IMPRESSIONS OF SCHOOLS
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
Located in Hyde Park, the Pritzker School of Medicine is about 10-20 minutes outside of downtown Chicago but cannot be mistaken for its location in the city. That being said, Hyde Park had a smaller neighborhood-like atmosphere relative to the extremely busy downtown area. Some students live downtown, and many venture there during their free time.
The medical school is also located directly on the undergraduate campus, which has beautiful, picturesque architecture. We were not shown much of the School of Medicine during the interview day, but we were able to tour beautiful clinical facilities. In spring 2013 an additional state-of-the-art hospital opened as well immediately adjacent to the current facilities.
Interview day structure was relatively relaxed, with three separate interviews from an individual in admissions, on the faculty, and a student. On interview day we were told they look for 3 major qualities in all students:
o intrinsic desire to learn for personal improvement
o dedication to service
o exceptional performance in whatever it is one values – excellence
Besides that, just want to make sure the applicant is a good fit for the school.
The following stood out about Pritzker. It emphasizes diversity within its class as well as an overall class personality, and will offer admission in order to build this puzzle as well as possible (this was communicated by the Director of Admissions during the interview day). This makes it a very competitive school, with only 88 MD students per class. However, once in, there is a wealth of resources and support offered by the institution. Current students claimed they felt comfortable with anyone in their class and that admissions truly does a great job of finding the pieces to that puzzle. Student happiness is heavily emphasized at this school. In addition, there are supposedly more research opportunities than students due to the small class size. During the clinical years students are treated with respect as compared to other schools. Lastly, the emphasis on health care disparities seemed larger at Pritzker than many other institutions. As an example, there were six student-run clinics, whereas most other schools support one, maybe two such organizations.
This school had a beautiful and professional secondary portal and was very timely in answering questions and responding to emails. Communication was very easy.
The University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine was unquestionably an elite institution to attend for a medical education.
While this city may have a less than flattering reputation, there are many perks to the area. Chicken wings, a low cost of living, and Canada just a quick drive away are just the first things than come to mind. The School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is scheduled to move to downtown (as opposed to its current location on the South Campus in Amherst) in 2017 as a key part of the UB2020 action plan.
This SUNY still graded Honors/High Pass/Pass/Fail for the pre-clinical years, and also has some very large lectures combined with pharmacy and dental students. Mr. Rosso (Director of Admissions) is an extremely enthusiastic and captivating individual, as he gave a tour of the School of Medicine. Dr. Charles Severin (Dean of Admissions) has a very interesting story. He originally obtained a PhD in anatomy and was the instructor for gross anatomy, aiding students in the cadaver dissection that is an unofficial rite of passage in the world of future physicians. In order to better serve as the Dean he decided to attend UB and obtain an MD so that he could understand the stress and rigors of obtaining a medical education. Dr. Severin never completed a residency because he never wished to practice medicine, but rather was seeking complete immersion in the life of a medical student.
The clinical years are spent at a number of affiliated hospitals in the Buffalo area. This was presented as one of the selling points of the school. Rather than doing clerkships at a single hospital and conducting the pediatric rotation on a certain floor, this rotation would be completed at Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo. The idea is that the student is exposed to a much larger range of patients and conditions. With this in mind, this means that a car is absolutely necessary at Buffalo.
Student happiness was a concern. When current students were directly asked if they were happy at UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, they hesitated and after several seconds responded with a half-hearted, “yeah.” At almost every other school the response would be a unanimously and energetic “YES!” Lastly, communication from the school was less than exemplary. Many mailings and letters were low-quality photocopies. After being pulled off of the waitlist on May 15th, it took almost a full week to receive a financial aid package. After calling numerous phone numbers over ten times in an attempt to expedite this process, no one ever picked up.
Waitlist movement is interesting at Buffalo. Supposedly many interviewees are immediately waitlisted and categorized into the upper-, middle-, and lower-thirds. Beginning around March and extending through May (and perhaps further) many students are pulled off of this waitlist.
