Efle's Matriculating Student Survey Highlights - Fun Facts and Demographics

efle

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Hello everybody, this one's a doozy.

As usual lately, I had a bunch of time to kill at work so I perused the AAMC's Matriculating Student Questionnaire for 2016. Thought I'd share what was interesting to me, especially what surprised me and seemed to differ from the usual advice and attitudes of SDN.

A lot of this is just easy visuals for some of the straightforward data, other parts I was messing around with combining/sorting. I'm gonna organize roughly chronologically along the premed process.

1. ̶W̶h̶y̶ When medicine?

On these forums, you often hear about the importance of clinical experiences and/or shadowing during college, because how else can you be sure you want to go after this career? Surprisingly, the majority of med students say they had "definitely decided" by the time they finished high school.



2. Premed

The survey gives us a glimpse of what the most common premed experiences were for successful applicants. Here are those experienced by 30%+ and here is the full set. Interesting to me is that 60% had lab research apprenticeship yet the MSAR reports much higher percentages with research/lab experience for pretty much every school.



What does undergrad tend to cost successful medical applicants? A whopping 65.0% report zero college debt whatsoever (compare to 30% debt free among college graduates nationally). You can see more AAMC info about percentages carrying debt, broken down by race, here. Among the less fortunate 35% that does have debt, this is the distribution:



For those with debt the median was $27,000 (this time, much more similar to the national average collegiate debt of ~$29,000).

3. MCAT

SDN often emphasizes the importance of fully preparing and taking the exam one time. I was surprised that over a third of successful applicants took the MCAT multiple times.


Among admitted retakers, 89.0% reported that they improved after the first sitting. The survey asked retakers what the single biggest cause of improvement was:



Glad to see private tutoring so low (bested only, of course, by premed advising).

4. Gap Years, Ages

The term "traditional applicant" is used to describe students who apply to medical school throughout their Senior year of college and matriculate in the Fall following graduation. Yet, you are already in the minority if you matriculate at age 22 or within a year of graduation.



Based on the trend of the last four years, next season might see the first time that 1-2 gap years is the most common type of application, overtaking the traditional applicant.



What did people most often do during this gap time? (Note multiple items could be reported)



5. The Application Cycle - Secondaries

How many secondaries do people complete and what does it cost them?

Median for completed secondaries is 14, which over in WAMC will garner the advice to add more schools every single time! I was surprised at how many people complete only a handful, and I have no idea how 2% of people get admitted without completing any (or interviewing, as we will see later).



The costs at this stage are significant for most people, with the median at $1,000 and about a quarter paying $2000 - $3000+

 
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efle

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5. The Application Cycle - Interviews

SDN is full of superstars that apply to dozens of places, interview at most of them, and get in to many. But, the median accepted applicant receives only 3 IIs, and 47.7% of matriculants were accepted to only one medical school. In about 20% of cases, matriculants hold a single admit which they got from a single interview invitation! There's a pretty huge range though:



As you might expect, also a big range for IIs attended: (note the bins change)



And as you also might expect, there's a big range of costs, though I was surprised to read that the median total cost for all interviews attended (travel, lodging, food, etc) was only $600:



6. Choosing your medical school!

One of the biggest chunks of the survey was asking people with multiple admits to rate the factors that they based their matriculation decision on. Factors were rated as N/A, not important, somewhat important, important, or very important. I summed up important + very important for each factor and sorted by what was most common. Here is the full list of 26 factors, and here are the 10 most commonly cited:



7. Financing MD School and Desired Careers

The survey asked students to break down how much they'd draw on various sources to fund their education. Each person's responses had to total 100.0 and the average breakdown was:



Lastly, asked what they expected to be involved in when practicing (with breakdown for those answering Yes to Patient Care and Research):



Alright, that's all. Another productive day in clinical research! Hope this might prove informative and/or interesting to a few people other than me!
 
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B

BadNewsBears2016

Kinda crazy how linear the "interviews attended" chart is.

Good job. Fun charts!
 
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freak7

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@LizzyM 's refrain of "Interviews 3 and a doctor you will be" appears to be well supported by this survey if the median matriculant has 3 interviews.
Actually, that was the only thing in the post that I took issue with. @efle did you mean median matriculant? It says median applicant and I can't tell if you mean matriculants who at the time were themselves applicants or if you meant the pool of all applicants.
 
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Dr.Sticks

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It is no surprise gap years are getting to be more common.
I plan to take a gap year
So without a gap year
I am cramming all my ECs, research, a part time job(I am not rich), and MCAT prep as well as an Interview cycle into just 4 years and I have to do it while maintaining a stellar GPA.

That can be done, but why make life hard on yourself?

Plus the other issue I see going by this is cost.. Where am I going to get the thousands I need without working/saving?

It would be much easier if I didn't need to have a job.

