A BRIEF ANALYSIS FROM BACK IN JULY..
GPA is very mediocre, even though I have a somewhat redeeming undergrad uptrend + post-bac year, at two good schools. In my honest opinion, this is my limiting factor, and makes all of these schools into reach schools based on my ethnicity and stats. No matter what I do, that GPA is there like a millstone tied around my neck. Still, I am cautiously optimistic about my overall chances of being accepted, and fairly pessimistic about my chances of getting interviews at my top overall choices.
MID-APRIL APP CYCLE POST-MORTEM
In retrospect.. looks like I was about right. I got interviews at a pretty decent amount of places (1/4 of the schools I applied to, though I applied to a lot of places) and was able to pick and choose due to getting into Case in December. But I did not get interviews from my overall top choice, which was Michigan. I'll be honest, Case wasn't my top choice at the beginning of the cycle. But looking back at things, I didn't miss out on a lot. Michigan's a great place to be, since Ann Arbor is a 25-minute drive from my parents' house, and I'm a fan of Michigan football. That suggests Michigan was my top choice going into the cycle for the wrong reasons. But I got into some schools that are pretty damn good in their own right, and are probably better fits (hence, the schools' interest in me). So everything worked out in the end.
So, about that low GPA thing? It certainly limited me, but not so much that I didn't have the opportunity to interview at schools that happened to be good fits for me. It helps that I had a fairly good MCAT score. Things worked out for me, because I presented my application in a way that showed who I am and what I am about, and that allows the schools to determine fit a little bit better. Just know that it will put you out of the running at absolute top schools that can afford to eliminate most non-URM applicants with a single numerical weakness. If you're an URM, it's a different story. You'll get your fair share of interviews, but you still have to impress them and that's easier said than done.
So, what's my final choice? As of mid-April, I haven't decided. I do know that I won't be going to my state school, Wayne State, because it's the one school I've been accepted to that I don't fit that well at. I got in by virtue of being an in-state resident and my post-bac GPA. It's also not very much cheaper than Wisconsin (5k/year) so I decided to withdraw.
University of Iowa is another great school with a great hospital system, but I got my financial aid package from them this past weekend. I got loans for the full COA. Since the COA is already very high ($62k), I have to take out $20k/year in GradPlus loans. I haven't withdrawn yet, but I think I will eventually have to do so.
University of Wisconsin is a similar school to Iowa, and I know they'll take care of me and my specific needs, which is very important to me. It also happens to be my next cheapest option, with a COA of $53k. Great school, good hospital system, great city (Madcity) and an awesome place to be a medical student. Also got the full complement of loans, but I won't have to take out GradPlus (the EFC makes up the difference, and I can afford that part from my savings). By far the most financially feasible option, especially if I get a small scholarship or two.
Case Western stands out as the only private institution on my list. It's a great school and has the best hospital systems/clinical training of the bunch. Curriculum fits my learning style and would also prepare me best for the wards. Educationally, it's the best choice of the bunch. Problem is, its COA is $69k, $16k/year more! Is all that worth the extra money? I don't think it is, but at the same time I just like the school and people so damn much, after attending their Second Look. I'm hoping their financial aid package includes a couple grand in grants to make the finances easier to swallow. I am hearing that the COA is a huge overestimate and that we're talking more of $55k. But still...
Okay, so update... as of April 27..
It came down to full COA for all of these schools, as expected. However, Case didn't give me ANY institutional aid, which is odd as I still got a couple grand of additional subsidized loans with favorable repayment rates from the other schools. Even though my parents make too much money, I'm not going to see a single dime of it.. long story. So it's time for me to ensure my debt load is as minimal as possible. Seeing as UW and Case are both great schools, and in the event that you subscribe to the USNWR 'dogma', the rankings are very similar.. #25 vs #27, so clearly there's no step up or down in reputation, research is there for the taking at both places.. clinical training is comparable at both.. it really isn't a difficult decision as I loved both schools. Both schools have all the opportunities and more for me to take advantage of, and I really think there is no wrong choice here. It's just a matter of how much debt I am willing to incur. And crunching the numbers tells me the whole story...
It's a difference of being in $215,000 in debt after 5 years of residency (UW) versus being in $360,000 in debt after 5 years of residency (CWRU). Just to be able to rotate through Cleveland Clinic during my 3rd and 4th years (the only difference I can think of, and arguably a very minor factor) is definitely NOT worth that much extra debt. No way in hell, especially considering that I get 12 weeks to do audition rotations during my 4th year, AND that's not counting the possibility that I might be able to do my sub-I's elsewhere on top of that.
So it looks like it's... the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Class of 2013 for me!