HPAG — Application Process
APPLICATION PROCESS FOR MEDICAL SCHOOL
This page is for juniors, seniors, and recent alumni who are definitely going to apply to medical school.
The Different Types of Medical Schools
Allopathic vs. Osteopathic
Most students do not realize that there are different types of physicians. The two most common are allopathic (MD’s) and osteopathic (DO’s). Approximately one in five medical students in the US are enrolled in osteopathic medical schools. Osteopathic physicians basically undergo the same training at allopathic physicians and compete for the same residencies. Osteopathic medical schools are growing in popularity and they tend to be easier to get into. Finally, there are more new osteopathic medical schools taking students and the number of seats is increasing faster than allopathic medical schools. The average GPA/MCAT for successful first-time applicants from Centre to allopathic medical schools are 3.69/31.2 (83%ile) and for osteopathic medical schools 3.32/25.8 (55%ile). You should investigate both types of medical schools and speak to MD’s and DO’s to find out which career is better for you.
Public vs. Private
There are essentially two types of medical schools which differ in cost and philosophy. Public medical schools are funded by state taxpayers and are usually affiliated with state universities. UK, UL, University of Cincinnati, and UNC-Chapel Hill are all public medical schools. Vanderbilt, Duke, Stanford, and Harvard are all private medical schools. All osteopathic medical schools are private and have similar costs to allopathic private schools.
State Residency Concerns
A big difference between public and private is cost. The total cost of attendance (tuition and fees) at UK is $39,346 per year (for Kentucky residents) and at Vanderbilt it is $48,810 (no residency difference). You should note that the UK total cost for non-residents is $69,278 per year. (The average indebtedness upon graduation for UK is $203,590 and for Vanderbilt it is $140,226.) The reason that there is such a large difference for residents vs. non-residents at a state public medical school is that taxpayers are paying a significant amount of money to educate a medical student. Statistics show that most students will practice medicine in their state of residence. Therefore, UK is not going to accept a lot of out of state students since they probably will not stick around and practice in Kentucky. The Kentucky state legislature mandates that ~75% of the UK class must be Kentucky residents. Most out of state students who get into UK have some tie to the state (for instance, they went to college in Kentucky). If you are a Kentucky resident, you will have a better chance at getting into a Kentucky medical school. Virtually all public medical schools are similar to UK in this regard. Many Centre students apply to the University of Cincinnati in the mistaken belief that they will get some sort of preference because Cincinnati is near Kentucky. It does not work that way! If you are not an Ohio resident (or a resident of a few counties in northern Kentucky or Jefferson County) it is probably not worth your time/money to apply to Cincinnati. Private medical schools do not have residency concerns and everyone pays the same tuition. This page on the AAMC has some links to applicant/matriculant tables that show the in-state vs. out-of-state differences.
Besides cost, the other major difference in public vs. private is the emphasis on research. Private medical schools tend to be more research oriented and want to attract students who have more of an interest in doing research. This statement does not mean that public medical schools do not do research because there is a lot of excellent research at places like UK. Public medical schools tend to attract more people who are interested in becoming practicing physicians, while private medical schools attract more people who want a career in research medicine. If you want to get into one of the big name private medical schools you will need to have some research experience in addition to a higher GPA and MCAT score. In recent years, most Centre students have attended medical schools in their state of residence. You cannot establish residency in a state by going to college there. Centre students who are not Kentucky residents have a good chance of getting into UK and UL because they have Kentucky ties by virtue of their choice of college. Otherwise, medical schools are not very concerned if the college you went to is in or out of state. Osteopathic medical schools are more interested (though not exclusively) in students who are looking for a career in primary care. There are foreign medical schools, but very few Centre students have applied to one in the last 10 years and only two have attended. If you are interested you should check their websites and talk to Dr. Workman.
