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Interview / Tour Musings

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by thegenius, Nov 11, 2005.

  1. thegenius

    thegenius Senior Wharf Rat
    10+ Year Member

    Jul 12, 2004
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    Attending Physician
    Hi guys/gals, I've been on more than a few interviews for this season and outside of the actual interview process, I am not all that impressed with the student tours and the other information you can learn about a medical school. I'm curious and I want your opinion. Am I not asking the right questions? Or are the tours inherently structured and designed in a flawed way?

    Now, regarding the first question...it's more rhetorical than anything else. At least, I'm not going to specify every question that I ask. It's more for other people that have been on several interviews. But I find that tour guides focus on

    1) the fact that their school is so non-competitive;
    2) people like to skip class (and they almost proclaim that as if it's a good thing);
    3) the school loves their students and will not let anyone fail if they don't want to fail;
    4) people really have a life outside of medical school

    By my unofficial calculation about 80% of the tour guides talk about those topics with regularity. And in fact, it is said with such effusiveness that I believe they think it's unique about their school.

    In reality, every school claims the top attributes and I have found tours become asymptotically less informative. That is, the more interviews I go on, the less I learn and the tours simply become a formality.

    My question to you all: Do you find the tours highly informative? Slightly informative? If so, please do respond because I would like to know what you ask or glean from these interviews.

    The only differentiating factor for the tour guides are the tour guides themselves. Tour guides represent their schools and the more impressed I am with the guides, the more impressed I am with the schools. That's why I enjoyed my visit to Albany and Cornell more so than other schools I have interviewed at that might be considered better med schools.

    Thanks for your opinion.
  2. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
    Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Dec 20, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Attending Physician
    Since the tours are usually conducted by students, you need to use that as your opportunity to find out the real deal as to what it's like at the school. In order to foster a more informal discussion, student tour guides often address the things they know the admissions office wouldn't mention, like whether the class is full of gunners, the frequency of people skipping lectures, and the likelihood of having a life outside of the library. These are all valid concerns, and once you are in med school, will be of big import. If you are the type that studies best at home or late at night, you want to know that its okay to skip the morning lecture, etc. So use the tours as you opportunity to find out the real deal stuff. Ask lots of questions that you would like to hear candid answers about. However bear in mind that those who volunteer to tour tend to really like the school (and thus won't badmouth it), or may not see any level of competitiveness as they may be the gunners themselves. Also bear in mind that in some cases they report back to the admissions office in some minor way on any candidates they were particularly impressed or unimpressed by.
    Albany and Cornell are significantly different schools with a very different group of students. The fact that you found those two schools equally appealing perhaps suggests that you find schools in or tour guides from NY more appealling rather than that the schools are comparable. The competitiveness at one versus the other is probably not equivalent given their respective rankings, and certainly the ability to have time for a life outside of med school is going to be more important in Manhattan than Albany.
  3. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
    Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2001
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    Attending Physician
    Hi there,
    I went on six interviews for the six medical schools that accepted me. Things that I learned from this experience:

    1. You need to choose the school that is best for you and where you can do very well. No matter what the ranking or reputation of the school is and no matter how many people match is whatever specialty, if you do not do well, your choices of specialty are going to be limited. Medical schools change from year to year and no matter how wonderful the reputation of your school, you have be able to do well there.

    2. You need to choose a school where you can find good, cheap housing and ease of getting to said school. Schools that are located in urban areas should have ease and safety of public transportation. You cannot do well in medical school if you cannot get to class, lab, clinical affiliates. You should ask about clinical affiliates and required rotation. For example: UVa has required rotations for students in Roanoke Va which is 100 miles from Charlottesville. You need to have a car to get there even though the school furnishes housing. University of West Virginia has rotations at Charleston which is a couple of hundred miles from Morgantown thus you need to know this kind of information.

    3. If you attended an good university in this country, you can deal with competitive students. If the thought of any kind of competition makes you sick, you need to get over this before you attend medical school. My class was as touchy-feely as could be but we knew that we were in competition with each other for the top spots in the class and a little competition was very healthy. We helped each other and looked out for each other but in the end, you are the single most important factor in your medical school achievement.

    4. The USMLE pass rate of your school is more dependent on the students as individuals than on the school. No school puts a limit on how much studying you can do. In medical school, most of your learning takes place outside of class and the material is there for you to learn. Either you get it done or you do not. If the pass rate of your school is 99% and you are in that 1% that does not pass, you are screwed even if your school is highly ranked.

    5. Mandatory class attendance is very counter-productive in that a major amount of your learning takes place outside of class. You may be listening to lecture but you learn the stuff at home, in the library etc. If your time can be better spent in the learning locations, then you need to have the freedom to do so. It does not make any difference if you learn the material off the bathroom wall as long as you get it at some point before your exams.

    6. You should look very carefully at the facilities: Are the classrooms quiet and modern? Is there an easily accessable and well-equiped medical library available? Are the anatomy labs open to students more then 20-hours per day and on the weekends? Does the bookstore carry the materials and books that you need?

    7. Is the campus safe? Many campuses are located in urban environments where you car can be stolen, you can be mugged etc. You need to ask about security and you need to see a visible security presence. My campus was located in an urban environment but security was very visible and easily accessible. My car was parked in a non-public accessible garage and my school was easily accessible by public transportation. If you are beaten up or your car is stolen, you won't do well.

    8. Go back to the school outside of the interview and ask questions of every student that you can find. Don't schedule your flights, buses etc so tight that you do not get a chance to walk around the place on your own and ask questions of non-tour guide medical students especially the current freshmen. Before you drop thousands of dollars on tuition, you need to know what you are getting for your money. Find out where people live and how they get to school.

    9. When I was a tour-guide for my school, I took the time to talk about things outside of what my tour-guide speech was. I spoke about living in the city, the patient population, the faculty, the work-load, clinical affiliates etc. I always invited questions about anything from Board scores to residency match. This was done for me and I could do no less for people who were contempating attendance at my school. I was very honest and truthful.

    10. Any medical school graduate of any accredited medical school in this country has the opportunity to do well and match well. It is not so much your medical school as your performance in medical school. The person who graduates last in their class at Harvard is not likely to match into Derm and yet my medical school which was ranked #106 by Gourman rankings sent 4 into Derm the year that I graduated. All of the AOA folks, including myself, matched well and in the specialty of their choice. There were ten of us and we went into Derm2, Emergency Med3, Orthopedic Surgery2, General Surgery1, Neurosurgery1 and Optho1.

    You choose the school as much as the school choses you. Be an informed consumer and go into the interview with questions about the place. Do NOT go into an interview scared to death with the "I hope I am good enough" attitude. If they invited you for interview, you have made the cut. Don't screw this up by being passive and not knowing what you need. I narrowed my choice down to two schools and a generous (full-ride tuition) scholarship made the decision between my top two very easy. I chose my schools based on location (East Coast) and finally on how much money I got from financial aid. I have never regretted my decision.

    Good luck!
    njbmd :)
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