Pre-Med Muddle

No question about it, pre-meds are a special breed of Harvard man. They are the people who raise the curve in Physics 1, who talk ceaselessly about the last Chem 20 exam at breakfast, and who gather in little worried groups to discuss chances of acceptance to med school. Strangely enough, the fact that pre-meds constitute a class by themselves is recognized by everyone except the University. "We have no pre-medical student," intones the voice of University Hall, "only Chemistry concentrators or Biology concentrators or History and Lit. concentrators. There is no such thing as a pre-med."

For the 150 pre-meds in each class this attitude might be amusing were it not so tragically foolish. Applying to medical school in these days of 7 to 1 acceptance ratios is a tricky and often confusing experience. The large number of medical schools with their varying requirements and standards present a bewildering tangle to the Harvard student. With no official clearing house of information to consult, pre-meds get their "facts" about medical schools like little boys learning the facts of life--from half-informed contemporaries and semi-reputable booklets. Wild rumors sweep through the ranks of pre-meds, leaving pale faces and young neuroses in their wake.

These fits and starts of panic, however, are not the most important consequence of the College's oblivious attitude toward the pre-med. Medical schools themselves are growing exasperated with what they term Harvard's "laissez-faire"; the dean of Cornell Medical School last week exploded to an applicant from Harvard, "Why in the world do they let you drift along like that for three years up there and then expect you to get accepted." Boston University Medical School says the same. Even the Dean of Harvard's own Medical School feels that pre-med advising in the College is "on the whole, not adequate."

The only reasonable defense that the College administration can offer for its percent "sink-or-swim" attitude is the fact that "almost all of our students are accepted at medical schools." This excuse sinks of its own weight, for nobody in the administration has any exact idea of what percent of Harvard pre-meds fall short in the Great Quest. Nobody in the administration knows which students fail to get into medical school, or, what is worse, why they fail. The mistakes, apparently, are buried.

The administration may feel that it has a pre-medical advisor in the person of Dr. Maurice Pechet, resident senior tutor of Lowell House and faculty shepard of the Pre-Medical Society. Most pre-meds in non-science fields, however, have never heard of him, although each fall word of him circulates among pre-meds like the news of a cut-rate butcher among housewives. Dr. Pechet, a pleasant man wise in the ways of admissions committees, dispenses advice with a reassuring tone, but because of his House duties and his own research work he does not have enough time for all pre-meds and their problems.

To fill the yawning gap which exists in the College's present advising system the University should appoint an Adviser to Pre-Medical Students who would be free of other administrative burdens. Such an adviser would be a great help to medical schools seeking information about applicants, for he will have followed their progress through three years of colleges. More important, a Pre-Med Advisor would still the fears of quivering pre-meds and quiet the medical school rumbles about Harvard's "laissez-faire" policy.