It’s a common story: An international student pays $20 to attend the Career Center’s JumpStart session on pre-health summer programs, hoping to learn about all the available initiatives offered at UCLA and around Los Angeles.
However, they are generally disappointed when they realize that all the summer enrichment programs introduced in the JumpStart session are not applicable to them, solely because they are an international student.
UCLA has put a lot of effort into developing programs that benefit the underprivileged who normally cannot access pre-health and pre-dental internship opportunities. Both of the pre-medical and pre-dental programs, UCLA Pre-medical/Pre-dental Enrichment Program, or UCLA PREP, and the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, or UCLA SMDEP, are designed to target educationally and financially disadvantaged students while also accepting other students.
However, despite the efforts to increase their participant diversity by actively including more disadvantaged students, these programs are not representative of the student diversity on campus. International students, who make up 12.6 percent of the undergraduate population, are shut away from the programs because there is one universal requirement – all applicants must be a U.S. citizen or hold a permanent resident visa.
There is a reason for this. Right now, the funding for these programs is largely supported by private foundation grants, so it might engender discontent if international students are accepted and funded against donors’ intentions.
Thus, to improve the diversity and fairness of pre-health summer programs, UCLA should also develop programs to target international students and make sure they have equal access to resources regardless of their nationality. Moreover, the career center should feature more programs in their workshops and presentations that are eligible to international students.
The simple solution would be to include international students in some of the summer programs such as UCLA PREP. This would allow the school to use existing infrastructure and not have to design completely new programs for international students.
To get around the grant restrictions, UCLA can instead reasonably raise the fees for international students so that little to no amount of state funding will be spent on international students. Or, if UCLA plans to create more pre-health summer camps, it should make sure it applies to international students.
Ensuring access is critical. Students who have participated in these programs will have greater knowledge of the medical career and application process. They can receive help directly from medical students and listen to advice from health professionals. Such valuable information is crucial for students to who want to ace their medical school applications.
Additionally, clinical shadowing and chatting with doctors are paramount for pre-medical students. Such experience gives aspiring doctors an idea of their future lives and career environment. It also propels them to rethink about why they are applying to medical school, and if they are prepared to commit huge amounts of time and effort into an extremely demanding and stressful career. Clinical experience is a basic requirement of medical school applications that no students can apply without.
Without access to these resources, international students are severely impeded.
The sheer presence of such an opportunity means a lot to international students who have to spend tenfold the energy to find resources for clinical internships and career guidance. International students have paid exorbitant tuition fees due to their nationalities and they are expecting a top-notch and fair education. UCLA has the responsibility to provide equal opportunities for its students and ensure a level playing field.
At the very least, if the career center can’t create such programs, it should still indicate clearly that none of the programs are for international students on their website so that students can avoid wasting money and energy on irrelevant information.
UCLA has always been dedicated to support student interests and help develop their career goals. As such, UCLA should take moves to address the problems facing international students and create a welcoming environment for diverse dreams and aspirations.