Finding the Right Place

Ask one hundred students why they chose Brigham Young University, and you will probably get a lot of different answers. Aside from the association with more than 30,000 other students on campus and the breathtaking setting in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, students have very particular reasons for coming to BYU. Every student at the university has a story, a reason why BYU is the right place for him or her.

According to U.S. News and World Report in 2009, BYU was ranked 79th among the best universities in the nation and second in the number of accepted students who enroll. BYU has long been known for turning out well-prepared undergraduates. In a survey conducted for the National Science Foundation, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reported in 2009 that Brigham Young University was tenth in the nation for graduates who go on to earn doctorate degrees.
Life Sciences majors' studentsLife Sciences majors: Top row (l–r): Traci Yeo, Kristi Jamison, Govinda Dhakal Bottom Row (l-r): Stephanie Petterborg, Tu Tran, Eloho Ayoro
BYU has often been among the top universities in the nation in number of National Merit Scholars. The university is committed to providing a premier undergraduate education. Incoming freshman students earned an average 3.8 GPA in high school, placing them in the 90th percentile nationally, and scored an average 28.2 on the ACT. Some companies and graduate schools look for BYU grads, knowing that they are academically, ethically and morally prepared. In recent years, the university has consistently earned the top spot in the “stone-cold sober” category by the Princeton Review and number one for students who “pray on a regular basis.”
Students work side by side with faculty in labs and often have their work published in notable journals—something much less common at other universities.
     BYU’s Honor Code sets the school apart from almost every other university in the nation. Initiated by students in 1949, the Honor Code emphasizes being honest, living a chaste and virtuous life, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, dressing modestly, and abiding by strict grooming standards. What might seem like a repellent to young people is actually one of the things that draws students here.
     The College of Life Sciences recently examined each of its programs carefully. Academic rigor and excellence in pedagogy are being reemphasized to challenge the intellect of exceptionally bright students. As a result, some programs have been discontinued, others created, and similar programs in multiple departments combined. Undergraduate student David Nichols plans to attend chiropractic school after graduation. He says, “The Exercise Science major is perfect for my choice of graduate school and subsequent career. After researching, I discovered that the program offers additional courses that other schools do not to prepare students for physical therapy or chiropractic careers.”
     The College of Life Sciences is well equipped with faculty who can challenge such bright intellects. The college has been successful in attracting and hiring the best and brightest faculty for the best and brightest students. Faculty members have distinguished themselves academically and professionally, and are now giving to BYU.
     Faculty are not only expected to teach, but must also be active in research to stay current in their fields. An extremely important aspect of undergraduate education is the emphasis placed on mentoriStudent Kristi Jamisonng students by involving them in research projects. Students work side by side with faculty in labs, co-author papers, present posters at professional meetings and often have their work published in notable journals, something much less common at other universities.
 Environment, academics, and mentored experiences all play a part in attracting premium students. Enrollments in the college have risen steadily since the College of Biology and Agriculture became the College of Life Sciences in 2007. In fact, the College of Life Sciences is now the largest college at BYU. Of the top ten undergraduate enrollments by program this fall, Life Sciences claimed two spots. Public Health in the Health Science Department came in tenth while the Exercise Science major ranked number one.
     Other colleges within the university have also experienced increased enrollments. Dr. Jim Porter, Associate Dean of the College of Life Sciences explained one possible reason. “Students with undeclared majors seem to be making their decisions earlier.”
     Another explanation for increased enrollments in the life sciences may be due to the current economic climate. “The college offers several degrees that are perceived as excellent choices for preparation for professional schools in health-related fields,” Porter suggests. “We have also been quite successful in helping students get into grad ate programs. Several of our degree programs prepare students for immediate employment in areas such as landscape management, dietetics, clinical laboratory science, public health, and athletic training, to name a few.”Students Traci Yeo and Stephanie Petterborg
      Once in the College of Life Sciences, new and transferring students find an immediate ally in the Student Services Center. Focusing on five main areas — advisement, assessment, career advisement, college life and mentored experiences, — skilled and caring faculty and advisors work one-on-one with majors to assist in the transition. Critical-thinking skills are nurtured as students are directed toward their goal of graduation in the shortest time possible. Students also receive guidance about mentored experiences for hands-on laboratory knowledge. Dr. Shauna C. Anderson Young, Director of L.S. Student Services and an assistant dean in the college feels, “This combination gives students a leg up in seeking careers or going on to professional or graduate schools.”
     professional meetings and often have their work published in notable journals, something
Academic rigor and excellence in pedagogy are being reemphasized to challenge the intellect of exceptionally bright students.
much less common at other universities.
A comparatively new course, Life Sciences 101, was created with these new students in mind. Young explained, “The course serves as a vital bridge for new and transferring students. It addresses the developmental issues of new students away from home for the first time, provides support, focuses on college and university resources, and at
the same time, exposes the students to... all the majors in the college.”
     So why do students flock to BYU? It is not difficult to recognize the numerous opportunities that BYU offers, reasons that BYU may attract the best students from across the nation, and even the world.
     Even after undergraduate student Laci Brandley received her acceptance letter to BYU, she still planned to attend the University of Texas. But she soon experienced a change of heart and explains it this way: “The emphasis placed on giving back brought me to BYU. ‘Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.’ I can think of no better way to put it. After I graduate from BYU, I will have the discipline, ethics, and resources to change the world, one day at a time.”