Expensive school vs. university?

Hi all! Wanted to see if anyone can give me some advice on a decision I am going to need to make. I am deciding on starting my pre-med this Fall. There are two schools that really interest me and are close to where I live and work. I need to get a bachelor’s degree since I am a two-year RN. i am very interested in studying biochemisty or microbiology as a major. the first school is the University of Minnesota, it is a very large school. The biology class for one semester tends to have 250-300 student in the class, complete anonymity and very little chance to get to know instructors and develop relationships with them(for research opportunity or recommendations for med schools), the classes are often taught by teaching assistants to. The tuition is bearable. the second school is the University of St.Thomas which is a private smaller school. I have been accepted at both schools. St. Thomas’s biggest accomplishments are their business programs(#1) and then biology/pre-med program(#2). Their class size is 22 students on average with a 14:1 student to teacher ratio overall. I’ve heard from current students that the classes are hard but a lot of fun and you really get to learn concepts rather than just memorize facts. the classes are only taught by professors, no teaching assistants. the professors are very open to giving out their e-mail address and sometimes even their home phone numbers to be contacted at. UST is 3 times more expensive than the U of M. It sounds like I might get a better education at UST and that I might enjoy it more. i’m just worried that I am 31 years old and have many years ahead of me before I will be making a steady salary as a doctor and I will accumulate so much debt with school. Has anyone else been in this position? how did you decide what to do? Anyone else worried about the school debt they will have this late in life? thanks so much for any responses!

You did apply for financial aid, right? Right?!?! Sorry, I volunteer for the admissions office of my undergrad institution (one of the top 10 most expensive schools in the country!) and I spend a lot of time calming parents’ nerves when they see the cost of attendance. While my school isn’t completely need-blind, if you get in, they will make sure you have the financial means to attend. I graduated with maybe $14K in loans, which really isn’t too terrible; most everything else was covered by grants/work-study/etc. I’m hoping maybe the school you’re looking at has the same philosophy. You really need to talk to the aid offices and find out what is available to you. Good luck!

I live in Minnesota, work at the U of M, took some post-bacc classes here, and know a lot about the private colleges in Minnesota. If I were in your shoes I would go to the U. St. Thomas is posh but its reputation isn’t any better than the U. Unless it is really important to you to have the whole college “experience”, where you get to know your profs and really integrate into the campus, I would say that the U would be more fun. There are more non-traditional undergrads here probably. At St. Thomas there are grad students, but they’re probably taking business and law classes–I don’t know how many older students just go and pick up science classes there. Also remember St. Thomas is Catholic (don’t know if that matters to you)–I expect they probably make students take theology to graduate.
Oh well, that’s just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. Also, I did take a class at a private college where I found the level of attention from the prof, as well as the quality of student class participation, to be 2000 times better than the usual quality here at the U. You’re right that the classes at the U are gigantic and anonymous. Still if you’re assertive you can stand out and get to know at least some of your profs. It depends on you.
Good luck!

Also, if you know you are interested in majoring in a subspecialty of the biologicial sciences (i.e. biochemistry or microbiology), try to compare the courses offered by the two schools. The U probably has more courses in those subjects just because it’s so big and has an entire college devoted to biological sciences. I’m not sure what majors St. Thomas offers but you might want to check that out first.

Hi there,
First of all, go to the school that you like the best and where you feel the most comfortable. By doing this, you can get the best grades possible. Second, if you are doing a major in Biochemistry or Microbiology, you will have a faculty advisor who will get to know you pretty well and take an interest in your career. I can tell you from the perspective of an student who attended a very small liberal arts college where my biggest class was sociology which had 20 students, and as a professor at a very large university where the Biology course that I taught had 375 students, it really makes little difference. I got to know the students who were interested in the subject matter and I got to know the students who came to office hours for help. Go where you feel the most comfortable and where you feel that you can do the best. Your GPA is going to speak more volumes than the name of your undergraduate school.
You are actually attending your courses to master the material as opposed to trying to get to know the professors.If you feel hopeless lost in a large course, then opt for the institution with the smaller classes.
If you want to do research, you are better at the larger university in terms of having more opportunities. I generally hired students who were interested in my research and not looking pad a resume. You can easily find out the research interests of the faculty at the larger university by looking at the departmental website or speaking with one of the teaching assistants.
The manner in which you master subject matter for a course is less dependent on class size and more dependent on the course. I promise you that my 375 Biology students, much to their consternation, were not just memorizing facts but mastering the material that they needed to provide the foundation for upper division courses in Biology. As people moved up the level in coursework, the numbers in the classes generally decreased. In the end, in the 300-level Biology and Biochemistry courses, there were no more than 20 students.
If debt is a concern for you, then you want to be in the school that you feel you can do well. This puts you in a position to obtain a scholarship and thereby reduces your debt load. From my small liberal arts college to my large university and through medical school, I didn’t have to borrow money for tuition. I ended up with a full-ride tuition scholarship for medicine and Departmental and NIH fellowships for my undergraduate and graduate. The requirements for these scholarships were that I maintain a GPA above 3.6 and do research which was something that I loved but in the end, my debt load is pretty low. It can be done with planning so look for these opportunities. If your GPA is high, they usually find you. If you are a departmental major and doing very well, the chairman of the department gets to know you very, very well.
I also felt like there were more scholarships available at my large university than at my small liberal arts college but merit scholarships were there too. You have to keep your grades high and this gets back to where are you most comfortable and where do you think you can do your best work?
Good luck and investigate the departmental webpages of the departments of interest at the two colleges that interest you. You should also spend some time in the financial aid office to see what is available for merit scholars too. Compare the two and go where you think you will be able do your best and keep doing your best.