Francis Scott Key High School junior Meredith Tate had lots of questions for McDaniel College chemistry majors Eli Williams and Jake Holechek during a question-and-answer session on "What high school students need to know about college life as a science major" Thursday morning.
The Q&A was made possible by McDaniel's Nora Roberts Foundation Faculty Award for Community Engagement. The High School Outreach Program for the Sciences session was organized by Dana Ferraris, a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at McDaniel, and Stephen Robertson, an adjunct lecturer in chemistry.
"I feel more confident," Tate said after the Q&A session. "I've had my mind set on pre-med since I was a child. This helped me feel motivated and encourages me to work hard to succeed throughout my chemistry classes."
Alison Stull, who teaches Advanced Placement Chemistry at FSK, described the session as "fantastic" for her students.
"It really opens their eyes up to what we're trying to do and what they'll need in the future," Stull said. "As a teacher, I know what's coming but they don't. Having peers talk to them makes it more relative."
The McDaniel group had already presented at Century, Liberty, Westminster and Manchester Valley high schools. Ferraris said he was pleased with the interaction between the presenters and the students.
"It was fantastic," Holechek added. "We didn't expect that amount of participation."
"I was shocked at the amount of thought they put into the questions," Williams said.
In the Nora Roberts Foundation Faculty Award for Community Engagement application, Ferraris wrote that the idea for the presentation came from the disconnect incoming college students seem to have between their expectations of college life and the reality of pursuing a major in the sciences.
"In high school, the protocol for success in chemistry, biology and physics often consists of memorization and regurgitation prior to exams," Ferraris wrote. "While this technique will often result in good grades in high school, it falls short when these same students get to college."
He wrote that even high-performing students in high school often struggle with introductory science courses once they get into college, where critical thinking and conceptual understanding are essential.
"This lack of preparation often results in changing majors, damaged career aspirations, or worse yet, dropping out of college altogether," Ferraris wrote. "I firmly believe that much of these high school students' aspirations can be achieved by giving them a realistic view of college life, course requirements, research experiences, internships, graduate school/medical school expectations, and viable career pathways. Furthermore, I think this message would be most effective when delivered by their peers rather than an instructor/teacher."
During the presentation, Ferraris encouraged students to pay attention to the internships and research opportunities available to them.
"Most of your learning will take place outside of the classroom," Ferraris said.
He also recommended students "learn how to learn" through "practice, practice, practice," rather than cramming.
Williams and Holechek told the students that the best part of college was being able to make their own schedules. They agreed the biggest challenge was learning to manage their time and be independent.