study published in 2016 the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the number of medical students with disabilities is nine times higher than originally estimated. The article points out the difficulty in capturing an accurate view of the number of med students with disabilities. In all, 2.7 percent of medical students were found to have one or more disability. Another study in Academic Medicine found that most medical schools seem unwelcoming to those with disabilities. More recently, a report in 2018 by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that progress has been made for medical students with disabilities.

The most common disability was ADHD, followed by unspecified learning or psychological disabilities. Those with physical or sensory disabilities were much less common, perhaps because of the technical standards in place at medical schools. Some students also cited chronic health issues as a disability.

Experts believe that further studies need to be conducted to assess how students with disabilities perform in medical school. Of those in the study, 98% received some sort of accommodation. The founders of the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science and Medical Education comment on the current situation for those with disabilities in an article on Student Doctor Network.

Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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Photo courtesy of vmware.com

Photo courtesy of vmware.com

Curious about which medical schools cost the most?  US News and World Report has come up with a list of the most expensive US medical schools, as follows:

1. Columbia = $66,257

2. University of Southern California  = $64,132

3. Case Western = $63,666

4. Dartmouth = $63,551

5. Northwestern = $63,470

6. Washington U, St. Louis = $63,230

7. Brown = $62,917

8. Harvard = $61,535

9. Tufts = $61,464

10. Duke = $61,032

Columbia has the dubious distinction of being the priciest medical school in the country. Of course, no public institutions are on this list since they typically cost thousands of dollars less than private institutions.

There’s no question that medical school is expensive but there are ways to defray the cost. Attending a public school in the state where you’re a resident is one of the best ways to control the cost of a medical education. You can also compare the list above to the least expensive medical schools and you can also read about merit scholarships for medical school. There are also medical school loan repayment/forgiveness programs in addition to the National Health Service Corps for those going into primary care. Medical schools also provide need-based aid for those who qualify. Work closely with the financial aid office at the schools where you apply to get comprehensive information about managing the cost of going to medical school.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

 

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The CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is a test that is increasingly being used in the medical school admissions process. It is an online exam that assesses an applicant’s situational judgment in various scenarios. According to the organization that administers the CASPer, it “increases fairness in applicant evaluation by providing admissions and selection committees with a reliable measure of traits like professionalism, ethics, communication, and empathy.” For more information about why admissions committees find it helpful, read this blog post from the company that administers the CASPer.

Here is the most recent list of medical schools requiring CASPer as part of the admissions process:

Albany

Central Michigan

Drexel

East Tennessee State

Florida Atlantic

Medical College of Georgia

Medical College of Wisconsin

Mercer

New York Medical College

Rosalind Franklin

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson

SUNY Upstate

Temple

Texas A&M

Texas Tech

Tulane

U of Colorado

U of Illinois

U of Michigan

U of Vermont

U of Washington

Virginia Commonwealth

West Virginia U

To get ready for the CASPer, read about the format of the exam and what to expect. Here are tips to help you prepare for the exam, provided by Altus, the company that administers the test. Samples of CASPer scenarios are provided here.  To discuss how best to prepare for the CASPer please contact me via email at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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reidmd

Guest blog post provided by Dr. Reid Thompson, a pediatric cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital

Shadowing Dos and Don’ts

Shadowing is a great way to observe either a particular specialty or a specific physician and learn more about medicine as a career and what it means to be a clinician. Finding a shadowing experience is usually a matter of sending a short email, specifically tailored to the physician you want to shadow, including a brief statement of who you are and why you want to shadow him or her. It is probably best to set a time frame on your request, and make the request fairly specific and easy to accommodate, instead of leaving it open ended. For example, asking to shadow once or twice over the next few months is better than just asking to shadow with no specifics provided. To make the experience meaningful for you and your host clinician you should think in advance about what to do and not do.

  • Make sure to inquire of your host the specific time and location to meet as well as a contact number in case you get lost or are running late.
  • Make sure to dress appropriately. This usually means a shirt and tie for men and appropriate work attire for women. Tee shirts, jeans, sandals, open toe shoes, low-cut shirts, yoga pants, tight clothing are not appropriate. Avoid perfume, cologne, after shave lotions with heavy scents.
  • Before arriving make sure you have had something to eat and drink, especially if you are to be observing in the operating room where you will often be standing for long periods and may be prone to becoming lightheaded, especially with the possibility of novel sights, sounds and smells.
  • Show up on time (or preferably five minutes early). When you arrive, introduce yourself to staff and other physicians so everyone knows who you are and why you are there.
  • Be polite, respectful and professional.
  • Make sure you are in the moment, listening, thinking about what is happening and learning. Watch how the physician interacts with staff, trainees and patients. Listen to the specifics of the medical encounter. Try to imagine yourself in the role of the physician. How would you handle the situation?
  • Look for ways to be helpful. Sometimes the simplest action can make an encounter go more smoothly for all involved; finding a way to be helpful makes the experience more interesting for you and engages you. This can be as simple as preparing the examination bed by rolling out fresh paper, fetching something for the physician, or showing the patient where to go next.
  • Make sure to wash your hands before and after entering the patient’s room, even though you are not actually touching the patients.
  • Never touch the patient unless specifically invited to participate in the examination by the physician.
  • Don’t pepper the physician with questions but instead listen carefully and respond thoughtfully when spoken to.
  • Turn off your cell phone or at least silence it and do not check your phone frequently during the day.
  • If you want to look up something relevant to the experience, this is acceptable during down time during the day, but be aware that the physician may interpret this as your being bored. Consider instead bringing a relevant, easy-to-carry general text if you anticipate lots of downtime, or better yet, bring a journal to record your thoughts. Jot down your impressions and questions for later reflection but do not write down names or any other identifying patient information. Your encounter with the patients may involve highly sensitive information and you are being trusted by all to keep this information completely private.
  • Your host is busy and allowing him or her time to work without worrying about you is important and will make them more likely to have you back in the future.

Remember that the physician is glad to have you there, as your interest in the field and in his or her activities is an integral part of developing new physicians. Finally, a timely follow-up email thanking your host shows your manners and professionalism.

–Reid Thompson, MD

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LGBTQ+ medical school applicants often wonder if they should disclose their sexuality in their application. The American Medical Student Association offered an online forum in 2013 which provided applicants with information and answered their questions about being out in the application process and in medical school. Quoting from the announcement about this event: “Getting into medical school is an intimidating process for nearly all premedical students, but it can be especially daunting for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Should I mention it on my application? During my interview? If so, how should I bring it up? How will I know if a school is LGBT-friendly? Can I be out in med school? What is life like as an LGBT med student? What kind of opportunities might I find for an LGBT med student?”

Stanford conducted a study which showed that of the LGBTQ+ students surveyed, about two thirds opted to disclose their sexuality in the medical school application process but almost half feared discrimination. In my work advising applicants as a medical school admissions consultant, I have found that schools do not discriminate and, in fact, welcome LGBTQ+ students.

A recent article published in AAMC News describes how various schools attempt to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. Some medical schools make an effort to actively recruit and/or welcome LGBTQ+ students. Yale, Penn, Northwestern, the University of Illinois, Washington University, and NYU are just a few among many which offer specific programs and interest groups. And the American Medical Student Association has a Gender and Sexuality Group focused on advocacy efforts. Stanford created LGBT-Meds, an organization which hosts events and lectures on LGBTQ+ topics. Some medical schools are also providing training for faculty and students to foster inclusion, such as the SafeSpace Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine hosted a forum on LGBTQ+ People in Medicine.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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As a premedical advisor for the past 25 years and as a medical school admission consultant, I have read thousands of personal statements. At Johns Hopkins and Goucher, where I directed the post-baccalaureate premedical programs, I read countless essays written by applicants and made admissions decisions based in part on the strength of the essay. When my students reached the medical school application phase I helped them refine and focus their essay into a cogent, convincing piece of prose. I know what’s important to include in the personal statement and am an expert in helping applicants sharpen their message.

The personal statement is a vital and central component of the medical school application. Think of the personal statement as an opportunity to tell your story and convince the medical schools that they need to meet you. The personal statement should be engaging and compelling, while being simple and straightforward enough that admissions committees can read them quickly. Admissions committees have thousands of other applications to read; do what you can to make yours shine!

There are five essential elements of an outstanding personal statement. Once you have a draft of your essay, review it to make sure you have included the following:

  1. Motivation: Have you conveyed your motivation and reasons for wanting to be a physician clearly and logically? If not, tweak your draft. It should be abundantly clear to the reader why you’ve chosen this path.
  2. Evidence:  Have you showed, with concrete evidence, that you’ve tested your interest in the medical profession through a variety of experiences in the field?  Medical school admissions committees will want proof that you’ve gotten your hands dirty and know the realities of patient care and the challenges of the profession.
  3. Altruism: Have you shown through past experiences that you care about others? Experiences in the community—volunteering at a soup kitchen, in a homeless shelter, or a food bank—are highly prized by medical school admissions committees. These experiences indicate that you care about others enough to put your empathy into real action. If you’ve done these things consider including them in your statement to build evidence as to your caring nature.
  4. Clarity: Have you used relatively simple words and syntax to get across your main points? Readers spend approximately one to two minutes reading your essay. Make your essay logical and clear, yet compelling. Don’t make the reader struggle to get your meaning; readers will lose interest and move to the next file to read if your essay is confusing. This should be a statement of your interest in medicine, not a philosophical treatise.
  5. Smooth Transitions: Applicants often have complicated stories to tell. Sometimes their path to medicine is not altogether straightforward, as in the case of nontraditional students. No matter your story, your statement should have logical and smooth transitions from paragraph to paragraph, which when combined create a convincing whole. Check your statement’s transitions to make sure they are seamless, thereby creating a perfect whole.

