Coming down the home stretch for choosing a college. My son would like to go to medical school - does Sarah Lawrence have what it takes to get him there?


Judy Levine, Premed advisor at SLC - private premed advising - former director of admissions

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Students who do well at any really good college with a strong academic program will be academically prepared for medical school. Students at any really good college who take advantage of extra-curricular possibilities available to them and develop their personal and interpersonal strengths will be prepared for the personal challenges of a career in medicine.

There are a few things that make Sarah Lawrence stand out in a field of “really good colleges.” 1. Classes are small and taught by true faculty. We do not have lectures of 500 students being taught by graduate assistants. It is an ideal place to study science. 2. The school is small and open to participation in all kinds of non-academic activities. There is research on campus and there is a huge variety of community service experience available to students, all of which is really accessible, given the size of the school. 3. The campus is 20 minutes from New York City, with an enormous range of hospitals, clinics, research, and community service possibilities. 4. It’s not often that the premed advisor is a former director of admissions at a medical school. Having had hands-on experience on the admissions committee of a medical school, I have an unusually strong background for advising undergraduates. 5. In addition to having a well-informed premed advisor, our students each have their individual don, who serves as their overall advisor. And because of the small class size, and the individual projects each student does, each faculty member gets to know each student quite well. This degree of advising support is not commonplace. 6. Our premedical students tend to be extremely close and supportive of each other. That is too often not the case.

Grades do count. MCAT scores do count. Most of that is up to the student. But Sarah Lawrence College provides a wonderful environment for making it happen.

Scott Calvin, I'm a physics professor at SLC

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I'm a physics professor at Sarah Lawrence. Noodle Advisor Alister reached out to our Facebook page to see if I have an answer to this question--thanks, Alister!

I think he did a good job with his response; I'll see what I can add.

I very much agree with Alister's last paragraph. We do have a good record of getting students in to medical school, but SLC is not a good place for students who just want to be told exactly what they have to do.

One of our "secret weapons" for getting students in to medical school (grad school, a good job, ...) is our "conference projects." In most classes, including many of the science classes, each student conducts an in-depth independent project, roughly at the level of a junior thesis for colleges that offer that option. Depending on the class and the student, these projects may take the form of a research paper, an experiment, a service learning project, a creative work, etc.. It is difficult to overstate how useful these projects can be when it comes to an interview--by the time our students have graduated, they have already shown multiple times that they can devise and execute a successful project on some topic in depth.

But with this at the core of our system, it creates a number of adjustments. For example, all classes are 5 credits--that covers the usual 3 or 4 credits of material the equivalent course would include elsewhere, and then another 1 or 2 for the conference project. Since all classes are 5 credits, and since so much of the work is individualized, we can't have conventional majors with lists of required courses. In effect, each student designs their own major, in consultation with their academic advisor (their "don").

As Alister mentioned, we do have a pre-health advisor to help students navigate this system, and between that advisor and their don, students interested in medical school are well guided. Still, just as with all our students, every pre-med at SLC ends up following their own trajectory. That's a strength, I think, making them stand out during med-school applications, and providing a holistic, satisfying education to boot. But to thrive at Sarah Lawrence, a student must be OK with not just following the crowd, because there's no crowd to follow.

There are other nice features of our system: the big Poster Symposia at the end of each semester where students present the results of their conference work, the world-class research our students participate in during the summer (our chemistry and physics students, for example, have recently won several awards for presentations they have given at regional conferences), the collegiality that develops when students do so much work with faculty one-on-one.

I'd be happy to provide follow-up to whoever asked this question, or anyone else for that matter. I'm new to Noodle, so I don't quite know the protocol here, but if you head on over to the Sarah Lawrence website and find me under faculty you'll be able to email me.

Alister Doyle, Noodle Advisor

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Though Sarah Lawrence is particularly well known for its humanities, performing arts and creative writing programs, it also has a great science department with an excellent record of medical school placements. If your son is interested in Medical School, the Pre-Health Program does a great job of preparing students for medical school, academically and also in terms of admission requirements to individual medical programs.

The small class sizes at SLC are often a big draw for students (and parents) and your son would have significant contact with the pre-health adviser, as well as with other faculty members in the division, through conferences, coursework, and independent research. This can be particularly helpful when applying to Medical School because faculty members with a thorough and personal knowledge of your son can then write personalized letters of recommendation. And the pre-health adviser and faculty members also serve as resources for information regarding application procedures, MCAT preparation, and practice interviews.

That being said, SLC affords its students a lot of academic freedom and these flexible curricular requirements certainly aren't for everyone. It really depends on what kind of environment your son works best in. You can take a virtual tour of the Science Center here but if you have the chance, arranging a campus visit could help you decide if Sarah Lawrence is really the best "fit" for your son.

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