”

Advisers for pre-law and pre-professional programs in Natural Science said their programs serve to help students prepare for graduate school admissions, including required tests.

According to James Alexander, a political science professor and pre-law adviser, the designation “pre-law” is an indication of a planned career direction.

He also said students should choose elective courses to meet the requirements for law school admission and the Law School Admissions Test.

“Pre-programs” in Natural Science are designed as advising program to help students prepare for masters’ degrees.

Elizabeth Bell-Loncella, Chemistry associate professor and pre-pharmacy adviser, said there is no pre-pharmacy major.

Students who want to go to pharmacy graduate schools need a minimum of two years of pre-requisite course work, and then they apply pharmacy schools.

“They indicated they are interested in pharmacy school so they are listed as pre-pharm rather than chemistry or biology on their PeopleSoft (records),” said Bell-Loncella.

“We also get all the pre-pharm students together twice a year, once in the fall, once in the spring and remind them how everything is set up.

“Most of the students that go to pharmacy school apply to pharmacy schools in Pennsylvania,” she said.

Bell-Loncella said a list of pharmacy school pre-requisite requirements is prepared.

“Most of the pre-requisites are the same, but there are some subtle differences between different schools, and we tell the students what other schools require beyond what Pitt requires,” said Bell-Loncella.

Bell-Loncella also said students are responsible for figuring out whether the schools in which they are interested require additional courses, and advisers will assist them.

Associate Biology Professor and pre-med adviser Stephen Kilpatrick said students who want to go to medical school must take the Medical College Admission Test.

Kilpatrick also said most of the pre-med students are biology majors because courses like organic biology and physiology are on the test.

Alexander said that law schools, different from programs such as pre-medicines, demand no specific major and no set curriculum of undergraduate study.

“Students enter the study of law from a wide variety of undergraduate fields,” he said.

While there are no specific required courses, Alexander seems to encourage students to take demanding courses to prepare them for further studies.

“What is critical to understand is that your undergraduate career is a preparation for graduate work, and, as such, should emphasize the two skills most appropriate for law preparation: communications and analytical thinking.

“Language skill is developed through reading and writing in a thorough and continuous manner; avoiding undergraduate courses that emphasize reading and communications skills may help your grades, but afford little development of language skills,” he said.

Bell-Loncella said that, like pre-law students, pre-pharmacy students can have more than one adviser if they interested in many fields.

“For a lot of programs, you can major in anything. You can major in music, and go to medical graduate school, as long as you take the undergraduate courses they require.”