Is There a Benefit to Going to a Pass/Fail Medical School?

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Is There a Benefit to Going to a Pass/Fail Medical School?

Session 46

If I go to a pass/fail medical school, will that help or hurt me when becoming a physician. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of pass/fail now.

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[00:23] Pass/Fail in the Pre-Clinical Years

You might think that there’s this immediate benefit of no competition. You’ve gone through your whole premed journey “competing” against all of your peers. Just putting it out there though that for us here at Medical School HQ, it’s collaboration, not competition.

Anyway, students think they need to get to this pass/fail to get out of that mindset. And looking up the data for pass/fail medical school, my assumption is the minority of medical schools out there. At least 40 MD schools pass/failed for pre-clinical years, which is the majority of medical schools out there for the AAMC and MD medical schools.

If you’re applying to AMCAS or MD medical schools, the majority of those schools are going to be pass/fail. Interestingly, for the majority of medical schools, their pass/fail is during pre-clinical years. And then once you get into the clinical years, there’s a bit of the ranking system with high pass honors or whatever the structure of the grades are.

'For the majority of medical schools, their pass/fail is during pre-clinical years.'Click To Tweet

[02:00] The Dean’s Letter and Rankings

Another interesting thing you need to know is what is called the Dean’s letter. When you’re applying to residency, the Dean of your medical school writes a big letter of recommendation for you. It’s called the Medical School Performance Evaluation. Now, for a lot of schools, even though they’re pass/fail schools, there’s still a ranking system in that Dean’s letter. On the surface, it may look like it’s pass/fail and there’s no competition and everybody is equal. But really behind the scenes, everybody knows the game and they’re still ranking you. And that will be in your evaluation.

As you’re going through this process and you see that the school is pass/fail, ask them whether or not there are any rankings in the Dean’s letters. Are there keywords they use in their Dean’s letters?

Upon research, Harvard doesn’t do any sort of ranking in their evaluation or secret keywords. It’s all very general and basic. It’s just about who you are and they’re not ranking you in the class.

'If they're keeping track behind the scenes, then the whole pass/fail thing goes out of the window.'Click To Tweet

Figure out what schools you want to apply to. If they have pass/fail and there’s no competition, really dig down and ask them whether or not they would still rank students in their Dean’s letter. Because if they’re keeping track behind the scenes, then the whole pass/fail thing goes out of the window.

[04:20] The Benefit of Going to a Pass/Fail School

Should you focus on those pass/fail schools? Well, in the grand scheme of things, there’s no benefit of a pass/fail school. You control you. You can only control how well you do. At every school, or as you’re working, or everywhere you go, you’re going to have people out there who are not going to be good team players. You’re going to try to avoid them but you will find them everywhere. So the only thing you can control is your attitude, your effort for your classes.

How the school ranks you or pass/fail versus grades is all relative. You need to pass all of your classes, so what’s the difference between a C and P for pass?

Nevertheless, do your homework and find out whether the school still ranks you even though they’re a pass/fail school. Because they could still keep track of that for their Dean’s letters. If so, it’s really not a true pass/fail in terms of how you rank among your classmates.

Although psychologically, a pass/fail system may have some psychological benefit for you knowing that as long as you get those Ps, it’s all that matters. But in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. Go to schools where you’re interested in going to.

'The type of scoring system they have or the type of grades they give out should be not existent, if not last, on your list as far as where you want to go to school.”Click To Tweet


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