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Upstate adds more colleges, universities to its Accelerated Scholars Program

Weiskotten Hall

Upstate Medical University’s Accelerated Scholars Program, which guarantees a student’s admission to medical school when he or she is admitted to a partner undergraduate institution, is about to go from three partner schools to potentially more than 15.

Upstate has an admissions agreements with Purchase College, University at Albany, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Hamilton College and Bard College at Simon’s Rock, which allow students to declare their desire to enter medical school as soon as their senior year of high school and with some partners, as freshmen in college. By enrolling in the Accelerated Scholars program, students are guaranteed admission to Upstate Medical University as long as their undergraduate requirements—as agreed upon by both schools—are met.

Upstate’s strong desire to diversify the physician workforce and make medical school more accessible is at the heart of expanding the program, said Krystal Ripa, director of special admissions programs.

For a student interested in eventually attending medical school, the Upstate Accelerated Scholars program can save the student time and money. The program does not require the student to take the MCAT, the standardized exam usually required to attend medical school. Preparing for and taking the exam can be time-consuming and expensive, Ripa said. The program also saves students money on application fees as well as campus visits and interviews, which she said can cost thousands of dollars.

“We are really innovating here,” she said, noting that Julio Licinio, MD, PhD, dean of the Upstate College of Medicine was the original visionary for the program. “There’s no one right now that really follows this model but it makes so much sense.

“This is all about how we can really show the world that Upstate cares about putting students into health professions that are going to make a difference, but haven’t always been afforded the opportunities.”

Upstate is finalizing agreements with Hampton University, Yeshiva University, Colgate University and the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Ripa said. Another seven schools have agreed to participate and will be announced later this year, she said. The program can work well for students pursuing a wide variety of undergraduate majors including foreign language, engineering, fine arts, global or environmental health and more, she said. There are two students currently enrolled from the first pilot year, with a class of about 30 anticipated in the fall, Ripa said.

While students complete their undergraduate studies, they will take an exam to identify areas where they might need focus or additional resources upon starting medical school, Ripa said. The exam—which has no bearing on the admissions process—helps Upstate staff diagnose how they can better serve and prepare the incoming students.

What sets the Upstate program apart is its commitment to working with and communicating with students throughout their undergraduate careers – long before they begin at Upstate. Students in the Accelerated Scholars program will participate in summer programming independently and on campus that includes education in areas such as critical thinking, effective communication and ethical thinking, among others. The summer programming topics are built around the Association of American Medical Colleges’ core competencies for entering medical school.

Their time on campus also gives them a chance to meet other students in the program—many of whom will be classmates for years to come. Throughout the entire process, from initial contact in high school or freshman year of college until they begin medical school, Upstate staff will communicate with the students regularly. That dialogue and ongoing assessment ensures they are meeting requirements along the way and are prepared, she said.

Ripa said parent involvement is also critical to a student’s success in the program. When students are interviewing for the program on campus, Upstate provides programming for parents as well.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t spend time with the parents, too because this program is all about the students building community,” Ripa said. “So those parents who are about to send their children off into the world, they need to be comfortable with the community they are going into.”

For more information or to apply to the Accelerated Scholars program, visit http://www.upstate.edu/com/admissions/options.