MD/PhD and Other Dual Degree Programs
Some students may be interested in a career that combines research with clinical medicine. For them, an MD/PhD degree may be desirable. This dual degree generally takes 7-8 years. It is usually two years of medical school coursework followed by 3-4 years of PhD research (usually biomedical) followed by two more years of clinical rotations. The AAMC website explains MD/PhD degrees. MD/PhD programs are usually more competitive than MD programs. You will need at least a 3.8 GPA and >85 %ile on the MCAT. In addition, you will need significant research experience. The actual area of research is not important, but you must have a demonstrated long-term commitment to research. You could do research with a Centre faculty member over several terms and summers or you could do research at another institution over the course of several summers. Alternatively, you could take one or two years off after Centre and work in a research lab. The other common dual degree programs are MD/MBA, MD/JD, MD/MPH, and many other variations.
The Number of Schools to Which You Should Apply
A common question is “How many medical schools should I apply to?” Most Centre students will apply to the public medical schools in their state of residence at a minimum. Kentucky residents are lucky because there are two public medical schools. Ohio residents have five public medical schools. Apart from the public medical schools, you will need to think about applying to some private schools. There is no point in spending money applying to private schools if you are not interested in attending them. If you are not sure, go ahead and apply to a few if you are qualified. Do not apply to Harvard if you do not have the GPA or MCAT. You can check websites to find averages. It is also very difficult to get into public schools out of your state of residence. In fact, some public medical schools will only accept residents. Do not just look at the GPA/MCAT averages of a public medical school and think that you can get in! Every year Centre students apply to medical schools that they really have no chance of getting into, thus wasting their time and money. Most medical schools have similar course requirements, but some are different. You may be at a disadvantage if you have not had the required courses. Once again, you can check their websites or talk to Dr. Workman.
Is it realistic for you to start the application process now?
The application process outlined below starts two years before you matriculate at a medical school. In other words, if you plan on starting medical school in the fall of the year you graduate from Centre, you would begin the application process in the summer of the previous year. The process is an enormous time commitment and you need to decide IF you should be applying to medical school before you start. It is very important for you to schedule an appointment with Dr. Workman early in the fall of your third year. You need a realistic assessment of your chances based on your GPA and experience in medicine (you probably will not have taken the MCAT yet). If your GPA is below a 3.2 and/or you have little or no experience in medicine, then you probably should not start the application process. The process is essentially the same for allopathic and osteopathic. Some Centre students apply to both in a given year.
The MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) is computer-based and there are multiple dates when you will be able to take the MCAT, but seating is limited. Registration is on a first come-first served basis. Therefore, it is very important that you register as soon as registration opens for that particular test date (usually six months ahead of time). Register for the MCAT on the AAMC website. If you look at the 2015 test dates you will see that they are not evenly spaced throughout the year. It is important that you take the MCAT early enough so that the medical schools will have your scores to make a decision on your application. For the most timely consideration of your application, you should take the MCAT no later than the mid-July test date, but earlier would be better. Most medical schools will not accept MCAT scores that are more than two years old. For the UK 2016 entering class the oldest scores accepted are January 2013. Do NOT try to retake the test if you have not had sufficient time to prepare. In the past five years, seven students who were accepted to medical school who re-took the MCAT less than 6 months after their first improved their score by an average of 0.85 pts (range was +4 to -3). There were 37 students who were accepted who retook the MCAT six months or more after their first score and they improved by an average of 3.24 pts (range of +9 to -2). See the Scheduling webpage for more information about what courses to take for the MCAT.
Some of you may be wondering about the best ways to prepare for the MCAT, the Medical College Admissions Test. This test lasts around 7.5 hours (less if you don’t take the optional breaks) and it has four sections of multiple choice questions (Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Living Systems, Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills). This test is a very important factor in your candidacy for medical school. It is an exam that you need to prepare for as early as possible and as often as possible. There are two major questions that students normally ask: How much time should I study for the MCAT? and Should I take a review course? The answers to these questions are related. The best way to figure out how much you need to review is to take a practice test as soon as possible. There are several places where you can get practice tests:
Kaplan and The Princeton Review are the two largest commercial test preparation sites and both have free MCATs; they will also come to campus and administer free practice tests if there is enough interest.
The AAMC website is the official MCAT site and has practice MCATs for a $35 fee.
To get the most accurate picture of your abilities you need to make sure that you take a FULL practice test which will last about 5 hours. You need to score a minimum of around a 504 (with no scores below 126 in the four sections) to have a good shot at getting into legitimate medical schools. Obviously, the higher your score, the better chance you will have.
