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The medical school application process starts in June of the year prior to medical school enrollment and extends to the following April. But for some applicants—those placed on waitlists—the long process extends into the late spring and summer and can span 14 months. I have over 25 years of experience guiding students to in regard to medical school waiting lists, and thus have advice to offer to those on waiting lists, along with guidelines to follow and the proper protocol.

1. Be grateful that you still have a chance! A waitlist position is better than a rejection and you still have a chance for admission. As such, start thinking about what you can do to emphasize your strong interest in a school where you are waitlisted.

2. Think thoughtfully and carefully about what you would add to the incoming class at any medical school where you are waitlisted. Express this cogently and convincingly in a letter you send to the admissions committee. If you want to move from the waitlist into the class you MUST convey your interest to the admissions committee. The only exception to this would be schools that prohibit contact–be sure to check each school’s rules before sending letters. Submit a letter soon after being notified of your waitlist status. Articulate specifically why the school appeals to you and what you would add to it. Express your enthusiasm; schools want students who are eager to enroll and who will contribute positively to the environment. If you’re certain you would accept a spot in the incoming class if admitted, you should write a letter of intent.

3. Be sure that your contact information is up to date if you’re on a waitlist and be prepared to be contacted at any time. Also be prepared to respond to a waitlist offer quickly. There are AAMC rules pertaining to waiting list protocol.

4. Do not badger the admissions office of any medical school where you are waitlisted with repeated calls or letters. Do not communicate with the admissions office more than once a month and do not pull out the “important” people with connections to the school to try to advance your case; this will only annoy admissions committees.

5. Keep the medical school informed if there are important updates to report.  If you publish research, win important awards or earn honors you should keep the medical school apprised of these accomplishments.

Movement from waiting lists usually occurs in April, May, and June. Occasional spots open up in July, and can even occur up to the first day that a school starts. As a medical school admissions consultant, I advise applicants through the waitlist process. Feel free to send me an email at liza@thompsonadvising.com or call me to discuss your particular situation.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted in 2018 and updated in 2021.

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The Liaison Committee on Medical Education accredits medical schools in the US and Canada. Accreditation ensures that medical schools meet standards set by the LCME. Medical schools are required to “demonstrate that their graduates exhibit general professional competencies that are appropriate for entry to the next stage of their training and that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.”

Most state medical boards require that U.S. medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for graduates’ licensure. US medical students cannot take United States Medical Licensing Examinations unless they are enrolled at an accredited school.

Each medical school periodically goes through a review and re-accreditation process. Occasionally schools are put on probation and must make changes to maintain their accreditation.

Medical school applicants should be cognizant of the schools on probation. If they apply to those schools they should find out what the schools are doing to rectify the situation to be taken off probation.

At this date the following schools are on probation:

City University of New York

The school’s public response to the probation can be found here.

Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine (Puerto Rico)

The school’s public response to the probation can be found here.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Updated in 2019 and 2021

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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 study showed that LGBT medical students may suffer from burnout. What are schools doing to help mitigate this? An 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, Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, 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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Copyright 2011 Katy Dickinson

Copyright 2011 Katy Dickinson

Mentoring in medicine is important. Good mentoring helps premedical students envision themselves in the medical profession and learn from physicians or researchers. In medical school, mentors help students learn clinical medicine and focus on specialties of interest which they may want to pursue. Medical school applicants should be mindful of this as they select which medical school to attend once the application process is done. MentorCloud is a site on mentoring; you may want to explore it to learn more.  Continue reading

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Virginia Tech Carilion

Virginia Tech Carilion

One of the important elements of applying to medical school is assembling a thoughtful  list of schools. In response to a predicted physician shortage, several new medical schools have opened in recent years, such as KaiserCommonwealth, Hofstra, Quinnipiac, the University of California at Riverside, Hackensack Meridian, California University of Science and Medicine, Carle IllinoisWestern Michigan, and the University of Houston, among others. An article in Academic Medicine describes the opening of 29 new medical schools since 2000. For a full list of accredited medical schools, see the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

Should you consider applying to a new medical school?  Some of the risks are obvious, others less so. The Association of American Medical Colleges interviewed two students who chose to enroll at new medical schools;  they share their takes on the pros and cons.

If you are considering applying to a new school, ask questions of the admissions staff, faculty, and current students (if there are any). Find out about the school’s mission, vision, curriculum, clinical rotations, and faculty  Be sure to do your due diligence.

For help devising the list of schools you will apply to, feel free to reach out to me via email at liza@thompsonadvising.com. 

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posed in 2013 and updated in 2021.

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The pandemic has disrupted so many areas of our lives. For premedical students and future medical school applicants, their plans to volunteer in the community–whether medically-related or otherwise–have been upended. Strict distancing measures have by necessity interrupted students’ plans to volunteer in the community. However, there are still ways to get involved; and medical schools will scrutinize applicants to see what actions they took to help others during a global pandemic.

Shadowing and Medical Experience

Shadowing in person has become very difficult to do, for obvious reasons. The same goes for volunteering in a hospital; many hospitals have barred volunteers. The one exception to this–and this is subject to change–has been some Veterans’ Affairs hospitals. Check your local VA hospital to see if they are accepting volunteers. This is obviously a fluid situation, which varies by location; in addition to the VA, check with other local hospitals to see if they are taking volunteers.

