The Medical School Application Timeline Explained

Today we are going to go over the medical school application timeline to US-based medical schools. This is a question we get often and it actually has fairly straightforward answer. However, a lot of students get a little bit bogged down in figuring out when to submit the application when it opens up and also want to take the MCAT so I’m hoping to clear up some of that confusion today.

Three Applications (AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS)

Now, as you guys know there are three main applications in the United States to medical school. There’s the AMCAS application which is to MD schools or Allopathic schools, there’s the AACOMAS application which is to Osteopathic or DO schools and then there’s the TMDSAS application which is essentially only for Texas schools, so Texas has their own application system. Now the nice thing about a lot of this is that while there are three different applications and many students may fill out all three, some students may only fill out these two particularly if they’re not a Texas resident, where some students may only fill out the MD application because that’s all they want to aim for, the timelines are relatively similar, so with these three basically in May of any given year, the application opens up. Now, when I say application opens up, that means that you can go online and start filling it out, you can fill out your demographic information, you can start putting your grades in can maybe even send in letters of recommendation.

Closer Look at the AMCAS Timeline

Let’s focus in on the MD application for a second. So typically in early May it opens up; the exact date varies from year to year and then in early June, you can actually physically hit the submit button. Between May and June it’s all about just putting your information in getting your personal statement in there then you can hit the submit button in June. Now, again exact date varies from year to year, sometimes it’s you’d first sometimes it’s June 1st, sometimes its June 3rd, sometimes it’s May 31st but that gives you a general idea. Now in June, you can hit the submit button for the MD application and what happens after that is medical schools don’t get your application the next day, this is a common misnomer or misinformation. Medical schools actually don’t get your information for a couple of weeks after that at the very earliest. What happens after you hit the submit button is it goes through the verification stage; now, this can take anywhere from a couple of days particularly if you’re very early in the cycle to a couple of weeks almost four to six weeks if you’re late in the cycle. That’s one of the reasons why submitting early is really important because actually you get behind in the AMCAS queue. Now what the verification does is that basically AMCAS sits there and looks at all the grades that you’ve entered into their system and compares it against all the transcripts that you sent them. So between May and June one of the important things is that you want to send in your transcripts to the application itself so that they’re ready to go. You don’t want to wait until June to send those in because then you’re delaying your application even more imagine if you submitted your application on June 1st but your transcripts didn’t actually get there until June 15th AMCAS cannot start verifying your application until that time that’s why it’s so important to get your transcripts in as early as possible now. Once it goes through that verification stage which as we said takes anywhere, let’s say from one week to six weeks depending on when you’ve submitted then, the application becomes verified and you get that email. Now, once it becomes verified now we can actually go to schools, before this no school is seen your application so the earliest this typically happens is let’s call it Mid-June in reality mid to late June is the earliest that this really happens and in mid to late June medical schools can now start seeing your application, so now your app goes to Med schools. Does this mean that medical schools start evaluating you right then in there? No! because remember medical schools are going to send over secondaries applications to you, so at this stage you’re now going to get secondaries.

When will I get secondary applications?

Remember, secondaries consists of anywhere between one and five essays some of them are optional some of them are not they require a typically an application fee to the actual medical school, so you have to go through this process of actually filling out and submitting your secondaries applications at this point. Now once you’re ready and you fill those out and submitted them then only will a medical school start even thinking about evaluating your application. So really, the earliest you’re talking about somebody evaluating an application, let’s call it Mid-July plus minus a little bit here but Mid-July is really the earliest that any school is going to start evaluating your application. Now keep in mind, in order for them to evaluate your application, they need obviously used for you to be verified because they haven’t gotten it without that they need your secondaries in and they also need your letters of recommendation into them.

When should I get letters of recommendation?

Now letters of recommendation can be collected at any point before this and can be sent into numerous different organizations, whether it’s directly to AMCAS or to enter folio and then to AMCAS or to your school’s own pre professional office and then to AMCAS, so there’s a bunch of different ways to potentially do it but we’ll talk about that in another video. Essentially, you’ve got to have your letters of recommendation and your secondaries plus the application fee all paid in before school even evaluates your application. The other thing you need before all this is your MCAT score, and this is where things get interesting because let’s say you’ve taken the MCAT back in January and you had a score in February well easy, you’re ready to go but let’s say you didn’t take your application or sorry you didn’t take your MCAT until June 20th, then you know that your score doesn’t come out until around July 20th so in reality no school is going to evaluate you until you have that MCAT out so even if you submitted everything super early and take your MCAT until a little bit later in the process schools won’t evaluate you. that’s why it’s so important to take the MCAT relatively early in the cycle or at least have an MCAT score that comes out by around mid to late July, that’s typically the latest that I would recommend for most students. Obviously, there’s variation and some exceptions but for most students you want to have your score out by mid to late July this way schools can actually evaluate you early on in the process because if you took your MCAT in July or if you took your MCAT in August and your scores didn’t come out until September, what’s going to happen is your application even though you submitted on June 1st, may sit the entire time and you only actually even get evaluated by medical schools until it’s ready to go.