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER
Again this has the low cost of living found in western New York. The University of Rochester is highly respected in the local community and is the Medical Center is actually the largest employer in the metropolitan area. The School of Medicine and Dentistry is located across the street from the undergraduate campus and a reasonable distance from the airport. It is also right by the Genesee River and not too far from Lake Ontario.
If you’re worried about the cold and snowy Rochester winters, the School of Medicine and Strong Memorial Hospital are connected by tunnels. Golisano’s Children Hospital is also accessible in this manner. There was also a reasonable gym with the basics located in the hospital available to medical students.
Throughout the interview day students were stopping by Admissions and speaking to the applicants, asking about the day and were genuinely interested. The waiting area for applicants was in the middle of many walking routes, making conversation easy. Students here were very friendly and did not seem competitive.
During the pre-clinical years there seems to be a good balance between time in traditional lecture, small-group learning, and lab time. The facilities are up-to-date, including laptop-to-projector hook-ups in small-group learning rooms. Within the library are many different sections and regions including a truly quiet study area that was borderline disturbed by having new people walk in (super quiet!)!
For those interested in an academic career, Rochester has the ART – Academic Research Track – that requires a year-out of research. There are some basic requirements, such as a presentation and defense of the work, but it provides a long-term opportunity for students to conduct legitimate research for publication.
There is an elective block during third year (4 weeks?) that allows for exploration of specialties or further learning in a specific area of interest. This is made possible by the initiation of the Primary Care Clerkship in April of year one. The PCC continues through the second year, providing a true longitudinal experience that is characteristic of those specialties.
Rochester is extremely proud of the biopsychosocial model that began at the university back in the 1970s. Essentially it is the theory that you cannot merely treat the disease or condition that afflicts a patient’s physiology. Rather, the mindset and life story of the patient must also be incorporated when providing treatment and cures. This was a topic thoroughly discussed during one of my faculty interviews at Rochester. A personal highlight of mine, it was unquestionably one of the two best interviews I had throughout the cycle. It was discovered by happenstance that the interviewer had taught my pediatrician during her residency. After hitting it off and having a wonderful talk for ~45 minutes, the interviewer took me on a personal tour of the facilities. It was a wonderful experience not just as an applicant but as a person.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
Ann Arbor is an amazing city. The vibe is more like an extremely large college town than that of a city like Chicago or even a Syracuse. Everywhere is the Michigan “M” and the pride of the town of its school is ubiquitous. It seemed to have a reasonable cost of living as well. Ann Arbor is full of different shops and restaurants that appeared to cater well to both an undergraduate and professional population.
Another unique characteristic about the University of Michigan Medical School is the sheer size. The medical center itself is mammoth, and the class size is roughly 170. Mr. Robert Ruiz (Director of Admissions) stated 170 is the target size but the school is accredited for up to 200, with it recently ranging from 175-180. In the past three years no student has been accepted from the waitlist.
With such a large class the students are often broken down into smaller groups, and they say they never feel like they are overlooked or not provided the appropriate amount of attention due to the increased size. This was very reassuring. In addition, this seemed to be the single most athletic medical student body. It was a common trait found in every student spoken to, though this may have just been a coincidence. Much like the general public of Ann Arbor, the students were extremely prideful in their institution.
Though a trait as powerful as pride should not be contributed solely to one person, Dr. Steven Gay is unquestionably a source that emanates this positive quality. When he spoke to applicants early in the morning of interview day – which began at 7:00 AM – Dr. Gay almost seemed to be giving a pregame pep talk one would expect from a football coach. If anyone was disinterested before they arrived, this certainly changed after hearing Dr. Gay speak. He is simply infused with energy that others utilize to thrive.
