There seems to be some disagreement about whether professional non-research degree programs (law, business, medicine) and entry into such programs is on-topic.

One the one hand, in a comment on York Undergraduate student looking to get into medical school? (on hold):

Moreover, questions related to professional schools are also generally considered off-topic (unless they're related to research-driven degrees, or looking to pursue an academic career—an MD-PhD program, for instance)


the point of the restriction is to avoid having the board overrun with pre-med/pre-law/pre-business questions (which is decidedly not what this site is about).

Then the opposite view on What preparatory steps should I be taking for admission into med school?:

This is a straightforward question about admission to a post-graduate academic program; I think it's perfectly in scope.

I also believe the help-center text, which refers to "professional students," can be interpreted to include professional law, medicine, and business degrees (and others like them). If the consensus is that such questions are not in scope, perhaps this text should be clarified to unambiguously exclude questions about professional graduate-level degree programs.

3 Answers 3


In the help center, the first question is "What topics can I ask about here?" and the first sentence of the answer is

This site is for academics of all levels—from aspiring graduate and professional students to senior researchers—as well as anyone in or interested in research-related or research-adjacent fields.

To me this is unambiguous: questions coming from aspiring professional students are on-topic.

If the site consensus has moved away from the acceptability of these questions, then it has moved pretty far, and some kind of referendum may be in order to make a policy change at this basic level.

I have several comments:

  1. The site is really not overrun with questions from professional students. On the contrary they seem to come up quite rarely. (This is not really surprising because the entire SE community is strongly tilted towards CS, math and other STEM types. What percentage of questions asked here specifically concern the humanities: 10%? Less?)

    Added: It is good for theoreticians to try their hands at experiments now and then, so I searched for "medical school" (in quotes) on the main site and got 5 matches. By way of comparison, I searched for "HCI" (i.e., Human Computer Interaction, a fairly narrow academic subfield that I had not even heard of until I arrived at this site): 30 matches. I am convinced that we are not overrun with questions about medical school.

  2. The sentence could be more clear that undergraduate level questions are excluded. Do undergraduate students not comprise part of "academics of all levels"? And technically any undergraduate could be an "aspiring graduate or professional student".

  3. The use of the word "research" and "researcher" in the sentence confuses me. It does not seem even approximately synonymous with "academic" because (i) reseachers can work in industry or for the government or for themselves or be unemployed, whereas academics work in an academy, and (ii) academics do a range of research, teaching, service and administration, the mixture of which varies wildly from job to job. Probably the majority of Americans who self-identify as "academics" are not spending a significant amount of their professional life on research. Questions about university-level teaching are among the ones which are being migrated and otherwise directed here from content-area sites in the highest volume, so it would be nice to see some word like "pedagogy" appear even more prominently in the answer to this question: it does get its own bullet point, but the word "research" is repeated again and again, even to the extent of "research department", which is a strange term to my ear.

I am also surprised that the word "faculty" does not appear. In general the relatively low percentage of involvement from university faculty seems to be one of the elephants in this particular room...but I had better not try to get into this here.


I think the cited question should be closed for being too localized, but NOT for being about med school.

  • 1
    So presumably, it is your understanding that med/law/business school questions (that are not problematic for other reasons) are on-topic?
    – ff524
    Mar 12, 2014 at 6:13
  • that is correct.
    – Suresh
    Mar 12, 2014 at 7:30

I think professioal students include law and medical students. However, I'd like point out that this is somewhat location dependent.

For example, medical school and law school students in Taiwan have to pass the very same college entrance exam as other undergraduate students when they enter law/medical school. They stay in the school longer time (medical school is 7 years) to get different degrees when they graduate.

If those students ask questions about the issues they encounter in school, do we say those are undergraduate related questions or graduate school related questions?

I am concerned that we do not have enough experts to answer the medical/law school related questions when they come up. This is more or less chicken and egg problem. Those experts will not visit us if they have nothing to do with the Q&As on our site. Law school/medical school people will not ask questions if they will not get good answers.

  • 5
    The distinction between undergraduate and graduate is itself highly location dependent. For instance, is a German "diplom" an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree? In content it often compares well with an American master's degree. Mar 12, 2014 at 7:29
  • 3
    With respect to your last paragraph: sure. The site in my opinion has quite uneven coverage across the academic disciplines, and there is a definite chicken/egg problem. Here is one way to try to cure it: create a culture where the "experts" (here, more senior academics) also ask questions of each other and thus feel that they can learn something by coming here. Mar 12, 2014 at 7:31
  • @PeteL.Clark I agree. That's why I want to point it out.
    – Nobody
    Mar 12, 2014 at 7:33

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