What Are the MCAT Preparation Courses Like?
If you decide that you need more preparation you can do it on your own or pay for a course at The Princeton Review or Kaplan. You can get a good idea how much time you should prepare on your own by looking at how much you would do if you were enrolled in one of the test prep courses. A typical Kaplan course is 24 sessions: nineteen 3-hour evening review sessions, three 7-hour practice MCATs, and two 8-hour practice MCATs. The review sessions are led by instructors and you take periodic practice MCATs where your strengths and weaknesses are identified. The total cost is $1899 for the classroom course and $1749 for the online course. The first course starts September 6 and runs to January 17 (there are other start and end times). There are 18 3-hour classroom sessions and you take five practice tests. Both companies have homework for you to do to prepare for each review session. Disregarding the homework and practice exam times, you would be paying for a minimum of 54 hours. You can access all of the instructional materials at both Kaplan and Princeton at other times and they have online materials. Both companies also offer online versions of their courses. You can also get 35 hours of private tutoring for $5000(!).
Advantages of Test Preparation Courses
• They know what material is covered on the test and will only teach you about that.
• They have a tremendous amount of practice material for you.
• They have a lot of experience preparing students and a good record of success.
• If you are paying all that money, you are more likely to be motivated to stick to a schedule.
• If you are not satisfied with your scores, you can retake the course for free.
Disadvantages of Test Preparation Courses
• They are expensive: do you have to pay someone else $1899 to motivate you?
• The level of instruction is generally poor. The instructors are usually graduate students who are just in it for the money and have no experience teaching.
• They generally do not spend a lot of time teaching about strategy.
• The courses are in Lexington (in the evening or on Saturdays) so you will have to commute.
How should I prepare on my own for the MCAT?
If you decide to prepare on your own, you should use the 54 hours as a goal and mid-November or earlier as a good starting date. Princeton Review and Kaplan have review books that you can buy for about $60 in any good bookstore or online. The AAMC has eight or nine practice MCATs and some other practice materials that you can purchase for a total of about $170. Students who have already taken the MCATs may have practice materials for sale or free and you can share costs with other students. DO NOT study for the MCAT by going over old notes or looking at textbooks. The vast majority of material you have learned in your courses is not covered on the MCAT. If there is a concept you do not understand from reading the review books, then you might want to look at a textbook or talk to a professor. Otherwise, only look at the Kaplan, Princeton, or Exam Krackers (the best in my opinion) review books to see what will be on the test. Exam Krackers has a nice 10-week preparation plan. Other MCAT preparation books are not very good. You should pay careful attention to the math review in the prep books because you do not get calculators on the test.
Advantages of Preparing on Your Own
• It is much cheaper. To purchase all of the necessary materials will cost you less than $250, much less if you share with other students.
• You can set your own schedule. CentreTerm is ideal for intensive study.
• You can focus on the areas that you are weak in instead of wasting your time going to review sessions on stuff you know well.
• You will be more likely to interact with your peers at Centre to discuss strategy and share information.
• You can start preparing early, instead of cramming your preparation into a few months.
Disadvantages of Preparing on Your Own
• You must motivate yourself to set an early schedule and stick to it.
• It will take time and effort to locate all of the materials you will need.
Final Thoughts on the MCAT
The MCAT is a half-day test that can have a profound impact on acceptance or rejection to medical school. Centre students tend to do well on the test. Some take the test prep courses and others study on their own. Only a few students from Centre take prep courses. You should talk to students who have taken the MCAT and find out how they prepared. Remember that what works for you may be different than what worked for them. There is a new MCAT coming in 2015 and you should look at the Scheduling webpage to see what it’s like.