In the end, what your statement should do is make the reader want to meet you in person and have a conversation. Once you have written your statement ask yourself the final question: have you convinced the reader to invite you for an interview?

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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AMCAS-AAMC

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) opens in early May for applicants to start working on their application. To get ready, watch this helpful video, released by the folks at AMCAS. As you begin the application process, be sure to do these key tasks at the outset:

1. Order your transcript(s). When the AMCAS application opens in May, enter your biographical and school data, and generate a Transcript Request Form for each university or college attended. Give or send it to each school’s registrar’s office and request to have your transcript sent directly to AMCAS. Transcript problems cause the biggest delays in the processing of the application; take care of this early to be sure no problems arise.

2. Take care of letters. By now you hopefully know which letters you’ll gather for your application. Enter the letter information into the application and print a Letter Request Form for each person writing a letter on your behalf. The letter writers will need to enter two numbers on your letter:  the AAMC ID and Letter ID. This helps AMCAS track your letter when it’s uploaded. If your letter writers are uploading their letters to AMCAS themselves (and not sending them to your premedical advising office) they will need these ID numbers to upload your letter. If you’re using Interfolio you will have the letter writers submit the letters there, then you will designate that they be sent to AMCAS.

3. Finalize your personal statement and activity descriptions. These are the heart and soul of the AMCAS application. Have them ready to go by May so that you can simply enter them into the application when it opens. If you need guidance on the personal statement of activity descriptions please refer to my other blog posts on these topics or feel free to contact me for help.

4. Review the Applicant Guide so that you understand the different components of the AMCAS application.

If you have questions about the AMCAS application send me an email at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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Which medical schools do you think are the hardest to get into?  I’ll bet it’s not what you think. Of course, this raw data does not take into account the caliber of the applicant pool. There was an article in US News and World Report  regarding the medical schools which are the toughest to get into. Here are the top 10 in order of most competitive, according to US News:

Mayo

Stanford

Florida State

Wake Forest

George Washington

Georgetown

University of California-Davis

UCLA

Brown

UCSD

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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Every year in the spring, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) publishes the Medical School Admission Requirements (known as the MSAR—pronounced em-sar). This online tool is the most reliable source of information pertaining to US and Canadian medical schools.  The information is provided directly from the medical schools to the AAMC. As such, it’s the go-to source for comprehensive and accurate information about each medical school. The 2018-2019 edition was released today. It includes information pertaining to:

  • Curricular structure
  • Interview format for each school
  • Class size
  • Each school’s mission
  • Median GPAs and MCAT scores (new this year, this information can be broken down by in-state and out-of-state applicants)
  • Premedical requirements
  • Whether schools accept AP credit, community college courses, or online classes
  • Cost
  • Combined degree programs
  • Demographics of students
  • Acceptance information:  size of the applicant pool, numbers in-state and out-of-state applicants, number of international applicants
  • Whether schools accept international applicants

The MSAR is the best reference tool for all medical school applicants. Be sure to use the source for the year in which you apply to medical school so you get up-to-date and accurate information.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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In the 2018-2019 application cycle, AMCAS opens May 2 for applicants to start entering information; submissions begin on May 31st. AMCAS will not transmit any applications to the medical schools until June 29th.

Before the application opens you will hopefully have written your personal statement and activity descriptions. For guidance please refer to my other blog posts on those aspects of the application. As you gear up for the application cycle, here’s a checklist of tasks to complete once you start your AMCAS application:

  • When the application opens enter your biographical, school, and letter data immediately; this will allow you to generate a Transcript Request Form (TRF) and Letter Request Form (LRF). 
  • Send the TRF to the registrar’s office of all schools attended; transcript delays are the #1 processing problem for AMCAS applications. Ensure that you request your transcripts early, just in case problems arise, so you have time to sort them out.
  • Give or send the LRF to those who will write letters on your behalf; if using the AMCAS Letter Writer Application, your letter writers will need the AAMC Letter ID on this form, in addition to your AAMC ID.
  • Follow the guidelines provided by your undergraduate premed advising office in regard to the letter process (if you are still a college student or if you’re a nontraditional or post-bac student with access to institutional advising). For example, if your college/university provides a committee letter, you may only have to send one copy of the LRF to your premed advisor. Circumstances will vary according to applicants’ individual situations.
  • Alternatively, you can use Interfolio to gather and disseminate your letters to AMCAS (this is for applicants who do not have a committee letter process in place at their school).
  • Working directly from your college transcript/s, enter course information EXACTLY as it appears. Individuals at AMCAS will verify the course data you enter against the physical transcript for accuracy. The two should match. AMCAS will also convert the credits earned into a uniform system so that course credits can be compared at one institution vs. another; this makes it easy for medical schools to compare applicants’ course loads, apples to apples.

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