Last Saturday I participated on a panel of students for Prospective Students Day. We were four students from HBHE, asked to speak in front of a group of about 70 students. Each of these students was coming to see if the HBHE program at the University of Michigan School of Public Health is a proper fit for them. When I walked into the building I suddenly felt very old. I would finally be on the other side of things; I was finally not the one applying. I did not need to frantically write down every last word about how to perfect my application and look in awe at the students who were already halfway through their master’s degree. Instead, I was one of those students. Instead, I would be the one answering questions, ready to bring forth my greatest wisdom. The students would—in theory—be hanging onto my colleagues’ and my every word. So, the pressure was on. I wanted to represent the school well and help the prospective students get a better idea of whether public health, Health Behavior and Health Education, and a public health degree at the University of Michigan would be a good choice.
Before the prospective students piled into the auditorium in the School of Public Health building, Dr. Marc Zimmerman, Dr. Woody Neighbors, the other student panelists and I casually chatted and joked around, mentally preparing ourselves for approaching the morning session. Finally the students came in. I was amazed to see the large number of people—mostly girls—who were in attendance. I realized then that I really am concerned with who will carry the school into the future and how well the students of the future will maintain the reputation of the program.
Marc Zimmerman made a speech about HBHE and the program, which included an analogy between the Karate Kid’s lessons from Mr. Miyage and underlying lessons learned throughout the MPH degree program. It was an entertaining moment, but also very true. As students we often do not realize how much we’re learning on a day-to-day basis until we go out into the field and apply the skills we’ve developed and the knowledge we have absorbed in the classroom.
Next Woody Neighbors spoke about the things he, as the head of HBHE admissions, and the admissions committee look for in student applications. Overall, he said that there is not one factor or item in the application that the admissions committee pays most attention to or that carries the most weight. The committee really looks for a candidate that is strong overall. This means the devilish GRE that you didn’t do as well on as you’d hoped doesn’t have to be the end of a future career in public health. So, all of the prospective students out there can hopefully now breathe a bit more easily.
Then it was our turn. Marc Zimmerman and Woody Neighbors left the room to give us a comfortable space to speak openly about our experiences and allow the students to ask the “big” and “burning” questions. I was amazed at the interesting and thought-provoking questions the prospective students, who were mostly undergraduates from the University of Michigan, posed. How does the workload compare to your workload during undergrad? How do you maintain relationships during the program? Can you do international internships? What has your favorite course been so far?
Following the panel session, we went to have lunch with the students. One eager student approached me and asked if I had one moment in which I knew I wanted to be in the field of public health. I told her it was really a compilation of experiences that led me to pursue this degree. I sat with her at lunch so she could continue to pick my brain. She seemed unsure about what field was the right one for her, but I could tell she was on her way to figuring it out.