Mandatory Meetings and Forms
If you are starting the application process, it is vital that you inform Dr. Workman. All of his communication with applicants will be by email. He needs a list of students applying to medical school since there are some important meetings and forms that you need to fill out. The first meeting you will have with him is usually the first pre-med society meeting of the year. At that meeting he will discuss the application timeline. There is a MANDATORY meeting in early February to fill out forms, talk about the committee letter of evaluation, and note summer deadlines. If you are going to be abroad in the spring of 2017 you need to fill out the forms in the fall or CentreTerm and get interviewed by the committee. The Student Information Form and Waiver Form must be turned in by February 28, 2017 by students who will be applying to medical school. The general timeline is as follows (specific dates/times will be announced by email during the year):
In the spring of 2015 contact Dr. Workman to tell him that you are considering applying to medical school for the 2017 entering class. Over the summer of 2015 you should be studying MCAT preparation books and writing your personal statement.
• September (2016) — First Pre-Health Society meeting to talk about application timeline; start MCAT preparation. Fill out Potential Applicant Survey (Dr. Workman will email survey link to you)
• October — Start periodic workshops on writing the personal comments section and other essays commonly found on secondary applications. Some interviews with the HPAG will occur in October and November.
• December — Complete a first draft of personal comments for the AMCAS/AACOMAS application. Dr. Workman will have time to read essays over Christmas Break and January.
• January (2017) — Continue MCAT preparation.
• February — Mandatory meeting to talk about application process; Interview with HPAG; MCAT in April to July.
• March — Complete personal comments and resume by May 1; interview with HPAG.
• May — Access AMCAS application and/or AACOMAS application and start filling it out; MCAT scores back at some point; inform Dr. Workman by email if you are definitely applying to medical school.
• July — The AMCAS/AACOMAS application should be complete by July 1 at the absolute latest! Await secondary applications. Dr. Workman will see which medical schools you are applying to on the AMCAS or AACOMAS website and send your Centre committee letter to the medical schools via the AMCAS Letterwriter. He can also see which osteopathic medical schools you are applying to and send the committee letter to them.
• August — Complete secondary applications as soon as possible and then check with the medical school to make sure your application is complete. Await interviews.
The HPAG Interview
In order to more accurately present you as a candidate the HPAG will interview you in the fall or spring. Interviews are 30 minutes and are done by Dr. Workman and one other member of the committee in his office. You might want to dress up as you would for the real interview, but that’s not required. The purpose of these interviews is to obtain information about you. They do not really simulate a medical school interview, although you may get asked the same questions. We will ask questions like “Why do you want to be a physician” and “Tell us about the most significant volunteer experience you have had”. It will be helpful to you to assume that we do not know anything about you. We will give you feedback on your answers. We must have a copy of a personal statement and resume/CV before the interview (they do not have to be the final versions). Feel free to provide further information to Dr. Workman if something important is not covered in the interview.
The AMCAS Application and Personal Statement
AMCAS is the abbreviation for American Medical College Application Service. The AACOMAS application is essentially the same for osteopathic medical schools. You will apply to most medical schools in the US through AMCAS (the Texas medical schools have their own service). The way AMCAS works is that you fill out their application and indicate which medical schools you want that application sent to (it acts like a common application). Be sure to read the directions carefully. If you contact me with questions about the AMCAS primary application I will almost always tell you to read the directions or contact AMCAS directly. The medical schools look at the AMCAS application (which includes MCAT scores) and decide whether they want to reject you or get more information from you. If it’s the latter, they send you a secondary application which you must complete. It takes AMCAS and the medical schools some time to process applications, so IT IS VITAL THAT YOU SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATIONS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. You should plan on submitting your AMCAS application in early June. Every year there are a few Centre students who get rejected at medical schools because they failed to submit their applications early. You should submit your application even if you have not received your MCAT scores yet. It takes AMCAS about 4 weeks to process your application, but it only takes seconds for them to insert your MCAT scores. NOTE: You must release your scores to AACOMAS by going to your score report on AAMC. Medical schools have rolling admissions. Thus, the longer you wait, the worse your chances. If you submit materials on the deadlines, you probably will not get into medical school. The AMCAS application is web-based (you need access to the internet!) and a little time consuming. The fee for the AMCAS application is $160. That includes one medical school. Each additional medical school is $37. So, if you are going to apply to 5 schools, your AMCAS fee would be $308. AMCAS does offer fee waivers for qualified students. Note that medical schools themselves will impose an additional secondary fee. For example, UK and Vanderbilt both charge $50. The AACOMAS fee is $195 and includes one school. Each additional school is $35.
