The Rice Baylor Medical Scholars Program, which combines admission to Rice with admission to Baylor Medical School after graduation if they fulfill certain requirements, has accepted six to 15 students each academic year since its initiation in 1990. Though nine freshmen were admitted this year, those students will now be under altered requirements than previous classes to keep them in line with Baylor's changed prerequisites for all students, according to director of academic advising Aliya Bhimani.

The program no longer requires Rice-Baylor students who matriculated in 2016 and later to take two semesters of physics nor are they required to take an organic chemistry lab credit. However, biochemistry is now mandatory.

Rice-Baylor’s most recent admits also face a change in MCAT score requirements. According to Navya Kumar, a Rice-Baylor scholar and Hanszen College sophomore, the class of 2020 is required to obtain a score of 501 as opposed to the class of 2019’s required 500.

Navya Kumar, a Rice-Baylor scholar and Hanszen College sophomore, said that while the score change comes just after the recent revamp in MCAT test format, it should not hinder Rice-Baylor students.

“Knowing the caliber of students chosen, especially for the 2020 cohort, I doubt the higher MCAT score will be an issue,” Kumar said.

This is not the first time Rice-Baylor requirements have been altered in recent years. Beginning with the class of 2018, Rice-Baylor scholars were required to take the MCAT while at Rice.

One Rice-Baylor student, who asked to remain anonymous since their Baylor admission is not yet confirmed, said they believe that specific change was made in an effort to counteract risks of poor performance once students are in medical school.

“Rumors say Rice-Baylor students were performing worse at Baylor compared to regular admission students to Baylor,” the student said. “To maintain high performance and rigor, the program added [the] MCAT to make sure the students admitted through the program were of the same caliber as regular-admit students.”

Bhimani said the changes may be related to a larger trend in healthcare.

"While I cannot speak on behalf of Baylor, these changes are likely the reflection of larger industry conversations that are reevaluating the competencies necessary to succeed as a medical student and future doctor," Bhimani said. "For example, throughout the healthcare fields we are seeing more of an emphasis and value added of the social sciences and humanities sectors, as they positively impact the patient experience."

Bhimani emphasized that Rice-Baylor students should be in close contact with the Office of Academic Advising.

"Advisors in the Office of Academic Advising are knowledgeable about the program and more than willing to work with and meet with students with questions, as they apply to their individualized plans," Bhimani said. "Because the requirements vary pretty dramatically from one cohort to the next, we encourage students to seek our guidance as they navigate through the program. It is certainly a real privilege to be selected into this program and like all pre-med students, requires continued academic excellence along the way."

According to Kumar, the most most recent changes for the class of 2020 are beneficial.

“I think the new requirements are pretty reflective of what medical schools now want from students, so in that way I am a fan,” Kumar said.

Kumar said the changes may be geared towards better preparing students for medical school.

“There’s a reason Rice-Baylor has been around for some 25 years,” Kumar said. “Rice really prepares students for Baylor and these new requirements reflect that.”

This article was edited after being published to correct two errors: six to 15 students have been admitted each year to the Rice-Baylor program, not "typically six," and the new MCAT cutoff for Rice-Baylor students is 501, not 502.