New Jersey Institute of Technology’s BS/MD Program: An Exclusive Interview
New Jersey Institute of Technology is a popular option for many direct medical students. Partnered with New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), the program offers accepted students a guaranteed spot at medical school, as long as they continue to meet the requirements. This program is ideal for students who have demonstrated a passion for medicine through their activities and are committed to joining the healthcare field.
Moon Prep sat down with Professor Lewis Hamilton, Dean of the Albert Dorman Honors College, to learn more about the NJMS Accelerated BS/MD Program at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Moon Prep: Can you tell us about your background and role at NJIT?
Professor Hamilton: My name is Professor Lewis Hamilton and I’m the dean of the Albert Dorman Honors College at NJIT. I’m a historian by training, studying medieval Italy’s history. In the past, I’ve led other honors programs elsewhere, and was an honors student myself, many, many moons ago. And so that’s how I find myself leading this excellent Honors College.
Moon Prep: What advice do you have for students applying to the BS/MD program for the upcoming cycle? And has COVID changed your process?
Professor Hamilton: When you apply to the Honors College and the NJIT/NJMS Accelerated 7-Year BS/MD Program, we have an interview process students have to participate in. We talk to applicants all the time about this because one of the things that motivates us is advising high-achieving students and helping them meet their goals, whether those are with us here at New Jersey Institute of Technology or elsewhere. The advice we have is to think through the “why?” We want students to think about “Why an accelerated medical degree?” because they will give up a year of undergraduate education. At the age of 17, a year seems like a long time, but from the other side of the spectrum, it seems like not much time at all.
So, you first want to consider why you are choosing this accelerated path. There are lots of good reasons to choose an accelerated track. But you have to do that cost-benefit analysis for yourself and be intentional about how you pursue your undergraduate degree, especially if it’s a three-year process. If they choose an accelerated path, I want them to think through the trade-offs and consider the real advantages.
Moon Prep: If a student chooses the accelerated, 7-year BS/MD program at New Jersey Institute of Technology, do you think the student’s education suffers at all? Are they still able to live the life of a typical four-year student?
Professor Hamilton: We have accelerated students who take a full semester abroad. In fact, I’ll be taking a group of honors scholars to Italy for a week as part of their 300-level history class. And so that’s one of the short-term study abroad opportunities we created so that students in our accelerated programs can get that experience. However, you can do longer study abroad trips, but you have to be intentional about planning for it.
If you’re in the accelerated program, you will have three advisors: a pre-health advisor, a major advisor, and an honors advisor. Our goal here is to help you be intentional to ensure you get a full, rich experience. Since it is an accelerated program, there is less room for error, so we try to help them plan for everything.
Moon Prep: What kind of student are you typically looking for?
Professor Hamilton: We have a great commitment to service at the Dorman Honors College. We are looking for students who want to pay it forward in the community, but we are also looking to develop leaders. I’m a firm believer in going out into the community, working with people who are from different backgrounds than you, and marshaling your resources to overcome challenges and meet your goals.
Of course, we are looking for great physicians, scientists, engineers, or computer scientists, but we are really looking for leaders. And that commitment to service is the model we offer. So during the application process, we will ask the applicant to talk about their service experiences and how they’ve grown.
We’re closing in on our 30th anniversary as an Honors College. And service and leadership have been a part of who we’ve been from the onset—that commitment to the community.
Moon Prep: What are the benefits of being a direct med student at New Jersey Institute of Technology and being in the honors college?
Professor Hamilton: First of all, you’re in a living-learning honors community with 630 of the highest-achieving students in the country. So there’s that intangible reality, and the types of things that just happened as a result of all the students being together like that are incredible.
For us, first and foremost, it’s all about education and how that shapes who you are and creates opportunities for you. In their first year, we can get our scholars directly into lab experiences through the honors coursework. For example, students will be learning how to write a grant proposal and then the steps they need to take to pursue that proposal. Last year, I think the university gave Dorman Scholars well over $100,000 in research funds to work on paid summer research. Some of the projects were funded directly through what we call the Dean’s Fund for Student Development in the Honors College. We also recently received a $3 million gift from John Martinson, and we’ll be able to expand that program dramatically.
Our goal is to get 100% of the scholars into those kinds of research experiences during their three or four years here at NJIT. We are a Research I university, so we can put those resources at the disposal of our undergraduates here in a really exciting way.