Among other reasons would be my age..(even if I take a gap year I would be below the average based on this chart)
 
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efle

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Actually, that was the only thing in the post that I took issue with. @efle did you mean median matriculant? It says median applicant and I can't tell if you mean matriculants who at the time were themselves applicants or if you meant the pool of all applicants.
Good catch! Meant to be accepted applicant (or matriculant)
 

efle

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It is no surprise gap years are getting to be more common.
I agree, the people I know who are traditional were usually on top of everything right from the start of college and already had volunteering, research, etc by end of Junior year. For anyone that doesn't discover the interest until midway through college I think gaps are going to be pretty universal.
 

Dream_big

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~10% of premeds paid $3k or more for secondaries? Mind boggling
I can understand the travel costs for interviews being over $3k, but secondaries? o_O
 

efle

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~10% of premeds paid $3k or more for secondaries? Mind boggling
I can understand the travel costs for interviews being over $3k, but secondaries? o_O
It only takes applying to 30 schools! I know a lot of people applying to numbers in the 20s IRL and on these boards I've seen a few people with signatures that say like 35
 
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NotYou20

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What does undergrad tend to cost successful medical applicants? A whopping 65.0% report zero college debt whatsoever
This, and that only 69% considered cost of attendance important is nuts. It's not all that surprising considering my med school is concentration of inherited wealth I've ever experienced. There's lots of reasons for this which other threads have addressed. Props to the large amount of you guys who have earned scholarships too.

Thanks for doing this efle!
 

Dandine

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Yessss! I was curious about these results but hadn't checked them out yet. Thank you!
 
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Dream_big

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It only takes applying to 30 schools! I know a lot of people applying to numbers in the 20s IRL and on these boards I've seen a few people with signatures that say like 35
That hurts MY wallet but hey it has to be done I guess. Great tables!
 

Astra

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One of the biggest chunks of the survey was asking people with multiple admits to rate the factors that they based their matriculation decision on. Factors were rated as N/A, not important, somewhat important, important, or very important. I summed up important + very important for each factor and sorted by what was most common. Here is the full list of 26 factors, and here are the 10 most commonly cited:


Does quality of the clinical rotations fall under school's teaching methods/curricula? If not, it's crazy its not up there
 
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efle

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Does quality of the clinical rotations fall under school's teaching methods/curricula? If not, it's crazy its not up there
What do you mean by quality? Maybe a lot of people consider that part of facilities? I'm pretty certain teaching/curricula just means things like accelerated preclinicals, pass/fail grading, PBL, optional lecture etc.
 

Astra

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What do you mean by quality? Maybe a lot of people consider that part of facilities? I'm pretty certain teaching/curricula just means things like accelerated preclinicals, pass/fail grading, PBL, optional lecture etc.
whether the rotation sites are at academic or community hospitals, patient population, pathology diversity, specialties shadowed, how the rotation sites are determined ( lottery system or first come first serve), residency programs available at that school. I'm sure there are more but these are some of the things I weigh when considering two med schools
 

efle

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whether the rotation sites are at academic or community hospitals, patient population, pathology diversity, specialties shadowed, how the rotation sites are determined ( lottery system or first come first serve), residency programs available at that school. I'm sure there are more but these are some of the things I weigh when considering two med schools
Not one of the options on the survey! Though some is probably covered by research availability, location, residency placement, they should have had clinical quality as an option for sure.
 

efle

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This, and that only 69% considered cost of attendance important is nuts. It's not all that surprising considering my med school is concentration of inherited wealth I've ever experienced. There's lots of reasons for this which other threads have addressed. Props to the large amount of you guys who have earned scholarships too.

Thanks for doing this efle!
Yeah, there was also a section on estimated parental income, where the median was $125,000 and ~25% said a quarter mil and up. I can see how CoA is only moderate importance to a big chunk of students.
 
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Not one of the options on the survey! Though some is probably covered by research availability, location, residency placement, they should have had clinical quality as an option for sure.
Clinical quality isn't something that can readily be assessed by most medical school applicants though, so while it might be an important thing to consider, there is likely not enough information for it to have made a tangible difference in someone's decision. Really, it's being used as a proxy for overall educational quality, so the survey had to ask other questions to get at that instead.
 
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NotYou20

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Yeah, there was also a section on estimated parental income, where the median was $125,000 and ~25% said a quarter mil and up. I can see how CoA is only moderate importance to a big chunk of students.
Sounds about right. Like in anything there's a lot of kids doing the same thing their parent(s) do. Because of that, I'm curious as to whether there's a correlation between when people decide on medicine and family income.
 
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NotYou20

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Clinical quality isn't something that can readily be assessed by most medical school applicants though, so while it might be an important thing to consider, there is likely not enough information for it to have made a tangible difference in someone's decision. Really, it's being used as a proxy for overall educational quality, so the survey had to ask other questions to get at that instead.
It's funny how upper classmen told me that quality of clinicals is one of the most important things to consider but when I decided on my school, there was little beyond reputation to use in assessing this. I'd guess this is more important for low tier mds and dos, which really isn't the range where most people using this site are.
 