Submission and Processing Dates for Applications
|Student||Submit Date||Processed Date|
|A||June 1||June 11|
|B||June 12||June 28|
|C||June 30||August 7|
|D||July 1||August 15|
|E||July 13||August 20|
There is a section on the AMCAS/AACOMAS application for you to disclose criminal or disciplinary behavior. Be sure that you disclose EVERY infraction that you have incurred. This disclosure includes minor things like original container issues. All medical schools now do criminal background checks. If you fail to disclose something it will probably result in your rejection from a medical school. You should check with the Dean of Students Office and the Associate Dean’s Office to see if there are any issues.
The only difficult part is the Personal Comments section. You must write a 5300 characters + spaces essay about anything you want, although it is best to write it on why you want to be a physician and what qualities you have/things you have done that make you a good candidate. You should start trying to write this essay long before you even fill out the AMCAS application. Dr. Workman will help you edit your essay and it is much easier to do that if you are on campus. Some general pieces of advice are:
1. It must be personal! Do not have abstract statements in there about what it takes to make a good physician. Do not spend a lot of space talking about how much you admire your mother or father—it needs to be about you.
2. It should not be a laundry list of things you have done. Pick the four or five things that you are or which you have done that have motivated you to become a physician or that show qualities that would make you a good physician. For instance, you can write about your experience in a medical setting, a research project you have done, a study abroad experience, or leadership roles you have had. Make sure you write how these things have affected your desire to be a physician.
3. Avoid writing about things like GPA which will appear on your transcript or somewhere else in your application.
4. Do not use contractions.
5. Be sure to take up all of the space you are given. If your essay is significantly short, that might be interpreted that you are not that interesting a person. It is much easier for Dr. Workman to help you cut things than it is for him to help you add things. As a general rule your first draft should be signficantly longer than the 5300 characters with spaces that is allowed. Do not try to make it perfect before you show it to Dr. Workman. Many students spend a lot of time trying to perfect an essay that is never going to be any good.
6. If you do send a copy to Dr. Workman make sure you include your name in the filename. It is hard to keep track of a bunch of documents all named personalstatement.docx.
7. There is no reason that you cannot have versions that you write as a first, second, third, and fourth year student.
The Committee Letter of Evaluation
You are probably wondering what the committee letter of evaluation is. The HPAG solicits evaluations from up to five science professors and up to three non-science professors, administrators, or staff members. You indicate to the HPAG which professors know you the best and the HPAG sends them the evaluations. Your professors will evaluate you on academic abilities, personal attributes, and professional promise. You can see a copy of the evaluation form here. Here are the instructions for the categories. Your professors will check the appropriate boxes and write as many comments as they want. The HPAG collects all evaluations for applicants and compiles them into one composite form. The HPAG will also include a brief paragraph comparing you to other applicants from Centre in the last few years. You can see an example here. There are a few details of the composite that you need to understand:
1. Medical schools prefer committee evaluations if the college has a health professions advising committee (like Centre does). Medical schools also prefer that the letter is confidential. You can see on the evaluation form and final letter where the HPAG indicates that the letter is confidential.
2. There are a lot of categories your professors will be evaluating you on (not just what grades you got in their classes), so it is essential for you to get to know your professors well and tell them about your motivations for medicine. Look at each of those categories and ask yourself “What box is Prof. X going to check”? Is there anything that you can do to influence positively what box your evaluator checks? You should schedule a meeting with each of your evaluators and provide them with a copy of your resume and personal statement.
3.The committee evaluation only contains evaluations from Centre people. You can have other letters from people you worked with in the medical field sent directly to AMCAS (see below) after you complete your secondary applications.
4. Centre professors will try to be as accurate as possible in their evaluation of you. Do not expect to get a glowing recommendation if you did not perform well in a class or if the professor does not know you well. You can get better evaluations by getting to know your professors better.
5. Generally, science majors will have five science professors and two non-science people evaluate them. Non-science majors will usually have four science professors and three non-science people as their evaluators.
