Our caller today is applying this cycle and wants to know if they should contact medical schools to show interest before applying. If so, how should it be done?
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[00:23] Question of the Day
“I’m planning on applying this upcoming cycle. And I’m just wondering if there’s a school and a program that you’re really interested in, is there anything you should be doing at this point to show your interest? Would you recommend emailing or calling admissions? Do they just see that? Or do they view that more as an annoying thing?”
[00:55] Reasons for Reaching Out to Schools
The way that the far majority of students do it is more on the annoying side because they just contact the school to say hello and that they’re applying.
Where I recommend that you reach out to schools is if you have a very specific question that you think would impact your ability to get into that school. Reach out if it could impact your trajectory and things you need to do to apply and get into med school.
For instance, if you’re missing a very specific prereq, or you’re missing a specific letter of recommendation that the school requires, then you need to reach out to that school to get their feedback.
Let’s say they require these letters of recommendations, but you can only get these ones and here’s why. Is it okay? Or that you replaced this one required letter, will they still take it?
Reach out for some advice in terms of some academics. Do you need a postbac or a master’s? Which one would they recommend?'Where most students go wrong is when they reach out and ask a super generic, broad question that the schools can't answer.'Click To Tweet
[03:59] Follow-up or Update Letters
Personally, I find update letters to be completely useless. The only time I think you should send a letter is probably a letter of intent after an interview. They work better if you already have an acceptance. Then you can say you have an acceptance but you really want to come to their school for these two reasons. And let them know that if they accept you, then you will come.
Whereas, update letters are just saying you’re interested in them and that you’re still there. And that’s a waste of time. That being said, update letters could work to your advantage when you’re being strategic about it.'Where most students go wrong is that they're not strategic about them at all. They just update and contact, and it just gets super annoying for every medical school.'Click To Tweet
[06:23] Getting Clinical Experiences
Q: “I’m lacking clinical experience due to COVID. What can I do about that? For this upcoming cycle, would you recommend putting down eshadowing on your application? Is that something schools will take seriously or use?
A: It basically depends on the school. But the far majority of schools are going to have to look at it and go, it’s better than nothing. So I would definitely put all of your virtual and shadowing and other stuff on your application. Obviously, you should have some in-person shadowing and clinical experience there as well.
The problem we’re going to see moving forward, especially this current application cycle for May and June of 2021, is that for students who since March of 2020, don’t have anything. They didn’t have anything before but they’re still going to apply and that’s going to hurt them. And so, I don’t think those students should apply.
If you are applying to medical school with zero clinical experience, and you’re going to use COVID as an excuse, the question is – do you know what you’re getting yourself into?
You can’t blame COVID for that. You have to get those experiences. But for students who had experiences but then those experiences diminished because of COVID, then that’s a completely different story. You had already been doing something beforehand.
There are plenty of opportunities to get experiences right now. Hospitals are still operating and jobs are still out there. The question comes down to what is your risk tolerance?
If you live on your own and you don’t have anybody else to worry about, great. But if you live at home and your parents or grandparents you’re living with are at risk, then there’s a lot of privilege involved with that.
Hospitals are still hiring. But a lot of the volunteer opportunities are gone because the volunteer opportunities are usually extra positions so they’re not technically needed.
[10:35] Submitting Transcript at a Later Date
Q: “The first day to submit your application is sometime at the end of May. If I want to submit the day it opens or as early as possible, but my transcript is not ready because my semester was pushed back , how does that work? Will that delay my application?”
A: For AMCAS, it won’t. Because you don’t technically need your spring grades in AMCAS to submit your applications. You can just put the classes in AMCAS and say that your grade is pending. And it’ll show up as a future/current course or something or however AMCAS classifies it. For AACOMAS and TMDSAS, they require those spring grades. So you just have to wait.
Now, it really depends on whether you need those grades or not. If you need those grades to show academic ability, then you’re probably better off waiting. So you can show that you’ve overcome some early academic struggles.
And those few weeks that you’re going to have to wait for the grades are probably better than submitting without the grades. Because you could be having a worse GPA trend or GPA total just because you wanted to rush your application.
For AMCAS and AACOMAS, you can’t update grades after you submit. For TMDSAS, you can.
Once you submit your grades through AMCAS and AACOMAS, they have this whole verification process. They review the transcripts sent by the schools and all the grades you’ve put into the application. They adjudicate those making sure everything lines up to everything you said. They’re verifying all that information. They’re putting their stamp of approval on it and sending it to the schools. And so they don’t have a process to update those grades when new grades come in.
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