Letter to the Editor: Pre-Professional Advising
To the Editor:
In this past issue, The Commentator’s editor-in-chief published an editorial entitled “A Pre-Law Advisor Isn’t a Luxury. It’s a Necessity.,” which argued and advocated for the urgent need for a new pre-law advisor. The author ends his article with the following statement:
“The abysmal state of pre-law advising at YU must be addressed. The students deserve a qualified individual with legal experience who can advise accurately and professionally” (emphasis added).
In this statement, the author assumes that pre-professional advising — specifically pre-law — is an undergraduate student entitlement or right. Based on the descriptive reality — that YU maintains both a Career Center and pre-health and pre-law advising — the institution agrees with the author’s assumption. However, prescriptive questions must be asked as well: Should universities provide their students with pre-professional advising and guidance? If yes, how ought YU distribute its resources for pre-professional advising?
While the first question interests me and intuitively strikes me as antithetical to the “true” goals of a liberal arts education, I will leave it aside for the sake of the second question.
In general, the Career Center focuses on business-related professional paths and, to a certain extent, neglects other professional aspirations. The strong focus on business careers logically springs from the fact that more than half of the male students at YU are enrolled in the Sy Syms School of Business. The question, then, shifts to pre-law and pre-health advising: Should YU provide pre-professional guidance based on demographics? Do these advisors cater to the largest demographic of undergraduate students in Yeshiva and Stern Colleges? If they do, then, I ask the administration to be transparent about the rationale behind providing pre-health and pre-law advising.
[To me, it appears that there is a certain prestige associated with the two; especially within the Orthodox community, lawyers and doctors maintain a certain prominence and primacy.]
In addition, the author adds that pre-law students encounter an exceedingly difficult application process and therefore require a specialized pre-professional advisor. This rationale, however, subtly deviates from the demographics argument. Most likely, this would require individuals with a specific background in a professional field, and not merely a general career advisor. Though slightly beyond the scope of this piece, I think we must question the existence and efficacy of the Career Center, in its current form, to properly assist students pursuing specialized fields. Perhaps the Career Center should be composed of one or two general advisors and five or six, for example, specialty advisors for pre-law, pre-health, pre-psych, computer science, etc. Personally, I find both rationales — the demographic and preparation-based — legitimate; nevertheless, students, faculties and Deans should explain which, if any, rationale they advocate.
Lastly, I want to advocate for what I believe to be another neglected need at YU: Pre-psych advising. According to both of the aforementioned rationales, pre-psych students deserve pre-professional advising. According to research conducted by The Commentator last (academic) year, there are currently 182 declared Psychology majors in YC and SC. This number is a little smaller than former-pre-law advisor Dina Chelst’s estimated 200 undergraduate students that are pre-law at YU. From a demographics perspective, pre-psych nearly parallels pre-law, and thus, pre-psych deserves or requires a pre-professional advisor.
Although one might object that not all Psych majors apply to graduate programs, if resources are distributed according to declared majors, there is no reason why pre-psych students should be barred from having their own advisor. Secondly, graduate Psychology programs also demand much preparation: the GREs, determining a proper graduate program, deciding your professional trajectory and finding research opportunities. And, recently at YU, the latter has grown much more difficult. As YU administrators recently shifted the Psychology department’s focus from research to teaching, students have less access to research and research experience, and since most graduate programs require research experience, YC and SC students have a strong disadvantage.
In closing, I implore the YU community (students, faculty and Deans) to re-think our assumptions about pre-professional advising. How should resources be distributed? Should resource distribution follow declared majors, the number of students with declared professional intent, or according to the number of past students, etc.? Pre-professional advising may be a necessity, but the question is, why?
Noah Marlowe, Yeshiva College ‘19