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Are all MD schools strictly about #'s?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by drdan83, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. drdan83

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    Read a post on the pre-allo forum that said MD schools were numbers only and the other stuff was "icing."

    Tell me that's not true?

    There seems to be a group that tells you that it's #'s only and another group that says you will get in if you are unique.

    From where I stand right now with my past coursework and my predictions for the next year and a half, I expect my GPA to be only DO competitive. Does this mean that I am wasting my time applying to MD programs or should I heed the advice of the group that says to apply if you think you have some unique experiences to offer?
     
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  3. FutureDrB

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    You answered mine, so I'll answer yours. I think MD programs are way more about the numbers, but that doesn't mean experience doesn't matter. Because of my GPA, I'm only DO competitive as well, but I'm going DO for several other reasons too. I would say that if you are at or under a 3.3, you shouldn't waste time or money submitting MD apps. But that's just me...
     
  4. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    It probably depends on the school. But at least at my med school, no, it's not true. We typically have around a 15 point spread in MCAT scores, for example, and nontrads with low old grades but good postbac performance can be accepted with sub-3.0 GPAs.

    As for whether you should try applying to MD schools, I'd suggest that you read up on each school you're considering, and honestly assess whether you think that you would be a good fit for the mission and culture of that school. So if a school wants to train primary care physicians for that state, and you want to be an academic physician, no point in applying there. If you want to go to a P/F school, then don't apply to schools that grade. And so on.
     
  5. drdan83

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    If I apply to an MD program, I'm only planning on applying to my state school and maybe just one or two more mid-tier programs. Like you said, I think I fit into their culture as they look for diversity.

    I'm not trying to apply to a top 20 school. I'm thinking that mid-tier schools will at least evaluate your whole application and then come to any decision. I think it's the top school's that screen you by the #'s.
     
  6. drdan83

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    To add to this,

    Is it a wise decision for me to contact my state school or at least e-mail them asking for advice with my plans? Should I at least show them what I have now and basically ask them "What do I need to be competitive at your school?"

    Or should I wait at least for one full semester until I have a few science courses and a full load of courses?

    I just want to be on some track. I don't want to do this aimlessly.
     
  7. NightGod

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    Applying to only two or three schools is a recipe for failure. It's not impossible, but it is generally recommended to apply as broadly as your life circumstances will allow you to attend, especially if you have an app that is weak in certain areas due to past issues (as so many non-trads do). The typical advice on the number of schools to apply to runs around 15-20, generally 2-3 'safeties', 10-14 'likely' and 2-3 'reach/dream'. Note if you live in a state like Texas, where they take a mandated 90% of their students from in-state apps, this advice might change a bit.
     
  8. vc7777

    vc7777 Nontrad MD/MS Resident
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    This is a great idea. I did this before settling down into a post-bacc program with an admissions person from my local state school. I found them to be more than willing to give me an appointment and a little of their time.

    Granted, you may have to take some "lumps with your lessons". Don't expect them to be anything but jaded and skeptical. (They were with me, I could tell) Try to frame the discussion around what they would like to see from you. Also don't go in there saying "I'm going to get a 4.0 and a 45T".

    Good luck.
     
  9. vc7777

    vc7777 Nontrad MD/MS Resident
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    Check out the AMCAS website. There should be some tables where you can look up data, just like anyone else. The numbers are there. How to interpret them is the key.

    I'm taking biostats and epidemiology right now. There are gross assumptions about populations made all the time, not unlike med school applicants. "If I smoke X packs for Y years, and I am Z years old, and am W ethnicity, what is the probability that I will develop lung cancer in 5 years?" Like the AMCAS tables, this data is (are?) difficult to apply to any one individual. The fact is, there is way more to an individual applicant than just GPA and MCAT. Some people have great stats and horrible results. And vice-versa.

