Advisers Guide Pre-med Students Off-Track

Several pre-medical students have come forward about their dissatisfaction with the CAS advisers, who have guided some students to stay at NYU longer than four years. Others think the extra time is necessary for their mastery of their qualifications.

Some pre-medical students think their advisers are disrupting their schedules to keep them at NYU longer than necessary. Several students have recently complained that their CAS advisers did not give them satisfactory guidance regarding their pre-professional tracks.

Students pursuing a career in medicine typically go through four years of undergraduate school and take time off after graduation to further prepare themselves for their careers before applying to medical school. After attending four years of medical school, students are then required to work in a residency for a minimum of three years.

Some students have claimed that they have received misleading advice from CAS advisers. As a result, they have taken the wrong class for their path, forcing them to graduate in five years rather than four.

CAS freshman and pre-med student Kaitlyn Julian said she was unhappy about her adviser’s lack of knowledge about the track. Julian received incorrect information about how her high school credits could be used at NYU, and she said that her new schedule for next year is unfavorable.

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“I now have to pair calculus with organic chemistry — the absolute hardest pre-med course — my sophomore year, making my academic life now extremely challenging and unnecessarily stressful,” Julian said. “To make matters worse, I was uninformed that doubling chemistry and biology freshman year is ideal and the best way to be successful when tackling the requirement.”

Julian said she does not believe her adviser is fully equipped to help her navigate the pre-med system, and that she thinks NYU should pair students with advisers who are trained to help students be as successful as possible on the track. She does not believe that she will be held back from going to medical school, but the advice she received will make her college experience more difficult.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think these mistakes will affect me going to medical school in the future, but will definitely provide an immense amount of unneeded hardship,” Julian said. “The pre-med track is hard enough as it is, and it’s very unfortunate I will have to go through this.”

CAS freshman Michael Najac is another pre-med student whose schedule has been affected by poor advising. Najac said that although he will not be graduating late, he has been set back a full year on his track because of a combination of bad luck and misleading advice from his CAS adviser.

“I felt as if my adviser didn’t tell me anything I couldn’t figure out on my own,” Najac said. “Most of the time I was told I couldn’t take a certain class, but not to worry because I would still graduate on time. What my adviser didn’t understand was that my concern was taking my science class in a timely manner. I knew I would graduate in four years.”

Najac said that during his first semester, he wasn’t able to take biology or chemistry because he had not filled his Calculus 1 requirement. Although his adviser gave him information how to transfer his AP credits, assuring him that he would be able to take Biology 1 and Chemistry 1 in the Spring, neither of those classes are feasible with his schedule.

Several pre-med students and faculty members were surprised by the dissatisfaction some students felt with their advisers. Most advisers, including Assistant Dean of Preprofessional Advising Danielle Brooks, did not know about these complaints until a few weeks ago.

“I am very surprised to hear that pre-medical students report being given inaccurate academic advising that results in their delayed graduation,” Brooks said. “We care deeply about each student’s time-to-degree and the university has recently adopted new tools and improved existing ones to help students stay on track. CAS advisers are also well-versed in assisting students [to] accelerate their degree if they so choose.”

Brooks also said that it is sometimes understandable that students spend five years at NYU instead of four because pre-professional studies are not actual majors. Thus, it may take students longer to complete both their pre-professional courses and courses required to earn their degree.

“Because pre-med is not a major at CAS, the pre-health courses are not inherently part of students’ degree requirements and can therefore be started and stopped at any point in a student’s career,” Brooks said.

CAS senior and pre-med student Jess Mandel feels CAS advising seems to have a lack of direction, particularly when it comes to the biology department. Mandel has heard that the chemistry department is much more hands-on and invested in students.

“Between dealing with my biology advisers and speaking to friends of mine in other majors, it [seems] that the biology department isn’t really interested in guiding students in their course requirements,” Mandel said.

Mandel, a second semester senior, was told junior year that she would be able to take a genetics course as an elective as a senior. Due to scheduling conflicts, she was not able to take the course until Spring 2017 — her adviser suggested it would be available in the spring, but did not inform her that it was a graduate level course.