Requesting Letters of Evaluation
One part of the AMCAS application is called the Letter of Recommendation/Evaluation section. (There is a similar section on AACOMAS.) It is in this section where you will indicate who is writing your letters. The directions are on the AMCAS application website and I have highlighted some of the important points here.
1. You will be getting one COMMITTEE LETTER from Centre and that counts as ONE of your 10 possible letters. The Centre committee letter only contains evaluators who are at Centre (or who have recently left the college). You may obtain additional letters from non-Centre people. Additional letters can come from an individual (physician or nurse for example) in the medical field with whom you worked or from a scientist with whom you did research. Do NOT have letters sent from individuals (like a family friend or the governor) who have no real knowledge of you and your qualifications for medical school.
2. You will need to assign a Letter ID (and it’s different than your AAMC ID) to each letter. Do NOT send me anything! I will see the Letter ID on the AMCAS summary webpage that I have access to. On that summary webpage I also see all of the schools to which you are applying, your GPA’s, and your MCAT scores.
3. The contact information for me that you will need to enter is shown below. Please try to get my name correct (don’t put Jose).
Dr. Joe Workman
Professor of Chemistry
4. You will need to have a Letter ID and contact information for each of your other letters.
5. Keep in mind that most medical schools prefer a maximum of 2-3 letters in addition to your committee letter. Even though you CAN enter 10 letters on AMCAS, you are strongly advised not to!
6. Once you have your letters you must assign them to each medical school–I cannot do that. You may choose not to assign the Centre College Committee Letter, but that will look VERY suspicious to the medical school and an admissions officer will probably contact me.
7. I will not complete and submit your committee letter until your application has been processed and I see your MCAT scores on the AMCAS site. Usually you can count on about 2 weeks for me to complete the letter after I see your scores and processed application. You do not need to tell me that your application has been processed or that you have received your MCAT scores–I will see all of that. I will check the AMCAS site about once a week. You should tell me when you are planning to take the MCAT. You will be able to see on your AMCAS application that your Centre committee letter has been uploaded.
8. You can assign the Centre committee letter to the medical schools AFTER submitting your AMCAS application, so don’t let that delay stop you from submitting.
I have compiled a list of things you should do and when you should do them below. Remember, the earlier you get things done the better your chances of getting into medical school. Follow the same steps for AACOMAS.
1. Request your transcript before leaving Centre for the summer. Be sure to request transcripts from other colleges you have attended. These transcripts must be official and sent directly to AMCAS. The transcript request form is part of the application.
2. Read the AMCAS instructions and access the application as soon as possible (around May 5 for 2013 application).
3. Complete and submit your AMCAS application as soon as possible (July 1 at the latest). It is your responsibility to check that all outside information (transcripts and letters) have been sent in.
• Note that your Centre study abroad courses for Strasbourg, London, Merida And CentreTerm study abroad courses are entered normally into the AMCAS application–don’t do anything special or request a different transcript. Other programs where Centre is affiliated with a university (like Glasgow) get a separate entry and, perhaps, no separate transcript.
• You must list all of your courses, even if you repeated some.
4. At any time during the application process please inform Dr. Workman if you have decided not to apply to medical school.
5. AMCAS and medical schools will communicate with you via email. Be sure to check your Junk email folder since sometimes the email filtering programs will redirect email to Junk.
6. Access secondary applications (normally the medical school will communicate with you via email with directions on how to access their secondary via the web) and fill them out as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, after you have submitted your primary application to AMCAS, some schools want you to give them even more material in a secondary application. Most secondary applications just have some short essays for you to do, but it is vital to turn these in as soon as possible. Most medical schools will not schedule you for an interview without a completed secondary. The secondary applications will also have an associated fee.
Most medical schools have an early decision option. The way this option works is that you apply to only one school and opt for the early decision option. The deadline is August 1st and you are guaranteed a decision by October 1st. You may not apply to any other medical schools until you are rejected by your early decision school. If you are accepted early decision, you must attend that medical school. The important message here is that you must be sure that you want to go to a medical school and reasonably confident that you will get in before you try the early decision option. If you do not get in early decision you will be at a huge disadvantage at other schools because you will need to fill out their secondary applications and probably will not get an interview until very late in the cycle. In the last 10 years only two Centre students have applied early decision and both at UK. UK takes quite a few students early, but UL does not. Be sure to consult with Dr. Workman AND someone from the medical school before applying early decision. The best option usually is to apply normally, but get your materials in as early as possible!
