Admissions process?

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.

Lt.

Full Member
2+ Year Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2022
Messages
22
Reaction score
20
I am just asking for curiosity's sake, not to change how I am approaching the cycle. Would any admissions committee members care to elaborate on the details of the process of application review? I think we all have a nebulous idea of the mysterious workings, but I am interested in the step-by-step. Here is what I am imagining:

-May 28th, applications start flooding in.
-All apps without bare minimum numbers automatically screened out.
-On "Application review begins" date for given schools, admissions teams start poring through the thousands of apps. Perhaps there is an automatic sorting method to put high stats at the top of the pile, for example.
-Each candidate is discussed by the committee (no idea how many people will have eyes on any individual app) to be pushed forward or tossed.
-Those with qualifying stats, enough ECs, and no red flags are pushed forward.
-Committees still review all apps in descending order of stats, but grab and push forward those that are particularly exciting, based on unique ECs or writing that paints a candidate well.
-Interview --> acceptance.

Is this accurate? Please forgive me and feel free to moderate if this is inappropriate. Thank you!

Members don't see this ad.
 
Every school is going to be different. But essentially:
Applications flood in.
It is possible to sort applications daily and pull for priority review those with total GPA >x, MCAT > x, undergrad institution from a list of high priorty schools, or specific zip codes or home state. It is also possible to create an algorithm that assigns a score based on easily measured characteristics and prioritizes for review applicants that meet a given threshold. (every applicant will be reviewed eventually but we might want to prioritize applicants with super high scores or those from our state's rural counties, or from HBCUs, etc).

After whatever black box formula is used, an applicant is assigned to a pair of eyeballs.

Application goes to one reviewer to read with a rubric to score the application. Application with first review might go to a second reviewer to be confirmed or countered. Recommendation of the reviewer(s) to interview or not interview goes to the person who makes decisions about interview invites . In some cases, someone might be queued for interview in August but not get the actual invitation until November. That is why I institututed the Thanksgiving Rule that you aren't to worry about a lack of interview invites until after Thanksgiving.

Interviewers will see some or part of the application. They may see some or all of the reviewers comments, particularly if the reviewer has said, "probe applicant about decision to ___", or "applicant's motivation is unclear, seek clarification"

The interviewer(s) will write up an evaluation of the candidate. In some cases, the interviewer will be blinded to grades and scores to avoid creating a "halo effect". That doesn't mean that grades and scores won't matter in the end, but that they shouldn't inflate interviewers objective opinion of the applicant's interview performance.

Now a committee or a subgroup of the committee look at the assessments by the application reviewers and the interviewers and can dig into the application and LORs as well, as desired, and individually assess each interviewed applicant. If everyone is on the same page, great. If there is a discrepancy of opinion, there is a conversation. It might be one person who is troubled (or deeply touched) by a specific statement in an essay or a letter who brings it to the attention of the rest of the committee and turns the committee around but it is more likely that an outlier may see their own biases and make a correction. After all is said and done, the applicant gets a numeric score or is placed in a broad category which corresponds to a space on LizzyM's broad staircase.

There can be a second level of review to determine if one subcommittee and another are discordant (one more lenient than the other) and to bring them into alignment.

On or after October 15th, offers begin going out starting with the top of the staircase. Some schools will hold all offers until February while others will know that the people at or above a score of X will be at the top of the staircase at the end of the season and might as well get an offer now to give them a positive feeling about the school which would like them (top draft pick).


So, that's how it goes.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
  • Care
Reactions: 6 users
That was much more comprehensive than I expected, thank you LizzyM!

Curious about "Application goes to one reviewer to read with a rubric to score the application." I imagine this is very similar to factors listed on WedgeDawg's applicant rating system, including

  1. GPA
  2. MCAT
  3. Research
  4. Clinical Experience
  5. Shadowing
  6. Volunteering
  7. Leadership and Teaching
  8. Miscellaneous
  9. Undergraduate School
  10. Representation in Medicine
  11. GPA Trend
so essentially, applicants getting scores for checking certain boxes, which makes it seem much more numerical than I would've thought. And, does this extend even further to more points for # of hours for example 500 vs 200 volunteer hours? What about the possibility of blatant inflation by applicants?

That makes it seem less likely for someone with a very compelling personal statement or background story to mean something, since surely there is no scoring system for those intangibles?
 
Members don't see this ad :)
That was much more comprehensive than I expected, thank you LizzyM!

Curious about "Application goes to one reviewer to read with a rubric to score the application." I imagine this is very similar to factors listed on WedgeDawg's applicant rating system, including


so essentially, applicants getting scores for checking certain boxes, which makes it seem much more numerical than I would've thought. And, does this extend even further to more points for # of hours for example 500 vs 200 volunteer hours? What about the possibility of blatant inflation by applicants?

That makes it seem less likely for someone with a very compelling personal statement or background story to mean something, since surely there is no scoring system for those intangibles

A rubric might ask, " research? How much in terms of hours and intensity of engagement?"
scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being low level helper who does menial repetitive tasks under supervision, to 5 being independent investigator with multiple publications (e.g. applicant has a PhD in biochem and now applying to med school).

If it looks like a 3 but the hours seem exaggerated and the LOR is missing or lukewarm, then it might be downgraded to a 2 with a commentary from the reviewer as to why it is not a 3.

Rinse and repeat for academics, community service, clinical exposure, teamwork and leadership, etc.