    So in short. They are wrong. If it were only GPA and MCAT:
    a) there would be no secondaries, or interviews
    and
    b) there would be a simple formula for acceptance

    Finally, 4 out of 3 Pre-meds in Pre-Allo have difficulty with Statistics. ;)
     
    #8 vc7777, Jul 23, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2011
  10. Helen Wheels

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    Well, this is just my personal experience so take it for what it's worth. In my first app cycle I applied to 32 MD programs and was rejected without an interview at every one. I did apply broadly but I believe my app was auto screened out at the majority of those schools for my 27 MCAT. A handful of schools put me on pre-interview hold and those schools I do believe actually read my application. But at the other 27 schools I believe that I was auto screened out and no human eye ever read my app.

    IMHO, it is all about the numbers in order to get an interview. After that, less so.
     
  11. yankswin2011

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    Look, if there is one factor that is the elephant in the room, it's this (and I'm not being racist): if you're an underrepresented minority, you have better shot if your numbers are not up to par.
     
  12. music2doc

    music2doc Student of Mad Doctoring
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    Numbers are a big deal, but they won't get you in without the softer stuff. Your stats create initial opinions. They are also much, much, much easier to compare between two applicants. How do you compare a student with 5,000 hours of patient care experience, 100 hours of shadowing at a free clinic, and 40 hours of shadowing to one 2,000 hours of EMS experience, 75 hours of shadowing, and 500 volunteer hours at the soup kitchen? It's much easier to compare their MCATs and GPAs. As a result, you make rough cuts based on numbers and then do more fine selections with the less objective stuff.
     
  13. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing
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    :laugh:.

    Yes. I am in this camp. Numbers are a partial truth. And can be limiting if applied to the individual. Particularly when that individual is you.

    Since I have no skills in stats. I've tried to say this in metaphorical language. Probably without much effect.

    But I liken SDN, particularly the pre-allo scence, as a bludgeoning piece of regressive curve software. Wherein a cloud of individual data points is manipulated into a line. And that line is the numbers and therefore the oppressive logic of the premed game.

    I think there is more to this than that. There is an exceptionalist science. A way of being off the curve. That can be effective. The whole idea of there being a curve. Of numbers. Of activity. Of premed methodology. Begs. For an exception.

    And is the reason why the actual data is a nebulous cloud and not an actual straight line.

    Be nebulous to the existence of well ordered approach. And if you dare. Be succesful at it.
     
  14. km17

    km17 Annyong
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    LOVED this. Also, Nas, if your posts are this awesome, I can't even begin to imagine the reactions of ADCOMs reading (/when they read?) your personal statement.
     
  15. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing
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    Thanks. But in the interest of clarity and truth. I got some expert help on my personal statement. My thesis was my own. But the language and presentation was cleaned up a lot.

    I think there is some showbiz even if your goal is the punch hard right for the guts. Things have to be palatable for a conservative crowd. If I hhad explored my thesis to it's honest limits. One person would have thought is was awesome. And I'd be there with you all now. Repeating the process.

    Just a touch of production prevented that.

    But to elaborate on my technique. I thought long and hard about what had driven my life up until that point. What was unique about that. And why i thought that would make me a useful member of a medical school class.

    My life's endeavors were of atypical intent. And well-suited me for a particular type of service to certain communities. I took some chances. Gambling that my case would not be universally palatable. But that in the right circumstances would be valuable.

    All of my successes in the app cycle match exactly what I communicated and what I could offer. Therefore I was able to be sincere and forceful in targeting a smaller set of circumstances.

    It worked.

    I am convinced that if I followed all or any of the directives of premed culture I wouldn't have gotten anywhere.

    But buyer beware. No approach should be universal. If I was a high gpa/mcat applicant with a research CV my technique would have been somewhat different.
     
    #14 Nasrudin, Jul 24, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011
  16. Law2Doc

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    Folks in preallo generally haven't been to med school, and have the disadvantage of looking at the adcom decisions as a mysterious black box -- they have no clue as to what happens within that box. Most of the time folks who say its all about the numbers want that to be the case, because it validates all they have accomplished in undergrad, and they dont want to hear that some B average dude with amazing life experiences can trump their 4.0/40 that they worked so hard to accomplish. In fact, most places have a multitude of factors they look at in determining what constitutes "good fit".
    interesting experiences count. Connections count. The interview counts a lot.
     
