By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff
Thousands of dollars in application fees; hundreds of hours writing and editing essays; dozens of schools selected to apply to; countless pre-meds all around the country vying for a seat at a medical school program. A seat. Yup, just one. A single acceptance to a medical school is all that is needed to become a doctor.
But what happens if the only medical school that accepts you is a brand new school? Should you accept the offer of admission without hesitation or reject it?
We thought we’d discuss the risks and benefits of attending a brand new medical school to help you make an informed decision. Before we dive in, dear reader, we’d like to point out how rapidly new medical schools have been opening. According to this March 2020 journal article by the AAMC, 29 new accredited allopathic medical schools have emerged since 2002. Not to mention 17 new osteopathic medical schools, which this July 2019 AAMC article states have opened since 2002. Talk about one major solution to address the growing U.S. physician shortage!
1. You would be a part of the inaugural class.
Besides having bragging rights, being in the inaugural class of a medical school may come with financial benefits. For instance, Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine offered full tuition coverage for its inaugural class and the next four classes after.
2. It would be easier to forge tight relationships with administrators, professors, and other faculty.
The inaugural class for any medical school is often limited in size before the school becomes fully accredited. Smaller class sizes make it easier for students to network with faculty members and gain academic and emotional support from them. Noorda-COM, located in Provo, UT, is planning on welcoming its fall 2021 inaugural class, which will include 90 medical students. Compare this to a medical school like Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM), whose 2019-2020 application cycle statistics showed 368 first-year students enrolled. Consider how much easier it’d be to secure strong letters of recommendation for residency applications if you’re part of an inaugural medical school class!
3. You would have the opportunity to serve as a role model for cohorts to follow.
Having a student mentor in medical school can be extremely beneficial to your success. Unfortunately, being part of an inaugural class means not having upperclassmen to ask advice from. However, see this as an opportunity to be a student trailblazer. Pioneer a formal student mentorship program like Pacific Northwest University Of Health Sciences’ “Big Doc, Little Doc” program, where current students are paired to assist new osteopathic medical school students with transitioning to the school. Help establish a school bonfire tradition, underwater basket-weaving club, or student test bank to benefit cohorts to follow.
1. Being part of an inaugural class means being the experimental class.
The inaugural class of any medical school will be the first to test the waters. They cannot refer to upperclassmen for insight on academics, student life, and the best eateries. How well the inaugural class fares is a reflection of the new medical school itself. You can bet that school administrators will be highly interested in seeing how their inaugural class performs on nationwide board exams and the match in relation to other schools.
2. Attending a brand new medical school means attending a partially accredited one.
A brand new medical school can only achieve full accreditation after a rigorous review that involves graduation of the inaugural class. For example, Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine just recently gained full accreditation upon the graduation of its first class in May 2020. It’s very rare for a medical school to not ever achieve full accreditation. In fact, few medical schools have been placed on probation or have fallen “in danger of” losing accreditation like St. Louis School of Medicine. However, while unlikely, the fear of not knowing if a new medical school will never obtain full accreditation is valid and especially terrifying for students.
3. You would not be eligible to receive federal aid at a partially accredited medical school.
Unfortunately, students who attend a brand new medical school are not eligible for federal aid until the school becomes fully accredited. Because of this, most students will have to opt for private loans as a way of financing their medical education. Popular private loan lenders include Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo. In some instances, students at brand new medical schools can participate in loan forgiveness programs. We reached out to Noorda-COM in Provo, UT, and its Financial Aid Office reported that its students are eligible to participate in both the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) and National Health Service Corps (NHSC).
Deciding where to attend medical school is a momentous decision that should be made carefully. Having multiple options to choose from is a huge privilege, let alone having any options at all. Brand new medical school or not, we hope our pros and cons list helps you make an informed decision on where to go. After all, the next four years of your life depend on it.
Have any questions about attending a new medical school? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally.