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1880s: Never mind the MCAT

Can you speak Norwegian—or, perhaps, French? Do you know a thing or two about botany and physics? Can you write a 200-word essay? Back in 1888, you would have been a shoo-in for acceptance to the University of Minnesota Department of Medicine.

For admittance, would-be medical students had to meet these criteria:

  • Write legibly and correctly an English composition of not less than 200 words.
  • Translate easy Latin prose or pass an approved examination in French, German, or one of the Scandinavian languages.
  • Pass an exam on the elements of algebra, plane geometry, or botany.
  • Show physics knowledge “as may be obtained from the study of Balfour Stewart’s Elements of Physics.”

Never mind empathy, compassion, or a desire for helping others.

Perhaps even more shocking: No exams were stipulated for current college students, college graduates, high school graduates, normal school graduates, or those holding a first-class teacher’s certificate or certificate of the State High School Board. Their admittance was assured.

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