I really liked having access to other people's MDApps, so I'm going to try to make this as detailed as I can to help other applicants.
Summary of cycle:
I applied to a total of 25 schools; I sent in my primary on the first day (June 10th), so my apps were transmitted as early as possible. In retrospect, 25 schools was probably too many; I was encouraged to apply for this many from classmates and the pre-med advisors I spoke with at my undergrad. I don’t necessarily regret applying to so many, but there were a number of schools on my list that I wouldn’t really want to attend upon further inspection or that I had little chance of being accepted to. These revelations came after paying the expensive secondary fees, of course...
I have an inexplicable obsession with spreadsheets, so I spent a good amount of time (read: unhealthy amount of time) making a master list that consolidated information from the MSAR. I had decent stats, so I aimed for schools where I would be between the median and 90th percentile. I don't have much research experience, so I probably applied a little too top-heavy, despite having pretty good numbers. After finding schools where I would be competitive numbers-wise, I looked at the OOS numbers for the schools that remained on my list. I didn’t want to spend money applying to a school that was unlikely to accept an out-of-state applicant, so I went through and removed schools that had less than 10-20% OOS students. After trimming the list, I went back through and evaluated whether or not I would want to live in that geographic area. I’m from CA and layering clothes is a foreign concept to me (you wear clothes under more clothes? Still struggling with the idea…), so I limited my Midwest choices to schools that I was REALLY interested in. Looking back, I should have applied to fewer schools on the East Coast, as well; the longer the cycle went on, the less I wanted to uproot and move across the country. After these filters, I still had a pretty big list, so I took off a few of the big, research-driven heavy hitters; I imagine I’ll do some research during med school, but nowhere near the level that would be expected at a Harvard or a Hopkins. I kept a number of them on, just for the hell of it; this may have been a mistake, given my lack of invites at UCSF, Vandy, Columbia, UPenn, etc.
MSAR: $30 (well worth it, great investment)
Primaries: $1,000 (25 schools)
Secondaries: $2,000 (24 schools)
Interviews: $2,000(I don’t remember all the flight costs, but they were relatively expensive since I don’t live in a major air travel hub)
- Drove to Davis ($0)
- Drove to Irvine, stayed with student host ($100 for gas/food)
- Flew to Pittsburgh, stayed with student host (~$500)
- Flew to San Diego, stayed with student host (~$200)
- Flew to USC and flew back same day (~$175)
- One way flight to Case Western, stayed at hotel (~$440)
- Flew from Cleveland to Loyola, stayed at hotel (~$285)
- Flew home from Chicago (~$150)
- Booked flight to NYC, but canceled after UCD acceptance (non-refundable United flight = ~$120)
Running Total: approximately $5,000 (wow, that hurts to write)
Ah, the old alma mater. UCD is only 15 minutes from my house, so I was able to drive and save some money, which was much appreciated. I knew going in to the interview that Davis was going be a strong contender. I’ve worked with a number of the medical students while volunteering at my clinic, so I knew a fair amount about the school and the lifestyle of the students. The city of Sacramento is nothing too special, but I’ve lived here all my life and it’d be nice to have the support of friends and family if I need it during medical school. The interview day started with a talk from a couple of the associate deans and was very relaxed. They wasted no time handing out swag for the applicants; most schools give out pens, but Davis chooses to give out chapstick (awesome!). From the orientation, the applicants were divided into 4 groups. Our group started our day out with a tour of the campus, led by an MS4. The medical education building is one of the nicest I saw during my interviews and I love how close it is to the hospital; the walk from the lecture hall to the hospital entrance is only 2 minutes. We didn’t get to see the anatomy lab, but all the ones that I saw at other schools looked about the same, anyway. After the tour, my group had a meeting with the dean of admissions. He was a really nice guy and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know the applicants. This group meeting was not advertised as an “interview”, but the dean was taking notes and definitely plays a role in admissions decisions. After meeting with the dean, we had lunch with a number of the first and second year students. I was particularly impressed by the medical student turnout; we ate in the lecture hall and there were probably 50-60 medical students. Applicants were able to get all their questions answered and the med students all had great things to say about the campus. Finally, it was time for the actual interview: the dreaded MMI. I actually really enjoyed MMI and preferred it to many of my traditional interviews. The scenarios were all engaging and relatively low-stress. My advice to future applicants is to go into the experience with an open mind and be willing to commit to the scenarios at hand; jump in with both feet! I wouldn’t consider myself to be the most extroverted individual, but I tried my best to be as engaging and outgoing as possible. All the people I met were super friendly and I left the interview day feeling very excited about UC Davis!
Result: ACCEPTED! Matriculating!
Didn’t feel like flying, so I drove 6.5 hours from home to Irvine for this interview; deeply regretted this decision on the way back after getting stuck in LA traffic, which turned the return trip into about 8 hours alone on the road. I got to Irvine early enough the night before the interview to attend the pizza dinner that they put on for all the applicants. It was great getting to talk with some of the other applicants and a few of the medical students. They all seemed really pleased with their decision to attend UCI; only complaints some of them had were the high cost of living (Newport Beach = $$$) and the distance between the campus and the affiliated medical center. UCI’s main teaching hospital is in the city of Orange, approximately 20-50 minutes away from the main campus, depending on the whims of the southern California traffic gods. It makes sense not to have a teaching facility in an area as affluent as Irvine, but kind of a bummer that it’s so far away.