One thing we had started in the college just prior to COVID was our Honors Medical Humanities track. It’s a way of studying and thinking about healthcare in a much broader context than just biology and physiology. When we think about medical humanities, we’re also talking about understanding health care and health from social and historical phenomena. Having this focus is one of the great strengths we have here at NJIT in terms of our faculty and resources. We want to encourage our pre-health scholars to think through healthcare and health in a new way while taking advantage of the resources that New Jersey Institute of Technology offers.
When COVID hit, it was a great example of how healthcare and health are social and historical phenomena that play out differently in different communities. We got to live through that experience altogether, and we use it as an example to showcase to students the broader implications of healthcare.
We also have a Civic Engagement track, which is about connecting service to a stronger understanding of the community. Through this track, students can direct and lead their own service project more effectively in the community.
We also want to use some of the Martinson gift to develop a global studies track so more scholars can study abroad. This is an opportunity for us to expand their understanding of the world to make them into more effective leaders in the future.
Moon Prep: What are the average stats for your accepted students?
Professor Hamilton: New Jersey Institute of Technology as an undergraduate is test-optional at this point, but the honors college still requires test scores. Dorman college still requires test scores. Our average SAT is 1504. We accept students across a much broader range, but that’s the average.
The average GPA is around 3.92. You are coming in with the top students in the country. We take a holistic look at the applications and accept students across a broad range. NJIT produces more computer scientists in this region than any other institution. So we’re not looking for clever scientists—we’ve got those in spades. Instead, we’re looking for leaders. And so we really are taking a deep dive into the entire application and looking at the whole picture.
Moon Prep: How many seats are typically available for the BS/MD program?
Professor Hamilton: Actually, we are the oldest direct medical program to partner with New Jersey Medical School (NJMS). And they are right around the corner from us here in Newark.
During the application process, we interview the students here and forward the top candidates to NJMS. The number of seats will vary for us, but it will typically be about 13 seats; it is a very popular program.
Moon Prep: How many applicants do you typically get each cycle?
Professor Hamilton: We generally have 3100 applications to the honors college, with 160 seats. We have around 350 applications for the NJMS program. We will interview about a third of them specifically for the BS/MD program.
Moon Prep: What’s the MCAT policy?
Professor Hamilton: For the BS/MD program, they are required to take the MCAT and are expected to do well on the MCAT. But there’s no minimum score that they need to get.
Moon Prep: Can you apply out to other medical schools without losing your spot?
Professor Hamilton: I believe people have applied out to other medical schools. But I have been the dean of the college for six years, and I can’t think of an example of someone who has actually chosen to go to a different medical school.
Some students will decelerate or choose an alternate path. They might get a prestigious fellowship or want to pursue a medical venture like a start-up. We are here to help the scholars grow and develop. During the interview process, we want to ensure we are finding people who will succeed in the program. So very rarely students will decelerate.
Moon Prep: Can you share any impressive extracurriculars or achievements that you’ve seen from past applicants?
Professor Hamilton: We really get spoiled reading these resumes because we are just so amazed all the time. Some of the impressive things we have seen include Olympic-level skaters and national champions in martial arts. Some people are getting their research articles published.
And, of course, we are interested in how people serve their communities. So we do have students who have formed all sorts of nonprofits. We’ve seen multiple examples of students doing tutoring in underserved communities. We also had a student working with communities in South Asia to help women become entrepreneurs, so she was sending them sewing machines and other resources. Another student started a nonprofit to distribute menstrual materials to women in underserved communities. We’ve seen some incredible, incredible sets of things. Another student who was a beekeeping enthusiast started his own business selling his honey.
What we are interested in is how you are serving your community. The advice we give students is to find what ignites their passion and then do it at the highest level possible, at whatever level they are capable of.
Don’t feel obliged to volunteer because you think it’s the path to success. Just do the things you care deeply about.
Moon Prep: Anything else you want to share about the program?
Professor Hamilton: I mentioned that we are a Research 1 university, but I want to reiterate the resources that we have for our students. We have a titanium printer here that students can use. I was talking to a biomedical engineering student whose senior project was to develop a pump to help deliver medicine to people more efficiently and effectively. We have an incredible set of resources, and we, as your advisors, are here to help you understand how you can connect to them. We are a leader in the state and the nation in producing Goldwater Scholars because of the high level of research our students can participate in. All the opportunities that are available will help you think about your field in a much bigger way. That’s just one of the things that I appreciate about my team and working here at the Albert Dorman Honors College at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
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