  17. Foodie

    Foodie ASA Member
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    I can only imagine how expensive and frustrating that must have been for you. It's very generous of you to share your experience for others to learn from it.

    Having been on the med school adcom previously, I got a glimpse of how the whole acceptance process worked. The school used a formula to narrow down the massive number of applicants into a manageable interview batch. The formula consisted of the following factors, in no particular order:

    1) undergraduate school -- higher points for Ivy Leaguers
    2) if the candidate is a local
    3) MCAT score (biggest factor in determining your chances of getting an interview). Having said this, I would strongly deter anyone from applying to US MD schools with an MCAT score below 30. That's just waste of your time and money.
    4) GPA

    No one read your essay or took a look at your application as a whole until you made the cut for the interview. On the interview dayd we sat around a round table and read your essays. Fun times. There are truly atrocious writers out there with stellar GPA and MCAT scores who got interviews. Why? Because high GPA + high MCAT = high USMLE scores in med school --> high likelihood of graduating, which always looks good for med schools.

    It's another story if they were accepted in the end. Once you get your foot in the door for the interview, you have as good a chance as any other interviewee.
     
  18. n3xa

    n3xa "the anchor"
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    Too late
     
  19. drdan83

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    I'm happy to hear that. And I have no idea why I still read the pre-allo threads. Can you elaborate on the "multitude of factors" aspect? As I stated earlier, I am anticipated my overall GPA to be "DO competitive." I am going to have to concentrate on some of these "factors" to make myself more competitive to MD programs as well as DO programs.
     
  20. drdan83

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    This clearly explains why several of my friends did not get into US MD programs.

    In that list, where do EC's and life experiences/unique qualities fit in?
     
  21. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Bear in mind that schools not being strictly about the numbers doesn't mean the numbers don't matter. Schools have so many amazing applicants to choose from that they often can get applicants both with the nonnumeric things they covet plus the high numbers. If your numbers are DO competitive, you probably will end up in a DO school. These other factors are not really things you can "concentrate" on. Are you going to go climb Everest, or do an armed service tour of duty, or become a ranked athlete, or spend a few years doing Peace Corps in the wilderness, of have a prior impressive career, because some adcom members think that would make for an intriguing addition to the incoming class? You are already on this path or you aren't. A few more shadowing, volunteering or research projects on the resume won't tip the scales.
     
  22. drdan83

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    What I was saying was how did those people with under a 3.5 get into MD programs. How do you get an allopathic school to say "I think this guy is a good fit for our program." I have a hard time believing that they come to this decision from the GPA. I also want to point out that this is considering a competitive MCAT score. I will take the other resident's advice and steer clear of MD programs w/o a 30 MCAT.

    So if you have an "MD competitive" MCAT score but you don't have the MD GPA, what will they looking for when offering you an interview?
     
  23. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing
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    Yep. Agree. There must be a heavy dose of the practical. I overcame a low gpa only because I didn't have any other glaring holes. And played the best hand I could. And got [email protected] lucky.

    But I disagree with the above that someone like n3xa for example shouldn't apply.

    You're never gonna get past the first round at some schools. That's just how it goes. But take a close look at this thread and you have different adcoms giving entirely different takes on it. That's also how it goes.
     
  24. Law2Doc

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    I think you are missing my point. US allo med schools have taken folks with 3.1 GPAs. Med schools have taken folks with 28 MCAT. But generally these folks had something else going for them. Something you can't just "work on" and add. Someone who is a captain in the army or a competitive professional ice skater, or a mountain climber, or has spent a few years digging ditches in Borneo, or has done Nobel worthy research, might excite an adcom enough to overlook the 3.2/29 he brings to the table. Someone who has already spent years in another professional career might provide that hook that makes an adcom think that this person could be an intriguing addition to the class even though he will displace someone with a 4.0/40 they could otherwise take. But honestly, if you have nothing this impressive on your resume, and have DO competitive numbers, there probably isn't something you can "bang out" in a relatively short period of time that will give you that "wow" factor.

