Early-Assurance Medical School Programs
An early-assurance medical school program affords gifted students an opportunity to earn a spot in an MD program while completing their undergraduate degree. These extremely competitive programs are designed for students with high standardized test scores, excellent GPAs, and a commitment to the medical profession.
Course Requirements for an Early Assurance Medical School Program
Early assurance medical school programs provide academically gifted students with the chance to apply to medical school during their sophomore or junior year of undergraduate study. Admitted students avoid the hassle of applying to a multitude of medical schools near the end of their bachelor's degree program. Students from any major can apply; however, throughout their studies they must complete the following medical school prerequisite courses.
Students who wish to apply to an early-assurance program should take at least one year of biology coursework (with an emphasis on human biology). At least one class should have a lab component. Important topics to master are Mendelian genetics as well as cellular and molecular biology. These topics are covered on the MCAT test (that accepted students typically take during their junior year). At some universities, biology requirements cannot be substituted with AP course credit.
Common prerequisite chemistry courses include general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. At least one of these courses should include a lab component. Students learn about bonding, chemical reactivity, thermodynamics, chemical equilibrium, energetics, and molecular structure. Because biochemistry is particularly important for the MCAT test, students should complete at least one biochemistry course before taking the test in their junior year of college. They should choose chemistry courses designed for science and pre-medicine students, rather than courses for non-science majors.
Before medical school, all students must take either an algebra or calculus-based physics course. These courses help link mathematics theory with applications in biochemistry, biological research, and medical practice. Important concepts include mechanics, kinetics, thermodynamics, quantum theory, electricity, magnetism, and optics. Like with biology, some universities do not allow students with AP physics credit to bypass this requirement.
Statistics or Calculus
Most medical schools require applicants to have college-level experience in either statistics or calculus (and sometimes both). Statistics courses prepare medical students to read medical literature and conduct their own research. One particularly common course requirement is biostatistics, which links statistics theory with biomedical research applications. Furthermore, calculus classes provide students with the analytical skills necessary to be successful in high-pressure academic programs and could be particularly useful when pursuing certain medical specialties. In some cases, mathematics course requirements can be waived for students with high AP statistics or AP calculus scores.
Perhaps it is surprising, but many medical schools require applicants to complete at least a year of undergraduate English coursework. In these courses, students learn how to read carefully, absorb information, and communicate effectively. These are all important skills for future doctors who must analyze complex medical research and defend their findings. To fulfill this requirement, students must take classes that emphasize analytical writing, expository writing, and critical thinking.
Social or Behavioral Science
Finally, some colleges require students to take undergraduate coursework in psychology, sociology, or other behavioral sciences to prepare students for MCAT questions about the factors affecting humans' perceptions of themselves and others and how these factors affect well-being. Other schools require courses specifically in medical humanities, where students examine the relationships between history, medicine, and the arts. In these social sciences and humanities courses, students learn how to digest, analyze, and write complex arguments. Course topics also help students become informed and empathetic medical providers and develop their own sense of ethics that can guide them through their medical career.
Application Requirements for Early-Assurance Programs
Early assurance applicants should meet with a pre-health advisor during their freshman year of college. During their first two years of college, students should take classes in chemistry, biology, and physics and maintain a GPA of at least 3.5. Students are also expected to gain hands-on experience in clinical settings through volunteer work and/or shadowing. Some programs require minimum SAT or ACT scores (1400 and above for the SAT or 30 and above for the ACT). Applicants who meet these requirements apply to an early-assurance program in their sophomore or junior year of college by sending in their transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement explaining their dedication to the field of medicine.
Gifted undergraduate students who are sure about which medical school they want to attend may be able to apply to their current school's MD program through an early assurance program. These programs are highly competitive and require students to maintain top grades and earn high scores on admissions test.