In this week’s episode, we have two guests coming on the show. Dr. Scott Wright is the executive director of the TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service). He talks about the Texas medical school application. Our second guest is Enrique, the man behind the TMDSAS Podcast, which is a valuable resource to students thinking of applying to medical school, nontrads included.
If you’re hoping to apply to medical schools in Texas, and even if you’re not applying in Texas, you’re going to get a lot from this episode.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:30] Why TMDSAS Stands Alone
Celebrating the 50th year of the TMDSAS in 2018, Dr. Wright explains that the precursor to TMDSAS, which is known as the Medical and Dental Application Center, began in 1968. This is five years prior to when AMCAS started. So the TMDSAS basically pre-dated AMCAS.
The state legislature of Texas limits the number of non-residents who can go to each medical school in Texas to 10%.Each medical school class in Texas is limited to 10% non-residents.Click To Tweet
Because of this legislation, it behooves Texas schools to have a rich pool of applicants from inside the state. It’s not like non-residents can’t apply. But because of the limitations the legislature puts on the medical schools, it benefits all of them to have a centralized application service just for the Texas schools.
TMDSAS vs AMCAS: TMDSAS Is Much Cheaper
Moreover, the TMDSAS works diligently to keep application costs low. They have one flat fee. So to apply to all medical schools in Texas, there is a flat fee of $150. To apply to an equivalent number of schools with AMCAS would be $500-$600. Since they’re only serving Texas schools, they are able to keep the costs low.We are Texas. We have to do things differently.Click To Tweet
The TMDSAS doesn’t get any funding from the the State of Texas; they are funded strictly through application fees from the students.
They’re able to keep the cost low by having a small staff and not having as many overhead costs as AMCAS does. While AMCAS has a fee assistance program, TMDSAS doesn’t. But instead, they keep the cost low for everyone. They want students to feel comfortable applying, and they think $150 is a plausible amount to commit to applying to ten medical schools in Texas.TMDSAS keeps application costs low to encourage applications from anyone interested.Click To Tweet
[06:44] Two Texas Medical Schools That Don’t Use TMDSAS
At this point, all Texas medical schools are state-supported except for two private schools, Baylor University and University of Incarnate Word Osteopathic Medical School. The legislation only affects the publicly supported schools. So both of these schools do not participate in the TMDSAS.
Moving to Texas for Medical School?
Do you need to be a Texas resident for a certain amount of time before applying with TMDSAS and getting in-state tuition at Texas medical schools? Dr. Wright says that as long as you meet the residency requirements, TMDSAS doesn’t flag the application of new Texas residents.
[Related episode: Should I Move to Texas to Increase My Chances of Acceptance?]
[10:05] How to Prepare for TMDSAS vs AMCAS and AACOMAS
Dr. Wright encourages students to consider all three application services in the beginning of the process. Generally, all three are similar in terms of the information they’re trying to obtain, although the questions may be asked in a different way. Largely, if an applicant works diligently to develop a strong and extensive resume, they’re going to be able to answer all the questions on each, regardless of the application service.
In the case of Texas, with ten schools cooperating together, they have the ability to really work very carefully, extensively, and directly with their institutions. TMDSAS meets twice a year with the deans and directors to go over changes that need to be made.
AMCAS has about 125 schools to deal with, so it’s not as possible for them to coordinate as closely with all their schools. Meeting with all the Texas schools, TMDSAS can craft questions for the application that fit with what schools want.
[13:05] Biggest Mistakes Student Make in their Applications
TMDSAS open their application every year on or about May 1st. They literally have people who submit their applications on the same day. Those students are taking less than 24 hours to complete one of the most important documents they’ve ever completed. So they end up messing stuff up. They rush through it.Mistakes are often made because the students rush through applications.Click To Tweet
Students that rush through the application make mistakes, miss words, and have grammatical issues. They leave information out and then realize they’ve made a mistake. Sadly, they can no longer make changes. Once applicants push the submit button, it’s done. Schools can no longer open applications back up for anybody. And the medical school is going to see whatever it is you submitted. Dr. Wright advises students to slow down. Take time to proof-read everything.
The Importance of Entering Your Data Correctly
Course entry is probably one of the biggest parts of the application. This is where they require the student to enter a variety of data points for every college course they’ve ever taken. This can be very labor-intensive. Students often try to get around that by only entering one class per semester, or they get things mixed up. You need to enter your course data correctly.
The GPA calculation depends on the entry of all your courses. TMDSAS has to, of course, verify that what was answered on the application is what’s on your transcript. As soon as a student sends their transcript to TMDSAS, an actual person looks at their transcript and goes through it line by line. So you have to make sure you’re entering your data correctly.
[17:10] What If You Mess Up Your Transcripts?
Dr. Wright explains that if you happen to mess up your course entry, the extent of your error will determine how this plays out.
They have students who entered every semester they were in school but only entered one class per semester. In this case, TMDSAS may bump this right back to the student, or they might process the application as is. If they send it to medical schools, then schools are going to see that the student was not following instructions.
[Related episode: Can I Get Grades Removed from My Transcript to Improve My GPA?]
What Happens If You Falsify Data on Your Medical School Application?
They’ve encountered students who lied about their transcripts, and they’ve determined it was intentional falsification. They’ve also had students who were trying to hide some classes they didn’t want in their GPA. They’ve had students who tried to submit letters of recommendation from fake people.
When this happens, medical schools are told there are flags in the application. TMDSAS also sends a letter directly to AMCAS and AACOMAS, so they know who the applicant is and what the infraction was. Dr. Wright reiterates how serious these issues are.
Students should take this process seriously. They’re seeking to enter a profession with ethics and moral standards. Society expects them to uphold these values, and they have to do this from the start.You're seeking to enter a profession with ethics and moral standards. Your honesty in the application process should reflect that.Click To Tweet
There is a national registry database for classes you have taken, and this comes up on your transcript. They get a transcript for a certain school, and it shows that the student transferred from another school. The other way this comes up later in the process is in your financial aid records. And if they are finding out about unreported classes at this stage, the student is out. They will be dismissed before their application is even considered.
[22:30] How Medical Schools Process Information from TMDSAS
TMDSAS transmits every data point they have to all the Texas medical schools. It is then the medical schools’ responsibility to load whatever they want into their given admissions system. This varies from school to school. TMDSAS is communicating to medical schools, so they get everything TMDSAS has.
The individual medical school loads the information into their system, and they look at it in a variety of different ways. But they’re potentially going to see everything. They’re going to see GPAs in a lot of different ways, as well as MCAT scores, answers to the questions, personal statement, etc. They see potentially everything that TMDSAS has access to, and they just filter and sort that information however they want.The medical schools get access to all the information entered in the application service. Then they sort that information however they want.Click To Tweet
[24:23] TMDSAS GPA Calculation
TMDSAS goes through a process to verify that the student has entered their information correctly. This is particularly important with the course entry since this produces the GPA calculations.
Dr. Wright points out that TMDSAS differs from the other application services in the way that they don’t calculate pluses and minuses. So it’s strictly an A, B, C, D, E, F generation on the GPA calculation. An A- is no different from an A.TMDSAS doesn't calculate pluses or minuses in your GPA. So an A is the same as an A-.Click To Tweet
In addition, every course attempt is calculated into the GPA. So if they took Organic Chemistry I and got a C, then retook it a semester later and got an A, both of those grades are going to be calculated in the GPA. It’s not the latter one or the better one. AMCAS averages the grades together, too. AACOMAS used to have grade replacement, but now they average the grades together, as well.
[25:35] The Medical School Application Cycle Time Frame
Once the student pushes the submit button, it goes into a queue. TMDSAS looks through the application. They review a variety of points in the application. They review the way students have coded their classes. Then the application goes to another queue to be transmitted to the medical schools. The time of year will dictate how long it takes TMDSAS to send the application to the schools.In height of the application cycle, it can take up to four weeks for TMDSAS to process your application and forward it on to the medical schools.Click To Tweet
Sometimes TMDSAS is able to tell students upfront what the time delay is going to be. This way, students will have an idea how long it’s going to take until the medical school gets their submission.