If you have a 5 in one or more categories you might be forgiven a 1 or 2 in another category so it isn't strictly, "check all the boxes" or "be at least average in every category".
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Please read
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
Every school is going to be different. But essentially:
Applications flood in.
It is possible to sort applications daily and pull for priority review those with total GPA >x, MCAT > x, undergrad institution from a list of high priorty schools, or specific zip codes or home state. It is also possible to create an algorithm that assigns a score based on easily measured characteristics and prioritizes for review applicants that meet a given threshold. (every applicant will be reviewed eventually but we might want to prioritize applicants with super high scores or those from our state's rural counties, or from HBCUs, etc).

After whatever black box formula is used, an applicant is assigned to a pair of eyeballs.

Application goes to one reviewer to read with a rubric to score the application. Application with first review might go to a second reviewer to be confirmed or countered. Recommendation of the reviewer(s) to interview or not interview goes to the person who makes decisions about interview invites . In some cases, someone might be queued for interview in August but not get the actual invitation until November. That is why I institututed the Thanksgiving Rule that you aren't to worry about a lack of interview invites until after Thanksgiving.

Interviewers will see some or part of the application. They may see some or all of the reviewers comments, particularly if the reviewer has said, "probe applicant about decision to ___", or "applicant's motivation is unclear, seek clarification"

The interviewer(s) will write up an evaluation of the candidate. In some cases, the interviewer will be blinded to grades and scores to avoid creating a "halo effect". That doesn't mean that grades and scores won't matter in the end, but that they shouldn't inflate interviewers objective opinion of the applicant's interview performance.

Now a committee or a subgroup of the committee look at the assessments by the application reviewers and the interviewers and can dig into the application and LORs as well, as desired, and individually assess each interviewed applicant. If everyone is on the same page, great. If there is a discrepancy of opinion, there is a conversation. It might be one person who is troubled (or deeply touched) by a specific statement in an essay or a letter who brings it to the attention of the rest of the committee and turns the committee around but it is more likely that an outlier may see their own biases and make a correction. After all is said and done, the applicant gets a numeric score or is placed in a broad category which corresponds to a space on LizzyM's broad staircase.

There can be a second level of review to determine if one subcommittee and another are discordant (one more lenient than the other) and to bring them into alignment.

On or after October 15th, offers begin going out starting with the top of the staircase. Some schools will hold all offers until February while others will know that the people at or above a score of X will be at the top of the staircase at the end of the season and might as well get an offer now to give them a positive feeling about the school which would like them (top draft pick).


So, that's how it goes.
I heard from my prehealth committee that most schools don't even look at LOR when determining whether or not to send an interview invite. Do you agree/find that to be true?
 
I read every LOR word for word, often finding important information that was missed in the committee letter! And yes, what's said and what's not said in the LOR affected my decision on whether to recommend an interview. It's very time consuming to review the applications.
 
  • Like
  • Love
Reactions: 6 users
I read every LOR word for word, often finding important information that was missed in the committee letter! And yes, what's said and what's not said in the LOR affected my decision on whether to recommend an interview. It's very time consuming to review the applications.
Thanks for this! I was very confused when they told me 60% of schools don't look at LOR before deciding to send an interview invite.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
I heard from my prehealth committee that most schools don't even look at LOR when determining whether or not to send an interview invite. Do you agree/find that to be true?
Depends on the school, but because we do have some committees that don't send in their letters until September or so, it might not surprise me that your committee would say so. :)

 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users
I heard from my prehealth committee that most schools don't even look at LOR when determining whether or not to send an interview invite. Do you agree/find that to be true?
Every school is going to be different. There is the prioritizing for assignment to a reader, which may not involve reading the application but using a "select if" sorting mechanism that can be done with software (although eventually everyone goes to at least one reader but some are lower priority than others; it's not first in, first out), then the reading of the entire file and recommending interview (or not), and then the scheduling for interview. You can get held up at any of those points, particularly if your file is assigned to someone who is pokey about reading applications or who decides to wait for the LORs before signing off on the file.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
who decides to wait for the LORs before signing off on the file.
Curious about this, I've submitted 15/30 of my secondaries at this point. But unfortunately, I asked LOR writers to submit by late July (some bad advice from a pre-med advisor I did not vet myself).

From your experience, are applications read before LORs are in? I'm not holding my breath for an II prior to having my LORs submitted, but I'm worried about being pushed to the back of the queue once they are in.
 
I've always said that it is fine if the committee letter arrives by Labor Day. Having letters submitted by late July is fine. I once held a file because I really wanted to see a letter from someone I admired and it did not disappoint. (The applicant had some letters but one in particular was missing.) There was still plenty of time to recommend the applicant for an interview and the content of the letter helped me make the case for an interview.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Curious about this, I've submitted 15/30 of my secondaries at this point. But unfortunately, I asked LOR writers to submit by late July (some bad advice from a pre-med advisor I did not vet myself).

From your experience, are applications read before LORs are in? I'm not holding my breath for an II prior to having my LORs submitted, but I'm worried about being pushed to the back of the queue once they are in.
As stated before, that depends on the school.

Some adcoms will read the LORs for interview consideration; some just want to know the REQUIRED letters have been received; some won't care but will read them as part of a discussion to extend a candidate an offer post-interview.

You don't get pushed to the back of any queue; your application may be placed on hold until your required letters have been received... then your application will progress from the point where it was suspended.

Seriously, read the articles I suggested earlier.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Top