By Abby Weingarten
Frontline medical workers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic for the past year and a half, and never before has their expertise impacted—and inspired—so many.
What does this mean for young scholars—specifically New College students? The latest statistics show a surging interest in the pre-medical academic path and an unprecedented desire to serve the public.
“New College has a history and growing number of students pursuing careers in the medical field,” said MaryAnne Young, the vice president of advancement and executive director for the New College Foundation, which channels many resources into the College’s pre-med programs. “The Foundation is pleased to support the tools to help our students succeed.”
And those tools are more in-demand than ever, not just at New College but nationwide. At the end of 2020, National Public Radio reported on a growing phenomenon known as “The Fauci Effect”—a significant uptick in students applying to medical school, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
Prominent figures during the pandemic like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have been sparking the wave. This application inundation comes during a major physician shortage (the United States will be short about 54,100 to 139,000 physicians by the year 2033, the AAMC projects).
New College students may soon begin filling that void.
To this end, in Fall 2020, New College began offering a free, for-credit Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) prep course. This made New College the only institution in the State University System of Florida to do so.
Presented by the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO), the “MCAT Essentials Live Online” course was designed to prepare pre-medical students for the rigorous undertaking of successfully completing the MCAT exam with a competitive score.
“This course is showing the commitment New College has for students’ career planning and preparation. Nowhere else in the state can you take a MCAT preparation course, for credit and at no additional cost,” said CEO Director Dwayne Peterson. “Having an opportunity like this almost guarantees that our pre-medical students are going to score higher, increasing the competitiveness of their medical school applications.”
The MCAT is a standardized, computer-based, multiple-choice test that has been a part of the medical school admissions process for more than 90 years. Upwards of 85,000 students take the exam each year, and nearly all medical schools in the United States require MCAT scores. For New College’s course, a contracted Princeton Review instructor and test expert teaches students online.
“If a student took this course on their own, it would cost them about $2,000,” Peterson said. “It’s 72 hours of instruction in preparation for the exam (three hours twice a week).”
The course provides students with textbooks, access to up to 15 practice tests, as well as a year of access to an online MCAT preparation portal (which contains hundreds of on-demand videos and drills, diagnostic tools that analyze testing strengths and weaknesses, and detailed score reports).
Lisandra Jimenez, the assistant director and career coach for the CEO, designed New College’s program.
“We’ve seen an increase in interest in the medical field, and this is one way we can support students and help them continue on to medical school—particularly students who are not able to afford these kinds of prep courses on their own,” Jimenez said. “The medical school curriculum is extremely rigorous, and having a high MCAT score shows medical schools that students can succeed once admitted.”
New College’s strategic plan includes a goal of increasing the number of students that are admitted to medical and law schools, Peterson said. Giving New College students this opportunity is essential to the success of the students and the campus as a whole.
“Most medical schools take GPA and MCAT scores as a quantitative metric for admission but, because New College students don’t have a GPA, the MCAT score becomes critical to their ability to get admitted,” Peterson said. “This preparation course gives our students an advantage.”
And there are other advantages to following the pre-med track at New College.
Through New College’s Pre-Medicine Professional Community, the CEO connects students with opportunities for hands-on learning experiences, networking events, and help applying to graduate and professional schools. The Pre-Med Club at New College is an active extracurricular group, and numerous medical schools nationwide recruited students during New College’s first-ever Graduate & Professional School Expo in October.
“New College’s liberal arts curriculum allows students to gain a broad range of knowledge and skills that they can take with them to medical school and a career in healthcare or medicine,” Jimenez said. “Students learn to develop their critical-thinking, problem-solving and other transferable skills that will help them tackle the ongoing disparities within our healthcare systems and serve all populations.”
Read this story and more in the latest issue of Nimbus here.
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.