    My point is that adcoms have the pick of the litter. They like people with the wow factor. They like people with high grades and MCAT. They love folks who have a combo of all of these. If you have the wow factor you probably will bump off a few limp fish 4.0/40s. If you have a 4.0/40 you might be able to get away with a few less ECs. If you have DO competitive numbers and no wow factor, there probably isn't something you can set out to do in a realistically short period of time to change your lot other than upping your numbers.
     
  25. drdan83

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    I know what you mean. I was just under the impression that most of us here had some type of WOW factor as most people just don't decide to go to medical school later in life. I believe I have a WOW factor. Now I am confused as to the degree of a "WOW" factor." I don't have an Olympic medal and I didn't invent anything but I do believe that I have certain life experiences that will make me stand out.

    I guess my initial question was how much do you need to WOW an adcomm to compensate for a lower GPA?
     
  26. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing
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    You'll get no answer to this. Not one that's better than anybody's opinion on the sunday game.

    I felt exactly like you did. Unsure of many things.

    At a certain point. You'll just be all in or quit. If your in. You just start to study and master your Kung Fu. You go forward, knowing your enemies are stronger and more numerous. And you fight it out. With as much cunning as can to stay in it till the end.

    Once you get an interview. You're level enough with your competition.

    But by all means study up on other ways to get there. I couuld tell you the ups and downs of Israeli, carribean, and Irish med schools. And wou;d've gone DO in a heartbeat.
     
  27. drdan83

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    So I guess it really is a crapshoot. You just have to believe in your abilities and your application and see how far it goes.
     
  28. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing
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    Yes. That's my take. And yours it seems. I don't get the sense that your looking for a reason to quit or go a different way.

    So start talking posetive to yourself. And think deeply about what would maximize your opportunity and sharpen your angle.

    I'm a bit of a surrealist. But I believe there is a sequence of weak points in any obstacle. That make it surrmountable.

    There is however also a point of diminishing returns. Where the Kung Fu cannot outwit damage to oneself. Family. Sanity. Etc.
     
  29. mauberley

    mauberley radiating prestige
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    Pretty much.
     
  30. drdan83

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    That is great advice. Thanks
     
  31. Law2Doc

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    Agree with the above that few are going to be able to quantify the wow factor for you. That doesn't really equate to crapshoot in my mind because not knowing how a factor is applied is not really the same as random chance (ie like a dice roll). There is an internal logic at work -- we just aren't privy to it from the outside. as for trying to leverage being a nontrad as being a wow factor in and of itself, I'm not sure you get as much traction with that as the nontrad who are both nontrads and have accomplished amazing things. This goes back to my suggestion that nontrads should avoid the so-called nontrad friendly schools, because those are the places where you in fact will be going head to head with other nontrads who have accomplished a lot more. You are better off standing out as the lone nontrad in the sea of 20 year old biochem majors who haven't done a lot more than the basic premed volunteering and lab research.
     
  32. Foodie

    Foodie ASA Member
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    They don't. They are only considered after the interview is granted and your application has been read as a whole. Mind you, this is just one school. Other schools probably have different formulas.

    Good luck. In the end, it matters very little if you're an MD or DO.
     
  33. kittywampus

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    Since it seems that many of the posters here are coming up with rather good points and it does seem that perhaps a couple are actually (or were at one time) on an admissions committee, I thought I'd chime in.

    I didn't see anyone make a differentiation between science and non-science GPA in their theories of the “formula“ for getting an interview. Do schools not look at a transcript to see if perhaps a student with a 2.0 GPA was a slacker their first year and amped it up for the next three with straight A’s?

    Personally, I have a mediocre overall GPA at 3.3 but a 3.7 science GPA. As an undergraduate, I got A's in all the "required" courses, ie Physics, Gen Bio and Chem, O-chem; A's in each of these. Any opinions on how this would factor into getting interviews with MD schools?
     
  34. Law2Doc

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    Schools say they take into account positive trends. As far as science vs conscience, most schools are going to want to see all As and Bs in the prereqs. As for the science GPA vs cumulative GPA most places don't make much of the distinction but probably focus on the cumulative undergrad plus postbacc GPA because most folks were science majors so their cumulative and science GPAs are pretty close.
     
