- Jun 11, 2010
- Reaction score
Some tips for you. Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair.
- Applying early is good. The earlier, the better. But don’t freak out if you’re not submitting by end of July. Most Admissions deans don’t get started at work until after Labor Day. By end of September, it's probably too late for MD schools (unless you’re a stellar candidate), but FYI, the DO cycle is longer (up to Dec or even Jan!) I'll make some DO-specific posts in the pre-osteopathic forum later.
- Do NOT apply to a school that you don't want to go to. It's one thing to not like a place after an interview, but, really, do your homework.
- Think about where the schools are. Mayo and Rochester are not merely cold in the winter, but Siberian cold. Tulane, on the other hand, is hot and sauna-like in the summer (but with great food). Consider your support groups, if you're leaving home for the first time. I literally have lost students to homesickness.
- If you don't have your MCAT in (or some other crucial requirement), it's OK to start applying. The verification process can take a long time, so if you can get that out of the way, so much the better. Apply to an unrealistic reach school.
- Don't know where to apply? Do your homework. MSAR Online is a mandatory resource. The money it will save you from not applying to even one wrong school (for you) will more than make up for the cost of MSAR.
- More and more med schools accept CC credits. Again, MSAR is useful in telling you who does, and who doesn't take the coursework. Here's a rule of thumb.
-If you go to a CC and then to a UG school, that's fine.
-If you go to a CC as a non-trad to get the pre-reqs, for for grade repair as a DIY post-bac, that's also fine.
-If it appears that you're avoiding your UG school's rigorous weeding courses by taking them at CCs, then that's going to raise some eyebrows.
- Apply strategically! What I mean is look over the MCAT AND GPAs of the schools you're interested in, and apply to those whose median scores are close to your own. Do NOT apply to a school if your numbers are <10th percentile of matriculants. The people who get into Yale with a 29 MCAT are either URM, legacies, veterans, or have something really spectacular about their story.
- My suggestion is that if you're 2-3 points below the school's median, you're in striking distance, but consider your numbers carefully. Apply smart and apply once. But the higher the pole you want to climb, the slipperier it will get.
- In light of the above, there's "reach", and then there's "unrealistic". Be realistic.
- If your GPA is under 3.4, I recommend NOT applying now, unless you live in an area where the state schools have their 10th-90th percentiles stretching down to 3.3. An example is U AR or U MO-KC. Better to take a post-bac or SMP and get the GPA into a competitive zone. Oh, and I'm not impressed with the n=1 stories of "my cousin got into Harvard with a 3.0 GPA". There always will be outliers.
- If you do well in a SMP/post-bac (GPA >3.6 AND have a MCAT > 33), then there are med schools that reward reinvention, even if your cGPA is <3.4! Search for my other posts for lists of those.
- A great GPA is not going to make up for a poor MCAT, and vice versa.
- The average MD matriculant nationwide has a GPA of 3.69 +/- 0.25 for the past few years and an MCAT of 31 (roughly 509-511 on the new exam). Remember these numbers.
- Know your target schools, beyond the numbers. Many schools are mission driven, like Howard, UCR, SIU, Mercer and Central Michigan.
- Look up how many public schools accept out-of-state students, and what percentage are these of the class? MSAR tells you this in the Acceptance Information tab. Many schools (ex. Mercer, UND, USD, U NM, LSU, U MS) will highly favor in-state residents, to the exclusion of OOSers. Those OOS students taken at, say, U IA or U AL, most likely come from neighboring states. So don't apply to U HI just because you'd love to go to med school in HI. Have the bona fides for HI. My rule of thumb is if >10-20% of the matriculants are from OOS, it might be worth applying. But be > avg.
- In that vein, think very carefully about "ties" to a state. Growing up in a place and then moving away is fine. Wife's family lives there? Not fine.
- Have as any eyeballs as possible go over your app. There's no excuse for spelling, grammar or thoughtless mistakes on your PS. And for God's sake, when you cut and paste, remove school A's name and replace it with B for the app for school B. As in sports, where the team that makes more mistakes will lose, the apps with the fewest mistakes get received kindly.
- Don't use your PS to explain why you got bad grades. It's for "Who are you?” for "Why Medicine?" and how you got to that decision.
- Do NOT write in your PS or secondary about what you think we want to see...write about your passions and what drives you. Write about what makes you interesting.
- The “diversity” prompt for secondaries (as in "How will you add to the diversity of our class"?) is NOT about your ethnic background. It’s about what unique thing do you bring to the entering Class? Think of it this way: if I asked your three best friends “what’s the coolest thing about you?” what would they say?
