Bioethics interest, college goals lead to College Prep
Jonah Lindblad has always been philosophical and “ethics oriented,” and he enjoys the intellectual challenge of social and bio-medical questions — particularly when it comes to personal autonomy and choice. His passions fuel his budding activism: during high school in his native St. Louis he served as president of the Gay-Straight Alliance and also volunteered for Planned Parenthood.
His interests — and a desire to boost his college applications — led him to the IN FOCUS seminar on bioethics at Northwestern University’s College Preparation Program (CPP). The program lets high school students, if accepted, explore a topic within a real Northwestern seminar or credit course while living on campus.
“We studied bioethical problems and dilemmas in depth,” he says. “A very cool, really interesting assignment was the case studies. We had to do research, develop solutions and present our work. There was a lot of critical thinking and good discussion on a variety of topics.”
Lindblad believes that access to his professor, Mark Sheldon, was key to the value he received from the seminar. Professor Sheldon is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Northwestern and also in the Medical Ethics and Humanities Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine. Professor Sheldon also teaches at other Chicago-area medical schools.
“Professor Sheldon is exceptionally well qualified in his field,” he says. “He knew so much, about every aspect of every situation. He had a way of leading discussion that helps you understand the issues without imposing his own opinion.”
Lindblad believes that CPP also helped his college applications stand out. He is now a freshman at Webster University in St. Louis, majoring in journalism and gender studies. His experience in CPP continues to impact his thinking.
“I have a much broader sense of bioethical issues,” he says. “Overall, it was a really positive experience.”
Rare insight into the medical profession
Evie Owens remembers when her beloved grandmother lost a difficult battle with pancreatic cancer. She decided a career in medicine was a way to help others avoid that kind of pain. But how can you be sure about your choices, when you’re only a junior in high school?
Owens decided to enroll in Northwestern University’s College Preparation Program (CPP), a program that lets high school students, if accepted, take real Northwestern college credit courses. She chose the intensive IN FOCUS seminar on medicine.
“I’ve always been interested in science, and right now I’m taking AP biology,” she says. “I thought, ‘what better way to explore this broad field?’ It ended up being an amazing experience that redefined how I think about the medical profession.”
An immersive experience
The seminar involved daily class time, readings, discussion, guest speakers and weekly papers on medical topics that required using the university library for research. The program provided insights about medical school and included trips to Chicago’s Museum of Surgical Science and the anatomy lab at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Owens not only experienced college-level work, she discovered what working in medicine might be like.
“You really get into the medical professional’s mindset,” she says. “It changed how I view medicine, and Professor Rodriguez changed my assumptions about what college professors are like. She had a great relationship with students.”
A warm welcome
Owens commuted to class from her home in Winnetka, Illinois, but she was “warmly welcomed” into the CPP group living on campus.
“I felt like I was attending Northwestern,” she says. “I hung out with my class mates around campus. Everyone was intelligent, nice and friendly. It’s fun, but the focus is on learning. I’m much less worried about what it will be like when I do go to college.”
Owens is working through the college application process — Northwestern is among her top choices — and continues to explore her options. But for now, thanks to the seminar, pre-med remains a strong area of interest.
A summer at his "dream school"
Rapheal Mathis considers himself lucky. He attended Northwestern University — his “dream school” — before he even graduated from high school.
In Northwestern University’s College Preparation Program (CPP), high school students like Mathis can take a real three- to eight-week undergraduate course or one of the program’s intensive seminars while living in a dorm on the Evanston campus over the summer.
“I couldn’t believe I was in a real class with real college students,” he says. “I also had a lot of independence. It really excited and motived me about college.”
An academic edge
Mathis, who writes poetry and has a passion for communication, took a six-week course in public speaking. He was thrilled to discover how much knowledge and experience his professor had. He also discovered that expectations in college are higher — and there’s more personal discipline required. Mathis sees that as one of the biggest advantages to getting a taste of college early.
“In high school, there’s a lot of hand holding and always someone telling you what to do or where to be,” he explains. “Following a college syllabus where you have to be more organized and work harder was a new challenge. Once I was in my own college, I saw that it gave me an edge over students who don’t know what to expect or are surprised by the amount of work. They’re trying to manage a lot of new things at once.”
Time for fun and friends
But CPP wasn’t all about hitting the books. The program organizes outings in Chicago, and Mathis saw his first Cubs game and performed his poetry in cafes. He also took in Evanston’s vibrant downtown and lakefront with a new group of peers.
“There were a lot of people my age and from many different backgrounds,” he says. “But every night in the dorm you get to know each other, and you connect as a family. I met so many people. It was very cool.”
Mathis is now in his first year at Lake Forest College, where he is planning to major in communications.
“The CPP course helped me learn how to connect with an audience, and that’s what attracts me to this field,” he says. “I would definitely recommend CPP. It can be life changing.”