Medical Student Volunteers Offer Vital Role in Admissions Process

(left to right) Melissa Dion, Ryan Chauncey, Kashif Ather, Liza Karamessinis, Christina Toutoungi, and Vivek Alaigh are admissions office student volunteers for Second Look Weekend. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

(left to right) Melissa Dion, Ryan Chauncey, Kashif Ather, Liza Karamessinis, Christina Toutoungi, and Vivek Alaigh are student volunteers for Second Look Weekend. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

As the medical school class of 2016 begins arriving at the UConn Health Center this week, many will no doubt remember the first time they set foot on campus for their first admissions interview.

Approximately 2,800 aspiring physicians send applications to the School of Medicine each year and 350 of them are asked to come to campus for an interview. Since only 85 positions are available in the first year class, the admissions committee must make some tough decisions. Student volunteers who sit on the committee play a vital role in the decision-making process.

“It’s crucially important to have students involved in the admissions process,” explains Richard Zeff, assistant dean for medical school admissions. “They understand what it’s like to be a student here. They are living the life of a student and can fully appreciate the culture, the community and whether the applicant would actually be happy here.”

Christine Castater, third-year medical student, has been the interview day coordinator for

the past two years. “I have learned just how important the intangibles are to candidates,” says Castater. “I have heard over and over from them that the interview day was such an important part of their decision to come here.”

Castater feels strongly that students will get a medical degree wherever they decide to go, so what becomes important is finding the school that is a good fit for them.

“This is such an important thing for students to be involved in because it is the students who can help to show applicants what UConn is all about,” adds Castater. “I feel the enthusiasm and participation in admissions has grown substantially in the last two years that I have been involved with the office and I feel proud to have been able to help in this capacity.”

Typically there are about 20 members on the admissions committee. Six of them are students and they participate as full voting members.

“Over this past year, as a student member of the admissions committee and interviewer of prospective students, I felt blessed to have had the opportunity to help those prepared for the study of medicine make their dreams come true,” says third-year medical student Will Gionfriddo. “I have pored over hundreds of applications, and time and again, I am humbled by the amazing stories and talents of those with the heart and drive to pursue medicine. As the year unfolded, I personally met many qualified and wonderful applicants, whom I will be honored to have as my classmates and colleagues in the years to come.”

Students also volunteer for the admissions office by organizing and participating in Second Look Weekend. Students who are accepted to medical school throughout the year are invited to come back in March and stay with “host” students. Second-year medical student Melissa Dion, one of the organizers, says about 70 candidates took part in the event. It gives prospective students a chance to learn more about the housing situation, meet some of the professors, visit the anatomy lab, and get an overall idea of the school and the students.

“I really love going to the UConn School of Medicine,” says Dion. “And I wanted to share that enthusiasm with my potential classmates and I want to help recruit good students who are going to be my potential colleagues one day.”

Whatever the role, volunteering for the Admissions Office helps current students learn more about the process and offers a way for them to “give back.”

“Helping out in the admissions office has taught me a lot,” says third-year student Persis Thomas. “So much thought and effort is put into selecting a candidate. I also learned that medical school admissions extends beyond grades and accomplishments and is more about finding the right fit between a candidate and a school.”

Second-year student Vishal Bhuva says, “Helping out with interviewing this year was but a small way to express my gratitude. But even this has been such a privilege! In what other situation would I be able venture through personal journeys in applicants’ lives and feel their enthusiastic vibes as they ready themselves to embark on their medical careers? It has been very energizing for me!”


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