The stress of the admissions process, so familiar and traumatic from high school, rears its ugly head again for some students long before senior year. Sophomores have the option to apply for “early assurance” programs offered by the Tufts School of Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. According to Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Carol Baffi?Duggan, the process of qualifying for and applying to these professional schools provides some certainty about the direction of one’s career, although it can be academically demanding.
“There’s a bar [for applicants] in terms of academic expectations. They’re not handing you an acceptance two years ahead of time … unless you’ve done pretty darn well,” Baffi?Duggan said.
According to the Tufts Admissions website, early assurance to the Medical School is available only to a “very select group” of sophomores. Eligible students must have completed, and excelled in, two semesters of general chemistry, two semesters of introductory biology and one semester of organic chemistry by the summer of their sophomore year.
“Specifically for the early assurance, it’s around a 3.5 science and overall GPA that they’re looking for,” Associate Director of Pre?Professional Advising Stephanie Ripley said. “And they’re also looking for healthcare?related experiences, making sure that going to medical school and specifically going to Tufts is going to be the right decision.”
Admission to the School of Medicine is not binding, but by the end of their junior year admitted students must either commit to the school or reject the offer.
Students from Brandeis University, Boston College, College of the Holy Cross and Northeastern University are also eligible to apply as part of the early assurance program at the School of Medicine. The “Maine Track” program at the school also offers early assurance to eligible students at several participating colleges in Maine.
Students from other collegest – University of Massachusetts Amherst, Worchester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Vermont – can also apply to the early acceptance program at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine along with Tufts students in the spring of their sophomore year. Accepted applicants must retain a 3.40 GPA through their senior year, according to the Tufts Admissions website.
The School of Dental Medicine only offers an early assurance program to Tufts undergraduates – while sophomores can apply for the four?year dental program, students interested in the dental school are not officially granted admission until the completion of four years of undergraduate study, according to Ripley.
“If they are accepted [as sophomores], the understanding is that they will be admitted to the dental school under some conditions,” Ripley said. “So it’s a conditional acceptance, and we will monitor them on a semester basis, looking at their GPA.”
Applying early to the Tufts School of Medicine forced senior Robert Cerulli to carefully consider whether to commit to a career in medicine.
“Before this option is even put in front of you, before you go through the application process itself, you really need to ask yourself, ‘Is this what I’m going to do? Is this what I think I can see being best for myself in the future?'” Cerulli said. “It forces you to figure that out a little bit more early on. But at the same time, once you do have that option in front of you, and you know that that’s where you want to go, it’s definitely a fantastic blessing and opportunity to have.”
Early assurance provides a sense of certainty for many students. Students who have applied early in their sophomore year usually find out if they have been accepted soon after the end of the fall semester, according to Melissa Friedman, the director of admissions at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine.
“By doing the early assurance program, they’re able to pursue other opportunities…[and] devote more time to their studies rather than having to complete this long and arduous application process,” Friedman said.
Jason Kerstein (LA ’13), who graduated from Tufts last semester and will be attending Tufts Medical School this fall, said that the early assurance track provided him with a specific goal to motivate him through the remainder of his undergraduate career.
“The biggest change in my mentality was that I now knew what I was working directly towards,” Kerstein said. “I always had this goal that I wanted to go to medical school, and now I knew for sure that this was a reality and it was motivational to be working towards that as opposed to hoping for that.”
Beyond gaining certainty, students who are accepted early avoid the testing and travel that go hand in hand with seeking admission to institutions of higher education, Friedman said. According to the Tufts Admissions website, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is not required for early assurance applicants to the School of Medicine.
The opportunity to circumvent the normal application process to these schools is a privilege, Cerulli said.
“During your senior year, when you might have classes that you’re finishing up, [you can avoid traveling] to interviews for 10 to 15 different schools,” he said.
The time and attention necessary for preparation and acceptance into any of the pre?health programs is indicative of the lifestyle that comes with the medical professions, according to Baffi?Duggan.
“It’s very demanding and you never stop learning. You have to love it and you have to really know what it’s going to mean for your life,” she said.
A support and advice network for applicants to these early assurance programs is available on campus through pre?professional groups such as the Premedical Society and advisors, who are available to students to answer questions about applying to any of the professional schools.12