Does the interviewer have access to everything or just a couple of things? Today, we talk about that as well as how many schools should you apply to, online lab courses during the time of COVID, and much more!
As always, joining me is Mappd co-founder Rachel Grubbs and Dr. Scott Wright, our VP of Academic Advising. He’s the former director of admissions at UT Southwestern and the former executive director of TMDSAS.
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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:24] Interviewer Access
Q: Can we assume our readers have both our personal statement and ECs when they read our secondaries? I don’t plan to refer to my personal statement in any way. However, I wanted to share experiences that were not directed related to medicine. Is it okay for our experiences in secondaries to not be medically related since we’ve mentioned most of those in the personal statement?
A: The general answer is almost always, every medical school will do it differently. What one reviewer has is going to be different from another reviewer. And even if they have everything, they have your personal statement, extracurricular, secondaries, they may have a process where they want to avoid looking at those things.'The process is specific to the school, specific to the admissions committee, and specific to the reviewer themselves.'Click To Tweet
In my mind, secondaries are the easiest part of the application. And the reason for secondaries is they’re asking a very specific question that students will try to get fancy.
My biggest feedback when reviewing secondaries is students don’t answer the question. You have to answer the question. And if you can make it into a story, great. If not, answer the question.
In most schools, the reviewer, at the very least, has your personal statement and your statements from the secondaries as well. But I don’t know that you can count on that necessarily. I don’t think you want to build too much of your secondaries off of something else. You want to make it stand on its own and definitely have an answer to the prompt.
[06:18] Be Consistent in All Documents
Students really need to understand that the personal statement is an individual document. Your extracurriculars are an individual document. Your secondaries are individual documents. You cannot not put shadowing in your extracurricular activities list because you already put it in your personal statement. That’s not how it works.'It is important for students to be consistent in all these documents.'Click To Tweet
Be consistent. You want to be seen as a big package. It is your marketing package because you’re marketing yourself. So be consistent. You really have to show who you are as a person. The stats aren’t enough. And there are plenty of students with amazing stats who don’t get those numbers of invites and acceptances.
[08:44] How Many Schools to Apply To
Q: How many schools should one apply to I remember reading that one should not apply to more than 25. Does this have any basis or can one apply to more than that?
A: The schools don’t necessarily care. Schools might know how many schools you’re applying to. But it’s not something they hold against the students. I don’t think it’s really even a relevant thing. I think the more relevant issue is, how much money do you have? Because applying to 40 schools means a ton of money, not to mention the cost of going to interviews.'The average number of schools that students applied to is 17.'Click To Tweet
The AAMC has this bias to not be as transparent as possible because then students apply to more schools. And this has increased in the last three years which used to be 14 or 15. So if you look at going from 14 to 17, that has increased to three extra schools per student. And there were about 52,000 students applying. So 52,000 times three is 156,000 extra applications going out. Now, multiply that by $36 and that’s $6 million!
As for TMDSAS, they have a flat fee for it no matter how many schools you apply to. Regardless of the schools you apply to, they’re putting in the same amount of work for one school as they would for every school. It’s all data that’s being done by a computer that’s dumping it out to the schools. So that’s the ethical way to do it.
AACOMAS is a little bit different because they use a third-party vendor for their application. The money goes to the third-party vendor for the most part, not to AACOMAS or AACOM.
So can you apply to all 110 if you want to. It’s only the financial barrier at that point. I typically recommend no more than 25 just because there’s so much work. Because when you start adding on all those secondaries, not only is there the secondary fee, but it’s just a lot of work.
Check out the appexpenses.com to get an estimate of your application costs.
[14:49] Online Lab Courses
Q: With universities moving to limit in-person classes next semester, will medical schools accept online lab courses?
A: If the medical schools are having to make adjustments to their own curriculum, then they’re going to be enormously flexible with students coming in with online stuff.
Medical schools are going to have these kinds of adjusted policies in place until all of the COVID students get through the process.
[16:08] Suicide Hotlines
Q: I’m looking into a sexual assault hotline that is area-specific when you get a call from someone who’s going to report it or get a workup at a hospital, you go into the hospital police station and meet with them. Have you heard of anything like this?
A: Hopefully, there’s an intense amount of training that goes on for that. It sounds pretty cool but it also sounds emotionally draining. Scott had a friend who was on a suicide hotline and had trained to go through that. After his first call, which did not go well, he quit because he couldn’t handle it. Just the emotional damage and baggage.
Number one, if it does exist and if there’s a lot of training involved, and if you feel like you can handle it on an emotional level, that’s great.
[20:08] Letters of Recommendation
Q: Is it better to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation as soon as you finish their course, even though you won’t be applying for the year? Or is it better to ask the professor for the letter the year you’re applying, even though you may not have communicated with them recently?
A: Keep communicating. Go by their office. Email them. Don’t stalk them of course. But especially if you’re really connected with them, do keep in touch. If you ask for a letter ahead of time, they’re going to forget. It’s just awkward. So keep in touch with them. Tell them what’s going on with you and just keep in contact with them so they know who you are. And then you’re ready to ask for that letter later on.
Set the expectation. For instance, tell Professor Smith at the beginning of the year that you’re excited about his class and that you’re planning on applying to medical school in a few years. And that you’re planning to ask for a letter of recommendation from them.“Always be transparent about your expectations, even from the beginning.”Click To Tweet
Hopefully, you have to have a little bit of a relationship to even start there. But don’t wait until the very last day to ask your professor if you could get a letter of recommendation. Anyway, you are not the first person that’s likely going to ask for recommendations now so hey know the game.
