Friends in high places

Alissa Atkinson

Putting books ahead of many aspects of her life, Allison Walk, senior in biology, isn’t an average student.

Her diligence and thirst for knowledge is what brought her to where she is today — a senior graduating a semester early and applying to some of the most prestigious medical schools in the country.

Walk believes hard work can only get you so far — because once you’ve reached a certain point, evaluations conducted by peers, professors and professionals in your field are what may or may not take you to the next level toward achieving your goals.

The variety of activities at Walk participated in at Iowa State include the honors program, and being a freshman honors program leader, research assistant, and member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. She’s also a member of the Pre-Medical Club, a genetics lab teaching assistant, a Dance Marathon volunteer and a career fair ambassador, as well as a member of a variety of honor societies. Through the Pre-Medical Club, Walk served on a medical mission trip and spent a summer interning in Spain.

Even after being involved in a plethora of activities, Walk said there are things she would do differently.

“Talk with older people you know with similar career goals,” she said, “because they’ll have advice on what to be sure to do and also on the mistakes they’ve made.”

Walk said to establish good relationships with professors, as they will likely be the ones who write letters of recommendation on your behalf. If professors or advisers don’t know you well, Walk said, they might have trouble writing a letter of recommendation, which can prevent you from getting into medical or graduate school, or getting a job out of college.

“I met with the professor of one of my honors classes weekly,” Walk said. “At the end of the semester he ended up inviting us over to dinner at his house.” The professor wrote her a letter of recommendation this semester.

Walk suggested getting to know your professors freshman year and keeping in contact with them throughout your years at Iowa State.

“Make sure your writer can write a good letter for you,” Walk said. “My English professor pointed out that anyone can write a letter for you, but you don’t want it to be average.”

Maria Giles, freshman in art and design, was involved in numerous activities in high school and plans to use references obtained there to apply for internships and for programs in the college of design this spring. Giles is currently a member of two clubs on campus and plans to participate in more when her class load has changed.

Giles has already worked to establish relationships with professors at Iowa State.

“I have a couple of professors that I visit once a week to talk to,” Giles said. “Our class is a large lecture and I feel [visiting them] it is the only way they will get to know me.”

Giles said she e-mails her professors with any questions she has over the material, and she utilizes e-mail as opposed to seeking the help of a classmate, as another way to get her name noticed by professors.

Austin Tech, senior in mechanical engineering, transferred 29 credits from high school, allowing him to graduate in three and a half years, which is quick, in comparison to the five years it takes many engineering students to graduate.

Although he has participated in a variety of intramurals, Tech hasn’t been involved with any clubs. He opted out of joining clubs “to concentrate on school work without having to worry about having a meeting or project I needed to complete,” he said.

Tech plans to use his boss at his summer internship at MidAmerican Energy as a reference and is confident it will satisfy the companies in which he hopes to work.

He stressed the importance of establishing good relationships with professors and professionals in your career of interest. Tech said good references are “a must” to get a good job.

“It seems to me it’s more whom you know than what you know,” Tech said.