“Genetics wasn’t offered this semester and the graduate level class has higher level prerequisites I haven’t taken yet,” Mandel said. “I would have loved to have been better informed about that so I could have changed my schedule to work for my interests.”

Some pre-med students do not agree with recent criticism of CAS pre-health advisers. CAS senior Tyler Heitmann said students on the standard four-year pre-med track typically use their fifth year to improve their qualifications for medical school.

“The pre-health advisers do often advise students to take another year before applying to medical school,” Heitmann said. “However, it is not necessarily to stay at NYU. They advise students to take a gap year to gain more experience, whether it be clinical, research or entering a master’s program to boost their GPA. Taking one can make serious improvements in one’s application and preparedness for medical school.”

Heitmann also said that he believes in most cases, gap years are beneficial. He believes they would only hurt medical school applications if students do not spend the year preparing for medical school.

Najac said that he wishes his adviser had spent more time figuring out how to facilitate his personal schedule, as opposed to pursuing the easiest option.

“The feeling I got, and I know others who feel the same way, is that advisers are more concerned with doing what’s easiest for them,” Najac said. “More so than what the student wants or what will benefit the students most.”

Additional reporting by Sayer Devlin and Jemima McEvoy. Email Lorenzo Gazzola at [email protected]

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2 COMMENTS

  1. As a Biology professor and advisor to dozens of undergraduate students (both formally and informally), it is critical to start the premed courses in the Fall term of freshman year. Calc, GenChem and PoB are musts. If an entering student is unprepared to take calculus, then the summer before entering they should get up to speed. Sophomore year Organic is a must and Physics and Biochemistry in the junior year. MCATs after physics. There are special writing courses also required.

    Meet with the PreProfessional office and get on track with the medical volunteer work/shadowing necessary for applications.

    The CAS Advising center should have a fact sheet for anyone considering Medical/Veterinary/Dental school on admission. There should be no surprises or disappointments about getting inappropriate advice.

    Core/MAP courses can be left for the senior year. They should never be front-loaded.

  2. Dear Editor:
    After publication of this article, the editor was provided with data that addresses the allegations posed in this piece. The data reveal that there is no evidence for this story’s assertion that “(s)ome students … have taken the wrong class for their path, forcing them to graduate in five years rather than four.” In fact, roughly two percent of med school applicants from NYU last year finished in more than four years, which is about the same percentage who finished in fewer than four years, and the extra time was tailored to individual student needs, from transfer to double majors or retaking a course. We are proud of the way we have supported each of those students. Moreover, none of the students quoted in the story say, or even suggest, that they will be unable to graduate in four years, despite this being the topic of your article.

    The information supplied to your reporter by Assistant Dean Danielle Brooks, who oversees pre-professional advising, was incompletely reported. As she wrote to your reporter, “There is no benefit for a student to complete his/her bachelor’s degree in five years instead of four. For a variety of personal reasons, however, any student’s graduation timeline may shift, and CAS advisors are equipped to support these students as they revise their plans.” Students’ plans flex to accommodate their unique circumstances and goals. Academic and pre-professional planning flexes in the same way, respecting the place where each student is at. Including these insights in the story would have benefited your readers. Portraying a student’s pre-health preparation specifically as the cause of an extended graduation timeline is an over-simplification and an unjustified conclusion to draw for your readers.

    This article makes some significant claims, and its implications are taken very seriously. Dean Brooks asked the reporter to “encourage any student who feels they were advised to defer their graduation in an effort to complete the pre-health curriculum to schedule an appointment with me or a member of the pre-professional advising team.” Unfortunately, this, too, was left out of the piece. Nonetheless, that offer stands – any student with such a concern (or any others) is welcome to contact me or Dean Brooks. The Pre-professional Advising Office is dedicated to supporting and advising pre-health students, which includes helping them plan a schedule of courses that best fits their pre-health aspirations.

    William J. Long, Associate Dean
    College of Arts and Science

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