Thursday, August 22

David Geffen School of Medicine raises admission standards, incites controversy

The David Geffen School of Medicine is raising its math and science GPA and MCAT cutoff scores to 3.4 and 512, respectively. Many students said they are worried this will negatively affect the school’s diversity. (Daily Bruin file photo)

The David Geffen School of Medicine is raising its math and science GPA and MCAT cutoff scores to 3.4 and 512, respectively. Many students said they are worried this will negatively affect the school’s diversity. (Daily Bruin file photo)

The medical school is raising admission standards for next year’s applicants.

The David Geffen School of Medicine is raising its math and science GPA and MCAT cutoff scores to 3.4 and 512, respectively, according to a policy proposal released by school of medicine faculty and students. Many students said they are worried this will negatively affect the school’s diversity.

Calvin Lau, a second-year medical student, said he had no problem with the increased standards, as long as admissions gave each applicant a fair chance to get into the school.

“I think test scores and GPA are very much tied to things that a lot of students do not have a lot of control over, like their background,” Lau said. “And I think if you just take people with the highest test scores you’ll get a very homogeneous class.”

Reijiani Relova, a premedical and fourth-year biology student, said the changing admissions standards is intimidating considering the already competitive nature of medical school applications.

“All through college, being (premedical) has already been an uphill battle to keep your GPA a minimum of at least 3.6 to even be competitive at mid-tier schools,” Relova said.

Clarence Braddock, the vice dean for education and chief medical education officer, said in an email statement the admissions office recognizes students from disadvantaged backgrounds may have lacked various opportunities throughout their educational career, which can negatively affect performance on standardized tests and grade point average.

Braddock added the school of medicine receives more than 14,000 applications for 175 spots. The school’s application review considers socioeconomic or educational disadvantages.

Over 300 students, faculty and alumni expressed concerns about the admissions changes at a town hall Dec. 4.

Attendees formulated a policy proposal in opposition to the changes, which will affect the entering class of 2019. The proposal argued increasing MCAT and GPA thresholds prioritize efficiency over holistic review.

The proposal states these changes would systematically prevent applicants of lower socio-economic status from making it past the primary screening process. It cites research which shows standardized tests are not objective ways of analyzing a student’s knowledge.

Relova said while a more rigorous admissions standard could be appealing to administrators, she thinks the new standard will discourage students from applying in the first place.

“I can understand why this would sound appealing to (the school of medicine), but I think it will bar so many students from even considering applying,” Relova said.

Contributing reports from Kate Nucci, Daily Bruin staff

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  • gasstationwithoutpumps

    A bigger problem might be the exclusion of engineering undergrads, whose GPAs are significantly lower than other fields, because of the slower grade inflation in engineering.

  • Marie Marie

    An important clarification is needed here: the school’s application review does indeed consider socioeconomic or educational disadvantages, however now only after screening via GPA & MCAT score, when prior to this change, they took disadvantaged status into account BEFORE this screening. This is one of the main sources of controversy: the intent of this particular change in the order of the screening steps, ALONG with the increase in MCAT & GPA cutoffs. Thank you.

    • NoDelusions

      They should get rid of that consideration entirely.

      • Andres Lopez

        You seem upset.

        • Marie Marie

          Sounds like a personal problem they’re not sure how to address… I hope one day they’ll find peace within themselves and stop feeling threatened by others’ existence….

    • Andres Lopez

      Thank you for sharing this information- it’s an important aspect. Have they said what the rationale is before this? Something like this not just effects a lot of minorities- but a lot of people who are white and from rural background. It hurts the diversity in more ways than one.

      • Marie Marie

        Your second-to-last sentence is one that I think students from communities of color struggle with getting their peers across the country to understand… diversity and inclusion isn’t just a “color issue,” and diversity has many faces. But if that ends up being what makes their privileged peers decide to care (that their empathy includes white students as well) my question is why? That reveals a much bigger issue, you know?

  • Andrew

    I’m a third year medical student in the David Geffen School of Medicine. I also happen to be hispanic and a woman.