  35. Law2Doc

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    this is very much not the norm.
     
  36. vc7777

    vc7777 Nontrad MD/MS Resident
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    From my experience, it is not the norm either.
     
  37. drdan83

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    I agree with you. It would defeat the purpose of that "WOW" factor that you were referring to.
     
  38. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    I spent four years as a student adcom, and every single one of the things mentioned here is completely the opposite of how things are done where I went to med school. We do not give extra points for attending an Ivy school (although many members of the adcom would look askance at CC or online coursework, especially for prereqs). We give no preference for state residency, so we don't care about location; our students come from all over the country (and from other countries). Although our MCAT average is in the mid-thirties, every class has a significant minority with scores up to 10 points lower than that (generally disadvantaged candidates). While overall GPA does matter, nontrads (or even trads) who have a bad start but then recover later will still be considered because we look at GPA trends. Finally, all applicants are not equal once they are invited to interview. Based on how they look on paper, there are some applicants whom we'd definitely prefer to interview over others that we still also invite.

    As do I. Every class for the past four years that I was on the adcom has people in it with MCAT scores in the mid-twenties, as well as people with overall GPAs below 3.0. Again, often the first group are disadvantaged students, and often the second group are nontrads who have done postbacs but still have low overall GPAs.

    It's not a crapshoot. As L2D pointed out, the admissions process is highly subjective, and it's a bit of a black box for those who are on the outside. To paraphrase Justice Stewart, you can't always define what makes a candidate a good fit, but you know one when you see it, and there *is* a method to our madness. It's not like we put all the applicants' names in a hat and draw some out at random; that would be a crapshoot. Some people are so stellar on paper that they'll likely get an acceptance unless they are total tools at their interview. Others are reasonably good candidates who might get in if we have space for them, especially if they do well on their interview day. And then there is a group that has no chance of getting in post-interview even though they looked decent or even great on paper.

    I do think it's true that if you get an interview, then you have a chance of getting an acceptance. If that weren't the case, it would be a total waste of the school's time and yours to interview you in the first place. However, getting an interview doesn't necessarily mean that you're top tier candidate, and not getting one doesn't necessarily mean that you're a subpar applicant. At a school like mine that cares so much about fit, we regularly reject high-stat candidates post-secondary if they don't fit with our mission. We also reject otherwise strong candidates post-interview for the same reason. Many of these people will be perfectly good doctors and do very well in medical school. They just won't be doing it at this medical school. ;)
     
    #37 QofQuimica, Jul 24, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011
  39. Iwillhealyou

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    #38 Iwillhealyou, Jul 24, 2011
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  40. drdan83

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    That is good to hear Q. It leave hope open. How come the advice here is way better than the pre-allo forum?
     
  41. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    Probably because of what L2D said. Premeds, many of whom haven't even applied to med school themselves yet, are really not in a good position to know what adcoms are looking for in applicants. And again, different schools value different qualities in applicants, as demonstrated by Foodie's experiences versus mine.
     
  42. Iwillhealyou

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    #41 Iwillhealyou, Jul 24, 2011
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  43. mauberley

    mauberley radiating prestige
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    Not from the perspective of any single school, of course. I would be the last person to argue that there isn't a method to the admissions process. But from a single applicant's perspective, you are playing the odds, to an extent, insofaras one cannot completely know all of the factors entering into the decision-making process. This is why people apply broadly in addition to smartly; it's why we talk about one's chances of being accepted. Hence "crapshoot."
     
  44. mauberley

    mauberley radiating prestige
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    For what it's worth, the impetus is not on the pre-allo readers to come to the NT forum. Rather, the non-trads should be actively participating in pre-allo to share their perspectives. (I know a few already do.) I spend a lot of time there for exactly this reason.
     
  45. drdan83

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    Q, can you talk about some stuff that makes non-trads stand out. I know there is no right answer but what's unique and what's really not significant. I mean, what do you find unique?

