The month of May looms large in the minds of Calvin’s pre-medical students.
After years of preparation, students applying to medical school upload the required materials to a large central application system by May 31, identifying the medical schools to which they would like their application to be sent. Then: submit.
After receiving and verifying applications, medical schools then send a secondary application for students to complete and return. These applications—often referred to as “secondaries”—include questions about the schools and their medical programs.
“Then the waiting game occurs,” said Terri Crumb, Calvin’s pre-health advising coordinator. Crumb guides Calvin’s pre-professional health students through the weighty process of applying to medical school, ensuring they have the credits, materials, and experience they need.
“It’s not just academics that gets them into programs,” said Crumb. “They have to shadow, and they have to work clinically, and they need research experience, and they need volunteerism and leadership opportunities while they’re here at Calvin. So that’s where my role as clinical research nurse has really benefited me.”
A pediatric nurse by training, Crumb has spent 25 years working at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Now in her second year advising Calvin students, Crumb is familiar with the medical school application process—and the stress and cost that come with it.
“August through October is the cone of silence,” said Crumb. “Their application is being reviewed by committees and they want to [hear], ‘We like you, we want you to come interview.’”
According to Crumb, the average student applies to 14 medical schools. After applying, a student may be invited to five interviews, or two, or one. These interviews occur any time between August and April of the following year. After interviewing, students wait for word of acceptance into their programs of choice, which may arrive that fall at the earliest, or as late as the following spring.
“So that’s the normal timeline that people go through,” said Crumb. “And with it, a lot of costs.”
To open a general medical school application through the central application service costs $160; for every additional school to which a student would like to apply, it costs an additional $39. Then, when submitting secondary applications, students pay an admissions fee to each school, costing about $100 per school. In total, applying to medical schools can cost a student more than $2,000—all without knowing whether they’ll get accepted.
Given the preparation and the cost, students are seeking any assurance that their investment of time, sweat, and money will pay off in acceptance into medical school.
This academic year, Calvin and Wayne State University entered into a partnership to provide exactly that assurance to two Calvin students.
The new early assurance partnership with Wayne State University allows pre-professional health students to gain early acceptance into the Wayne State School of Medicine. To do so, students apply directly to Wayne State in February—for free. Upon review, students then visit Wayne State’s campus for an interview and would know if they’ve gained acceptance into the program before May, when the general application system opens. Students who are accepted through the early assurance program are still required to complete the general application, designating Wayne State as the school to which they would like their application to be sent; and after that, they’re done.
“[Students] have none of the struggle,” said Crumb, denoting the relative simplicity of the early assurance program process. “They’re not reviewing secondaries, they’re not waiting to see if they’re going to get interviewed, they’re not traveling long distances for interviews…. They have a guaranteed seat, so they know they’re in.”
The opportunity to apply early to a top-ranked medical institution is an enormous asset to Calvin’s pre-medical students. Crumb said the early assurance program is mutually beneficial for Calvin students and Wayne State alike.
“There’s lots and lots of talk at Calvin about being an agent of renewal, and that is the piece that I see most closely played out in the mission of Wayne State.” David Hoogstra ’11
“It’s a win-win,” said Crumb. “It allows [Wayne State] the first chance at fresh eyes and energetic students. It gives them the chance to really seek out students—that this is their heart and soul and passion—to fit the program. For students, even if they go through this process and don’t make the cutoff, they have no money invested, they’ve gotten a nice trial interview, they’re well ahead of their peers with all of the work they have to do anyway. So it’s not in vain and it’s experience they have under their belt.”
Early access to Calvin’s pre-med students means Wayne State can prioritize applicants with both a strong academic standing and a proven commitment to its mission of providing urban clinical excellence. Located in the heart of Detroit, Wayne State School of Medicine is known for serving the city’s underserved. For example, one of Wayne State’s student organizations, Street Medicine Detroit, provides free health care services to the city’s homeless population.
David Hoogstra ’11 is a graduate of both Calvin College and Wayne State University School of Medicine. Now in his residency at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he’s training to become a pediatric oncologist. In his experience, the shared missions of Calvin College and Wayne State make for a natural partnership.
“There’s lots and lots of talk at Calvin about being an agent of renewal, and that is the piece that I see most closely played out in the mission of Wayne State,” said Hoogstra. “[There were] times when Detroit was one of the biggest up-and-coming cities in the country, then stretches of years of economic hardship, government corruption, things that have made life there more challenging for people. What I see for Wayne State—and I hear people talk about this—is that the medical school has really been an ongoing presence, caring for some of the neediest people of Detroit for its entire history. It’s one of the oldest medical schools in the country, and the emphasis on community engagement is very apparent there. Almost all the medical students at Wayne State are involved in community outreach and volunteering…. Every day in the hospital, you are taking care of people who have very challenging life situations. The patient care feels very missional.”
A missional approach to medicine is familiar to Calvin students. Crumb said Calvin’s service-driven curriculum prepares students for the very type of community engagement Wayne State is known for.
“When you talk about the types of students that Wayne State is looking to attract in general, they want students that have a heart for the marginalized populations, have a heart for meeting people where they’re at,” said Crumb. “So for three or four years students have been in a community at Calvin College where that has really been a part of their academics. From the Service Learning Center to our programming, our curriculum, it’s all based on that. So when you hear Wayne State talk about their mission and how they want to educate students, it’s just symbiotic. It’s like where we leave off, Wayne State picks up.”
In addition to the Wayne State early assurance program, Calvin is engaged with two other medical schools to provide pre-professional health opportunities for students. Similar to the partnership with Wayne State, Calvin’s early assurance program with Michigan State University allows students to apply to medical school early for a guaranteed seat. The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine seeks students who align with its mission, with preference given to applicants who are the first generation to attend college; who graduated from a low-income high school; who are eligible for need-based grants; and who express and support an interest in a high-need medical specialty area.
The early assurance program “is a wonderful thing for the students at Calvin,” said Hoogstra. “My impression from going through the medical training process so far is that getting into med school is the largest hurdle, the biggest funnel so to speak, and once you are into medical school and residency, there are lots more options there. So Calvin’s ability to have these early assurance programs with MSU and WSU is a huge asset to our pre-med program.”
Calvin is also working in cooperation with the University of Michigan Medical School to provide a full-tuition scholarship to Calvin for students planning to pursue both a pre-medical program at Calvin College and a medical degree at the University of Michigan. High academic standing and a passion to serve God’s world through medicine are among the qualifications for the award, which includes a four-year full-tuition scholarship at Calvin College; mentoring by Calvin pre-med faculty, Calvin alumni physicians, and University of Michigan Medical School staff; and a guaranteed interview for admission to the University of Michigan Medical School.
“What an advantage students now have coming into Calvin as pre-med students,” said Crumb. “We now have three options of incredible medical schools that have this relationship to support our pre-med students in being successful.”
For more information on Calvin’s opportunities for pre-professional health students, visit calvin.edu/academics/departments-programs/pre-professional-health.