The application portal was very user friendly and helpful. The only issue was attaching PDF updates, but admissions candidly said during the interview day that they do not read those files. It exists as an outlet for applicants who would otherwise continue to call their office to express interest.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the number of lifers at Michigan. There seemed to be a very large population of individuals that attended UMMS, completed their residency in Ann Arbor, and continued on as attendings and/or faculty at Michigan. The longevity of their enthusiasm for the program truly speaks to the impact and influence of this great program.
Nashville is an amazing city. Music City USA holds a special place in the heart of country fans. Plenty of resources (stores and food) are found around the medical campus. It seems that much of the nightlife is downtown, maybe a 10-15 minute drive away from where Vanderbilt itself is. The school is proud of the display of colors by the trees in autumn. Both the School of Medicine and major clinical facilities (Children’s Hospital is beautiful) are located immediately adjacent to the undergraduate institution, forming a triangular-shaped campus.
There was one lecture hall for first-years and another for second-years. Study quarters have group study rooms and sleeping areas. Material is provided for first-years in a binder that includes lecture notes and syllabi.
One source of pride for Vanderbilt is student wellness. It is supposedly the best, if not the best, among its peers in this category. The current students could not have done a better job of emulating this. Throughout the interview day, every student seems to absolutely love Vanderbilt. Structured events and organizations for students include the College Cup, Advisory Colleges, Bigs, and the Cadaver Ball. There is also the curriculum.
Beginning with the 2013 entering class, Vanderbilt is implementing Curriculum 2.0. Pre-clinical courses are the first year, clerkships are the second year, and then the third and fourth year are comprised of Step 1 study time, immersion blocks, a research block, interviews, and possibly more. The school should be contacted for full details on Curriculum 2.0, but it appears that the immersion blocks are the foundation. Though pre-clinical curriculum is only the first year, immersion blocks during the third and fourth year may provide time to learn the basic sciences of more specific topics concurrent to seeing the subject in a clinical setting. It’s a method to blend the science behind medicine. Vanderbilt is also open to students pursuing dual degrees or year-out research opportunities.
As a side note, Vanderbilt currently has a system called BioVU in its hospital system. In most settings patients opt-in to have their genetic code entered into a database. However, with BioVU the research and implications of genetic research are explained to patients and then they opt-out of the system. Otherwise they are automatically incorporated. Identifying information is removed. This has resulted in a vast resource for retrospective clinical studies, and medical students can access this via a PI for their own research.
Case Western Reserve University:
SUNY Stony Brook:
University of Pennsylvania:
I wrote 3-4 different versions, finally going with one incorporating many themes/phrases I felt were strongly representative of my story. Even if you don't have a sensational story, don't worry. Just be yourself and be honest, but make it interesting and captivating. Use vivid language and capture the reader's interest or else it'll just be another one in the pile.
Get outside opinions. This was one of the best things I did, emailing professors I had not had in years and asking them to proof it for content. They gave me the unbiased feedback and a reader who knew relatively little about me, essential to filling in key information I left out because I knew the fine details of my own story.
Don't be afraid to make changes. I fundamentally altered my PS just days before submitting, and it truly strengthened it. Instead of having the focus of a body paragraph on one of my activities, I shifted it to how the activity had helped me and would continue to help me in the future. Rather than wasting some of the precious 5300 characters on the activity, I talked about me. This is more or less the only chance for the med school to get to know you well enough to invite you for an interview (besides secondaries) so you have to make it count.
- Hospital volunteer
- Undergrad genetics research
- Club membership
- Student Rep to Board of Trustees
- President of Pre-Med Association
- General campus involvement
- Community service
- Service trip to Haiti
- Club rugby
- Other things
- Being legen . . . wait for it . . . dary!
With activities you want to do something you're passionate about. You'll enjoy it and find ease in remembering strong material to discuss. I have a couple of "cookie cutter" activities, but in my opinion you need some exposure to a physician to know that you'll wake up everyday excited to go to work. It's not necessarily that you should be doing these things as another hoop to jump through to get into med school, but if you want to become a physician you should be naturally directed towards some of the activities. Don't be afraid to explore new areas.
