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FAQ's about extending 4th Year

What does extending 4th year mean?
Anyone whose start and graduation dates are more than 4 years apart is "extended."  An extension can be taken with or without a leave of absence; part of an extension can be with a leave of absence and part without, etc.  Attendance, leaves, and expenses/ eligibility for financial aid are calculated on a per semester basis, same as regular colleges and university practice. 

Can I extend if I have completed all the requirements for graduation?
You can complete all course requirements and continue to take additional courses as an extended student but once you have completed ALL requirements and successfully certified for graduation, you must graduate.  Certification for graduation (the last requirement for graduation) takes place the week before commencement and completes your medical school requirements for graduation. 

What happens in an extension without a leave of absence?
When a student elects to extend fourth year for a year without a leave, s/he effectively has 23 months to the minimum of 8 months of coursework required.  Of course, strategically in terms of residency application, the student should complete more than the minimum.  Students may choose to extend for a variety of reasons: international work, volunteer opportunities, research, additional clinical electives, personal reasons, etc.  In order to remain enrolled for a given semester, the student must be enrolled at a minimum of 8 weeks of electives per semester. As the school does not have part-time status, enrollment in 8 weeks of clerkships or electives qualifies a student to be "full time" for that semester.  Extended students remain actively enrolled at UMASS, continue to be covered by UMass Chan Medical School’s health insurance and malpractice insurance, and continue to be eligible for financial aid (for the first 12 semesters - see below). 

What happens if I take a leave of absence for all or part of this extension?
Students who elect to take a leave of absence (eg take 1+ semesters off for personal reasons, to pursue a degree-granting or certificate-granting program in another university, to complete a fellowship at the CDC, NIH, etc.) cease to be active students at UMASS during the time that they are on leave.  Students who take a leave of absence are no longer are covered by UMass Chan Medical School’s malpractice insurance, and therefore are not able to participate in clinical electives.   However, students on leave may choose to continue their health insurance through UMass Chan Medical School by paying the necessary fees.  Students on a leave of absence are not eligible for financial aid disbursements.

What are the financial considerations of extending? 
All students pay full tuition and fees for the first 4 years (8 semesters) of active enrollment regardless of the number of courses taken, provided that at least one course is taken for credit.  A minimum of 8 weeks of electives per semester must be taken in order for a student to be considered a full time student for that semester.  The student must complete all paperwork and register for 8 weeks of electives BEFORE the start of a given semester.  Electives may be changed after the start of the semester, however in order to remain eligible for financial aid, the student may not drop below the required 8 weeks.  A maximum of 8 years (16 semesters) of active enrollment is permitted to obtain the MD degree. After the first 4 years (8 semesters) of active enrollment for which the student has been financially responsible, students are changed to "extended student - fee only" status for up to 4 years (8 semesters).  Students on this status no longer pay tuition or sign the learning contract, but DO continue to pay fees.  Financial aid is available for the first 6 years (12 semesters) of enrollment.  If the student was not responsible financially for the first 4 years of attendance (eg PhD-MD student, full scholarship and stipend from Armed Services, etc), then the "extended student fee only" status does NOT apply, and the student will be financially responsible for up to an additional 4 years (8 semesters).

Please contact the Financial Aid Office to determine how extending will affect your specific financial aid situation and for clarification on maximum financial aid eligibility.  In general loans do not become due while the student has active student status.  If a student is on a leave of absence, rules for forbearance vary by lender, but most lenders have a 6 months "grace" period before the interest begins to be due.  This means that usually a one-semester leave of absence does not result in loans coming due.  I tis important to not the a grace period only happens ONCE during the life of the loan.

How do I officially request an extension with or without a leave of absence?
You must submit a letter or email to Dr. Chimienti requesting to extend fourth year and lay out a brief sketch of what it is that you intend to do with the additional time. Dr. Chimienti then will present your request to the appropriate academic board for approval.  Requests for one year extensions are usually acted upon favorably by the Board; more than one year extensions require additional justification (eg enrollment in a degree granting program such as an MBA, significant personal hardship, additional research year through a fellowship, etc.) 

Should I participate in the lottery if I'm planning to extend?
If you are going to be in attendance during the following year and wish to take required courses or lottery based electives, then, yes, you should participate.  See OSA if you know you will be away for a given period of time and need to block off more than 3 months (she can do this for you).  If you do not submit lottery choices and you have not yet given your notice of extension, the computer system will generate slots for you for required fourth year courses but not for electives.  You can usually cancel these courses with at least 2 months notice once you extend, but it's better to work things out with the lottery ahead of time. 

When should I plan my SubIs?
Generally speaking, residency directors will want to see the completion of subinternships by extenders prior to the submission of the residency application.  Of note, extending students will be able to use the months of May and June of their first extended year to schedule SubIs and the Neuro clerkships.  Nonextending fourth year students cannot use this time, nor can third year students, so the competition for spots at those times is generally less intense.  Please your specialty mentor for specific questions about application strategy. 

When should I take the Boards?
Most students elect to take the Boards soon after 3 rd year, but by policy Step 2 can be taken at any time through the 5 th year.  However, regardless of your score on Step I, it is STRONGLY recommended that extended students take Step 2 before applying for the Match.  Even if you scored well on Step 1 (>240), most residency programs will find it unacceptable for extending students to enter the Match without Step 2 scores, given the additional year they have had to prepare for Step 2. 

What are the academic requirements for extending students?
The academic requirements are the same for extending students as for non-extending students. 

Is there a limit to the number of electives I can take?
There is no limit to the number of electives of any type (A, B or C) you can take; however, you must fulfill the minimum requirements for graduation. 

When should I get letters of recommendation from the electives?
It is advisable to request letters of recommendation from your professors at the time you complete your clinical elective (or as close to as possible), given that your professors will be able to provide the freshest perspective on your performance at that time. Letters should be dated when they are written, regardless of when you intend to apply for residency.  All letters can be sent to OSA to file under your name at that time, or held until you actually apply by the person who wrote the letter.  A letter can be amended later, with a new date, by the person who wrote it.  LOR's for residency application MUST be DATED WITHIN 6 MONTHS of the application, although they may describe work which was done before that.

The change in date signifies that nothing known to the recommender has happened in the interim to change the recommender's high opinion of you. 

If I extend, how will I get information about next year’s lottery, the Match deadlines, etc.?
Once the committee approves your request for extension,  Students need to contact the Registrar's office to request assignment to the appropriate class email distribution list(s).  The administration of the school uses these lists as an official means of distributing information concerning required events and activities.  

What class do I belong to if I extend?
You will officially be part of the class with whom you will graduate.  However, you can elect to remain on the mailing list for the class with whom you entered as well. 

Can I change my mind and decide to graduate in four years, ie. un-extend?
Provided that the decision is made early enough for you to complete your requirements for graduation, it is possible to un-extend.  

If I decide to finish in four years but I don’t end up matching and do not want to participate in the scramble, can I decide to extend then?
Yes.  You may decide to extend up until the week before graduation when you are required to certify your intent to graduate. 

For further information:
If you are interested in extending, please make an appointment with Dr. Chimienti in the office of Student Affairs. 

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