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Ten Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Applying as a URM

Discussion in 'Underrepresented in Healthcare' started by celltech2000, Mar 28, 2007.

  1. celltech2000

    celltech2000 7+ Year Member

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    Now that my application process is coming to a close, I thought I would give my fellow URM pre-med folks a little insight into the process before you make the plunge into applying to medical school.

    This was my second time applying, so I have learned a lot about the do's and don’ts when pursuing medical school. Although this list is not exhaustive, it highlights a number of important tasks that must be considered before applying to medical school.

    1. Make sure you have the numbers! I think many of us jump into the process thinking that ADCOMMs are going to let us slide right into their schools with mediocre MCAT scores and GPAs. I am sorry to say this is far from the truth. More and more URMs are scoring in the upper twenties and thirties nowadays, so there is becoming more and more competition between URMs to fill fewer slots in med school classes. Most schools place their MCAT cut-off at a minimum of a 25 and some at 27. Check the most recent MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) book to find out the minimum score for each section of the MCAT at your schools of interest. If you don't meet their MCAT criteria (your score is not within a certain range), you are NOT a competitive applicant for that particular school. If you think you may need help preparing for the MCAT, enroll in a Kaplan or Princeton Review prep class. There is no guarantee that you will improve your MCAT score, you get out of it what you put in.

    2. Get that science GPA UP! Don't think that a 3.0 gpa in the sciences is enough. I don't care how well you network with individuals in the Multicultural Resource Center, they can't help you if you don't meet them half-way. If your scores are low, think about doing a post-bacc or postponing graduation to re-take some pre-reqs.

    3. You DO NOT have to be a science major. Your major does not matter. You will not be at a disadvantage if you choose to major in something outside of the Sciences. Undergraduate is your chance to explore other interests. I suggest you take the opportunity. Don't stress yourself out feeling like you have to pursue a science degree. Just think! If med school doesn't work out, you will be stuck doing research, teaching, or doing something completely unrelated to your major. The science job market is really suffering right now.

    4. Clinical experience is a must! You can be the chair of your BSM committee; President of Student Government; volunteer at a homeless shelter every week; and had numerous research experiences and publications; but if you haven't been in the clinic interacting and/or observing physicians and patients, then you have no clue what it is to be a physician. Believe me, you will be asked about your clinical exposure during your interviews.

    5. Do some research. You may not think you will never need to do research in your future career as a physician, but many ADCOMMs are looking for future physician scientists. Furthermore, many specialty residencies are starting to incorporate 1 to 2 years of research in their programs. There are a multitude of paid summer research opportunities for URMs throughout the country.

    6. Get to know people in the Multicultural Resource Centers at the schools where you plan on applying. They can give you tons of advice and input about applying and preparing for medical school. Plus, you wouldn’t believe how much of a leg up you will have by networking at your schools of interests. Oftentimes, those same individuals that you will meet also serve on the admissions committee of the school. But REMEMBER, many schools have a policy where individuals involved with admissions are restricted from advising students whose application is already submitted to AMCAS. I suggest you call the Multicultural Resource Center before you submit your AMCAS application.

    7. APPLY EARLY! Get your AMCAS application out in June or July. Don’t wait until October to submit your AMCAS. Since most schools are rolling admissions, the sooner you submit your AMCAS, the sooner you can finish your secondaries, interview, and get an acceptance. As the upcoming med school class fills, ADCOMMs become more and more selective about whom they admit. If you plan on applying in June, then you MUST have already taken the MCAT, written a personal statement, completed or in the process of completing all of your pre-reqs. When you apply, do your research and apply to a broad range of schools. Usually I suggest that an applicant apply to 3 dream schools, 3 schools where the applicant feels he/she will be a good fit, and 3 safety schools (i.e. your state schools). NOTE: Med schools will not consider your application until you have received your MCAT scores.

    8. Ask for your letters of recommendation (LORs) EARLY! Give your recommender a couple of months to write you a letter, and make sure you ask them to write an “EXCELLENT” letter. You will be surprised by how many Faculty members use LOR templates or write unsupportive letters. Also, make sure you give them a copy of your transcript, personal statement, extra-curricular activities, and a brief statement about your background and future aspirations. This will give your recommender more insight about who you are as a person and what you plan on doing in the future with your medical degree. If that person is unwilling to write a supportive letter, FIND SOMEONE ELSE.