I was definitely impressed with the campus. The weather was beautiful (shocking for SoCal, I know) and all of the facilities seemed excellent. They also give out iPads to their students, which is pretty cool, I suppose. The interview group was the largest of all the schools I interviewed at; there were probably between 40-50 people. The orientation and campus tour were pretty standard and the lunch was great. The Dean came to speak with us and we went around the room and introduced ourselves. I swear, “Name, School, Major, and Interesting Fact about yourself” is the bane of my existence… After the introductions (which actually took a while since there were so many people), we split up for our interviews. My student interview went alright, got pretty standard questions and our conversations was fine; I felt like he grilled me a little harder than some interviewers, but it might have just been nerves. My faculty interviewer was at the hospital in Orange, so I had to take a shuttle to meet with her. Unfortunately, my interviewer was nearly 30 minutes late to the interview and this drastically shortened our time together. She seemed somewhat disinterested and rushed through her questions so she could get back to her clinic. Overall, we probably only talked for about 25 minutes or so. I wasn't able to represent myself very well in this short amount of time and felt like this interview was definitely my weakest of all the schools I interviewed at.
As a whole, I wasn’t crazy about Irvine. Lectures are mandatory and the grading scheme doesn’t seem particularly conducive for working collaboratively. The Dean kind of rubbed me the wrong way during her orientation presentation and I didn’t feel as welcome as I did at other schools. I wish the hospital was closer and it was a little more affordable to live in the area.
University of Pittsburgh:
I was not expecting to like the area as much as I did. Growing up in CA, I hadn’t heard too many good things about Pittsburgh and was pleasantly surprised when I arrived. I stayed with a student host about a block from the school and would recommend it to anybody! The hospital system associated with UPitt is massive and incredibly impressive. I was a little hesitant about the scholarly project, but students attested that it is integrated well and is relatively easy to incorporate alongside their regular schoolwork. The facilities were okay; the education building was a little aged and the lecture halls were dark and old-looking. The simulation center, however, is state-of-the-art and it would be a great resource to have at my disposal as a medical student. Aside from the school, I also love that the cost of living is so low and that Pittsburgh has a great professional sports community (hockey, baseball, and football). The cold weather would definitely take some getting used to; my brittle California bones would likely shatter at the first sight of below-freezing temperatures and snow.
I really enjoyed my student interview and felt that we got along very well. The conversation was very fluid and she seemed like the type of student that I would enjoy having as a classmate. Lunch was pretty good, but not very many medical students were there to answer questions; there was probably an upcoming test/quiz. After lunch, we broke up for our faculty interviewers. Faculty interview was also very relaxed; no curveball questions or anything too out of the ordinary.
Overall, I liked Pittsburgh a lot and the only major drawbacks were how far it is from home and the less-than-ideal weather. Being a private school, it would also be relatively expensive, assuming that I don’t receive much financial aid and scholarships. The students seem like they are given ample opportunities to pursue their interests and are well prepared to succeed during residency matching.
UC San Diego:
There isn’t much to say about the San Diego area other than how spectacular it is. Constant mid-70 degree weather and right on the beach; what else could you ask for? The students, including my student host, were all exceptionally friendly and they would make for awesome classmates. The student class was also very active; everyone was in running groups, surfing clubs, basketball tournaments, etc. The medical education building was brand-new and very impressive. The lecture halls were top-notch, compared to some of the other schools I visited.
After doing MMI at UC Davis, I felt confident in my abilities going into the UCSD MMI. I feel like I performed moderately well, but I definitely preferred the MMI structure at UCD after participating in both. The San Diego MMI’s were more stressful and the stations were much less conversational and much more “Here are my ideas, let me tell you about them for the next 8 minutes”. There wasn't nearly as much back-and-forth as there was at UCD. I felt leaving a little flustered and unimpressed with my performance, but still felt okay about my chances.
Overall, the school was amazing and I absolutely loved being there. The environment is unbeatable and the students were some of the happiest I came across. The only downside about the experience was that my flight was delayed coming home, which turned a 1.5 hour flight into a 5 hour wait at the terminal without anything to do. Crossing my fingers, but I know it may be a little bit of a reach with my relatively limited research background.
Result: Waitlisted :(
Keck SOM (USC):
I was stoked to get an interview at USC and was eager to see the campus. I appreciated that they had two sessions to choose from (Morning and Afternoon); I was able to fly down early in the morning, attend the afternoon session, and fly home the same day! It was really nice to only have to miss one day of work. Getting from LAX to the campus was a breeze. I used FlyAway ($7) and the USC shuttle (free) like they suggest on their webpage. Obviously, East LA isn’t the nicest part of the greater LA area. The campus is nice, but the surrounding area is a little sketchy. Because of this, many students I spoke with said that they decided to live farther away from the campus and commute to class. This isn’t terrible, but I don't know if I would want to have to drive 20-30 minutes to school every day, especially in LA traffic… On the plus side, you're close to downtown LA and all of the entertainment/recreation opportunities the city has to offer.
