Information for High School Students
The WWAMI Medical Education Program
The WWAMI Medical Education Program is a cooperative program of the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Montana University System. This program makes it possible for twenty Montana students per year to enter the University of Washington School of Medicine. The Montana students who are admitted to this program take the first year of medical school at Montana State University and the second year at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. During their third and fourth years students work in hospitals and clinics rather than classrooms. Students in the WWAMI Program can take third and fourth year courses not only in the Seattle area but also in a number of other sites in the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. In this way WWAMI students receive an education that is balanced with respect to urban versus rural medical practice.
Since most medical schools require four years of college (a few require only three), applying to the WWAMI Program and other medical schools is something that you would do no earlier than your junior year of college. Therefore, rather than wishing to know details about the WWAMI Program at this time, you are more likely to be concerned about choosing an undergraduate college and an undergraduate curriculum that will prepare you in the best way for getting into medical school and doing well once you have been admitted. Below are some frequently asked questions and our responses to specific questions and concerns that high school students have often asked about WWAMI and medical education in general.
Here are some questions high school students interested in the WWAMI Program may have:
- What is the best undergraduate program for a student planning to go to medical school?
- Does Montana State University provide good preparation for medical school?
- Is it necessary for students to attend Montana State University as an undergraduates in order to gain admission into the WWAMI Program?
- Do you have to be a straight "A" student in order to be admitted into medical school?
- What are my chances of being accepted into the WWAMI Program or another medical school?
- How soon do I have to decide whether or not I want to go to medical school?
- What are the costs of medical education in the WWAMI Program?
There is no single answer to this question. The medical profession welcomes and needs people with different educational backgrounds, talents and interests. All medical students need aptitude and a strong background in the natural sciences. In addition, medical schools want to be sure that medical students have studied social sciences, humanities, communications skills and, increasingly, computer skills. Most medical schools have very few specific requirements (usually amounting to approximately 25% of the total undergraduate curriculum) so that potential students will have freedom to follow their individual interests in choosing an undergraduate curriculum. Approximately half of all applicants to medical school major in the biological sciences. Many students also major in the physical sciences (chemistry, engineering, physics, mathematics, etc.) and many students major in non-science subjects (sociology, psychology, political science, history, english, economics, art, music, etc.). These students have as good a chance of getting into medical school as biological science majors. The concept of a specific "Pre-Med Program" has become obsolete. Students interested in medicine should choose an undergraduate program which not only includes the courses required for medical school admission, but which also is interesting, stimulating and challenging to the individual student.
Yes, students at Montana State University receive excellent preparation for medical school and careers in medicine. MSU offers all of the courses required for entrance in American medical schools. Because Montana State University has great strength in the natural sciences, the quality of these required courses is very high. Montana State University also has an excellent Health Professions Advising program for students who are planning to enter medicine or other health professions. There are a large number of undergraduate majors that students can select. Students who have not decided on a major when they enter MSU may elect a general studies program until such a time that they are ready to choose a major. Finally, there is the University Honors Program, designed to encourage well motivated students to enrich their course work with cross-disciplinary seminars, undergraduate research and undergraduate theses. Montana State University has an excellent record in the placement of applicants into medical school.
Is it necessary for students to attend Montana State University as an undergraduate in order to gain admissions into the WWAMI program?
No. In order to be eligible for the WWAMI Program a student must be a legal resident of the State of Montana for at least one year at the time of application to medical school, but there are no preferences or restrictions as to where the student can receive his or her undergraduate education. Usually more than half of the students admitted to the WWAMI Program have received their undergraduate education at one of Montana's private or public colleges, but each class also includes students who have attended out-of-state colleges. High school students should be encouraged to obtain the best college education that is within the reach of their ability and resources.
A strong academic record is needed to prove that you can cope with the rigorous academic curriculum of medical school. Most students admitted to the WWAMI Program have a cumulative grade point average of more than 3.5. However, students with lower grade point averages are occasionally admitted if they demonstrate unique and original accomplishments which show that they would do well in medical school and would be well suited to a medical career.
Just as important as scholastic success to the medical school admissions board are other attributes, such as, evidence of curiosity and initiative, evidence of compassion and concern for the welfare of human beings and evidence that the student's interest in medicine is genuine.
At the present time we receive approximately one hundred applications per year for the twenty available WWAMI positions. Many Montana students (about twenty per year) attend other medical schools in the United States. Nationwide there are approximately three applicants for each available place in American medical schools.
Many students choose to enter medical school as soon as they have completed their college education. In that situation, the decision to apply to medical school is made by the spring of the student's junior year. However, many students decide to go to medical school many years after they have completed their undergraduate education. The average age of students entering the WWAMI Program is approximately twenty-five, and each year some of the twenty entering WWAMI students are more than thirty years old. Indeed, evidence of maturity is one of the things that medical school admissions committees look for in their selection of medical students.
Students in the WWAMI Program pay in-state tuition rates for one year at Montana State University (approximately $9,000 per year) and for three years at the University of Washington (approximately $21,000 per year). In addition, students pay $4,688 per year for tuition surcharge which is used to fund a debt repayment program for physicians who practice in an area of Montana that has a physician shortage. These tuition rates are slightly below the national averages for publicly supported medical education and greatly below the tuition rates of private medical schools. Nevertheless, most medical students acquire some indebtedness during the years of their medical education. The average indebtedness of WWAMI medical students who graduated in 2004 was $110,000.
We are pleased that you are taking an early interest in a medical career. If you have any other questions or if there is anything that we can do to assist you in achieving your goal, please don't hesitate to call or write us.