Some organizations have launched virtual shadowing, which can take different formats. For more information, check out Web Shadowers, the Heal Clinical Education Network and Virtual Shadowing, to name a few. I cannot personally vouch for these organizations since I have not used them but they do offer shadowing opportunities.

Community Service

Medical schools’ secondary applications posed questions during this cycle about how the pandemic impacted applicants. Schools want to know how this affected you and also what actions you might have taken to have a positive effect on your community during a crisis. There are so many ways to help–from volunteering at a food pantry or Meals on Wheels or at a homeless shelter. The Crisis Text Line is another great organization that was taking volunteers early in the pandemic; check to see if they still need volunteers. And the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is another potential organization where you could volunteer. Think about the needs in your local community and see what you can do to positively impact those around you during this crisis.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

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As a medical school admissions consultant, I often am asked by applicants how and when to communicate with medical schools. Medical school applicants should keep schools informed throughout the application process, as events unfold and preferences evolve. If new information develops since submitting the secondary application, applicants should inform the schools through an update letter. In addition, if applicants have been through the interview process and have a clear first choice they may write a letter of intent.

Letters of Interest

But what is a letter of interest?  By default, if you’ve applied to a particular school you have an interest in enrolling. But sometimes it is worth conveying your interest as the process unfolds. You will gather more information about schools you genuinely like based on your interview experiences.

A letter of interest should come close in content to a letter of intent but stop short of expressing that you would enroll if admitted.  The purpose of the letter is to convey to the school that it is high on your list and that you would be thrilled to enroll. Continue reading

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Medical school applicants often wonder whether they should update schools with new information after submitting their application. This “update letter” can serve several purposes and is an important vehicle for keeping the medical schools informed as the application year unfolds. Applicants often wonder what merits sending an update to the medical schools; only significant additions to your application should be reported. The following list includes the chief items of interest for the medical schools.

Honors or Awards:  If an honor or award is achieved since submitting the application the medical schools should be informed.

Publications/Abstracts/Presentations at National Research Conferences: If an applicant has conducted research and it has culminated in a new publication, abstract, poster, or presentation this information should be provided to the medical schools.

Changes in Classes:  If courses change and a class which was included in the application is dropped it should be reported to the medical schools, especially if the course is a requirement at a particular school.

New Jobs or New Responsibilities in the Workplace:  If you switch jobs or assume more responsibilities/roles in a job your had when submitting your application it is worthwhile to update the schools with this information. Continue reading

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The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all areas of our lives. For medical school applicants and medical school students the effects are widespread. The American Medical Association recently had a blog post that summed up some of the issues impacting medical school applicants. The AMCAS has a statement on how COVID-19 is impacting its constituents. The AMA also has “guiding principles to protect learners responding to COVID-19“. California medical schools issued a joint statement on the COVID-19 situation.  Many medical schools have announced how they are handling the situation in regard to medical school requirements and changed grading systems (P/F) by various colleges/universities. Here is guidance from Baylor, West Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Mt. Sinai, University of Massachusetts. Visit other medical schools’ websites to get the latest information. Inside Higher Ed also posted information pertaining to medical school admission and the change in grading schemes.

In addition, TMDSAS has put out a statement on COVID-19 and how it might impact its application process. The MCAT has also been impacted.

Medical school interviews during the 2020-2021 application cycle will be virtual.

Applications to medical school have increased  in this cycle, perhaps as a result of the pandemic. According to the Wall Street Journal, at the end of August 2020 applications were up 17% over the prior year at the same time. That may level off by the time the application process is over but it is a marked increase over the prior year.

This is an evolving situation. For the latest information continue to check schools’ websites along with the application services (AMCAS, TMDSAS, and AACOMAS). A recent article in MedPage Today described applicants’ frustration with the Association of American Medical Colleges and its handling of the MCAT and other issues during the pandemic.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Originally posted April 9, updated April 13 and July 9

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The impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, affecting every segment of society all over the world. The pandemic has also had an impact on medical students, many of whom had early, virtual graduation ceremonies.  Students graduated early so that they would earn their MD degrees and thus be able to help combat the pandemic.  Inside Higher Ed touts the bravery of medical students in facing COVID-19. The Association of American Medical Colleges summarizes the phenomenon of early medical school graduations. On the contrary, one medical student weighed in on why she did not want to graduate early. COVID-19 has also had an effect on USMLE tests, which has upended the normal progression through medical school and put medical students in limbo. A recent article in the Johns Hopkins student newspaper described the effect of the pandemic on medical students.

Here is a small sampling of medical schools that offered early graduations:  Harvard, Columbia, Boston University, Uniformed Services University, Stony Brook, University of Kansas, University of Rochester and NYU.

The accrediting body for US medical schools issued a statement on early graduation.

David Brooks of the New York Times recently reflected on the rigor of medical training. In an opinion piece titled, The Age of Coddling is Over, he touted the value of rigorous training and its value in this time of great need.

Finally, the University of Virginia created a course to help its medical students reflect and learn about how art “shaped our understanding of plagues.”

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Originally posted April 20; updated April 22, May 6, and June 10

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