    9. Save your MONEY! Applying to medical school is an EXPENSIVE process. The last thing you want is to have to limit the number of schools you apply to because of insufficient financial resources. If you are economically disadvantaged, AMCAS offers a Fee Assistance Program (FAP) to individuals who would be unable to take the MCAT or apply to medical schools without financial assistance. Applicants who are approved for fee assistance receive a reduced MCAT registration fee, a waiver of $490 for submitting the completed AMCAS application to up to 12 medical schools, and possible waivers for supplemental application fees. Don’t depend on the FAP; not everyone who thinks they are economically disadvantaged will qualify.

    10. Don’t RUSH it! The following is the most valuable advice that has been given to me that I would like to impart on you: “Apply when you feel you are your BEST applicant.” Don’t feel like you have to go straight from undergrad into medical school. Applying to medical school can be an emotionally, physically, and financially draining process. If you are not confident that you have adequately taken care of STEPS 1-9, take some time off before you apply. Have a contingency plan. This is not a race! You will not be behind your peers by deciding to take a few years off to improve your application before applying to medical school. What matters most is that give yourself the best chance of becoming a successful applicant!

    I assure you that if you take heed to these 10 IMPORTANT STEPS to applying to medical school, you will be well on your way to becoming a physician. Good Luck! :)
     
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  3. wutwinb

    wutwinb Junior Member 5+ Year Member

    thanks so much for that advice! i'm preparing now to apply for the 2008 cycle and a lot of that info is really going to help.

    i have one question, the number of schools you suggested applicants apply to is A LOT lower than what i have been hearing. i thought that all applicants, URM or not, should apply to 15+ schools. Is there a reason you suggested only 9?

    hope this application cycle went well for you :)


     
  4. jsnuka

    jsnuka Senior Member Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

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    You bring up an interesting point and hopefully others will add their thoughts on this too.

    There is about 146(7) medical schools in the US. It breaks down to be ~124-126 allopathic medical schools (MD granting) and about another ~20-22 osteopathic schools (DO granting schools).

    Typically, most people will say to apply "BROADLY" and they are refer to a break down of a certain number of "reach", "safety", "at the mark".

    This inevitably leads to some consternation later. Where you see yourself in terms of the school's statistics and mission, may very well not be where they see you. So you wind up getting accepted some places that you did not expect and rejected by places that you did not expect.

    My advice to anyone applying would be to submit applications ONLY to those schools where you would actually attend if this was the only medical school that accepts you.

    For example, it makes no sense to apply to the University of Utah, if you know you have no logical reason/connection to go there except that you heard they are ardent recruiters looking to diversify their medical school;that is, offer you a free ride or just about, to go there.

    At the same time, if you know that the University of Mississippi is out of state for you and there is no real connection (family, let's say) for you there, do not apply there, b/c odds are they will not send you a secondary and if they do and you return it it will not lead to an interview. Some medical schools have a strict in state preference since their stated mission is to improve the health of citizens of that particular state.

    If your goal is to be a physician and you do not care where you go to school, you will just go to whereever accepts, then apply to as many as you can financially afford. Realize though that the airfare, train fare, rental cars, gas and the such takes its toll on the wallet after while...not including the AMCAS fees, secondary fees and postage involved too.

    Be sincere in all of your essays and submit everything as early as possible. In addition, make sure you have good numbers (i.e. GPA and MCAT) and that your idea of medicine coincides, roughly, with what the school's stated mission happens to be as well. You should be fine.

    The other thing about applying "broadly" is that the thought is you will catch more fish (acceptances) when you cast a wider net (apply to more schools).

    Depends upon you how you see it working best for you.
     
  5. celltech2000

    celltech2000 7+ Year Member

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    If you can afford to apply to more schools, by all means, do so. Nine schools is not necessarily a low number either. I think it is probably middle ground.

    The number of schools you apply to is up to you. It all depends on how confident you are about getting into a school. Those who are not so confident cast a wide net, applying to 15+, sometimes 20+ schools. It's an odds game. The more you apply to, the more chances you have to get in.

    I know some people who only applied to 4 or 5 schools that got in. I wouldn't suggest this approach unless your SUPER confident your going to get into at least one.

    I guess the point is to make sure you apply to 1st teir, 2nd teir, and 3rd teir schools. Some people apply to only 1st teir schools and then wonder why they didn't get into medical school.

    Anyhow, good luck with your applications. Your definitely getting a head-start.
     
  6. celltech2000

    celltech2000 7+ Year Member

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    I agree with jsnuka !!! :D

    Also, make sure you look at the MSAR or the school's website to find out if you fulfill an the pre-reqs. You will kick yourself in the but if you find out you just spent $30 to apply to ECU (in NC) and you live in Virginia. ECU doesn't take out of state students!!! :oops: You just made AMCAS $30 richer.

