Where to Apply When You’re Applying: How to Pick?

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Session 188

This applicant is not sure what information is significant when choosing a program. How do you pick a school when you don’t see it up-close?

Every week, questions are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum. If you would like to ask a question and hopefully be answered here on the podcast, register for an account.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:01] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

I am applying this cycle (2020) and realize that I have been putting all my energy into my personal statement and ECs and I don’t even have a definite school list yet! I’ve been avoiding it because I really don’t know how to pick schools, other than based on their location and MCAT/GPA (although I know the stats aren’t as important).

As I start to look into it more, I look at in-state vs out-of-state preference and the school’s mission statement to try and see if I fit into what they are looking for. 

Class size and curriculum is kind of a factor, but it’s not that influential in my decision because I know that I would be excited about receiving any medical education, regardless of how they frame it. 

I have a feeling that my experience is going to be about the people I meet and work with, not so much the name of the school, and that is not something I can know at this point.

So, that said, I have about 14 schools on my list (I am applying only MD), and now that I look at it, they are all relatively well-known and pretty competitive. I know ‘safety’ schools aren’t a thing according to Dr. Gray, but I think my chances are less if I don’t add some smaller, less competitive schools. 

Trying to pick more schools that I am not familiar with is so hard to do because there are SO many, and it would take hours to go to their websites and really get to know each of them.

Any advice?”

[Related episode: How Many Medical Schools Should I Apply To?]

[02:30] You HAVE to Put In HOURS

It would take hours to go to their website and really get to know each of them. If you’re not willing to put in hours to do your research to figure out what school you want to go to, you might as well quit now.

'This whole process is all about putting in hours.'Click To Tweet

You need to put in hours writing your personal statement and writing your extracurriculars. You have to put in hours to put together a school list. Your school list is important.

[Related episode: How to Choose a Medical School & Put Together a School List]

[03:22] Why Only MD?

Why only MD? Some students have a really good reason why they’re only applying to MD schools.

'For 95% of students, applying to only MD schools is going to limit your chances of getting into medical school.'Click To Tweet

You should apply to DO schools if you want to go to DO schools, if you want to be a doctor, if location is really important and there are DO schools in that area as well.

Between MD and DO? The difference gets smaller and smaller. The bias is getting smaller and smaller. Hence, applying to both MD and DO is what the majority of you should do.

[Related episode: MD vs DO – What are the Differences (and similarities)?]

[04:30] How to Make a School List

The majority of your effort should go into your personal statement and extracurriculars. But once you start looking at your school list, state residency is very important. 

Where are you a state resident? Are there medical schools in that state? If there aren’t, are there medical schools in surrounding states that give preference to residents of your state?

'If you're applying outside of your state, almost exclusively look at private schools unless you have significant ties to a public out-of-state school.'Click To Tweet

If you’re applying to an out-of-state school, you should have significant ties to that state. For instance, do you have family that has lived there for a long time? Do you visit there during the summers?

Location is a huge factor as well as class size and curriculum. What kind of environment do you want to be in? Do you want to be around 60 other people? Or do you want to be in a class size of 300? This is very important.

Curriculum is also important. There are schools that have a traditional curriculum. Would you want that or wouldn’t it be better for you to go to a school that has a system-based curriculum? So look at the type of curriculum. Check if they have a problem-based curriculum or a flip classroom.

There are actually so many variables that go into this.

[Related episode: Should I Move States to Improve My Chances?]

[07:25] Other Factors to Consider

You also need to consider the weather as well as the closeness to friends and family. These are huge.

'Support structure is very important.'Click To Tweet

And it’s going to take time to look at each individual school. You have to look at their mission-vision statement, facilities, curriculum, etc. Look at everything. And this is going to take time.

Also, look at their secondary essays. Find out what they’re asking. Check out SecondaryApps.com to see all of the secondary essay prompts there. If you applied to a school with a secondary that has 40 pages long and you don’t want to fill it out, you just wasted $40 or whatever it is. So do your research.

Additionally, we are in the process of setting up MedSchoolReviews.com so that medical students and physicians can leave reviews of their school. This will help you make a more informed decision.

[08:40] The Yield Protection

I have talked to so many students that don’t get into medical school and upon looking at their school list, it’s probably why they didn’t get in. Their school list was just terrible.

I’m working with a student right now who crushed his MCAT and one of his top choice schools is a DO school. It’s near where he lives. I told him that he would likely potentially not even get looked at by that DO school.

There is this thing called “yield protection” where a medical school wants to make sure that those they’re inviting for an interview are actually going to want to come to their school.

And if this student has a high MCAT, the DO school might think this student might probably get into an MD school. So you have to think like this. They may not give that student a chance. Therefore, he needs to do a little extra work and reach out to the school.

I had the same conversation in The Premed Years podcast with a Texas resident. The student wanted to go to a Texas school so applied to TMDSAS as well as a few out-of-state schools through AMCAS.

They didn’t get any interviews at the out-of-state schools. This may be because the student was a good applicant and they saw their path is in Texas. So they would assume that you’re going to want to stay in Texas if that’s your home state and because it’s super cheap.

'School list is very important. Put the work in. And hopefully, you picked right.'Click To Tweet


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