SUNY Polytechnic Institute is on many direct medical students’ BS/MD lists. The institute has partnered with SUNY Upstate Medical School for its Upstate Accelerated Scholars (UAS) Program. Once accepted to this program, students have a spot saved for them at the partnered medical school. 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 Carlie Phipps, Ph.D., Interim Dean of the College of Arts + Sciences; Joanne Joseph, Interim Dean at the College of Health Sciences and Jeff Albright, Admissions Counselor, to learn more about the Upstate Accelerated Scholars Program at SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
Interview With SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Kristen Moon: What advice do you have for students who are applying to the BMSD program for the upcoming cycle, and how, if any way, has COVID-19 altered that process?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: As students go through the application process, remember that it’s our job to help you, so reach out with any questions. We’re interested in helping you build your application and make it as strong as possible. By getting us on a Zoom meeting or visiting campus, students can learn more about our program and school. This is as much a recruiting process for us as it is for you. You, as a student, are recruiting the colleges that you’re applying to because you need to make sure that you’re applying to institutions that you’re going to feel comfortable attending.
Students should also use any experience connected to Covid-19 to showcase their resilience and ability to cope. During medical school, there will be multiple obstacles you will have to face. The pandemic allowed students to develop some of those skills.
Moon: What type of students are you specifically looking for? Are there any characteristics that you find most appealing in a BMSD candidate?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: We’d like to see that they’re interested in the intellectual side of medicine. We also want to see that they want connections with people and care about people and their communities. We’re not looking for the highest GPA or the total highest amount of participation. Instead, we’re looking for students with an “other-oriented perspective.” They’re engaging in these volunteer activities not just because they have to do it for the National Honors Society but because they have a passion for helping people.
Moon: What does the process of selection look like for you?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: The process is very, very extensive from just about any perspective you look at. Our applications for this program open up on August 1, and applications are due November 1. We require students to submit all of their required documents by November 15. From that point until the middle of December, the committee will review all of the applicants. We will pick our top 25 candidates to send to SUNY Upstate for them to review. That list of candidates will then be reduced to 10 candidates who will be interviewed by SUNY Upstate, with the interviews taking place between mid-January and March. This year the interviews are fully virtual and in the MMI format; they hope they will be in-person next year.
Ultimately, five students are accepted and notified if they’re admitted to the specific UAS program in April.
Moon Prep: What are some of the highlights of this program?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: We have small class sizes, so each class is taught by a faculty member, not a Teacher’s Assistant. The faculty get to know these students throughout their entire time as they get their bachelor’s degree. It becomes a very close mentorship and advisorship.
We also have advisers assigned to each student, who advise them at least twice per semester. This helps build a relationship with the students that is beyond just advising courses. The advisers also help with career goals and connect students with opportunities and networking, specifically with some of our faculty. The students can get mentored to learn more about specific fields and discuss their work-life balance in the future.
Another distinguishing feature is that students get involved in service-based learning projects. These hands-on opportunities let them work with real-life problems in the community, which help them decide which area they want to go into.
Given our campus location, we also have strong access to the medical community. Our UAS students can attend courses at SUNY Upstate Medical School. For example, there are in-semester programming opportunities to help expose students to the medical school environment. Outside the medical school, there are dozens of little medical communities within a ten-mile radius of our campus. We have partnerships with a handful of those communities, and can afford our students opportunities for research or shadowing.
One last thing that is special about Upstate is that they try to give them a higher level of preparation and resilience. They teach students how to support themselves and not burn out in medical school. Upstate has created a supportive environment for those students. They want those students to come in with healthy practices and routines and to be able to succeed through medical school.
Moon Prep: What are some of the average statistics of your accepted students?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: The minimum requirement for our UAS program is a 3.5 GPA or 90%. For the SAT, we require a superscore of 1200, or a 25 on the ACT. Those are the minimum requirements, and as long as they meet those requirements, they will still be reviewed on the same playing field.
This is only our fourth application class, so we have a very small data set. So far, our accepted UAS students’ average GPA is typically between 95-97, with SAT scores between 1400-1500 and ACT scores of 30-33.
Moon: How many applicants applied last cycle and typically apply each cycle?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: The first applicant pool we had was for the fall of 2020, and we had about 150 applications. This year, we received almost 400 applicants to our UAS program. The program’s been growing exponentially.
As an institution, we are fairly small. For those who may not be familiar with the SUNY (State University of New York) system, it’s the New York state-run public school system. We are one of the smallest four-year campuses with about 2200 undergraduate students. Our applicant pool is smaller than the average SUNY school as a whole. We typically will see anything between 2800 to 3200 applications per year.
Moon: What is the MCAT policy for the program?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: One of the Upstate Accelerated Scholars Program’s main perks is that our admitted students do not have to take an MCAT to be admissible to Upstate’s MD program. Our curriculum has been cross-checked against the MCAT to ensure they’re still covering all the topics they would cover anyway.
Moon: Are there any other impressive extracurriculars or achievements of students that you want to highlight?
SUNY Polytechnic Institute: On the admissions side, it is easy to tell when a student suddenly starts scrambling and thinks, “Oh no, I didn’t join enough clubs, and now I have to join five.” Or that they try to be a leader in every single club. That’s not what we’re looking for. We want to see that you’re following a passion that is yours, and whatever it is is okay. For example, we’ve seen a student who plays the oboe and then goes to their local nursing home once a month to do a little mini-concert, and now they’re interested in geriatrics.
There is no skeleton key that you will be admitted to a program if you do these activities. Everyone looks for different activities. In the past handful of years, some of the things that have stuck out to us: students who have completed or are in the process of completing their EMT licensure, students working as volunteer firefighters, publishing research as part of a larger group or assisting in research through medical universities, or attending conferences to present their research.
We have a minor in humanitarian engineering, focusing on disabled populations. Students studying biology or psychology can collaborate with engineering students to create products to assist individuals with disabilities. We have had students produce a set of braille blocks and a game patterned after Scrabble called “Brabble” for children who are visually impaired or blind.
Other projects include making artificial arms and hands for children born without arms or hands. Another student developed golf clubs for veterans who had lost fingers. All these activities are unique because it’s a multi-disciplinary team working together.
To watch the full interview with SUNY Polytechnic Institute, check out the video on Moon Prep’s Channel.