    Second, the course requirments are not quite the same for all schools. So, you could easily throw money in the wind if you don't make sure you meet the schools requirements.

    Third, if your a URM, make sure you look at the number of URMs the school has accepted in the past. If the school only admitted 1 URM in their last class, chances are they will only admit 1 URM in the upcoming class. You definitely don't want to find yourself applying to schools that are not actively seeking to matriculate URMs.

    The MSAR book will give you information on all of the above numbers and requirements.
     
  7. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    I think how many schools you choose to apply to will depend on the following two things:

    1) Roughly, how strong are you as an applicant, regardless of URM status? You can get a gauge of this by looking at the MSAR and/or talking to your pre-med advisor. In general, matriculating med students for allopathic schools average about 30 on the MCAT and about 3.5-3.6 for their UG GPA. If you're comfortably above BOTH of those averages, you have a lot more leeway to apply to fewer schools versus someone who is at or below both of those averages. If you are above average in one category but below average in the other, then you should probably apply to more schools. Contrary to popular SDN rumor, a high GPA does not really compensate for a low MCAT or vice versa.

    2) How much time, energy, and money do you have to contribute to your application effort? It's a shame to limit your applications based upon finances, but reality dictates doing this sometimes. Don't apply to schools that you know you won't have the money and time to see through if you're invited to submit secondaries and attend interviews. It's silly to waste your money sending AMCAS to schools that you know you won't be submitting secondaries to later. Also, as others have already said, don't apply to schools if you don't meet their admissions requirements (ex. state of residence, pre-reqs, etc.) If you want to apply to other states' state schools, you should ideally have extremely competitive stats (higher than the school's average) as well as ties to that state.

    My additional advice: be prepared, be organized, and be thorough. You only want to have to go through this hellish process once.
    -Your Application: Have multiple people proofread your essays for content as well as grammar. Do mock interviews.
    -Interviewing at Schools: Take time to research every school. Make sure you know about resources available to you at each school. Ask your interviewers questions. Take notes after your interviews about pros and cons and keep files or a spreadsheet.
    -Attitude: Show interest in every school whose interview you are fortunate enough to attend. That may seem to be obvious, but you'd be amazed at some of the kids I've seen show up at my med school this year looking totally bored. I promise you that they won't be attending here in the fall, no matter how good their numbers are. Be polite and respectful to EVERYONE you meet, including janitors, secretaries, student hosts, etc. Again, I know of some very competitive people who had their apps sunk because of acting entitled or snotty.
    -Overall: Keep your sense of humor. This process sucks, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, it only takes one school to accept you. Best of luck to you all. :)
     
  8. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    I don't think you can conclude this at all, and it's a pretty good way of artificially eliminating yourself from some schools that might actually be a good fit for you personally. Med schools can only interview and admit people who apply to their programs and who meet their requirements. Schools also cannot control the situation if people whom they have admitted choose to attend elsewhere. It may not be that schools with low URM enrollment don't WANT to matriculate URM students; they just may not have had many apply, or they may not have had many choose to matriculate. People tend to prefer certain schools over others, sometimes based upon these kinds of perceptions that may not even be true.

    Look at the thread by the girl trying to decide between Kansas and VCU, and you'll see a perfect example of what I mean. Since Kansas has offered her an acceptance plus a full scholarship, I don't see how anyone can argue that they're not actively trying to recruit her, even if she were the only URM student in their entire class of 100+ students. Full scholarships to med school are so few and far between that almost no students get them. But she may well choose not to matriculate in spite of Kansas's effort. Does that mean that Kansas didn't want her to come and didn't try hard to convince her to come? :cool:
     
  9. melissainsd

    melissainsd 2+ Year Member

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    I actually wish I had applied to more schools. Sure, I have spent a fortune interviewing, but you never know how you will be received as an applicant. I applied to several schools I thought were totally out of my reach (but figured I'd at least try). I was given interviews at most. Now I wish I had applied to Yale, Duke, Vanderbilt, Dartmouth, UCSF, UPenn, and Cornell. Who knows, maybe I could have squeezed out a few more interviews or even an acceptance.

    My advice- don't sell yourself short. There was even a girl that got into Harvard this year with an MCAT score of 26.
     
  10. celltech2000

    celltech2000 7+ Year Member

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    Your right about that. My friend got into Iowa and Mich last year and decided to choose Mich over the full-ride they were offering her at Iowa. But, I wouldn't be so quick to say that some of these schools will jump from 1 URM to 10 or 15 out of 100 in a year even if they are qualifying applicants. Maybe I am pessimistic, but I think this is pretty accurate.

