Student Blog The blog of William Woods University Undergraduate Students


The REAL Advantages of Freshman Advantage

We just returned from Thanksgiving break and I was fortunate enough to go home to Colorado and spend it with my family this year. While I was home, my younger sister AliBeth turned 18 and also received her second college acceptance! This really got me thinking about my senior year of high school and the summer leading up to college.

When I visited William Woods during the equestrian visit weekend, we went to a session on Freshman Advantage. My mom was immediately excited about it and I signed up that day.

At the time, the advantages seemed to be:

  • getting used to being away from home,
  • spending time learning the campus,
  • and getting some classes out of the way.

Not only did I get all of that and them some, there were many other benefits like knowing people before orientation and making many fun memories. Looking back now as a senior, I still reap the rewards of spending three weeks at William Woods during the summer.

Group of 10 people smiling at City Museum door

We got to go on a field trip to the City Museum in St. Louis which is essentially a giant playground!

Lasting Friendships. One of my biggest reasons to be thankful for Freshman Advantage is the friendships I have with the people who went through it with me. Hallie is one of my very best friends, sorority sister, and biology partner who I met through Freshman Advantage.

I also have people across campus who are in the same organizations as I am who became friends with me because we met at FA. It was so nice to come to campus knowing many other students in my class, but I had no idea that those people would still go to lunch with me and help me out with my coursework four years later.

Professor Relationships. I really enjoyed the classes I took at Freshman Advantage, and it wasn't really the content that got me hooked. Yes history is important but it really isn't my cup of tea. The teachers I had during Freshman Advantage made me excited to learn. Although I never took another class with Dr. Carrie McCray or Shawn Hull, I have stayed in contact with both of them. In fact, Dr. McCray and I catch up regularly and she offers me great advice about what I should do with my future!

Class sitting at tables arranged in U, instructor teaching

This is our Deaf Culture class. The instructor is Dr. Carrie McCray

Class Credit. If I had to choose, getting 7 credits out of the way was the greatest advantage of FA. It set me up so that I had several common studies requirements taken care of, and I did not have to take up room in my schedule.

I just registered for my final semester of college (talk about crazy!) and I was able to sign up for things that I just want to take. They aren't requirements for my major or any of my minors, but I've always wanted to take a tack construction class--because I got those common studies out of the way, I have plenty of room to take the things that I want to take!

Whether you live in Missouri or even another country, I strongly suggest you look for programs like Freshman Advantage during your college search. It certainly made a big difference in my college experience.

If you've already got your heart set on William Woods, don't hesitate to sign up! It was one of the greatest decisions my family made. I only hope that wherever my sister ends up she gets the same opportunity!

Thanks for reading!



Researching Research?

Student looking into microscope

Cassie is checking pancreatic cancer cells under the microscope to make sure they are growing so she can isolate proteins from them.

When I was looking at colleges, I already had an idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I thought for sure I was going to be an equine veterinarian. Although it has evolved a little bit since then, I still applied to veterinary school and graduate school this semester.

If you think you might be interested in attending a professional school (veterinary, medical, dental, law, etc) or graduate school, it is a really good idea to check out what you should be doing during your undergraduate years to prepare.

Two very important things to consider are shadowing or experience hours and research. Shadowing and experience hours are important and also relatively easy to get. You just have to be persistent and polite to professionals in your prospective field.

Research, however, seemed to me like a big scary thing that I had no idea how to approach. Not only did I have no clue how to go about finding a research experience, I felt like I did not know enough yet to actually "do" research. Through my experiences at William Woods and the guidance of my professors, I ended up with quite a bit of research to put on my resume!

Here are some tips for getting research experience:

  • Research the Research: Ask the schools and departments about undergraduate opportunities before you commit to the school! Make sure they will help you get the experience you need to be successful. William Woods has several programs to help with this including Mentor-Mentee and Cox Research Scholar, both of which I have participated in.
  • Start Early: Work in your department as a first year and build relationships with your professors. That way when an opportunity comes up, they think of you!
  • Propose your own Idea: Show initiative by coming up with your own project (bonus points if it relates to something your professor is interested it).
  • Make Summer Productive: Use your break to participate in an undergraduate research program or get some of those shadowing hours in!
Student preparing western blot

This is my best friend Hallie setting up a western blot for protein detection.

Even if you aren't exactly sure what you want to do with your career, I highly suggest you seek out an opportunity to be exposed to the research environment. Every field is different. You never know what you'll enjoy if you don't give it a try!

Now I get to work with my mentors in the lab and also my peers and friends on projects that push me to integrate all of the knowledge I have learned in my classes. It's really fun to realize that I am using concepts and techniques I started learning my freshman year and built upon to detect trefoil factor proteins in mammalian cancer.

