What Do Students Need to Know About Med School Admissions?

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Dr. Scott Wright has more than 25 years of experience in medical education. He joins me today to bust myths about med school admissions, talk Mappd, and more!

Session 390

Dr. Scott Wright has more than 25 years of experience in medical education. He joins me today to bust myths about med school admissions, talk about Mappd, and more!

Scott is a former dean of admissions at UT Southwestern Medical School in Texas, the former director of the pre-health program at UT Dallas, and the former executive director (which is his most recent position) of the TMDSAS, the application service for Texas medical schools. Today, I’m also very excited to also announce that Dr. Wright is joining Mappd!

Have fun with us on National Premed Day on May 28! Text NPD to 844-413-2234 for more information. For more podcast resources to help you along your journey to medical school and beyond, check out Meded Media.

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

[01:29] What is Mappd?

Mappd is the new technology platform that I have wanted to do forever. And I’m finally able to do it with an amazing co-founder, Rachel Grubbs who has years of experience in the test prep world with Princeton Review and Next Step, which is now Blueprint. Rechel left that company last year, and is now my co-founder for Mappd.

We will keep you up to date like what we did with the MCAT coming out or the registration opening up last week as we record this. I use this text platform to notify over 11,000 students of when the MCAT registration opened up. 

[4:44] Passion for Helping Premeds

Scott felt he was just lucked into medical education and into working with premeds and helping them along their journey. He had worked in higher education for about 10 years and was returning to Dallas where he had some family. He was wanting to go back to graduate school at that point to further his education.

His experience in higher ed led him to be recruited to go to UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, where they were reinventing their admission process. They wanted a vision and they wanted a new way of doing things. Then he became really great friends with the chair of the admissions committee, who soon became the big Dean of Yale School of Medicine.

Together, they crafted a selection process for medical students. Although his admissions experience was in the undergraduate level, Scott just ran with it.  And 10 years later, he was still at UT Southwestern directing the admissions process there and loved it.

Scott loved the energy of the premed students and the applicants to medical school who came from different backgrounds. 

“Part of what excited me so much about working with premeds was the broadness of the group of individuals coming from so many different walks of life.”Click To Tweet

Having reviewed somewhere near 40,000 applications, he got to really know what they were looking for. They’re able to figure out what was what was great about an application, and what was just okay with an application. It excited him every year to bring a class and introduce each of those people to each other.

[09:46] Director of Pre Health Programs

In 2006, Scott got recruited to leave the medical school side of things and to go to UT Dallas to direct all the pre health programs there, and the center graduate institution in Dallas.

He was very excited about going to the other side of the equation, which was helping premeds make themselves the best applicant they can be to apply to medical school.

Then in 2012, he got recruited away from UT Dallas to take on the directorship of the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). And here again, was the whole new part of the continuum of medical education.

So Scott had been on the medical school side of things, selecting the students getting in. And he had been on the other end, where they were really advocating for students and helping them along in the process.

Now here he was, finding himself in the middle as an application service where they were serving both populations. They’re helping applicants traverse the application itself and all that’s involved and what they needed to do to have a good application. And they’re also serving the medical schools with the data that they needed to be able to make the decisions that were best for their institutions.

Having done that for eight years, they’ve done a lot of really cool things. In the midst of all that, they really changed the face of TMDSAS.

They’ve broadened their vision for the TMDSAS. They’re helping students in this process. They’re also helping advisors with things that would enable them to be better advisors.

“We need to help students with knowing throughout the process what are things that they can do to be the best applicant that they can be?”Click To Tweet

One of these things was the development and ultimately inauguration of APPLY magazine, which they began four years ago. It allowed him to use his creativity to reinvigorate what they were doing with applicants.

[18:18] The Biggest Myths and Misconceptions of Premeds About the Application Process and What Medical Schools Are Doing with Applications

  1. Everything’s about the numbers.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that everything’s about the numbers. That the whole process is really about MCAT and GPA. And that while MCAT and GPA are important, there’s no getting around.

'Above a certain floor of those numbers, it's really about the individual schools looking at applicants in a deep way.'Click To Tweet

But it’s really trying to figure out who is this person? What are they all about? What is their dream? Why do they have that dream? And what are they doing to get them to a point where they can fulfill that dream?

This is what they call the holistic admissions process. But every school is a little bit different in how they implement that thing. Some schools are deep into holistic admissions in terms of really looking super deep beyond the numbers. Other schools do it in a more superficial way.

That being said. Scott has seen first-hand how schools really care deeply about the admissions process. And they recognize the fundamental aspect of it.