[23:02] Virtual Shadowing Experiences
Q: If you’re having a hard time getting recent shadowing experience due to COVID, could virtual meetings with physicians count to where they mentor one-on-one and talk about their specialties?
A: It’s an option that you have to take advantage of because there’s not a whole lot that you’re going to be able to do with COVID around. There are some enormous limitations on what you’re going to be able to do. And that one-on-one mentorship does limit you in terms of what you’re seeing and in terms of patient care and patient interaction.
But it does still give you a lot of information from the physician. It gives you an opportunity to ask them questions and to bounce stuff off of them and for them to introduce you to what they do on a daily basis or whatever.'Do whatever they'll let you do even in the non-COVID situation.'Click To Tweet
Medical schools are going to realize that this puts a big problem in terms of students getting volunteer and shadowing experiences. And they’re going to take that into consideration.
If you’re creative, and you find solutions and create things that are going to be solutions for that, such as what this student has suggested, that’s going to be really seen as a lot more valuable. That’s the kind of student they would want to see. So creativity counts.
[26:22] Indebtedness and Residency Match
Q: Is there consolidated information regarding indebtedness and residency match for medical schools?
A: Medical schools keep track of the average indebtedness of their students. But I don’t think that’s published anywhere. It’s probably a case-by-case basis with medical schools.
The question is why that’s important. Now, when picking medical schools don’t pick a school based on tuition costs. If you have multiple acceptances, and you’re choosing between financial aid packages, that’s great. Go to the one that is the best fit and is the cheapest.
Moreover, don’t pick a school based on the match list. Interestingly, I talked to all of these physicians on the Specialty Stories podcast about the specialty they chose. 90% of them had amazing mentors who practice the specialty. So you have these skewed pockets of specialties at different schools based on the mentors available.
Around 70%-75% of students pick up the schools based on the match list for the specialty they thought they wanted and then they exit, they’re doing something totally different than when they entered.'When you're looking at schools, you've got to determine fit.'Click To Tweet
After you interviewed at a school, try to journal your experience. How did you feel about it when you were in the neighborhood? How did it feel when you were talking to the faculty or the students?
[33:04] Credits and Upward Trends
Q: When you say how important a strong upward trend can be, how many credits, years, semesters minimum should reflect this?
A: Students needing to recover from poor GPA, poor grades, whatever it may be. It’s a very common question like, how long do I need to get into this grade repair mode? Is it is it one year? Is it a certain number of credits? What does that look like?
Scott thinks it depends a little bit on the bigger picture of the student and what the trend looks like.
But in general, more is always better.'The more credits you have on a trend or the more credit you have as a postbac, the more credible that trend is going to be, and the more credible the new postbac GPA is going to be.'Click To Tweet
[36:23] Primary Caregiver as a Clinical Experience
Q: Should being a primary caregiver for a family member or friend go into the clinical experience section?
A: It’s not unusual that students will be caregivers for sometimes a family member. And you could be giving injections and doing vital signs. So there are a lot of different things that might be going on there that would really count as clinical experience.
Scott doesn’t think it’s a bad thing for a student to include that as clinical experience in their activities. But you have to be true to yourself and not make it sound like something that it’s not. So if you’re very clear on what it was, what you did, what you got out of it, that’s the key.'You can't create your application based on what you think somebody is going to think that you've never even met before.'Click To Tweet
Be honest about your experiences and why you included it in your clinical activities. And if you want to bounce off of that and talk about a little bit more in an essay, personal statement, or something like that, then that’s fine.
[41:11] Finding a Job Post-Residency
Q: Where do you recommend they find a job after residency?
A: You’re a self-employed position so you get to control it yourself. But the trend in medicine nowadays is that corporate is taking over clinics. They’re taking over hospitals and a variety of different healthcare settings. The corporation or management is going to dictate how long that patient contact can last. And they’re going to hold you accountable for that.
Alternatively, you can go out somewhere and create your own private clinic and do your own thing. Or you can partner up with another private practice physician so you can share resources together. Medicine is crazy in that way. And so if you’re going into this and you don’t want to have any time constraints, know that you’re probably not going to make a lot of money, if any.
There’s also concierge medicine that is becoming more and more popular. You charge a membership fee to the patients who become a part of the small number of people that you’re able to see.
[45:30] MD/MBA Program
Q: I’m interested in an MD/MBA program, given just how much business and medicine is intertwined these days. Is it worth it to also go for this extra business learning or can you learn most of the business aspects while on the job?
A: It depends on what the goal is. If you just want to have business knowledge, you don’t need the MBA. If you want to go and be an executive at a hospital then have the MBA. It will give you that credential.'An MBA is only useful if your career aspirations lead you to the world where an MBA is going to open doors for you.'Click To Tweet
There are MBA programs that are designed specifically for practicing physicians called the Physician Executive MBA. It’s a very small subset of MBA programs. And then there’s this other thing that has been more popularized within the last several years called the Certified Physician Executive. It’s similar to an MBA but it’s not an MBA. It’s this other kind of certification program for those who want to be leaders in healthcare.
[52:27] Personal Statement for a Dual Degree
Q: Should there be a difference between a regular personal statement and the MD/PhD, dual degree personal statement?
A: Understand that there are two extra essays on the MD/Ph.D. application. And the key here is what MD/Ph.D. programs are looking at. They’re mostly interested in what your research experience looks like and what have you done in terms of research, particularly with the NIH-funded medical scientist training programs.“They're not only looking for the basic science research you've done but whether you understand what it was you were doing.”Click To Tweet
Check out the appexpenses.com to get an estimate of your application costs.