Most premedical students are aware of the traditional path to becoming a doctor. This involves going to college for four years and then attending medical school following graduation. After that, these newly minted physicians continue on in a residency in the specialty of their choice.
Although this is the most common path to take to become a physician, some schools offer an alternate route in the form of an early assurance program, or EAP.
Students dedicated to a medical career who excel in their coursework and typically other areas such as character and leadership can secure a seat in med school well before graduation and earlier than the normal med school application timeline, which typically is after the junior or senior year of college.
These high-achieving undergraduates apply and are assured of acceptance to med school earlier than normal, such as at the end of their sophomore year — the case with the early assurance program at Loyola University Chicago and its Stritch School of Medicine — or the beginning of their junior year of college, which is the case with the EAP at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine in New Hampshire.
Though early assurance program requirements vary from school to school, accepted students are guaranteed a spot in that program’s med school if they meet conditions of admission before and after acceptance into the EAP, such as completing all prerequisite courses required for med school. They also are getting their foot in the door before taking the Medical College Admission Test, commonly known as the MCAT, and in some cases are not required to take the exam at all.
Early assurance often means that these students can devote more undergraduate time to other activities and studying more subjects of their choice because they do not have to participate in the costly and time-consuming process of applying to multiple med schools through the American Medical College Application Service, or AMCAS.
For some early assurance programs, such as the Thomas Haider Early Assurance Program that places students into the University of California–Riverside Medical School, participants are barred from applying to other med schools. The University of Toledo in Ohio considers it a withdrawal from its MedStart early assurance program with the university’s College of Medicine and LIfe Sciences if an accepted student applies to another med school via AMCAS.
Most early assurance programs stipulate that a student complete certain coursework by the end of the second year of college in order to be accepted, typically five premed core science courses. This coursework is similar to what is required for medical school admissions and usually includes classes in subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics.
In addition, students must demonstrate academic proficiency by maintaining a certain grade point average, as well as indicate high motivation, good character and dedication to medicine.
A student interested in a particular EAP normally applies by using the specific application for that program or, in some cases, by applying through AMCAS. Some early assurance programs are offered only to current undergraduate students at the institution while some programs accept students from other institutions.
Admission to early assurance programs tends to be extremely selective. Four students per year may be chosen, for instance, for the EAP at the Honors College at East Carolina University in North Carolina and the university’s Brody School of Medicine.
Some programs seek to attract participants from historically underrepresented groups. For example, the program at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine gives preference to students at partner colleges and universities who are first-generation college students, graduates of a low-income high school, eligible for need-based grants or have interest in a high-need medical specialty area.
Once accepted to an early assurance program, a student will continue and complete undergraduate coursework and then transition to med school. Some early assurance programs shorten undergraduate and medical school requirements to a total of seven years combined rather than the typical eight.
Wiinning acceptance to an EAP gives students the freedom of not having to apply via AMCAS and experience the stress of the highly competitive medical school admissions process. EAP students often pursue additional interests since early assurance affords them some flexibility and possibly more spare time than the traditional med school applicant.
Depending on the student and his or her priorities, an EAP may be a good option. Premed students should be aware these programs are available and explore them as an option in the quest to become a doctor.
Students seeking coaching regarding early assurance program support may want to consider contacting a professional medical school admissions adviser. The process of gaining early assurance can be challenging, but good support can aid proactive students on their journey toward becoming a physician.
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Early Assurance Medical School Programs: What to Know originally appeared on usnews.com