Plus, we have a lot of fun in the lab! We love to have fun, post goofy science comics, and reward ourselves with sweet treats for a job well done.

Thanks for reading!




Surviving Application Season

As November inches closer, so do a lot of application deadlines! As a senior, the million dollar question (regardless of whether you're in high school or college) is: what are your plans after graduation? I have to admit, I dread that question. You get asked that at least once a week and thinking about the future is certainly daunting! Luckily, I have found an answer: I am applying to veterinary school and graduate school programs for microbiology. This is generally a satisfactory answer and they move on, but every so often they ask more like why two different things? and what happens if you get into both? I don't exactly have great answers for those questions, but I have time to figure that out!

For me, veterinary school applications were due quite early. I had them turned in by the September 15th deadline, though admittedly I cut it close! Now I'm working on graduate school applications whose deadlines are in December. Luckily, my professors who helped me with my vet school applications and letters of recommendation have a lot of experience with graduate school applications as well. It might feel like December is a ways away, but it certainly will sneak up faster than we think! I'm not an application expert by any means, but I have applied to college, internships, and veterinary school so I've been around the block a few

Colorado State University Veterinary Teach Hospital entrance

This is the veterinary teaching hospital at Colorado State University! Don't forget to tour any school before you commit to it!

times. Here are some tips about what I learned:

  1. Start Early. Yes, everyone says this, but believe me it is very true. You do not want to be the person who is worried about whether your ACT scores (or in my case, transcripts!) arrive on time. Early means at least a month (preferably several) before your deadline.
  2. Don't Panic. If you didn't start early and you only have a limited amount of time to get your stuff in, stay calm. Yes this situation is a stressful one, but you will survive it! It might involve spending more on shipping, or prioritizing your applications over your extracurricular activities, but you gotta do what you gotta do!
  3. Make a Checklist. Look at every school or program you're applying to and figure out exactly what you need to turn in and whether it is turned in online, through email, fax, or snail mail. Organize it by school on a master sheet and enjoy the satisfaction of checking off a box.
  4. Ask Questions. If you are unsure about a deadline, method of submission, or program requirement, contact your admissions representative or whomever you can and ask! It is silly to stress yourself out wondering if you've done what you needed to do. Send an email, or better yet pick up the phone and call to show that you really are interested! Also get your advisor or teacher to take a look at your application and essays so you can really polish your final product!
  5. Create a Timeline. Remember that checklist? Use it to keep track of the "hard" deadlines from the schools or programs. Make a separate calendar or list for you to have "soft" deadline. Include when you are going to write that personal statement, ask for a letter of recommendation (DO THIS EARLY and don't forget to write a thank you note), and hit the big scary submit button. The key is to give yourself little deadlines so you're constantly making progress and are ready to submit well before the hard deadlines, instead of getting stuck doing your entire application in a day or two.

Of course there are many other things you can do to ensure you have a stellar application, but I find that these five things generally help me maintain my sanity through the craziness of application season. Balancing school, family, and extracurriculars is challenging enough so don't let applications get in the way of enjoying your senior year because you wait until the last minute! I am in the process of setting my "soft" deadlines for my graduate school applications and hopefully will be completely done before Thanksgiving so I can enjoy the holidays with my family.

Enjoy the fall weather! I certainly love it when the leaves begin to change and apple cider is in season.

Thanks for reading!



The Spring Semester is Wrapping Up!

It always amazes me how quickly time flies here at The Woods! We're in the middle of our finals week already. This is probably the most exciting, stressful, and saddest time of the year. It's exciting because we get to go on summer break, and for me that means going home to Colorado to see my family and friends. It's stressful because we have to finish up all of those semester long papers and projects and take final exams. It's also sad because a lot of your friends graduate from the classes ahead of you and you leave your friends for three months. It really is bittersweet!

I can't believe this is the last week of my junior year. While I look forward to my senior year because there are sure to be a lot more "firsts" and adventures, it will also be full of a lot of "lasts". Every time a chapter in your life closes it's a strange mix of sad and exciting, so I will be sure to enjoy every moment I have left at William Woods.

Last week Campus Activities Board hosted Rock the Dock to give us a break from studying. We went down to the dock and had Chipotle, music, karaoke, sand volleyball, and kayaks for the lake. It was a great stress reliever and we got to enjoy the beautiful weather!

Students playing sand volleyball at Rock the Dock

Students playing sand volleyball at Rock the Dock

I am looking forward to finishing up this week and heading home for a while. I hope to meet many new students in the fall through orientation, recruitment, and classes! Enjoy the last few weeks of school!


Filed under: Joanie Ryan 4 Comments