These individuals at the medical school level are deeply committed to what they’re doing. And it’s not just about enrolling a class of medical students. That’s a big part of it since the students that they’re admitting into medical schools are the future of American medicine.

But they care deeply about enrolling students who are going to be great doctors. That they’re going to care for people, and that they are going to be successful in helping people feel better. They care about these students being ultimately the face of healthcare for American medicine.

  1. It’s just all automated.

The medical school admissions officers and committees and faculty members have dreams about what they want to see in the future of medicine.

They want to see students who are going to make it through medical school and really impact individuals in their communities, the public health of the American population, and even in a big global way. 

So it’s not just some computer that’s figuring out who’s got the right numbers and who’s going to be in our class. It’s just not like that. But it really is a deeper dive into their applications.

[23:31] How to Choose Medical Schools to Apply To

Scott recommends that students subscribe to the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) when looking for schools to apply to. Look at the school’s mission and vision and see if it’s a fit.

“The majority of students out there don’t look at the screws to see if it’s a fit for them. They don’t do some reflection to see what they want, and they’re missing an opportunity.”Click To Tweet

Scott plays this devil’s advocate role. He thinks that if the majority of students are applying based on MCAT and GPA, then the schools have no choice but to accept students within that GPA and MCAT range. Therefore, their average GPA and MCAT scores aren’t going to change much.

The schools have these dreams of what they want their class to look like, what they want their graduates to look like, what they want their future physicians to look like. 

As a pre med student, don’t act as your own rejection committee and send yourself a rejection letter and all that. Let the school do that.

Most students have either one or a small subset of dream schools that they want to go for. Then go for it. Do it and let things play out and see what happens.

[27:45] Why Medical Schools Lack Transparency

In terms of cutoffs, medical schools have to make sure that students are going to be able to handle the curriculum.

The numbers sometimes change year to year, or maybe even within the year, depending on the pool of applications that may occur. Because of this, schools may be hesitant to publish numerical values. They don’t want it to turn somebody off from applying if they’re numbers are below what they’ve published.

From the medical school side of things, they’re trying to both be wise with what they’re doing. They have a pretty good idea of how many students they need to interview in order to get a yield or give them a class. So they are working to make that happen.

“There's a dynamic quality to the process that doesn't lend itself often to being able to publish numbers, for example.”Click To Tweet

As for public institutions, there’re often legal constraints that are part of what they’re there for. They have a general counsel or a chief lawyer at their institution, and their job is to keep them out of court. There’s one medical school that’s a good example of that. Sometimes, the lawyers are saying, they really can’t go down that road in terms of opening up the window of the process to the general public.

Scott certainly wishes that there was more transparency. And that there was a better way for medical schools and the admissions committees and students themselves to be able to say here’s who we are, here’s what we do.

At the end of the day, they’re all people and people make mistakes and people do the best they can for whatever they are trying to do. 

Moreover, schools are ultimately altruistic in their impulses. They really want it to be about not only about the applicant, and what’s going to make that applicant successful in their institution at their medical school.

It’s about making those students into great examples of people that are serving the public and serving their patients and the patient’s families.

[33:44] Do You Have a Chance if You’re a 2.8 Student?

Schools are doing these deep dives to figure out who these students are and for the 2.3 student, you have to look at the GPA trajectory. They want to see the capability of the student, academically speaking, that really suggests that the student can do it. 

“You have to be able to show that you can do school, that you can grind it out, make it through obstacles, and not have the wheels fall off when things happen.”Click To Tweet

Life happens. But at the end of the day, it’s about the trajectory. Where is this trajectory going? Is it a flat trajectory? Is it an upward trajectory? Is it downward?

And that’s what they’re trying to figure out because these schools from the application services, they get that GPA chopped up in a gazillion different ways.

Mappd.com can help students see their trend lines or trajectory lines. They can also get feedback to see if it’s dropping down at the finish line that potentially could be an issue. This is going to be really exciting for students!

[38:54] Final Words of Wisdom

Scott leaves us with this quote from Professor Albus Dumbledore of the Harry Potter series,

'It is our choices that show who we truly are. It's far more than our abilities.”Click To Tweet

You have a choice, you have a series of choices to make today, tomorrow, next week, next month. Those choices are going to say a lot about who you are in this whole process. 

We have choices every day, we have a choice of what person we’re going to be and what growth we’re going to show in our lives.

Make good choices. Make good choices every day. Think about the choices you have to make today and tomorrow. And if you make good choices, you will be successful in this process. Allow those choices to show who you truly are.



Meded Media



APPLY magazine

Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR)