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

Posted in Letters of Interest | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Letter of Interest for Medical School

Update

 

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

Posted in Update Letters | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Medical School Update Letters

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

Posted in COVID-19 | Comments Off on How COVID-19 is Impacting Medical School Admission

CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is an online exam that is used increasingly in the medical school admissions process. It 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 MD schools requiring CASPer. Please check the CASPer website frequently, as the list of schools changes:

Albany

Baylor

Boston University

Central Michigan

Case Western

Central Michigan

Drexel

East Tennessee State (Quillen)

Florida Atlantic

Hofstra

Howard

Indiana University

Kaiser Permanente

Medical College of Georgia (Augusta)

Medical College of Wisconsin

Meharry

Mercer

Michigan State

Mount Sinai (FlexMed)

New York Medical College

Northeast Ohio

Oregon Health and Science

Penn State

Rosalind Franklin

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson

San Juan Bautista

Stanford

SUNY Upstate

Stony Brook (Renaissance)

Temple (Katz)

Texas A&M

Texas Tech University Health Science Center (El Paso)

Texas Tech University (Lubbock)

Tulane

U of Colorado

U of Illinois

U of Miami (Miller)

U of Michigan

U of Mississippi

U of Nevada, Reno

U of North Carolina

U of North Dakota

U of Rochester

U of Texas, Houston

U of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

U of Texas, San Antonio (Long)

U of Texas, Southwestern

U of Vermont (Larner)

U of Washington

Virginia Commonwealth

Virginia Tech

Wake Forest

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

Post updated May 22, 2019

Post updated June 7, 2019

Post updated June 14, 2019

Post updated June 19, 2020

Posted in CASPer | Tagged , | Comments Off on Medical Schools Using CASPer

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

Posted in COVID-19 | Comments Off on The Impact of COVID-19 on Medical Students

An editorial in AAMC news advocates including more topics related to the health of LGBTQ patients.  It cites a study, now dated, that surveys the LBGTQ-related content in medical education curricula. A study in 2012, published in the Ochsner Journal, looked at integrating such content into a medical education. A video from the Association of American Medical Colleges describes the initiatives being taken to produce a curriculum to respond to the needs of LGBTQ patients; a recent article written by a medical student states that the content related to LGBTQ-related health issues/concerns is inadequate. Slate also reported on this issue. Finally, NPR did a story on medical students’ push to incorporate more LGBTQ training so that they will be adequately prepared in the future to address health disparities.

Medical schools are making an effort to address any inadequacies in their curricula. Some examples are at Stanford, Brown, the University of Vermont, the University of Louisville, Vanderbilt, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins.  Two students at the University of California-Irvine made changes to its curriculum to include more LGBTQ+-specific information.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Originally posted in 2019 and updated in 2020.

Posted in LGBT Applicants and Issues | Tagged , | Comments Off on How Do Medical Schools Incorporate LBGTQ Health Into the Curriculum?

Which medical schools 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 have the lowest acceptance rates. Here are the top 10 in order of most competitive, according to US News:

Florida State

Stanford

University of Arizona–Tucson

Virginia Tech

Mayo (Minnesota)

UCLA

Howard

NYU

Brown

West Virginia

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Posted in Medical School Admission, Rankings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

US News has come out with its annual ranking of medical schools.

In the research category, here are the top 10 (some are tied in rank so the total number goes over 10):

Harvard

Johns Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

NYU & Stanford (tied for fourth)

Columbia, Mayo, UCLA, UCSF, Washington U (all tied for sixth)

Cornell

Duke

University of Washington

University of Pittsburgh

University of Michigan

In the primary care category, here are the top 10 medical schools:

University of North Carolina

UCSF & University of Washington (tied for second)

Baylor

University of Michigan

University of Virginia

Oregon Health and Science & UC-Davis (tied for seventh)

University of Colorado

Harvard

UCLA

University of Maryland

 

 

 

Posted in Medical School Rankings | Tagged | Comments Off on Best Medical Schools

A study from Tulane and Thomas Jefferson shows the distinctive benefits of engaging in the arts and/or the humanities while in medical school. The results, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, showed that such activities helped to promote medical students’ empathy and emotional intelligence, while also warding off burnout.  For the study, the humanities were defined as music, literature, theater and the visual arts. Almost 800 medical students were surveyed across the country. The more students were involved in the humanities, the more their scores rose for openness, visual-spatial skills, and emotional acuity (“the ability to read their own and others’ emotions”). Those who were less involved in the humanities had some negative factors—they scored higher in measurements of “physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion.”

Jefferson is one school that is doing its part to foster medical students’ involvement in the arts through its medical school’s curriculum. The medical school has a Medicine + Humanities Scholarly Track. Tulane also promotes students’ participation in the humanities by offering an elective in the medical humanities. Most notably, almost half of their first-year medical students have degrees in the liberal arts, which is unusual—they clearly value the humanities. More and more medical schools are following suit, as described in this blog post.

Every now and then, articles appear about the importance of the arts and the humanities in medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association has a poetry editor; in a recent article he discusses the “healing power of the arts.” And a medical student at Weill Cornell-Qatar describes her artwork and how/why she thinks being an artist will make her a better physician. Finally, an article on the Association of American Medical Colleges’ website states that focusing on the humanities helps to develop well-rounded physicians

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Posted in 2019 and updated in 2020.

Posted in Art in Medical Education, Humanities | Tagged | Comments Off on Humanities in Medical Education

waiting-list

Being on a medical school’s waiting list offers the prospect of an acceptance but it can also be agony waiting for that acceptance to come through. Waiting to be accepted can be a time of stress as you wait to hear, fingers crossed.

For guidelines and tips on med school waiting lists check out another blog post. Here’s how the med school waitlist process generally works, although policies vary from school to school. Continue reading

Posted in Waiting Lists | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Medical School Waitlist Movement