- Give some serious thought to the “Tell us about a time you failed” or “What is the biggest obstacle that you overcame?” prompts of secondaries. I believe a lot of people get weeded out by this one for being superficial, or coming across as over privileged. Yes, I know some of you have charmed lives, but if the biggest hurt in your life was getting a C or B for the first time, that’s not going to go down very well. Not everyone goes experiences the death of a loved one, or goes through something traumatic, but really, what has challenged you the most? Moving away from home to go to college? Dealing with people of a very different culture? Confronting your own prejudices? These prompts are valuable because they make you think about yourself. Remember, to those who are given much, much is expected.
- So avoid writing something that would make a screener or interviewer think "that's it??" A example would be “I’m diverse because I went o school with lots of Asian kids”
- If English is NOT your native language, have some native English speakers go over your app.
- Many schools send out secondaries whether you're competitive or not. They can be a tax on the hopelessly clueless, or over-optimistic.
- Have the right ECs. You need ECs. There are tons of people on SDN who bitch and moan about them. Well, tough. Each school gets thousands of apps for some 100-250 seats. How do we winnow down the pool? The answer is something that hyperachievers with no people skills hate hearing: you have display your altruism and humanity, your willingness to serve others, that you know what you're getting into, and that you know what a doctor's day is like.
- It's not only about GPA and MCATs...it's about the rest of the packet. All the people you're competing with are academically clones of each other. So the guy with 1000 hrs in the lab and 100 hrs shadowing (and who thinks shadowing counts as volunteering) but no other clinical experience doesn't know what he's getting into, hasn't shown anything altruistic and will be passed over for someone who reads to poor children, or brings coffee to the dialysis patients in hospice. 4.0 automatons are a dime-a-dozen. Stats may get you to the door, but ECs get you through the door.
- Always keep in mind that it's about what med schools want, not what you want. An in the end, it's about the patients.
- If you're doing this because your parents are pressuring you to do it, stop right now, grow a spine and/or some balls, and tell them that this isn't for you. You'll just save yourself a lot of misery later. Better yet, get them accounts on SDN so they can see what it takes to get into med school.
- It's a scary process. And that's OK. Keep in mind that this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. Patience is a virtue.
- One or two bad grades in your app isn't going to kill you. Neither will parking tickets. Schools don't care about your parking tickets either.
- Not all IAs will kill you either, especially if they occurred when you were young and stupid, and now have grown. AdCom members were young and stupid once too. But the key thing is to own your transgressions, and don’t make excuses for them.
- If you have a felony in your background (especially a crime against a person), or multiple offenses, especially DUI, stop right now. Your medical career is over.
- In light of the above, even if you have had your juvenile records sealed, expunged, or sent to the Planet Zool, do a background check to make sure they’re really sealed. Not all of these things disappear, and if there’s any hint that you’re hiding something, you can be rejected, have your acceptance rescinded (it’s happened) or be expelled. Be truthful. You get a box to explain things. Explain well and OWN your transgressions; learn from them as well.
- If you have an institutional action (IA) for cheating, stop right now. Your medical career is over. Now, there's cheating and then there’s cheating. Plagiarism is not the same as merely forgetting some footnotes. Having someone take an exam for you is, well, lethal.
- A cheating IA means you should either find another career or first engage in 5-10 years of some honest, virtuous position of responsibility.
- Always have a backup plan.
- Know what's in your app. Do NOT lie. Do NOT embellish. If you did research, know what it was about.
- If you're still collecting LORs, simply ask "do you know me well enough to write me a good LOR?"
- It's OK to have had a poor semester, or even a poor year, if you have overcome that with straight A’s since then. People believe in redemption, and let's face it, we like come from behind stories.
- This process is not a zero-sum game. If you have a 3.5 GPA, and your cousin Jane has a 3.7, you're still competitive. You're not competing for the same seat, just a seat.
"Where do I apply?"
My rough rule of thumb:
MCAT > 36 (518) and GPA > 3.6: anywhere.
GPA >3.5; MCAT <35 (515) all except high tier schools
GPA >3.4, MCAT < 33 (511), lower tier
Look up and use the LizzyM score, or consider WedgeDawg’s rubric:
MCAT < 29 (505-507), newest schools only (except Va Tech, Hofstra and Central MI..the latter wants in-state only).
MCAT <27 (504): strongly suggest re-take.
The minimum MCAT ideally should be 30 with 10/10/10 or a 510 on the new exam.
And to all of you, good luck!