John-Marc Austin '17 of Chicopee has big plans for his future: graduating from Elms with a major in biology and premed and minors in bioethics and psychology, acceptance into a top-notch medical school and, eventually, a fellowship in pediatric surgery.



John-Marc Austin '17

John-Marc Austin '17 started taking biology and chemistry while homeschooled, and fell in love with it. Later at Elms, "taking anatomy and physiology with Jill Bigos sparked an interest in science and medicine that I felt compelled to pursue," he said.

Like a Surgeon: Biology/Premed Major Hopes for Medical Career

John-Marc Austin ’17 of Chicopee has big plans for his future: graduating from Elms with a major in biology and premed and minors in bioethics and psychology, acceptance into a top-notch medical school such as Harvard or Johns Hopkins, and eventually a fellowship in pediatric surgery.

At age 15, the homeschooled John-Marc enrolled in his father’s alma mater, Holyoke Community College (HCC), and started taking classes.

“I’ve always recognized that education is a privilege,” John-Marc said of his academic focus at such an early age. “I always wanted to make the most out of education and learn as much as I possibly could.

John-Marc Austin and mom


John-Marc with his proud mom in September at a Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship event at the Omni Parker Hotel in Boston. John-Marc was one of only six students from across the country (and the only student from the northeast) to receive one of the scholarships.


“Jae (Bergman, Elms transfer admissions counselor) helped me pick the classes at HCC that he knew would transfer here and count for my core requirements,” John-Marc said. He enrolled at Elms as a freshman at age 16 and will graduate “two weeks after I turn 20.”

He chose Elms in part because he originally thought he would become a nurse, like his father, and “Elms has the best program in the area.” His sister, Melaney Houle, graduated from Elms in 2010 with a degree in psychology.

He appreciated the small class sizes, and the ability to develop relationships with faculty members, particularly in the science programs.

‘They are intense programs, but the professors here really do a good job of teaching students, and they care about their well being,” John-Marc said. “I think it’s a good environment for learning because of the class sizes and the opportunities for independent research.”

At Elms, undergraduates who express an interest in participating in research usually have the opportunity to do so, even in their freshman year. John-Marc plans to participate this semester.

“When I started taking biology and chemistry while I was homeschooled, I fell in love with science. I really wanted to be able to study it at a more in-depth level in college, and I have loved doing so at Elms,” John-Marc said.

Another factor in choosing Elms: the fact that campus was within walking distance from his house, which was important because John-Marc started college at just 16, before he could drive.

John-Marc is involved on campus in the Academic Resource Center, tutoring peers in biology, anatomy, physiology and writing, and recently formed an Elms chapter of CollegeEDge, a national nonprofit founded by college students that helps underrepresented high schoolers get the resources they need to apply to and get accepted into college.

“I’m glad I chose Elms because the small atmosphere ended up being the type of environment that I needed to thrive academically,” said John-Marc, who has a 3.95 GPA.

He has also forged some close friendships that have “turned into something absolutely invaluable because we take care of each other with both the classwork and emotional stress in our lives,” he said. “I would not be where I am today without the support from the friends I've made.”