    I’m not opposed to these admission policy changes, but I think that such a bold move would be more welcoming (even perhaps supported) if as an institution UCLA had a much stronger supporting infrastructure for “pre-meds”. I can only say that during my limited interaction with UCLA pre-meds I have heard that as an undergraduate institution UCLA provides very limited “pre-med” counseling – instead many sororities and student unions take over and provide this service. I for one find this disappointing only because my own undergraduate institution provides ample “pre-med” support from certified guidance counselors who know the lay of the land and the ins and outs of their own institution. Regardless of this small short coming, UCLA undergraduates fair quite well in medical admissions and are represented in my medical school in triple the numbers (maybe quadruple) as my own alma matter.

    Another perspective I have is blowing open this concept of “pre-med”. And I mean like throwing out the concept of some science major with research and pulling from folks who come from all different fields, say economics, sociology, engineering, English, and a whole bunch of majors that I don’t know exist. Why? I’ve only taken a peek at the medical field, but so far I have got to say that some of the medical students I am most impressed with are students who come from these backgrounds. One student I know, trained economist and worked in financial circles before entering medicine, and boy does he show me a thing or two about our field!

    One last idea. Maybe our admission policies are tougher, but I hope that we can start to bring in more out-of-state students. California is a big state with tons of kids and I am not saying that as a UC we need to turn away from our own students, but California is a bubble and Los Angeles is another bubble within this bigger bubble. Just as much as UCLA can teach non-Californians many lessons you can’t find outside of our golden state, non-Californians definitely need to learn a thing or two about the “real” world. Why? If the housing crisis of 2007 taught us anything, bubbles are bad for everyones health.

    Now one might be wondering, what does this have to do with increasing diversity? I say everything. Students from all backgrounds should have access to strong institutional support – if schools are recognizing that minorities are struggling they should do something about, put funding to create programs to bolster minority students performances. (And please, I don’t want to get into this right now, but if we are waiting till college to strengthen the pipeline for minority students, we are already way late…) California might boast of having the most diverse undergraduates …. (someone could fact check me on that one) but for me diversity also means opening the doors for students who also share different points of views whether controversial or non-traditional. Being at UCLA med school you don’t have to be a democrat or a social justice warrior, in fact I think we hear too much from these kids anyway for our own good. I welcome anyone who can sit down and have a two-sided conversation. Seriously.

    An insiders (and minority students) perspective: yes, UCLA still has a way to go to address the wide gap in its number of minority students within its David Geffen program and its pattern programs UCLA-PRIME and Charles Drew. Yes, the David Geffen program applicants will be impacted by this new admission policy change (and to what degree the PRIME and CDU students will be too I can’t say because I don’t know), and this may make it harder for minority students to get through the screens. But I am not discouraged. And I don’t think you should be either. Minority students won’t be the only ones impacted by this change, everyone will. And in my mind, minority students don’t always translate into increased diversity in the student body. I’m really hoping to increase D-I-V-E-R-S-I-T-Y. And, it’s okay if you don’t agree with me, not everyone does. We are raising the bar for better or worse. From the few minority students the David Geffen Program has (and in my class I think there were like 10 of us no joke…maybe 15…) there is a beautiful spread of kids who are strong willed. We are outnumbered, today, by our classmates on all sides, but I am proud of us. There are things that our small group shares that you won’t necessarily find in the PRIME program, or CDU, and vice versa. But that is okay with me, because I don’t want diversity at our school to conform to this idea that we share the same points of view, cut from the same cloth, require a safe space shield of trigger word disclaimer… because honestly that is what it feels like sometimes.

  • Nidhi

    I think they are doing a great job. There are many individuals who apply and get into medical schools one way or another, but when a patient’s life is in their hands, they are not able to act accordingly. Hopefully by increasing the competitive nature, we will get better doctors out there. If people are complaining about the stress to get these grades, how do they expect to handle a patient who has a non-textbook illness?

    • Dapper Denny Crane

      A key element in your response is worthy of more discussion. That is, does absolute excellence in math, science and MCAT metrics make a physcian proficient across the core competencies? (Google ACGME core competencies and David Leach, MD.) As some imply, hiking cut off scores does little more than whittle down the number of applicants. When an applicant pool is already attracting the best of the best, why seek to further constrict the talent pool to admittedly the very best in math and science, when we know that many in that group will be terribly ungifted in social skills, diversity and the art of medicine.

      I hope residency programs take note of the Geffen plan and respond accordingly, as the change inexplicably heightens emphasis on test scores over empathy, cooperative learning and professionalism in medicine. I assure you that on the whole as test scores go up performance measures on these key metrics go down.