    I'm still trying to figure out how some people with lower stats are beating out the applicants with higher stats.
     
  46. wholeheartedly

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    I'm not Q, and I'd love to hear her answer, but I think the types of things that probably stand out are people accomplishing things doing what they're passionate about instead of checking off boxes on a list.
     
  47. Helen Wheels

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    Thanks! I guess I should add that the story has a fairly happy ending. In my second cycle I applied to 1 MD and 1 DO program. At least I saved a lot of money on the second try! :laugh: After all those MD program rejections the very first DO school I applied to accepted me. IMHO this was the first school that was not perturbed by my MCAT and actually read the application.
     
  48. drdan83

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    Actually, this discussion reminds me of that NOVA series "Becoming a Doctor."

    The one where they follow the Harvard med students from 1987 to present. Sure you have your typical Harvard standouts but Dr. Tarter seemed so eccentric. He certainly had some type of "WOW" factor that got him into Harvard. The series doesn't go into too much detail about his background but he was a non-trad, I think they said he was an Olympic hopeful, and he worked as a mechanic prior to med school.

    Now, I'm not trying to go to Harvard but it does make you wonder what these med schools are looking for.
     
  49. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    It's not something that's easy to generalize. I can't believe that I'm agreeing with L2D for a third time (and all in one thread to boot!), but they tend to be highly accomplished people who have done exceptional things. Ideally, these are exceptional things that show a commitment to "making the world a better place," which of course is also a nebulous criterion.

    Maybe it would help if I spoke about what I like to see personally. I like candidates with teaching experience, because physicians spend their entire careers teaching others. I also like candidates with extensive research experience. Both of these things are no doubt influenced by the fact that these people have a similar background to my own.

    I like candidates whose entire application demonstrates a commitment in service to others, and whose LORs back that up--for example, who have done things like initiating service projects that are long-term and self-sustaining. I really like candidates who are so passionate about their interests or the causes they champion that they get me excited about them too, even if it's not something that I find inherently interesting. I like candidates who work in service industries, because they understand the concept of being in a service profession. I like candidates who have a background in ethics, because the rest of us in medicine need them desperately. I like candidates who are bilingual, because as cool as it is to use the interpreter phone, it's much cooler to be able to speak to a patient in their native language.

    I like candidates who succeed against the odds. I'm not talking about middle class people who partied too much in college and that's why they got so-so grades. I'm talking about people who grew up in inner cities or the rural South or came to this country as teenaged refugees who knew no English--the kind of people who have tremendous odds against them for even getting through HS, let alone through college, and yet still managed to do reasonably well considering the hardships they overcame. So along with nontrads, I advocate for disadvantaged candidates with a significant "distance traveled."

    Most of all, I like candidates who, when I read their apps, make me feel like they're the kind of person I would want as a classmate--or as my doctor some day. Again, it's hard to describe exactly what that is, but I know it when I see it.
     
  50. drdan83

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    This thread has produced a wealth of information for me. Your insights are great Q. If you have extra time to add anything to this or if anything pops into your mind, I'd love to read it.
     
  51. Nasrudin

    Nasrudin Apropos of Nothing
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    I had this exact thought when reading her post. If we knew what these criteria were per adcom member per school. We could choose optimally which court to make our case. It would be awesome indeed.

    Instead what you get is a ceremonial figure. Doing revivalist public outreach. And instituional marketing. As our only window into these affairs. So yep. Crapshoot. With occasionally good but more often dubious intel and guesswork on our part.

    But It's cool of Q to be so straightforward with her criteria. As a case in point for who knows what a confederacy of individuals with much different tastes would produce in the way of a decision on our respective files.

    Some collectives might more closely abide a school mission. Making the job of judging our potential fit and thus $100 ticket to ride more productive. But some of them are worded like the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. When considering Jefferson owned other people. Doesn't add up to all that much on the ground.

    And if I knew what she does. I would have applied.

    But as to pre-allo forum. And to some ascribed duty to endure the conversations. I cannot abide nor agree good sir!
     
    #50 Nasrudin, Jul 24, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011

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