Studying Abroad and Applying to Medical School
Studying abroad is one of the best opportunities you can have at Centre. Many students who apply to medical school have studied abroad. The medical school entering class of 2011 from Centre had 17 of 19 students who studied abroad for at least one term. If you plan to study abroad in a long term, scheduling classes, the MCAT, and interviews can be tricky. Do NOT plan to take the MCAT abroad since it is a hassle and you will be having too much fun traveling. Quite a few students over the years have delayed their application to medical school in order to participate in a long term study abroad experience (or some other opportunity). None of them regretted their decision. You may have enough time to study for the MCAT after you return in the spring since it is offered in May, June, and July. Taking the MCAT in August is an option, but you will be behind in interview scheduling. Most medical schools will try to schedule interviews when you will be in the country, so a fall or spring term abroad in your senior year is no problem. Be sure to work with Dr. Workman if you plan to study abroad. Some of your terms may be difficult, but you should not have to resort to summer school to get all of your medical school prerequisites completed on time.
The Medical School Interview
If a medical school decides you are an acceptable candidate based on everything it sees about you on paper, you will be invited for an interview. Interviews differ in format from school to school. Most schools will have at least one individual interview, some may have a group interview and a few do speed interviews. The interviewers are normally members of the admissions committee. They can be clinical faculty, basic science faculty, residents or medical students. Sometimes the interviews are blind which means that the interviewer does not look at your file. No matter how good you look on paper, a bad interview can keep you from being accepted.
A few things you should keep in mind:
• You should research the school before your visit. Study it like you would study for a test.
• You need to have good communication etiquette in all of your dealings with the medical school. Make sure that any emails you send them use correct greeting, grammar and punctuation. Don’t forget to have a subject in the Subject line. All of your voice mail greetings should be inoffensive. If you have a personal webpage or a Facebook page, make sure it does not contain any offensive material and/or limit access to it. Be sure to treat everyone (including receptionists) you speak to on the phone or in person with courtesy and respect.
• From the minute you get on campus you will be scrutinized very closely. You must treat everyone with respect, from the secretaries to the medical school students to the other students interviewing that day. The admissions people will even look to see how well you interact with the other interviewees at lunch.
• Turn OFF your cell phone. Do NOT check your cell phone when waiting for an interviewer. Do NOT check your cell phone when on a campus tour. Do NOT check your cell phone during lunch. You may check it once or twice, but be sure to make it very brief and not in front of other interviewees or representatives of the medical school (just step outside for a minute).
• Most of the interviews are just conversations. Interviewers will seldom have a long list of tough questions to ask you. You need to be familiar with your AMCAS and secondary applications since they will often ask questions about things you have written. Be sure you review both before your interview.
• Some common things that you could end up discussing are why you want to be a physician, interesting things you have done, the current state of health care in the US, and current affairs. You can get some idea about health care in the US by reading any of the weekly news magazines or major newspapers.
• Think about the five specific experiences or qualities that you possess that you want an interviewer to know about you and try to steer the interview to those things. For instance, you may have some really good experience in a hospital and you want to make sure that interviewer knows about it. Always try to bring up a specific story to support a point you are trying to make. Don’t just say “I have good communication skills” without bringing up the fact that you may have studied abroad and you really developed your communication skills in that setting.
• The Student Doctor Network website has listings of common questions from all of the different medical schools.
• Often the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. You need to have a list of good questions to ask! Do not ask questions which have answers you could have gotten from the medical school website (like residency placement, board pass rate etc.).
• Interview Attire for Men
— Men should wear a dark suit with a conservative tie. A dark blazer with dark pants is OK, but you should wear a suit if you can.
— The tie should be silk or silk like and should contrast with the color of the suit. In other words, don’t wear a black tie with a dark suit. The tie may have an understated pattern, but nothing too flashy.
— Black dress shoes are the most appropriate. Wear dark socks that come to mid-calf.
— Your hair should be neatly groomed. Any facial hair should be neat and trim (or just shave it off).