    Also, I would agree that one shouldn't allow this to deter him/herself from applying, but it is something to take into consideration.
     
  11. Kfire326

    Kfire326 7+ Year Member

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    not many of these points are specific to URMs...
     
  12. celltech2000

    celltech2000 7+ Year Member

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    YOUR EXACTLY RIGHT!!! These are the fundamentals. And if URMs expect to compete at the same level with non URMs, then they have to follow the same fundamental steps. Also, you will be surprised about how many people have to learn the fundamentals the hard way; when they're right smack in the middle of an application cycle.
     
  13. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    The best bet for most people, regardless of URM status, is to apply to their state schools. Most state schools heavily prefer their own state residents, and some basically don't accept any OOS applicants. I'm from FL, and my three state schools are like this; you have very little chance of getting into any of them if you're not a Floridian. We have a lot of URM state residents in FL (especially black and Hispanic), so our state schools have significant numbers of URM medical students. Other states like Kansas may not have many URM state residents. (I'm just guessing on this; I haven't ever been to Kansas, so I readily admit that I could be wrong here.) But again, that doesn't mean that a school like U Kansas doesn't want URM students and wouldn't be happy to accept several competitive URM applicants, *if* they were all Kansas state residents. :)
     
  14. FSUUndergrad

    FSUUndergrad 2+ Year Member

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    Do you have to be both at an economic disadvantage and be a minority to be an optimal candidate for URM programs, or is one more heavily weighed than the other?
     
  15. jsnuka

    jsnuka Senior Member Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

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    No, and no.
     
  16. 4paw

    4paw Member 5+ Year Member

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    I don't know if any of us have an idea of how urm and ed get weighted by any adcom committees. if anyone, nbj would have a sense, as she is an adcomm.

    What I do know is that the schools i have visited, and the state of the forums, etc. show that there is less discourse around ed as there is around urm. i've also noticed that meharry has changed their mission statement, and ed is no longer mentioned. when i asked at meharry what percentage of the class had ed status, i was told about 50%.

    ed is being tracked by aamc, and is included in med-mar, but does not show up in the msar in class composition.

    ed is an indicator for doctors who will potentially address the issue of populations going without healthcare or with inferior healthcare. these populations are often with other identities of 'minority' status, new immigrant status - ed is a category that combines with many other things. people from ed not only stand as role models, or have some aspect of their physical presence and presentation of self that potentially makes an ed patient more comfortable, there is also a depth of understanding of the view of life and the world, which is not to be assumed to be 'the same' as a patient, but there is a 'shared' understanding.

    once again, we know that the aamc made reccomendations. we do not know what schools do with all of this.

    Siobhan
     
  17. jsnuka

    jsnuka Senior Member Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

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    I do not want to "hijack" this thread, so this will be my last statement on the ed/urm aspect of the admissions process. This topic can be discussed in another thread if there is a need for the discussion to continue.

    Some times people need for things to fit neatly in a box and it disturbs them when it does not work out that way. Which is how most people view the ed vs. urm discussion.

    There are no thresholds to hit to qualify for admission other than a GPA above a 3.6 anda an MCAT above a 30 w/an equal distribution of scores in the 3 sections--IDEALLY.

    The Med MAR data is SELF REPORTED.

    As far as how schools use the information, I believe that every school asks an essay question (s), in some form, about where to you see yourself practicing upon completion of your studies or to explain/describe if you are from an educationally disadvantaged or econmically disadvantaged background.

    Assuming that other criteria are met, in terms of GPA and MCAT and other school specific criteria; an applicant gets an interview and has an opportunity to expound on those points or not.

    To expect a person to say that if someone is this much of this or this much of that and it would help them in any type of admissions or acceptance process is a gross misjustice.

    Do the best on those factors that you control e.g. MCAT, GPA and be involved in your community in those activities that interest you and make best use of your talents. Couple that with being able to tell your personal story well in your AMCAS or AACOMAS personal statement and secondary essays and in person during interviews and one should havea remarkable success in the medical school admissions process.

    Good Luck to everyone!!!!:luck:
     
  18. celltech2000

    celltech2000 7+ Year Member

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    I am sorry, but I would have to disagree with you on this one. Just do your best on the MCAT, GPA, and ECs, and you should have success!?!?!? I think this is a bit of an idealistic statement for URM or non-URM applicants. If that were they case, then why are so many individuals getting waitlisted and rejected who fulfill this criteria. Personal statement? secondaries? My interviewers didn't even read my essays until several minutes before my interview. Some didn't read them at all.

