Thursday, June 23, 2011

Med School Application Explained

As I've been applying to med school I've been getting a lot of questions from family members, so I figured this would be the easiest way to explain to everyone. Applying to Med School is a 2 year process.

The first year is the Prehealth Evaluation Committee year. The fall of this year is the paperwork section. It is spent gathering letters of recommendations, filling out a data sheet about myself and my activities, and writing a 5 page autobiographical sketch. The complicated thing is actually getting those letter of recommendations, for each letter I had to fill out a questionnaire about myself for each person. Each questionnaire was different and several pages long. Then I interviewed for an hour or more with each of them as well, yes even though they all knew me very well. The data sheet was a little complex as well, since I had to calculate approximately how many hours I'd spent on each activity during the past 4 years. During the spring of the Committee year is spent going interviews with Committee members. These committee members than give you the go ahead to apply, or put a kabosh to it. They write a letter of evaluation to all medical schools informing them of their opinion of you. They can also opt to write a letter that says they do not recommend this individual and please don't ever admit them.

The next year is the Application Year. Typically students take the MCAT the summer/late spring before this year. This is what I did. And then they spend all of May and June in a constant state of stress filling out the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application. (They might also fill out applications with a few other services as well.) The AMCAS asks everything about you. It is a painstaking and tedious process. There are sections on my childhood and demographic information like how much did my parents make on average in my childhood, and where did a grow up. One section is on course work. And I have to manually put in every class I've ever taken, the course classification and number, the class name, class type (lecture or lab), and credit hours. Since I started taking college courses in 2004, this was a lot of classes. I also had to track down transcripts from all 7 colleges I've ever taken a course from, also not fun. (I blame you Manti High.) There is an activities sections where I have to list of all my activities, their classification, hours  spent on each activity, a contact to verify the information, and write a short paragraph on the activity. The part I found the hardest is the personal statement, where they give you the very opened prompt of "Use the space provided to explain why you want to go to medical school. You have 5300 characters, or approximately one full page."

After the application is submitted that isn't the end. After AMCAS has verified everything and done a background check, the actual medical school receive your application. Then each of them send you a secondary application. Each school's is unique. After they review your secondary application, you may or may not be invited to interview at the school. Yes, this means that hopefully I will be flying all over the countryside this year. That is finally the end, and the school decides to accept or reject you.

As far as the numbers go, what most people say when judging an applicant is the GPA and MCAT scores. There are 3 parts to the GPA: the overall GPA, the science GPA (all science and math courses), and all other (anything not science). To be considered a competitive applicant all of those should be around or above 3.6, an A- average. With the MCAT there are 4 sections. 3 of the sections get a numerical score 1-15, these add up to the total MCAT score. These 3 sections are the Physical Sciences: chemistry and physics, Biological Sciences: organic chemistry, biology and human physiology, and Verbal Reasoning which tests critical thinking and reasoning. The fourth sections is a writing sample, where they give two prompts, and I had an hour to write two essays. This section is scores from J (lowest) to T (highest). Overall the highest obtainable score for the MCAT is a 45. The test scores have a bell shape distribution. The average is a 25. The average of those accepted is 32. The images show the distributions and percentile ranks. Click on the images to make them bigger.

I had told myself that I would be happy with a score that would put in X percentile. But because I couldn't just do that I'd set a goal to shoot for a score that would put me in the X+10 percentile. I got really close to that goal. No I'm not going to post my score on the internet, if you're really curious ask me.

To give you an idea of how hard this whole process is I'm going throw out a few numbers. Nationwide 82,000 people take the MCAT only 44,000 of those apply, and 22,000 get in. And that is of those who get to that point. There is no official data for this but when I started at Utah State there was several hundred pre-meds in my class, probably close to a thousand. There is 37 of us applying this year from Utah State. So less than 10% make it to even applying, and only half of those will get in. This is why I am a complete nervous wreck.

I am applying to 14 schools:
Loma Linda University - Loma Linda, CA (near LA)
University of Colorado - Denver, CO
George Washington University - Washington, DC
Emory University - Atlanta, GA
Tulane University - New Orleans, LA
Boston University - Boston, MA
Albany Medical College - Albany, NY
Drexel University - Philadelphia, PA
Thomas Jefferson University - Philadelphia, PA
Commonwealth Medical College - Scranton, PA
Medical University of South Carolina - Charleston, SC
Meharry Medical College - Nashville, TN
Vanderbilt University - Nashville, TN
West Virginia University - Morgantown, WV

And I think that covers everything.