I was accidentally accepted to an Ivy League medical school at 17

Want to hear a crazy story?

Typical medical school students can relate tales of a college experience that includes summer research or hours spent reviewing for the MCAT. I didn’t even take the MCAT. Read on for the oddest medical school acceptance story you’ve ever heard.

I was driven in high school. I’d heard for years about smart kids going off to the Ivy League, and I wanted that experience — to end up sitting on a nice New England college green, taking classes with the world’s best and brightest.

Which Ivy?

While some kids apply to all the Ivy schools, I didn’t. I chose Brown plus the two top liberal arts colleges and some mid-range schools. Brown doesn’t have a core curriculum, and I liked that flexible approach.

Brown used a paper application back then, so I sat at the library with a typewriter, carefully adding the words to my personal statement. Here’s another quirky thing about the Brown app: You could express interest in specific programs, but you only got three choices.

Which program?

Hmm. Engineering? Chemistry? Liberal medical education? I wanted to indicate that I was interested in Brown’s specific programs, so I checked a box. And here’s the bonus: If you check a box, they let you fill out another page, front and back, of personal essays.

I figured more information would help them see me as a unique applicant and improve my chances of acceptance. (That isn’t true, by the way. I heard later that if you are not selected for these specific programs, applying for them can actually hurt your chance for general admission.)


Fast forward to April of my senior year. I get my letter, not the small envelope, the big packet. Everyone who saw it knew my fate before I even opened it. I beamed. I told everyone I could think to tell, and then I went about my life for a few hours.

Next, I got nervous about the money. I checked the package again. Sure enough, Brown’s financial package was on par with the other schools I had been accepted to. My undergrad was going to cost a small fortune, but going to Brown wasn’t going to make things any worse. Phew.

Hours go by again. I decide to actually read through some of the materials. And that’s when I see it. “You have been accepted to the class of XXX and the Program in Liberal Medical Education.” Hmm. Maybe you know what that is. I sure didn’t.

Time to do some research.

I had to go to a computer lab at school to search online for the information. What I found changed my life. This was not a pre-medical exploration group; this was an eight-year BA/MD.


I cried with relief. (Hey, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, and now I had a ready-made, very attractive, plan.) I told everyone I could think to tell about my great news, for the second time that day.

The experience

My accidental achievement was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I’m a perfectionist, and I would have stressed out over the MCATs and undergraduate grades.

Instead, I got to take classes in literature and photography. I majored in the humanities and studied abroad for a year. I got to live the best college experience I could imagine, and I savored every moment of it.

The more I considered continuing with the MD, the more I liked the idea. I did some shadowing and found a specialty that I really loved. Not everyone from my class went on to medical school, but in the end, the program I fell into suited me perfectly.

May you have the same serendipity.

“Eliza” is a physician who blogs at MinimalMD.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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