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New program supports pre-med undergraduates

By Shannon O'Brien '15

February 6, 2014

Hamilton students now have the opportunity to secure a spot in a top-notch medical school as 20-year old students. The College has recently joined the Early Assurance Program , which allows pre-med undergraduates to apply to the University of Rochester Medical School as juniors.

The program will allow students to avoid having to study for, pay for and take the dreaded MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) that medical schools require. In this way, the Early Assurance Program gives accepted pre-med students the freedom to study abroad during their junior year as well as explore courses in other disciplines. The program will not function to accelerate students through medical school, as accepted students will continue the normal course of their undergraduate education before entering medical school. Early admittance does not require students to go directly to medical school either. Once accepted through Rochester’s Early Assurance Program, students can defer medical school enrollment in order to pursue a fellowship, conduct research or explore other interests. Leslie North, health professions advisor, described the University of Rochester Medical School as “unlike most medical schools,” as it “is very understanding about allowing students to pursue other educational goals.”

North explained that Hamilton chose to join the consortium of colleges involved in Rochester’s program “because it offers students an unusual opportunity at an outstanding school.” Other colleges involved in Rochester’s Early Assurance include Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, Colgate, Haverford, Middlebury, Morehouse, Spelman, Swarthmore, Williams and Xavier. As suggested by this list of liberal arts colleges, Rochester is looking to attract well-rounded students whose GPAs are complemented by a wealth of co-curricular activities.

The standards for entrance into the medical school through Early Assurance are high. “There are no ‘back door’ entrances to medical school,” noted North. “The mean GPA for those admitted to all US medical schools last year was 3.69, and Rochester is a highly rated medical school.” According to North, Rochester is looking for students with “excellent grades” as well as “a history of service to others.” Applicants should also have had experiences through internships or summer activities that demonstrate “an understanding of the medical profession.” Moreover, Rochester values students who have a passion for helping others.

While the expectations for applicants are high, the competition for getting admitted is even higher. Rochester’s Medical School limits its class size to 104 students, differing from the national average of 155-160 students per class. The small class size and distinguished reputation of Rochester’s Medical School will make acceptance for undergraduate juniors especially selective. The school will admit only seven to eight students total from the group of schools in Rochester’s Early Assurance Program.

Although the number of selected applicants is small, North said she “would advise students with strong records to consider applying” to the Early Assurance Program, “especially those who believe the MCAT might present a particular challenge for them.” Rachel Sobel ’15, a Biochemistry and Women’s Studies double major, explained that she sees Early Assurance as a way to decrease the stress, pressure and competition that comes with preparing for and applying to medical school. It will also save pre-med students money. North estimated that students spend up to $4,000  applying to schools and traveling to interviews. The fee to apply to Rochester’s medical school is $100, and the school promises to refund students who are not admitted.

While the concept of applying to medical school may seem daunting, students should feel encouraged by the University of Rochester’s progressive program that values the integration of real-world experiences with scientific knowledge. Hamilton’s participation in the Early Assurance Program reflects the collective commitment to creating a generation of  well-rounded, driven and compassionate doctors.

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