A Quick Recap

So that’s the basic timeline of when your application actually ends up being evaluated by medical schools, we said mid to late July, now some schools obviously have a little bit more extended time line, they may not even look at your applications on August, they may want to get a batch of applications before they start looking at them, but that’s the earliest! Now once the school looks at your application what happens then well they typically put you into a couple of different spots as you probably know, you either get an interview, you get rejected or you get put on a hold.

What happens after my application is complete?

Now, they’ll put you into one of these three categories and depending on which category they put you in they’ll either invite you for the interview which can happen anytime between September and March, they can reject you or they can put you on hold. If they put you on hold, you may not even hear from them for a while or they may send you a quick email that says “Hey, you’re on hold before we interview you”. Once you get interviewed, then obviously you can get an acceptance now some schools will accept you a couple of weeks after, what’s called rolling admissions; other schools won’t actually make final decisions all the way up until March of the following year even if you’re interviewing in September you may not get your acceptance decision until March or even after. We’ll talk a little bit about interviews and the actual interview timing in another video but this hopefully gives you a little bit of the timeline of a medical school application. Now, this keep in mind we started back in May, let’s say it’s the 2018 year, you may not even hear from medical schools particularly if they’re not enrolling until March of 2019, you’re talking about a long time it’s almost a year plus process and then of course you don’t start medical school until August or September of ‘19 so, in order to really be effective in this process you got to have some patience because starting in May when you start filling out your application you’re not going to reap the benefits sometimes all the way up until March of the following year. Now, we talked a lot about the MD application and the reason I brought that up first is because the other applications typically follow a similar timeline particularly early on. The deal application typically opens up in May and actually you can usually submit it within the first couple of days in May, so a lot of this is pushed up by about four weeks or so. Same thing with the Texas application, a lot of this is pushed up and they actually have a March system which we’ll talk about in another video. Bottom line-if you’re looking to apply to medical school this year, you want to get your application ducks in a row by May or so, so you can submit in early June, the later you submit the longer the verification will take, the longer it will take for schools to evaluate you and the less chances you have at an interview overall. So I hope that was helpful in going over some of the application timeline specifics lots more videos to come, stay tuned!

Medical Schools that Accept International Students

The medical school admissions process is competitive enough as it is! But as an international applicant, it’s even harder. There’s a limited number of medical schools in the US that accept or even interview international students. A good place to start making your list if you are an international student is to understand which MD schools even interview international applicants. This list below should help you as it lists medical schools that interview and eventually accept international students.

Interviews for International Medical School Applicants

School NameNumber of International Students Interviewed
Wayne State University School of Medicine93
Boston University School of Medicine68
Georgetown University School of Medicine65
Saint Louis University School of Medicine54
Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine52
Harvard Medical School49
West Virginia University School of Medicine48
Yale School of Medicine43
Weill Cornell Medical College41
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine38
University of Virginia School of Medicine36
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine34
Northwestern University The Feinberg School of Medicine34
Stanford University School of Medicine31
University of Kentucky College of Medicine29
University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine28
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine27
Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons26
New York Medical College22
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of yeshiva University21
Emory University School of Medicine21
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth21
New York University School of Medicine21
Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science20
University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences The Pritzker School of Medicine20
Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine19
Loma Linda University School of Medicine18
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine18
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry16
Duke University School of Medicine15
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai15
Stony Brook University School of Medicine15
George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences12
Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania12
Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University12
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine11
Howard University College of Medicine9
State University of New York Upstate Medical University9
University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine9
University of Maryland School of Medicine8
Creighton University School of Medicine7
University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas Southwestern Medical School6
Mayo Medical School5
University of Utah School of Medicine5
Medical College of Wisconsin4
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine4
Rutgers, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School4
Tulane University School of Medicine4
The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University3
University of California, Davis, School of Medicine3
University of Connecticut School of Medicine3

What Is the Best Pre-Med Major?

Choosing a major can be one of the most stressful things for a college student to do! I talked to hundreds of early students who wonder what the “best major” for a premed is. That’s a loaded questions with all kinds of different possible answers. There is no single best “premed major”. It really depends on each individual scenario, but I wanted to outline a few key concepts that everyone should consider when choosing a major as a premedical student.

  • Non-science majors can be attractive to medical school

    Biology major. Biology major. Biochemistry major. Biology major. That’s your typical stack of medical school applicants. Imagine if you could insert something really interesting in there like “Beatles, Popular Music and Society”. Okay, that maybe extreme, but the idea would be that you would be a great science student who get’s A’s in all your premed classes, does science research and volunteers at hospitals but also brings a completely unique major to the table.

  • The premed curriculum is stacked, so plan ahead

    There are a lot of great majors out there that have nothing to do with science or medicine. They may make you a really attractive candidate to medical schools because you bring a whole new perspective to the incoming class. I always encourage people to major in non-science fields, however you have to keep the premed curriculum in mind when you decide to do so. And with the new MCAT coming out in 2015, there are even more courses added to the mix. Remember, every premedical student has to take the classes below. That’s a lot of classes! In fact, it’s over 18 courses. With each semester in college allowing you to take 4-5 classes, the premed curriculum could take up as much as 50% of your coursework. That becomes difficult with certain majors that have no overlap with the premedical curriculum, so you should make sure to plan ahead if you are going to choose a non-science major.

    1. Biology 1 and 2 plus lab
    2. Inorganic chemistry 1 and 2 plus lab
    3. Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 plus lab
    4. Physics 1 and 2 plus lab
    5. Two semesters of Math
    6. Two semesters of English
    7. Physcology
    8. Sociology
    9. Biochemistry (some schools)
  • Remember that your GPA is incredibly important

    One factor that premeds overlook too often when choosing a major is how they will be able to maintain a great GPA. Remember, your GPA is incredibly important in your premed process! If you are a biomedical engineering major with a 3.2 GPA versus an english major with a 4.0 GPA, the 4.0 wins out every day of the week, despite the potentially more difficult curriculum of a biomedical engineer! You should keep in mind your ability to succeed and maintain a great GPA in the major you choose.

  • Major in something that interests you!

    You should major in something that you are interested in. You will spend 4 years dedicating yourself to classes in your major. You better enjoy it! If you don’t, your grades will suffer. And even if you are planning to go to medical school, college is a time where you can really learn about something different from medicine. It’s amazing how little what you learn in college will be a part of your everyday life as a physician, no matter what major you are, so it’s great if you can diversify yourself!  If you are passionate about film as well as medicine, be a non-traditional premed who majors in film. If you really are mainly interested in the sciences, don’t be afraid to go for the traditional life science majors.

Finding the perfect major also involves understanding your undergraduate institutions curriculum, requirements and pathways. So you need to take into account many of these factors when you decide what you want to major in!

Can You Negotiate a Medical School Scholarship?

When you receive a medical school acceptance, you are elated, and rightfully so! You’ve worked a tremendous amount to get to the point of being accepted and are now on your way to becoming a physician!

Except, there’s one potentially crippling hurdle in the way: tuition. You’ve probably seen the numbers: many medical students graduate with over $200,000 in debt. It’s certainly not easy to finance medical school nor to leave medical school with so much debt.

Luckily, most students qualify for some sort of financial aid. Whether those are grants from the government or scholarships, your initial tuition sticker shock may be lowered just a little bit. For a select few, there are honors scholarships that can almost pay your entire tuition.

A question that often comes up is if a student can use one scholarship offer to “negotiate” with another school. The short answer is YES, absolutely! Now, I’ve had a student who was actually been on the waitlist at a top 5 medical school, but got into another school (“lesser” ranked) with a full scholarship. Not only did he get off the waitlist at the top 5 school, he got a full tuition ride! How, a well timed and strategically placed letter or phone call to the powers that be can certainly get a school to rethink their offer to an individual applicant.

Bottom line, you absolutely can use one schools offer to talk with another school. You can send an email outlining something along the lines of:

“Dear Dr. _____,

Thank you so much again for the chance to matriculate at University of _______. I couldn’t be happier or more excited to have this opportunity!

As I make my final decisions for medical school, obviously cost is one of the factors I am considering. While I absolutely love your school, the X College of Medicine has actually offered me a full tuition scholarship (see attached).  While tuition costs is certainly not the only factor determining my decision, I wanted to understand where I stood for potential financial aid/scholarships at University of ______. I’d love to discuss more with you over the phone or even in person soon!

I hope to hear from you. Thank you again!

Student”

A simple letter like this can go a long way in a potential acceptance and a scholarship offer!

Tips on Approaching BS/MD Essays: Pre-Writing

From an application committee’s perspective, it makes sense why essays are such a crucial part of the selection process. Standardized tests and GPAs tell colleges about your work ethic, but essays tell them about ambition, perspectives, and personality.

Granted that you have a solid GPA and standardized test scores, essays are really going to be the “push” factor that help you get a BS/MD interview. The entire essay process (if done properly) is quite lengthy and can take up to several months. So again, the best way to set yourself up for success, especially for BS/MD programs that often have application deadlines earlier than most regular undergraduate universities, is by starting early. Below, I’ve divided up the essay-writing process into three different parts and included some tips of what to do during each part so that you’ve got a better idea on how to get started!

