Tuition-Free Medical School: My Journey to the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine

 The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine is a 5 year, tuition free medical school for 32 students.

The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine is a 5 year, tuition free medical school for 32 students.


This is the fourth in a weekly series of blog posts that will feature medical students telling their story of how they got into medical school. Earlier this week, we heard from David about how he got into the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Today, Selena Pasadyn (an Atlantis Alumni) shares with us the rare story of how she got accepted to the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, where she attends medical school tuition-free. Selena attended an Atlantis Fellowship in 2016. 

Selena, tell us more about you. What initially attracted you to pursue medicine?


I was always passionate about medicine as both of my parents are registered nurses. They introduced me to the world of patient care, which I built on through volunteering, shadowing and pursuing my love of the sciences throughout high school. Heading off to Harvard, I knew that I wanted to major in Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology, while maintaining my status as a pre-med student.

Given this, I involved myself in a number of organizations on campus, both related to medicine and to my other passions. I was involved with the Varsity Cross Country and Track Teams, Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies, Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe, Athletes in Medicine Mentorship Program, was on the Wendy’s High School Heisman National Committee, and was involved in both lab based and clinical neuropsychiatric research. All of these endeavors deepened my love for the medical field, and I knew I would head straight to medical school after college.

When and why did you apply to the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine? 

I applied to a number of medical schools, and had a special focus on the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. This is a 5 year, tuition free medical school for 32 students that has a strong emphasis on training physician investigators. I knew I wanted to pursue a Masters in Clinical Research along with my MD, and CCLCM allows students to earn Master’s degrees along with their coursework (free of charge!). Additionally, I loved that Cleveland is close to where I live, that the Cleveland Clinic is the number two hospital in the world, and that it has a focus in cardiology, which is an area for interest for me.


This was a dream for me because I was able to attend my ideal school, and make money while doing so!

To continue, along with the free tuition at CCLCM I was offered a living stipend (one of five students are given this on a merit basis). This was a dream for me because I was able to attend my ideal school, and make money while doing so! Although I was accepted to Stanford, Vanderbilt, had a full ride at WashU, had merit scholarships at the University of Michigan, among other options, I knew that CCLCM was the place for me.

 Selena's class at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine

Selena's class at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine

What are three 3 reasons why you think you got accepted?

Since this program has such a focus on research, I know that my heavy background in research was a key to my acceptance. I was involved in epidemiological research on breast cancer awareness in high school, and that started my love for investigative science. I then worked in a lab researching the neurobiological basis of dystonia in college. Finally, I also tried my hand at clinical research investigating the neuropsychiatric outcomes of visitation in dementia patients. All of this helped show the admissions committee that I was passionate, excited and involved with research, and would continue to do so in medical school.


My heavy background in research was a key to my acceptance

I also think I was accepted to CCLCM because of my heavy extracurricular involvement in college and my leadership qualities through these organizations. I was a Division 1 Varsity Athlete, director of Harvard College Alzheimer’s Buddies, President of Women in Science, among other positions. All of this demonstrated my passion for volunteerism, science, athletics, leadership, and medicine.

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Finally, I think having extensive experience in the medical field also assisted is my acceptance. I had volunteered at a hospital since high school, shadowed across a plethora of specialties, and was involved in a number of medically based organizations. This showed the admissions committee how serious I was about pursuing this as a career.

How did you feel after the interview?

There were three individual interviews at CCLCM, and I felt strong after each one! I shared my passions, goals, research involvement, and love for the Cleveland Clinic when I talked with the two faculty and one student interviewers. Overall I expressed my love for the CCLCM program, the small class size, the research focus, and the setting of the clinic and my interest in cardio-thoracic surgery. I felt that I expressed as much as I could in the interviews, and gave them a solid insight into who I am as a person.

Take us through the moment you got the acceptance call. 

CCLCM is unique in that it calls all the accepted students (they only take 32 in the end!). When I received the call I was overjoyed! I almost accepted the seat in the class instantly, but I knew I should call and check with family first. My parents and three sisters were thrilled that I could pursue this education free of cost, would be close to home, and could work at a dynamite institution like the Cleveland Clinic!


How can others imitate your success?

My main piece of advice is to do what you love! I was so passionate about studying biology, working with patients, and exploring my interests through shadowing, that it was easy to prepare for my journey into medicine. When you pursue your interests with vigor, positive things will result. Although it is sometimes challenging as a pre-med student, I can honestly say the journey is absolutely worth it! Through hard work, dedication, and drive, I was able to attend a tuition free medical school that allows me to fuse education, research and teaching into my eventual career. The same will follow for anyone who remains committed to their desire to pursue medicine and give back to the world around them.

About Selena


Selena grew up in Brunswick, Ohio and attended Harvard University for her undergraduate education studying Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology with a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. In her free time she enjoys running (she just ran a 17:33 in her 5k), spending time with her sisters, drinking coffee, and camping. In 10 years she hopes to be a cardio-thoracic surgeon and a researcher studying and improving surgical outcomes.

Check out more of our stories and resources for pre-meds below: