Retention rates for pre-health professionals low

March 9, 2015

Evan Musick
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Although retention rates for pre-medical students are difficult to track, some data offers a look into what leads to a student remaining in their original program.

Bev Kratzer, director of the Career Center, explained that when students decide to take pre-professional courses, they take on a course load that may be more difficult than expected.

“Sometimes what happens is that those particular students, or anyone who’s looking at a professional program, don’t understand the level of studies that have to go into success in those kinds of programs,” she said.

This can lead to a student dropping the preprofessional courses, affecting the retention rates of that particular profession. But some retention rates are difficult to track.

Barbara Gaddis, executive director of Student Retention and First Year Experience, explained that there is a difference within pre-professions.

When applying to a professional college within the university, such as engineering, if an applicant lacks a certain requirement they are put into a preengineering designation in the school’s system until they meet the requirements of the engineering college.

But if a student wants to go to medical school after graduating, there are pre-requisite classes that have to be taken. These students declare themselves pre-medical. But preprofessional programs do not appear as pre-medical in the school tracking system.

Prior to the fall 2013 semester, Gaddis selected a group of 85 freshmen who identified as premedical during orientation and tracked them to their sophomore year. Not all returned identifying themselves the same.

“So the retention rate of those [85] is similar to what just any non-pre-med major would be,” she said.

The rate is about 67 to 68 percent.

Gaddis said students who did well in high school had a higher retention rate. Also, the student’s first semester is a large indicator.

“So, if they had below a 2.0 in their fall, very low retention rates. If they have above a 2.0, much higher retention rates. If they got above a 3.5, 100 percent are retained. So how they do in the fall that first semester, really predicts how well they are retained.”

Tracking a student who goes on to attend a school that falls in line with their pre-profession after graduating is also difficult.

“The problem with the data is it depends on [students] telling us. So they have to come back and say, ‘I’m accepted, and I am going to this [graduate school],’” Gaddis said.

She also mentioned that UCCS has a large support for those who fall under the pre-health profession, such as pre-medical.

Assigned success coaches, a pre-health club, the Science Center and monthly visits from Christian Valtierra of Anschutz Medical School are a few options.

Stephanie West, a premedical UCCS student who graduated in 2013 with her Bachelors in Human Biology, evaluated the support she received.

“The support was astounding, especially with the professor I researched with. She even helped another student and I attend medical scholar meetings at CU Boulder.”

West attended medical school overseas for a semester, and is back at UCCS for pre-requisite classes for pharmacy school.