Westminster students striving for medical school receive invaluable assistance from the innovative MCAT Preparatory Course offered at the College due to the generosity of Dr. Robert Volz, ’54 (pictured above with Leah George, ’12, and Nathan Moulton, ’12, recipients of the Dr. Robert G Volz Scholarship), and the energy of campus facilitators Dr. Mike Amspoker, Professor of Biology and Cameron Day Chair; Dawn Holliday, Associate Professor of Biology; and Jane Kenney-Hunt, Associate Professor of Biology.
Established in 2011, the MCAT Preparatory Course was made possible by a $10,000 donation from Dr. Volz to pay for five students to take a six-week MCAT prep course in partnership with Kaplan, nationally recognized for its preparatory programs for educational tests. Every academic year since then, Dr. Volz has made a similar donation so more students could complete this preparatory program. By graduation day 2014, 20 Westminster students will have completed the program in the past four years.
Juniors or seniors who are interested in attending medical or osteopathic medical schools, have at least a 3.5 grade point average, and have completed specific biology, chemistry, and physics classes can apply. Applicants must also submit a one-page essay describing their medical school plans and desire for MCAT preparation support. From those applicants, the five participants are selected.
Dr. Volz explains that, while acceptance to medical school is based on many factors, the applicant’s overall science grade point average (GPA at least 3.5), overall four-year GPA, and high MCAT scores are the path to success.
Nathaniel Moulton, ’12, a graduate of the MCAT Preparatory Course and a Volz Scholar from Des Peres, MO, agrees. “A competitive MCAT score is absolutely pivotal for consideration and acceptance into medical school,” says Moulton. “With variation in rigor and course content across universities, the MCAT is one of the few tools admission committees have to objectively determine an applicant’s likelihood of success with the challenging material in medical school.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to cover the depth of knowledge required by the MCAT in only semester-long courses during undergraduate school, which makes preparatory courses absolutely necessary.”
“Applicants with very acceptable GPAs were having trouble scoring well when taking the MCAT exam because of their unfamiliarity with the ‘multiple choice’ type of questions, which is the basis of the exam,” says Dr. Volz. “I felt it essential that the Kaplan preparatory course be funded for worthy students. It seemed a shame to have done well scholastically and then be denied medical school acceptance because of discomfort in how the questions were being posed.”
Nick Epstein, ’13, from St. Louis, MO, explains that he would never have received this preparation without Dr. Volz’s generosity. “While I knew there were many great preparatory programs available, they all came at a steep price ($3,000 plus),” says Epstein. “Fortunately, for me, the Kaplan fee was covered, and I was able to receive intensive MCAT instruction.”
Epstein also sings the praises of the program. “When I began thinking about taking the MCAT, I was terrified,” he says. “I had worked hard to maintain a 3.9 GPA, completed all the recommended shadowing hours, and had worked hard to distinguish myself as a leader –but I knew none of it really mattered if I didn’t do well on my MCAT. I believe this course was instrumental in my MCAT success. For six intensive weeks, the other students and I lived, breathed, and nauseatingly consumed MCAT material. While most of us felt well prepared in terms of content, the course was vital in teaching us how to approach the MCAT, a unique way to think.”
With the number of students applying to medical schools in the United States increasing, achieving a high score on the MCAT has become even more important. In 2012-2013, the number of students applying for medical school in the United States increased 6.1%., totaling 49,000 applicants. Yet only 20,000 spots were available for enrollment. Therefore, medical schools are using more stringent standards to identify qualified applicants and a student’s MCAT score is the first means of evaluation.
“The MCAT score not only introduced new material to me, but also focused my studying on highly testable material I wouldn’t have recognized on my own,” says Moulton. “Because of the generosity of Dr. Volz, I was able to earn that competitive score and continue my pursuit of a career in medicine. For that gift, I am extremely grateful.”
Dr. Volz, a former student of Dr. Cameron Day, was inspired by his education at Westminster to help other pre-med students.
Making history, shaping futures … The generous support of alumni and friends enable Westminster to develop students into global leaders of character who shape the future in their careers, their communities and the world. The above blog post is one in a series as we celebrate a few of the gifts that have transformed Westminster College – and the lives of our students — over the years.