Pre-Writing

Research

Every school and every program has a unique focus and different philosophy. When selection committees decide which applications to accept, they try to envision how well that student will fit into their campus community. Thus, it is important for you to emphasize in your essays how well aligned your personal philosophy is with the school’s philosophy (because then you’ll seem like a natural fit). Before you can really get into that, though, you of course need to first figure out what the school’s philosophy is. And to do that, there’s really only one way – research!

Doing research can at times feel like a drag, but in fact it can also be an exciting process. Think about it; this is the school you could potentially be spending the next 4+ years of your life, so don’t you want to figure out what the people/location/classes are like? Sometimes, while you’re doing research, you’ll actually figure out that this school isn’t the best pick for you. In which case, great, you’ve saved yourself an unnecessary application! Other times, research might actually excite you because all of a sudden, you’ve realized how interesting the school is and how much you actually really want to go there. Either way, research is only going to ever help you, so it’s something that is mandatory for you to do.

With BS/MD schools, the research process get’s a little bit more complicated. Because on top of researching the undergraduate school and it’s focus, you also have to research the medical school and what their philosophy is. In your essays, you will likely have to mention both, so skimping out and only do research on one (whether that’s the undergraduate school and not the medical school or vice versa) is going to hurt your chances.

So what’s the best way to do research? The easiest answer is through the university website. You can figure out just from the home page what are the most successful aspects of that school (because of course every school wants to brag about their accomplishments, and naturally, the best way to do that is by displaying them is on their home page). You can also look into the different departments and classes that the school offers. This could be key if you’re looking for a specific subject that maybe not a lot of schools offer. For example, one field that I wanted to learn more about in my college years was health policy; unfortunately, that’s a pretty unique field that not a lot of schools offer an entire major or minor on. The University of Rochester, however, did! Likewise, another field that I wanted to pursue in both my undergraduate and medical school years was neuroscience. Through my research, I found out that the Rochester’s Medical School has invested a lot of money into their neurology department and it is in fact one of their most successful departments. Thus, for me, it was an ideal fit. All this information I gathered simply by going online and surfing through university websites. For factual and statistical information, I definitely recommend this method. To find out more about the school’s ambiance and philosophy, though, I’d recommend speaking to upperclassmen, which I’ll talk about further down below.

Read lots of other essays

When you initially start out with the essay writing process, you might find it difficult to figure out what ideas to put down on paper. Well the best way to fix that is to find inspiration from other, successful essays. There’s plenty of books you can get from the library or essays you can find online from students who successfully got into top undergraduate schools and medical schools. Read as many of them as possible and figure out what they did well, then try to do it yourself! It’s okay if your words don’t seem to flow as well as theirs; at this point, your focus should be getting all potential ideas on paper, not the fluidity of your writing. The more essays you read, the more ideas you get. Just make sure to avoid plagiarizing or molding your thoughts and experiences to better parallel those in the essay you just read; it can be tempting, but the point of this is to draw inspiration from others’ essays and to use that to help you find your own voice, not for you to simply take somebody else’s words/ideas and make them yours.

Talk to upperclassmen

In my experience, I have always found that the best piece of advice comes from older students who have recently and successfully (or sometimes even unsuccessfully) gone through exactly what I’m going through. This is relevant with the college application process, the BS/MD interview process, the college decision process, and even all of college itself. In general, you will find that people who are successful in their endeavors, whether that be acing a class or getting into their dream school, have done certain things to ensure success. If that’s the case, then you want to find out exactly what they did and try to repeat it so that you too can experience the same successes as them. If, on the other hand, they were unsuccessful at something, they probably have an idea as to why and what they would do differently if they could go back in time. In that situation, you should take their advice so that you can learn from their experience and avoid making the same mistakes and facing the same problems. Either way, there is always something to learn from older, wiser students. Everyone always says that hindsight is 20/20, so why not take advantage of someone who’s got that perfect vision when you don’t?

In specific regards to the “Pre-Writing” process for BS/MD applicants, talking to upperclassmen is beneficial when you’re trying to figure out more about the culture of a given program. For example, what type of learning environment does the program foster? Do they encourage you to explore interests (both academic and otherwise) beyond medicine, or do they expect you to stick to science subjects? How hands-on is the program faculty and how committed do they seem to your success? What is the program’s philosophy or outlook on medicine as a progressing field? You may be able to find answers to some of these questions online, but by speaking to upperclassmen, you will get more authentic and realistic answers. These are students who know better than anyone what their program is looking for and what its focus is. So by talking to them, not only will you get a understanding of the program itself, but you might also get some tips and tricks as to what specifically to emphasize in your essays. In my experience, there really is no down side to talking to older, wiser, more experienced students, so if you have the opportunity to do so, always go for it!