— Understated earrings are OK, but no other piercings should be visible. You may wear a wrist watch and wedding band, but no other jewelry or bands (like plastic wrist bands) should be worn.
— Deodorant should be worn, but cologne should be minimal or absent.
• Interview Attire for Women
— Women should to wear a two-piece matched suit, blouse, pantsuit or skirt (below knee length) with neutral hosiery. Clothes should be dark or neutral.
— Shoes should be dark low pumps or flats (no high heels).
— Avoid big hair.
— Nails should not be excessively and should be unpolished or have clear, unchipped polish.
— Make-up should be kept to a minimum.
— Earrings should be stud or small hoops, nothing dangling. Only one ring per hand should be worn.
— Deodorant should be worn, but perfume or cologne should be minimal or absent.
• Men and women should avoid a) visible body piercings beyond pierced ears; b) gum, candy or other objects in the mouth; c) stale breath (brush your teeth!); d) revealing or seductive clothing; e) pastel or flowered fabrics; f) short sleeve shirts; g) unpolished shoes; h) visible tattoos.
• At the end of an interview ask for a business card from the interviewer. A few days after the interview, you should send formal thank you letters to the individual interviewers. These could be emails if the interview said it was OK, otherwise send a formal note.
You will interview with the HPAG in the spring and they will give you some feedback on the answers you are giving. Centre students who have been rejected on the basis of the interview usually came across as too arrogant or too shy. On very rare occasions a Centre student has had trouble with one of the interviewers (the interviewer asked inappropriate questions or was not paying attention to the student). If that happens, tell Dr. Workman and he will contact the medical school.
Options for the Wait Listed or Rejected Applicant
If you interview before October (and are not an early decision applicant) you will hear a decision on October 15, otherwise you should hear a decision a few weeks after your interview. If you are wait listed there is a real possibility that you can be accepted as late as a few days before medical school classes start. In the past five years some Centre students have been accepted off the wait list in July and even August. You need to be patient while on the wait list. Do not continually contact the medical school asking for updates. If you are rejected the best option for you is to wait a few days to calm down and be sure to avoid saying anything drastic to the medical school. They will understand that you are upset, but you do not want to jeopardize your future chances. You should discuss things with Dr. Workman first. The most obvious reasons that you could be rejected are because your grades and scores are too low. If the MCAT is the problem you will need to prepare better for it, perhaps even taking an MCAT preparation course. If grades are the problem you may be able to take some graduate level courses or enroll in a graduate (masters or Ph.D.) program. Post-baccalaureate program are appropriate for students who have taken few or no medical school pre-requisites. There is a searchable database of these types of programs located on the AAMC website. Usually, the lower your GPA, the longer the program that you will need to enroll in. Be aware that if you enroll in a masters or Ph.D. level program, the medical school will expect you to finish that program before they will accept you. You may have too little experience in medicine, but that is a straightforward deficiency to rectify. It should be relatively easy to get a job in the health care field. If the problem is not grades, scores, or experience then you have some sort of a personality problem. Perhaps you came across as too arrogant or too shy. Personality problems are the hardest to change. The medical school admissions people will never come right out and tell you that your personality was the problem, but you can infer that from what they do tell you. They will tell you if your grades or scores are too low or if you have insufficient experience. When shyness is the problem then you will have to find a job or volunteer position where you are forced to interact with other people. Arrogance is harder to cure, but you could do volunteer work in an under-served area. Of course, the next time you interview would be crucial. Shy people need to be more aggressive than they think is necessary and arrogant people need to tone things down. Dr. Workman will work with you to improve your re-application to medical schools. The medical school admissions people are also very willing to advise you, provided you approach them in a mature fashion. It is essential for you to improve your application in the ways that are suggested by the medical school. Just re-applying with the same materials will not help you.
Medical School Deferment
If you are accepted at a medical school, you may be able to defer your matriculation for a year. The medical school will want a valid reason for the deferment. Valid reasons include work, a travel opportunity associated with medicine, or research (including such things as Fulbrights). Few medical schools will allow you to defer for two years. Individual medical schools have their own policies so get in touch with them if you are thinking about deferment.