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A recent article by Online College Plan named the University of Michigan as the best online college for pre-medicine degrees in the country, scoring 189 points out of the total 200 points.
There is no defined pre-med major at the University. However, according to Outline College plan, most students interested in medical school tend to pursue degrees in biology, chemistry, or physics. In order to be considered for the ranking list, the schools must have at least a partial online program in at least one of the three majors, have proper accreditation, be based in the United States and operate as a nonprofit institution.
The University qualified for the ranking system because even through students must attend campus part-time to complete a biology, chemistry or physics degree, the University also offers many online classes through Coursera. The first fully online degree programs offered at the University began in spring of 2018 and have continued to expand.
Though the University does offer some online programs, they aren't necessarily well-known among students. LSA junior Sumrah Jilani was surprised to learn the University offered degrees students could complete partially online.
“It is surprising to find that out, mostly for the fact that it's specifically online,” Jilani said. “I think it would make sense if just the general coursework was considered to be at a higher standard, but to be honest, I didn't even know U of M had an online program.”
Each of the eligible schools were scored out of a total 200 points and rankings were based on freshman retention rate and graduation rate. The University topped the ranking list with a freshman retention rate of 97 percent and a graduation rate of 92 percent, beating out number two University of California, Berkeley, who had the same freshman retention rate but a graduation rate of 91 percent. It was noted by the individuals in charge of the ranking that no school evaluated was offered any sort of special treatment and the data collection process would allow anyone who conducted the study to come to the same conclusion.
Nishitha Malugari, an LSA and Business junior, is also pursuing the pre-med path at the University and explained why she continued on with the pre-med program after her freshman year.
“I've known from high school that I wanted to pursue medicine, and even though the classes I took freshman year were difficult, I still greatly enjoyed what I was learning,” Malugari wrote in an email interview with The Daily. “I also had great experiences working in my research lab and volunteering in the hospital. I knew I could see myself as a physician one day and knew that the pre-med route is right for me.”
Steven Clark, director of the U-M Program in Biology, also spoke about the first-year retention rate and how the biology program in particular encourages students to carry through the major by offering many resources.
“Our introductory courses have a lot of opportunities for students to get help,” Clark said. “We’ve developed active learning modules, we’ve got undergraduate teaching assistants, we’re working with the Science Learning Center so there is drop in tutoring and study groups for the students. We have a lot of material that gets them familiar with good study habits and to put in the kind of time to help them do well and that’s kind of what keeps the students in the major.”
Jilani reflected on her own experience with the pre-med track at the University. Though she has not taken any online courses, she explained while courses can be demanding, some of them have helped her to learn a lot and bring her closer to her goal of becoming a physician.
“So far my experiences have mostly been good,” Jilani said. “I won’t lie; most pre-med classes are definitely a lot of work, and can be extremely challenging. However, one of my favorite classes I've taken is organic chemistry. … I think having a genuine interest in the subject material definitely helped me do a lot better, but the big factors were just making sure I dedicated a lot of time to studying and I would work a lot with other people in the class to study and solidify the material together.”