The added value of free preparatory activities for widening access to medical education: a multi-cohort study

S. Fikrat-Wevers, W. E. De Leng, W. W. Van Den Broek, A. M. Woltman, K. M. Stegers-Jager*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Medical schools are reported to be less accessible to students with non-traditional backgrounds. These students face barriers when applying for and transitioning to medical school, which may be reduced by offering free preparatory activities. By equalizing access to resources, these activities are expected to reduce disparities in selection outcomes and early academic performance. In the present study, four free institutionally-provided preparatory activities were evaluated by comparing the demographic composition of participating and non-participating applicants. Additionally, the association between participation and selection outcomes and early academic performance was investigated for subgroups (based on sex, migration background and parental education).

Methods: Participants were applicants to a Dutch medical school in 2016-2019 (N = 3592). Free preparatory activities included Summer School (N = 595), Coaching Day (N = 1794), Pre-Academic Program (N = 217), and Junior Med School (N = 81), supplemented with data on participation in commercial coaching (N = 65). Demographic compositions of participants and non-participants were compared using chi-squared tests. Regression analyses were performed to compare selection outcomes (curriculum vitae [CV], selection test score, probability of enrolment) and early academic performance (first-course grade) between participants and non-participants of demographic subgroups, controlling for pre-university grades and participation in other activities.

Results: Generally, no differences in sociodemographic compositions of participants and non-participants were found, but males participated less often in Summer School and Coaching Day. Applicants with a non-Western background participated less often in commercial coaching, but the overall participation rate was low and participation had negligible effects on selection outcomes. Participation in Summer School and Coaching Day were stronger related with selection outcomes. In some cases, this association was even stronger for males and candidates with a migration background. After controlling for pre-university grades, none of the preparatory activities were positively associated with early academic performance.

Conclusions: Free institutionally-provided preparatory activities may contribute to student diversity in medical education, because usage was similar across sociodemographic subgroups, and participation was positively associated with selection outcomes of underrepresented and non-traditional students. However, since participation was not associated with early academic performance, adjustments to activities and/or curricula are needed to ensure inclusion and retention after selection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number196
Number of pages15
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a CLI research fellowship grant from Erasmus University Rotterdam awarded to KSJ. The funding body did not play a role in the design of the study and collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


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