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efle

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This figure might also be illuminating in the discussion of income / med school debt:

This figure is for medical school matriculants in 2015.

from the AAMCs 2016 Analysis on Diversity in medical education, worth checking out in full.
Man, I really wish they broke down the bottom bin a little further. There's a huge difference between your family earning 20k vs 45k, and I bet the differences in prevalence would be the biggest for the very low end
 

kb1900

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I'm in the minority's but I think that if you have ur ducks lined up and have the right level of maturity entering and during undergrad, you can avoid a gap year quite comfortably.

Though, as the data suggests, the proportion of grads is decreasing.
 

efle

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Clinical quality isn't something that can readily be assessed by most medical school applicants though, so while it might be an important thing to consider, there is likely not enough information for it to have made a tangible difference in someone's decision. Really, it's being used as a proxy for overall educational quality, so the survey had to ask other questions to get at that instead.
That makes sense, I did ask about clinical quality at my interviews but I'm really just going on proxies like faculty/student interviews and hospital capture area.

Sort of parallels college visits I suppose, of course everyone wants quality classes but you have no good way to assess that
 
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efle

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I'm in the minority's but I think that if you have ur ducks lined up and have the right level of maturity entering and during undergrad, you can avoid a gap year quite comfortably.

Though, as the data suggests, the proportion of grads is decreasing.
I think the key thing is when you decide to be pre-med. If you've already researched what makes a good app before you even begin college, you probably won't have much missing from your app after just 3 years.
 
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kb1900

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I think the key thing is when you decide to be pre-med. If you've already researched what makes a good app before you even begin college, you probably won't have much missing from your app after just 3 years.
Yeah I mean part of it also is that the hundreds of freshman premeds in college don't even know what makes a good app even though they have already decided that they are "premed"
 

efle

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Yeah I mean part of it also is that the hundreds of freshman premeds in college don't even know what makes a good app even though they have already decided that they are "premed"
Doesn't help that premed advising tends to be pretty abysmal too. My sibling was told it is OK to take prereqs abroad, and I was given incorrect info about whether grades abroad went into AMCAS GPA for my own semester abroad. Very beneficial to figure out that Google > advising in most cases.
 
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OchemOficionado

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Doesn't help that premed advising tends to be pretty abysmal too. My sibling was told it is OK to take prereqs abroad, and I was given incorrect info about whether grades abroad went into AMCAS GPA for my own semester abroad. Very beneficial to figure out that Google > advising in most cases.

I agree that Pre Med advising is not the best at many universities. Was your sister at least told that pre reqs abroad are frowned upon? Technicallyyyyyy, they are ok. (Still wouldn't suggest that). I have friends at Keck and Geffen that did the physics series abroad. It's kind of the popular thing to do for many at the top UCs although I'm sure it hurts some applicants.
 
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I agree, the people I know who are traditional were usually on top of everything right from the start of college and already had volunteering, research, etc by end of Junior year. For anyone that doesn't discover the interest until midway through college I think gaps are going to be pretty universal.
I find it interesting how we define "traditional" applicants on this forum (it varies by thread). I'm a borderline nontraditional UG (previous career, didn't go straight to college, but I'm not 25 yet) but apparently I'd be a "traditional" applicant if I apply at the end of my junior year? Would we consider a 40 yr old who had a previous career (that didn't require a bachelors) traditional if they went to school and applied at the end of their junior year?

Great job on the breakdown OP! Very interesting.
 

efle

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I agree that Pre Med advising is not the best at many universities. Was your sister at least told that pre reqs abroad are frowned upon? Technicallyyyyyy, they are ok. (Still wouldn't suggest that). I have friends at Keck and Geffen that did the physics series abroad. It's kind of the popular thing to do for many at the top UCs although I'm sure it hurts some applicants.
I think it depends on exactly how each college handles the credit transfer, you might be OK if you get credit with letter grade copied onto your US transcript. For the abroad program my sibling signed up for, AAMC explicitly refuses documentation from the abroad institution, and their college only transfers it to the US transcript as Credit/No Credit.

So basically if they had listened to their advisor and not messaged me about it, they would've ended up applying with Pass/Fail Physics on the only submitted transcript.
 
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efle

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I find it interesting how we define "traditional" applicants on this forum (it varies by thread). I'm a borderline nontraditional UG (previous career, didn't go straight to college, but I'm not 25 yet) but apparently I'd be a "traditional" applicant if I apply at the end of my junior year? Would we consider a 40 yr old who had a previous career (that didn't require a bachelors) traditional if they went to school and applied at the end of their junior year?
I think if someone took a year off before college, but then still went from college straight to MD, it would be traditional. Same for if someone went straight through but took 5 years for college. I'd personally call someone non-trad if they ever had multiple years spent working in another area though, regardless of whether it was before or after the bachelors!
 
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