The other advantage in talking to upperclassmen is the possibility that they might share some of their essays with you. When I first started out with the “Why do you want to be a doctor” essay, I had absolutely no idea where to begin. So I reached out to one of my friends (actually she’s a friend of a friend… but hey, any connection should be explored!) who was about to enter medical school that fall and asked her if she would mind sending me her medical school essays. She gladly did, and in fact essays were really helpful in showing me how to write medical school applications (since that is essentially what you are doing with BS/MD applications). Not every person is going to feel comfortable giving you their essays, so if they say no, don’t take it personally. But you really have nothing to lose, so I would just try it out and ask. If they say yes, then great! Otherwise, no worries, because in today’s generation of technology, you should have no problem finding plenty of essays online.

Most students often overlook the Pre-Writing process, but it is in fact one of the best ways to help set yourself up for BS/MD success. Follow the above tips, and you’ll likely have a leg up from other applicants. In the next post, I’ll go more in depth on what to do during the actual writing process itself, so be ready to see that!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Get to Know Our New Tutor, Jennifer Chyu!

We sat down with Jennifer, MedSchoolCoach tutor and fourth year student at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, to learn a little bit more about her background and her experience throughout the application process.

Tell us a little bit more about your background.

I received my undergraduate degree at University of California, Los Angeles, where I conducted research in cardiology and took on numerous leadership positions teaching everything from college-level organic chemistry to middle school violin lessons to high school choir classes. I was actually considering being music teacher during my first year in college! After graduation, I took a gap year and worked as a full-time research assistant in Seattle while applying to medical school. Throughout my time at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, I’ve taken on many leadership roles tutoring fellow medical students in the pre-clinical curriculum and Step 1 while continuing to be actively involved in clinical research.

What was it that got you interested in advising students?

I’ve been very involved in tutoring while at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Currently, I’m the lead for our tutoring program and I oversee the other tutors, organize lectures, and prepare handouts for students. I’ve also put together USMLE Step 1 guidebooks for second year students. During your first and second year of medical school, you are mostly taking basic sciences courses and I’ve loved helping students understand why they’re learning this material and how it will benefit them in the future. It’s also been helpful for me to continue reviewing first and second year material as a fourth year student!

What is one piece of advice that you wish you had going through the process?

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! When I was studying, I definitely felt that I needed to be alone and independently focus on my own material and notes. You don’t necessarily need to be isolated; group studying can be very beneficial and make you feel that you’re not alone in this process. It’s also healthy for your overall “medical school well being”, and can help to give you perspective. Don’t hesitate to study in groups or with a tutor!

What is a BS/MD Program?

College application season is no doubt one of the most arduous parts of any high school student’s career. It requires a large amount of time and dedication to be spent on essays, interviews, financial aid applications, and so, so much more. And the worst part? Doing everything you possibly can and still somehow feeling like you haven’t done enough. So why would anyone voluntarily decide to go through such a grueling process all over again? Well unfortunately, for any undergraduate student who’s decided to pursue a career in medicine, there isn’t much of a choice. When it comes to high school seniors interested in medicine, however, there is! And that’s exactly where BS/MD programs come into question.

So what exactly is a BS/MD program? It’s a dual-degree program that has been constructed by undergraduate universities in partnership with some local medical schools to provide high school seniors with conditional acceptance into medical school. The two degrees, Bachelor of Science (BS) and Doctor of Medicine (MD), are offered to students who successfully graduate through both the undergraduate school as well as the medical school. Typically, these programs last anywhere from 6-8 years (in contrast to the traditional 4 years of undergraduate + 4 years of medical school), and they’re specifically targeted towards students who’ve shown a great deal of interest in medicine throughout their entire high school career. These programs are known to be some of the most competitive programs in the country (some of their acceptance rates make Stanford and Harvard’s 5% acceptance rate sound like a joke), and there are a great number of things to know in order to be a competitive applicant. Getting in depth on any point would take an entire post, so below, I’ve outlined the most important points to note when trying to better understand a BS/MD program.

Start Early!

First, and perhaps the most important piece of advice, is to start early. Given that some of the most difficult BS/MD programs have an acceptance rate of near 2%, these universities are looking for students who have known for quite some time that they are interested in medicine and can really show for it. Most students who are serious about getting into these programs don’t just wake up one morning of their senior year and make a spur of the moment decision to apply. On the contrary, many know before they even step foot into high school. Many might ask, “How can you know what you want to do for the rest of your life in just 9th grade?” and they pose a valid point. But even if you don’t know exactly what you want to pursue career-wise at that age, most students will know whether or not they have an interest in science and if they are even open to the possibility of becoming a doctor. It’s okay to not know for sure (that’s what the rest of high school is for!), but it is important to start getting involved with health-related activities so that either (1) you can decide this field isn’t for you after all, or (2) you realize that studying medicine is something you can envision yourself doing and already have the experience to back that statement up. Whether it’s research, volunteering at a hospital, getting EMT certified, or simply shadowing your family physician, it’s never too early to start get involved with the field of medicine.