      • Victor Y Hong

        I assure you that test scores and empathy, professionalism, and passion for medicine are not mutually exclusive. People who are diligent and dedicate signifciant amount of their time to learn well in school will be the ones who get good grades and remain at hospital after normal working hours to look after their patients. Top scorers in our class are very nice, genuine, fun, and smart who are passionate about this field.

        • Andres Lopez

          Absolutely spot on- they aren’t exclusive. If you assume the students with high test scores are socially inept or less professional and empathetic you should go actually meet and interact with these people. Sure there’s some who could improve on the facets that Dapper is worried about, but if someone homogeneously assumes they’re less “human” in these aspects that’s an statement that needs some reflection and in person contact.

      • Nidhi

        I agree with the other commenters on this conversation. I speak from experience based on individuals who I have taken classes with and my experience when I was in the hospital for months. It was evident those who were the high achievers stayed longer, worked harder, and did their absolute best reading/researching to figure out a solution. Whereas those who were not as high achieving, provided the incorrect diagnosis, were anxious for their shift to be over, or simply just didn’t come back. I would rather have a doctor who can help me get better than one who was simply entertaining

        • Dapper Denny Crane

          Let’s recall the predicate is higher test scores for admission. Characteristics of “motivation,” e.g., academic persistence, are correlates but different. In fact, lessening the value of these correlates in exchange for higher test scores is at issue. Accounting for the whole person (such as motivation and persistence) is, I believe, shortchanged by targeting the top tier test takers for admission. The point is hiking the test performance standard stifles the opportunity to consider other metrics. By default the Geffen Plan will train test proven doctors while denying admission to others who are equally able to compete and succeed, and who may bring other talents not captured in test scores. I would encourage the medical school to seek input from its distinguished colleagues in educational testing before moving forward. Before long the message might be if you’re not in the 98th percentile, don’t bother.

  • UndeadSchizo 1994 Productions

    I think it is just a slap in the face to those who struggle to get into medical school. Not saying there shouldn’t be standards as you need the science and mathematics knowledge to understand the concepts. What I mean is that as long as you know the basic sciences, someone can pass the MCAT easily but fail in medical school. The same could apply but in reverse- someone can just barely pass the MCAT but make it through medical school.

  • Emmanuel AP

    3rd yr Geffen med student here. article misses point of inherent problem of admissions policy change, which is: the school is systemically preventing disadvantaged students from admissions consideration. demographics of admitted classes in past 3 years (when policy was implemented) has changed remarkably so that only 9% of this past year’s matriculating students were considered underrepresented in medicine (i.e non-white, non-asian), down from 23% 3 years ago.


    sorry for short, fragmented sentences. i’m on 24 hr shift at a county hospital. i love my education and i love my patients and i need to see more ppl in my class who understand the struggles of my patients from disadvantaged communities, and the only way to do this is for med schools (especially a med school in LOS ANGELES, goddamnit) to have more inclusive admissions policies for disadvantaged applicants. period.

    • NoDelusions

      Go back to the KKK racist

    • Andres Lopez

      The lack of that consideration is interesting- I wonder why they failed to mention that and why they believe that change will have a positive impact on their admissions.

    • Marie Marie

      Thank you for those crucial details Emmanuel!

    • Ryan Rosario (DataJunkie)

      The statistics and the facts in all caps are important details that should have been in this article.

    • karen

      Is this only for UCLA or for medical schools in general?

  • Víctor

    What of the students who attended top tier universities for undergrad where it’s harder to get a good gpa compared to lower tier schools for the same major?

    • gasstationwithoutpumps

      Grade inflation is much higher at “elite” universities, so students from them are more likely to have high GPAs than students at public universities.

  • NoDelusions

    Ah, and so the racists Shelby Dunagan and Calvin Lau comes out…
    Nobody cares what your background is. No school will hold your hand and walk you through admissions. Grow up and take the diaper off.

  • Hillary’s Taint

    What’s this?! Raising standards??!! Heresy! Witchcraft!

    We need Affirmative Action! We need incompetent doctors. Who does UCLA think it is raising admissions standards?! What next? Only 2 gender choices on the admissions application?

    Janet Napolitano must be bullied out of restaurants and lesbian bars until this outrage is mitigated.

    Someone call Ted Lieu!