The facilities seemed a little old and were not as impressive as I expected. The simulation center and lecture hall were a little run-down and didn’t have the flash of some of the other schools. This was not a deal breaker by any stretch, but was still a little disappointing considering the USC price-tag. A nice unique addition is that all Keck students get their own cubicle, with locking cabinets, to store whatever they want at school. The cubicles are grouped together in groups of 6-7 and many students said that they made some of their closest friends in these study groups. Without a doubt, one of the best sellers for USC-Keck is the amazing clinical facilities. Of all the schools I visited, I would love more than anything to practice at the LA County Hospital. It’s a huge, bustling medical center that would be unlike any other experience, due to the volume and diversity of cases. As an added benefit, it's literally right next to the medical campus; you can walk from class to the hospital in a matter of minutes. All the medical students attested to LA County being a major advantage; not many schools can boast that they put their students in one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country.
Overall, I was very impressed with Keck and would love to receive medical training at the LA County Hosptial. The only downsides to USC are the price (and disappointing lack of financial aid for incoming MS1s), the area surrounding the hospital, and the fact that many of the students have to commute to class. For what it’s worth, Dean Arias was one of the nicest and most down-to-earth administrators I met on the interview trail!
Result: ACCEPTED! Withdrew.
Case Western Reserve University:
I went into this interview expecting Case Western to be a front-runner, but I left somewhat underwhelmed. I arrived in Cleveland the night before and took the train out to University Circle. I stayed overnight at the Marriot right on the campus; it was expensive, but I couldn’t find a student host and didn’t want to worry about having to find a way to campus if I stayed farther from the school. The University Hospitals were very impressive and the children’s hospital was awesome. The medical education building was very underwhelming. Because of the cold environment, there is a noticeable lack of windows, giving the building a very claustrophobic and somber feel. Everyone I talked to mentioned how cold it gets during the winter; as I’ve mentioned in other impressions, I struggle with the cold, big time. After hearing everyone talk about it, it’s quite possible that I would wither and die from a Cleveland winter. As a city, Cleveland gets a bad rap, but it seemed like a decent place to live, with plenty of things to do (pro NBA/NFL/MLB teams, museums, concert halls, etc.). It’s also incredibly affordable to live in the area, compared to places like LA and San Diego.
My interviews were both very enjoyable. My faculty interviewer was the Dean of Admissions, which would have been daunting if she wasn’t such a friendly person! The student interviewer was relatively standard and didn’t ask any special questions. Both of my interviewers asked, “So I see you’re from California…you know it gets really cold here, right?” They both seemed to be very interested in research (obviously a major pillar of Case education) and I wish I had had more to talk about in that respect.
Overall, Case wasn’t as impressive as I expected. I can definitely see the draw for many, given its impressive research opportunities, but it did not appeal as strongly to me. Many of the students did not seem as happy as students from other institutions. It would also be very expensive to attend Case, especially when compared to my public school option.
Stritch SOM (Loyola):
I didn’t really know what to expect, heading into Loyola’s interview. I had never been to the Chicago area and all I really knew about Stritch was that it was a Jesuit institution. Prior to the interview, I stayed in a cheap hotel out in Maywood and I would not recommend it; Maywood certainly wasn’t the best area, but it also wasn’t awful. I’m not sure that I would want to spend the next four years of my life there, though. I wish the school was a little closer to Chicago, because it didn’t seem like there was a whole lot to do in the Maywood area surrounding Stritch.
The interview day was a little unorthodox, compared to what I was used to at other schools. I interviewed during the students fall break, so there were virtually no medical students on the campus. My interview was on a weekday (they do Saturday interviews) and I was one of only 5 interviewees that day. When I arrived, I was asked to fill out some paperwork and they sat me down to watch some old videos about the campus and its history. My interview day started approximately an hour before everyone else’s so I was alone for a good part of the morning. The student interview was nice, but my conversation with the student didn’t really sell the school. My faculty interview was with a nice older guy and he asked a lot of questions about leaving my family and moving to Chicago, if accepted. The tour of the hospital was pretty brief and the Loyola medical center was smaller than I was expecting. The school definitely focuses most of its attention on community service and there doesn’t seem to be a huge availability of research opportunities like some of the other, more research-heavy schools I interviewed at. The medical education building was very new and impressive and the fitness center is also top-of-the-line. The preclinical years are graded (H/HP/P/F), which I am not a huge fan of; the medical student I saw, however, claimed that the grading scheme didn’t increase competitiveness amongst classmates. They had a handful of Honors tracks (Research, Bioethics, and Global Health) that seemed kind of interesting, but I’m not sure how helpful or beneficial they would be for residency and future practice.
Once it was all said and done, my interview day didn’t leave me overly impressed with Loyola. I thought it was a fine school, but the interview day certainly didn’t elevate it to the top of my list. Of the other schools I interviewed at, I felt like Stritch would be a relatively poorer fit for me, personally.
Result: ACCEPTED, Withdrew.