More Students Are Applying Early to Medical School
Dr. Wright says they used to get tons of applications in September. Their typical deadline is October 1. So they used to get tons of application in the last week of the cycle. They might get 2,000 applications in the last week. He finds this totally crazy for students to wait until the last week. But they have seen a shift in the trend.I think students are getting the message that they need to apply early in the cycle.Click To Tweet
Students are starting to apply early more and more often. Dr. Wright says the height of the application cycle is probably late June or late July now. It’s interesting how Dr. Wright says this has happened in the last three or four years. This was interesting to hear because I’ve been telling students to apply early for about four and a half years now through this podcast.
[29:25] Understanding the Rolling Admissions Process
I asked him about changing the term “deadline” so students understand that this is a rolling admissions process. Medical schools really want the applicants to apply early because this gives them more time with the applications. They want students to submit as early as possible.Medical schools really want you to apply early because this gives them more time with the applications.Click To Tweet
A discussion that TMDSAS has had with medical schools is about a graduated application fee. For example, if a student applies before September 1st, the fee is $150. And if they applied after September 1st, they could raise it to $250.
This graduated application fee would encourage students to apply earlier, and it would essentially benefit the student. It would not only save the applicant money but also allow the schools to get information back to the students a lot earlier.
[31:21] Building a Successful Medical School Application
It’s important for students to recognize that everything they do from the minute they step on their college campus is going to affect their medical school application. This includes the organizations they get involved in and how much they study. This includes efforts they make in class to engage and concentrate. It involves the friendships they build and the connections they make with professors. Everything they do is building their application.The second you step on campus, you're filling out your application to medical school.Click To Tweet
Schools emphasize the idea of holistic admissions now. Society expects a lot of its physicians. What medical schools want out of students that come into their institutions are strong personal qualities. They’re ethical, honest, and have integrity. They know how to communicate with each other. They’re empathetic. They have a broad sense of what it is they’re doing.
Interpersonal skills are vital. A lot of students fail in this regard. Maybe they have a great MCAT score or GPA, but they can’t carry out a conversation. That’s going to be problematic.
Dr. Wright recalls taking his daughter to an orthopedic surgeon when she broke her arm. The doctor didn’t look either one of them in the eyes. Never once did the doctor make any personal connection with them. And Dr. Wright was just flabbergasted. So they found someone else who can treat his daughter like an actual person.
[36:27] The TMDSAS Podcast
While Dr. Wright is the god of the admissions universe at TMDSAS, Enrique is the god of the TMDSAS Podcast. It basically started when Enrique ran into Dr. Wright’s office and introduced the idea of starting a podcast, which he approved of.
The podcast seeks to connect the different admissions officers and advisors throughout the state. Enrique has been able to come into contact with most of them in his eight years of medical admissions in Texas. On the podcast, they offer advice to applicants.
The whole concept of the podcast was to acclimate potential and current applicants to the world of medical, dental, and veterinary admissions. This helps applicants understand what qualities the schools are looking for and how they can develop those qualities.
[37:38] Resources and Help for Nontrads
The TMDSAS Podcast has also started a series for nontraditional applicants. They want to tailor certain topics to nontraditional applicants. These could be people looking into a second career in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine, as well as people who took a gap year or have had to reapply.
These nontraditional students don’t always have access to somebody who can help, so their ideas and their drive to pursue medicine sometimes can easily get lost along the way.
Another cool thing they’re currently developing is a community for nontraditional applicants. On their Facebook page, they’ve built out a group for nontraditional applicants. They encourage everyone to join so they won’t feel they’re alone. They will be hosting some webinars with different advisors and admissions officers based on questions coming out of the group. This is awesome and similar to what I do with our Nontrad Premed Forum and the OldPreMeds Podcast.
[41:03] How to Strengthen Your Medical School Application
Dr. Wright recommends students apply early and be very careful in submitting their application. For nontraditional students, he talks about making good choices.Medical schools are looking for strong students, but even more so, they're looking for strong people, solid character.Click To Tweet
So he advises nontrads to make good choices. Finally, he quotes Albus Dumbledore from the movie Harry Potter who says, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” You have choices to make, so make them wisely.
[43:43] Final Thoughts
Go listen to The TMDSAS Podcast, and go share it to your colleagues and advisors. Give a rating and review. Your advisors would definitely love to hear an official podcast from an official application service in the great state of Texas.
Links and Other Resources
- The TMDSAS Podcast
- List of the ten medical schools in Texas
- Related episode: What Do You Need to Do When Med School Applications Open?
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