    I think there is a lot of politics involved in Med school admissions that people should be aware off. Legacy, individuals whose parents give to the university, networking...and just plain bias...it's very subjective!

    Nowadays, people are clueless about how ADCOMMS admit students... there is no consistency across all schools...

    Like my middle school teacher said, "It's not what you know, it's who you know and how they know you."

    If you knew what I knew... you would be singing a different tune.
     
  19. jsnuka

    jsnuka Senior Member Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

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    I think you misunderstand what I said and why I said it.


    People get waitlisted for any of a number of reasons, some of which have been discussed in this very thread. For example, if you apply late, given the "rolling admissions" policy of most US medical schools, you are at a severe disadvantage and risk being waitlisted at best or rejected at worst merely b/c your application came in too late in the process.

    Applicants are rejected or waitlisted b/c they do not adequately fit the mission of the medical school (s) to which they applied. Most times I think folks apply to schools similar tothe manner in which they applied to college, not realizing that it is different and the approach needs to be different.

    The reflection you have that your interviewers did not read your application nor the essays is unfortunate. I think you have to keep in mind that each interviewer has his/her own style and this may come across to you as if s/he did not read your application.

    It is an interview technique to get you to articulate what is in your application and those essays firsthand face to face. True, it could be that they just did not read it, although I doubt that is truly the case.

    We have discussed the need to develop networking skills elsewhere in this forum, if not this thread. I do not think there is a need to belabor a point taht should be obvious on its importance to life in general and not just the medical school application process.

    Again, I do not think that the application process is totally subjective. There aspects that the applicant CONTROLS, without question, but few seem to realize it and therefore do not exercise it to their advantage.

    Most things begin with not applying to the medical schools that BEST offer the opportunities which will lead to that person's success and not applying to school's that offer the best "fit" for both applicant and institution.


    As I said up above, folks want things to fit into a nice little box and when those things do not fit in that box; they get wigged out.

    Each medicalschool has its own..."personality". If schools applied a measurable "consistency" then that personality would be lacking and it would be to the greater detriment of applicants, their future patients and trhe institutions as well.

    There are ~147 allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in US. If a person takes care of those things which s/he controls directly, success will follow.
     
  20. missdentista

    missdentista 2+ Year Member

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    And if you have no state school? I'm a pre-dental student.:confused:
     
  21. MSKalltheway

    MSKalltheway I got the magic stick 7+ Year Member

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    I also wanted to highlight this point because it is a great one. You will be pushed towards doing research in medical school, will be "required" to do some to get into a competitive residency (whether a competitive field or the best programs within a given field), strongly pushed or in some cases required to do some during residency, and are absolutely required to do it in any fellowship you pursue, as there is most always an academic requirement to fellowship.

    Its good to get in the habit of doing at least a little research now because at some point, you will likely be doing it! Its good to do it so you know how the process works. I can count on one hand the number of physicians I ever met that got away with doing no research at all while they were training. It shows adcoms an inquisitive mind, so its always good to get in on it.
     
  22. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    Sorry, I was talking specifically about medical schools. I don't know anything about how dental schools work with regard to state residency requirements. You might try asking in the dental forums if any dental schools have state residency requirements, because you don't want to waste your time and money applying to schools that would refuse to take a resident of your state (if there are any). Also, ask them what resource predents should use that is analogous to the MSAR; that is the book that tells premeds what the residency (and other school-specific) requirements are for each school. Best of :luck: to you. :)
     
  23. CrouchingTiger

    CrouchingTiger 2+ Year Member

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    This is awesome advice, thanks!!! :) I will be taking it to heart.

    I'm not applying to med school yet and maybe this was bought up on this forum before... but I heard multiple times that www.interfolio.com works really well for organizing your LORs for a small price. I believe I also heard this from Quimica in the NonTraditional Forum. :thumbup: I looked at the website myself and it seems really convenient, keeping copies of your LORs in case the schools "lose" them... or if you want to add another school in the future. I know I wouldn't want to annoy my recommendors for letters over and over again.
     
  24. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

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    I used interfolio a few years ago when I was applying, and I highly recommend it. It's worth every cent it costs in return for the convenience and especially for the peace of mind it gives you. You can see when the recommenders submit their letters, which letters have been submitted, and all you have to do to send them to any school is hit a button. Just make sure you choose the confidential option for your letters, which allows you to see that the letters have been uploaded, but does not allow you to read the contents. Adcoms don't like it if your letters aren't confidential.
     

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