I didn't take any prep courses, as I felt I had a great set of instructors in gen chem, organic (the best that I've heard of amongst my high school friends - mine was unquestionably phenomenal), and gen bio. I used the EK set to study these and felt they gave me the review I needed and helped me think in the MCAT "mindset." However, for physics I used the BR books. Hands down this saved my MCAT score. On practice tests I went from scoring 7 and 8 on PS to consistently getting 13 and 14. Granted math and calculus naturally come to me, the method and difficulty of BR truly prepared me for the MCAT. IMO the BR goes over the top in other subjects, but I needed that extra info to gain a stronger grasp on physics. I studied for four months and made the MCAT my job during the semester. These were my practice AAMC scores and relative dates:
AAMC #3: 13/12/13 = 38 (March)
AAMC #4: 12/11/14 = 37 (March)
AAMC #5: 13/11/11 = 35 (April)
AAMC #7: 13/13/11 = 37 (May)
AAMC #8: 14/10/13 = 37 (May)
AAMC #9: 12/11/13 = 36 (May)
AAMC #10: 12/13/15 = 40 (May)
AAMC #11: 14/11/15 = 40 (May)
Actual: 13/12/14 = 39
Don't read too much into these or compare them to your own - it will get into your head and hinder your performance. Regardless of whether or not you believe these practice test scores, they are the one part of my profile I guarantee is 100% authentic. Also, the higher number AAMC practice tests were by far the most difficult. I attribute my scores on #10 and #11 to peaking at the right time and finally clearing my mind of all other worries. Getting every question on the BS sections correct helped too. My Achilles heel was the VR, and for that I don't really have many tips. I did all of the EK 101 under timed conditions and couldn't seem to identify an area for improvement, although there was definitely room. My advice would be find additional practice - I've heard that the company that writes the MCAT also does the LSAT, and that exam may have similar practice questions. If that is the case then I would recommend using the LSAT practice questions first (for timing/randomness of the passages) and saving the MCAT ones til the end to adapt to the most realistic representation. Also, when taking the AAMC practice tests make sure you write the essays. This is a test of endurance, and would you rather be exhausted the weeks before or during game day? After all of these practice tests (plus a few other random ones) I was more or less a machine, like a well-trained athlete. Though I still felt tired on test day, I was used to it and prepared for it. After 4+ hours your mind starts to wear down, but I was able to push through it because I had time and time before during practice.
Also, absolutely do NOT void your exam! Take the shot, if you've put in the right amount of prep you will want to get a score for the sake of it so you can move on with your life. Walking out of the testing center there was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulder and I felt like I could join the real world again. The euphoria lasted about 48 hours when I had to wrap up my application for AMCAS. Also, in the weeks following the exam do not think about the score until it is available. There is absolutely nothing you can do to change it or find out sooner. This process of applying to medical school is quickly teaching me to temporarily let go of things I have no control over.
I scored a 39 and felt horrible after the exam, just goes to show you should not void!
Transcripts received by AMCAS: 5/28
Application submitted: 6/11/12
Contacted med schools about prerequisites: 6/14/12
Began pre-writing secondaires: 6/17/12
Application verified: 6/23/12
MCAT Received: 6/26/12 (39!!!)
Afterr seeing how helpful other people's MDApps have been I figured I should share my journey. I'm not claiming to be an expert or professional, this is solely my opinion and $0.02. This is not a promise or guarantee to get you into medical school, just my own experience. Any questions about my app then inbox me on SDN and I'll tell you what I feel comfortable disclosing. One final disclaimer - the content of this profile is my intellectual property, and I do not authorize anyone to sell, license, rent, modify, distribute, copy, reproduce, transmit, or do anything else of such a manner with this content. Besides that, enjoy!