Get those grades

Secondly, keep your GPA high and study hard for your ACT/SAT/SAT Subject tests. As previously mentioned, some of these programs have single-digit acceptance rates, which means having a strong GPA and high ACT/SAT score is of upmost importance. Some schools (such as Drexel University, Case Western, Penn State/Jefferson) require BS/MD applicants to be in the 10% percent of their graduating class in terms of GPA and to have standardized test scores to be above a certain number. Keep in mind, though, that even if a school doesn’t explicitly state a certain GPA or SAT/ACT score that they’re looking for, they still expect stellar statistics. Take, for example, the BS/MD program at Northwestern University, which had an average application SAT score of 2309 and ACT score of 35 in 2015. By no means will a 2400 SAT score and 4.0 GPA guarantee you acceptance into any BS/MD program, but high academic statistics are an indication of academic maturity and thus will increase the chances of being considered for the program.

Organize yourself

Thirdly, stay organized. If you haven’t already, by the time you get the application season of your senior year, you will quickly realize how easy it can be to get lost in all the submission dates, essay topics, and other requirements being thrown your way. And on top of that, if you’re applying to a multiple of BS/MD programs, you’re going to have even more essays and date requirements. So my greatest piece of advice is to narrow down your list of colleges early (and by early, I mean by the end of the summer before senior year, at latest) and to create an excel sheet noting down all the important pieces of information in separate columns. Though it may be a pain to sit down one day and spend hours researching all the specific submission details for each university you are applying to, it will largely pay off in the long run. Some BS/MD programs require you to submit essays through email, while others require it through the common app. Some have an earlier application date set for BS/MD applicants (sometimes as early as mid-November), while others ask you to submit at the same time as all other students in January. Some may ask for 4 extra essays, while other simply ask you to checkmark a box that indicates your interest in being considered for the program. Each of these little details is unique to each program and can easily get past you. Rather than having to Google it every time you forget one tiny detail, having an easy-access document with all the necessary information is much simpler. Take my word for it; this document will quickly become your holy grail!

Keep calm

Fourthly, don’t take it personally! Of course the hardest part of this entire process isn’t editing your essays long into the night or sitting through hour-long interviews. The hardest part is always rejection. And though there is nothing you can do to change the outcome, you can remember to not take the results personally. Of course it’s easier said than done, but this statement holds true for BS/MD programs even more so than it does with regular college applications. Most of these programs accept only a handful of students (10-15) out of the hundreds or thousands (yes, sometimes even more than a thousand students!) of those that applied. They are looking to maximize their diversity, and as you can imagine, that is quite difficult to do in such a small group of people. So at the end of the day, you might have been the perfect match for that school in every way possible, but somebody else just happened to match their criteria (however ambiguous it may be…) a bit better. Getting through the entire BS/MD process is an accomplishment in itself; it’s something not any and every student can do. It takes a great deal of commitment, maturity, and strong work ethic to get through this process successfully. Those are the very same qualities that differentiate a successful pre-med from an unsuccessful pre-med, so hey, you’re already ahead of the game! Look forward to all the great opportunities that have presented themselves throughout this application process and take advantage of them in your upcoming undergraduate career.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Military Scholarship and Medical School

military personnel yelling at cadet

Military Medical SchoolMany medical students consider a military scholarship for medical school and have many questions surrounding the process. Medical school is expensive, bottom line, and the anticipated debt after four years can be daunting. The average medical student graduates with just over $180,000 in debt. With a typical re-payment plan, the total repayment cost can exceed $400,000. With such a steep price, it is no wonder why applicants seek out alternative ways to finance medical school.

One of these options is the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offered by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The deal is full tuition through medical school, including all costs for books and equipment along with a living stipend in exchange for four years of military service once your education is complete. In this article we will briefly explore the path and day-to-day life of an HPSP student.

Signing up

In order to join the military you will have to be in touch with a recruiter and complete an application. Many branches still have an automatic acceptance program in which a certain GPA and MCAT score will earn you the scholarship as soon as you get your first medical school acceptance letter. A 1 year scholarship requires 2 years of service, everything after that is year for year. Most students end up taking a 4 year scholarship to cover all of medical school incurring a 4 year commitment to the military.

Medical School

Most students will complete their basic officer leadership course the summer before medical school or in between their first and second years. During medical school you will look and act just like your civilian peers with no other requirements. In your 4th year, the military will pay for you to do 2 audition rotations/interviews at programs you are interested in for residency. Room, board, and daily costs are covered for a maximum of 45 days.

Residency

                  Most students will end up going to a military residency program. There are exceptions for some of the more specialized branches of medicine but this gets tricky and is a larger discussion. During these 3-7 years, depending on your specialty, you will be active duty. This means you will be wearing a uniform and working in a military hospital. It also means you will be paid as an active duty service member.

Life After Residency

                  While some physicians will now go on to fellowship training, many will now begin their payback working in their field of specialty at a military hospital or clinic. This is now the first time you will be eligible for deployment. While deployments work on a rotating basis, it is safe to assume that during a 4 year payback you will likely be deployed at least once for 6-9 months. There are, of course, many exceptions.

All in all, the military scholarship is an attractive option. You can finish medical school with zero debt in exchange for military service as a physician which can be very rewarding in its own right. Military physicians receive extra training in leadership skills and adaptability which easily carry over into civilian life.

About the author: David is a board certified family medicine physician in the Army currently working as a flight surgeon. You can contact him at dflick@medschoolcoach.com for more information about the HPSP scholarship or life as a military physician in general.

Medical School Interview Questions and Answers

Sample Medical School Interview Questions and Answers

There are several medical school interview questions that you should be prepared for. While we recommend not memorizing answers, because this makes you sound like a robot, it’s important to think about these questions and their answers prior to your interview. Preparing yourself with our list of medical school interview questions and answers can help!

Tell me about yourself?

This is a question that is often the most popular start question. Rather than say what to do, it’s important what to avoid. Don’t give out your grades (saying you graduated “summa cum laude”, saying you got a 38 on the MCAT, etc). These simple statements quickly lead down the wrong path! Instead, focus on your family, your upbringing, etc.

Why medicine?

This question is obviously going to be asked. Saying you want to help people is not enough. MedSchoolCoach recommends that during your medical school interview, you lay out a brief timeline of how you came to the decision you wanted to pursue medicine (don’t simply say I always dreamed of it since I was little). Provide concrete examples and scenarios that have shaped you and made you choose medicine as a career.

Do not be afraid to talk candidly. If you overcame a personal tragedy, or a family member did and this truly led you to medicine, tell us about it. Don’t beat around the bush, unless it is sometime very sensitive. (Beating around the bush means saying your mom suffers from a disease and you were there for her rather than saying your mom suffers from cancer). If there are things that truly lead you to chose medicine as a career, we want to know about them honestly.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This old-school job interview question still pops up from time to time, and can trip up even the most confident job interviewer. We do not expect you to have your entire career mapped out, or even your specialty choice. But, it’s nice to hear whether you are interested in academic medicine (say it, even if you aren’t), research, teaching, etc. Certainly avoid saying you want to be a plastic surgeon doing breast implants all day in LA (doesn’t come across great).

What are your strengths and what are your weaknesses?  How will you improve upon your weaknesses?

Create an honest list of what you think are your strengths or weaknesses and then pinpoint a couple you can remember. Practice your responses so that they sound natural and you are prepared for the question.

An example of a strength would be communication skills: “ I work very well with all kinds of people, and understand that everyone has different perspectives about projects and work tasks – so when I work with others I realize that everyone comes to the table with different priorities and objectives. I keep this in mind when I communicate tasks that need to be accomplished with positive reinforcement and awareness of what others are working on.”

For the weakness, pick one that won’t that is not going to disqualify you being a physician, and then follow up with – this is what really matters – the examples of what you are doing (or have done) to fix your weakness. The most important point here is to show that you learn from your mistakes and your weakness, and you are taking the corrective action to fix the situation – and stress that! For example, if the job does not require public speaking, you can say that your weakness is you are afraid of speaking in front of the public. Then tell the interviewers that you have joined a Toastmaster club or public speech course to overcome the problem. Remind them that when you identify a problem, you actively take actions to correct it, and that is how you do things.

What are the current challenges in current health care and what can we do to improve it?

This question will be asked and you need to have an answer. Read NYTimes articles, the economist, etc and understand the current health care climate and policy so that you can better answer this question on your medical school interview.

 

Stay tuned! We will soon be posting more medical school interview questions and answers!
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Tips for Medical School Secondary Applications

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Approaching Medical School Secondary Applications

Sahil Mehta MD – MedSchoolCoach

It is time for medical school secondary applications. Honestly, if you thought the primary application was difficult, wait till you tackle these beasts. Here are the major problems people have:

  1.  Way too many of them! Medical schools all of a sudden inundate you with applications all at one time. You are now looking at a stack of 20 applications, each with 1-6 essays on them.
  2. Generic questions like “why do you want to come here?” You will feel like saying, cause it’s a medical school! Why else?! Then you will start writing the responses and inevitably copy information from the school’s website. At this point, you may feel as though everyone is doing the same thing.
  3. Repeat questions like “tell us about your most important activities.” You may think did I not just do that on my AMCAS? Why am I doing that again?!

Now these are just some of the frustrations that will come with writing secondary applications. But take a deep breath and you will get through it. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Turnaround time: You want to get a secondary back to a school within a max of 4 weeks of them sending it to you, but ideally 2-3 weeks.
  2. Perfection: because of the above turnaround time, perfection is harder to achieve on secondaries than on your primary where you had weeks to prepare. While it is still totally UNACCEPTABLE to make spelling or grammatical mistakes, it may be more acceptable to not write a Shakespearean piece for each of the essays.
  3. Instructions: make sure to follow a school’s instructions. If they say LIST, just list with a few words, do not give them long paragraphs. If they say x characters, stick to it.

Prioritizing

Another question that comes up all the time is “which ones should I submit first?” It is a relevant question and the answer is really whichever one you can. I would tackle those that you think are really easy (i.e. have no essays or maybe just one really short one) and get them out of the way. Then, move onto schools you are targeting. If UCSD is your dream school, make sure you are submitting your application to them as soon as possible. If there is a particular school that has a really hard question, you can come back to it with a “fresher” mind at a later time.

Here are some tips for specific medical school secondary questions that come up a lot:

  • What is your most important relationship? Who is the most influential person in your life?

This question should be relatively easy. You can of course choose a parent or relative, but also think outside the box to perhaps a teacher or a professor. The most important part of this, and the key to answering all questions, is not the particular person you choose or even the relationship you have with them, but to keep the reader entertained through the paragraph. If you write “my dad is important to me because he was a doctor and he showed me how to take care of patients,” it will not get you anywhere.

  • Most important activity

These questions are annoying. You just spent your AMCAS writing about your three most important activities and now they are asking you for more. There are a few approaches to take. If one activity really is most important and you wrote about it as one of your three most meaningful ones, you can write about it again. If there is something dominant in your life, write about that (i.e. you are a classical musician on the side). Things I would avoid are shadowing experiences. Really think about how important that shadowing experience was? Did following around a doctor really change your life?

  • Research

Straight forward question that you can talk about your most significant research activities. Make sure to give the reader a framework in the first few sentences – show them what the big picture of your project or lab was. Here is a do and do not

– DO NOT start a paragraph with: “I studied receptor RLAJKNCH – r897 which showed that there was no uptake in expression when compared to JLKASN – 8343 when exposed to methyl-alpha-dioxide.”
– DO: “The purpose of our research was to understand how toxins effect cells, which in turn could be used to eventually try to come up with novel drugs. In particular, I studied…..”

  • Why do you want to come to school X?

A very popular question and one students often have trouble answering. You should research a school’s website to see what they think they offer, but your SHOULD NOT directly copy from there and say I really love your research pathway and early clinical exposure. If you say just that, your essay will be exactly the same as everyone else’s’. Instead, relate back your experiences and how that fits in with a particular school. You could say something along the lines of “as an undergraduate, I was exposed to the world of clinical research through my project on depression. With Columbia’s required research pathway, I hope to continue this or similar projects. The Psychiatry department at Columbia is known for its prowess in studying hospitalized patients and I know I could contribute to this.” (that is not a great sentence, but the idea is that you want to talk about how YOU fit into a school, not just what the school offers.

  • Long term goals

You do not have to have chosen a specialty or fellowship and write about it here. Instead, you can say you are leaning towards x and y because you have been exposed to it in the past. Or you know you love working with children, and so you’d love to do pediatrics. Again, think about how your past experiences fit into your future goals. If you have done global health trips, perhaps you want to mention that and say you eventually would love to be doing international work.

  • Diversity. What do you add to the class?

Remember, diversity comes in many flavors. Skin color is certainly one of them, but there is so much more. Let’s be honest, if you are an Asian, you are not diverse when it comes to applying to medical school. Same thing if you are Caucasian. But how about diversity in your field of study in college? In your interests? In your talents as a musician? Or computer programmer? If you really cannot think of a single thing that distinguishes you, you may be in the wrong field. There is something interesting about you. Find it.

  • Describe a challenge you have overcome

Lots of students say I’ve never had a challenge. While it may be true you have not grown up homeless, that does not mean there isn’t something out there that has been a hiccup in your life. That said, you should not overplay the time you broke your little toe and couldn’t get to class on time. Examples may include a death in the family, a time when you had to adjust to a new life outside of home, a time when your brother was going through depression and you had to help him, etc.

The above are simply ideas! The real important points to remember again are:

  1. Keep it interesting. Boring writing gets looked over.
  2. Relate what you are saying back to things you have done or genuinely want to do.
  3. Follow instructions.

I hope that helps stimulate your mind a little bit!