Early Assurance programs offer accelerated path to schools of medicine

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is pictured. via Wikimedia Commons

Tufts University has become synonymous with health science in many ways. With the Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the university has a lot to offer in terms of furthering the education of students seeking to enter health-focused professions.

According to the Tufts University Fact Book 2017-18, for the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, Biology is one of the more popular majors at Tufts. Many of these majors go on to pursue careers in the health fields which oftentimes require further schooling.

Early Assurance (EA) programs at medical, veterinary and dental medicine schools help Tufts find highly qualified and committed candidates, according to Bradford Barnet, assistant director of admissions at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. 

“We have higher matriculation rates amongst those in early acceptance than we do [in] the general pool, and they’re really strong applicants,” he said.

Barnet says that not only is the EA program beneficial for the school itself, but also completely positive for applicants and accepted students.

“There’s really no negatives to applying to the program, it can only help you out by giving you feedback or ideally an acceptance,” Barnet said. 

According to Barnet, the feedback he mentions comes in the form of a consult for students who aren’t accepted into the EA program. This meeting with staff gives them the benefit of receiving constructive criticism far in advance of general applications.

For the initial read of EA applications, GPA and standardized test scores are key components in order to secure interviews due to the intensity of the curriculum of veterinary school. However, once applicants make it past the first round of cuts, being able to speak about their desire to be a veterinarian is crucial in order to secure a final admittance.

“In an interview we’re not going to trip them up in any way, it’s more just about the realistic idea of the contribution they can make, the things they find appealing … and also why the vet profession and a health profession in general,” Barnet said.

Barnet also mentioned that an ideal candidate for their program can not only speak intelligently about the veterinary profession but has also thought deeply about what it really means to be a caretaker for animals.

“The health professions in general are challenging, whether in means [of] putting down an animal … or the emotional and compassion fatigue that comes with being in a health profession and making sure that they have an outlet that allows them to prioritize their own health so that they can be the best doctor they can be,” Barnet said.

Juniors Emma Mitchell-Sparke, Paul Katsiaunis and Sharmitha Yerneni, EA program acceptees last year, shared their experience with the EA program.

Katsiaunis said the program attracted him as being a doctor was his profession of choice from early on. 

“I had no doubts that I wanted to pursue medicine, and thought applying early was the right choice for me because of that,” Katsiaunis said.  

Mitchell-Sparke said that the application process for EA challenged her to really think about why she wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor.

“I enjoyed the application process because it led me to spend a lot of time reflecting on why I was actually interested in being a physician, and what I hoped to gain out of the EA program itself.”

EA application process require transcripts, GPAs of certain calibers, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation and other supplementary materials, according to the university Student Life website; however, both Mitchell-Sparke and Yerneni pointed out that associated cost with EA programs is lower than that of applying with the general pool of medical school hopefuls.

“If you are accepted and decide to take the opportunity, then you don’t need to take the [Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)] or apply to 30 medical schools in your senior year of college, allowing for greater freedom and less stress the last two years of college” said Mitchell-Sparke.

Yerneni also said that not having to take the MCAT removes much weight from medical school admits. 

“Taking the MCAT requires months of preparation and is a stressful and expensive process to go through. By not taking the MCAT, students who are admitted can spend these months gaining valuable time in an internship, traveling, or focusing on expanding their interests.” she said.

Barnet also pointed out that EA programs relieve a large financial burden of applying to health professional schools.

With travel for interviews, MCAT study materials and application fees, applying to medical, dental, or veterinary school is no cheap ordeal and not having to deal with any of the associated costs can be a huge relief to students.

However, on the other side of the financial coin, Tufts Medical School is one of the most expensive medical schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report, with a $60,704 price tag per year as of 2017-2018. This is certainly a large financial commitment to make as a sophomore in college.

“[EA] does link directly to Tufts School of Medicine, an expensive private medical school, so most likely your in-state medical school is a lot cheaper,” Mitchell-Sparke said.

Mitchell-Sparke, however, said that applying for EA program has many benefits.

“I would say that no matter what, if you’re interested in medical school, going through [the EA] application process is a valuable, meaning process because it forces you to reflect on why you are interested in this field and the program itself,” she said.