Thursday, April 24, 2014

Self-Assessment Guide: A Good Tool For Unsuccesful Applicants To Utilize

It is a fact, unfortunately, that over half of the nation's medical school applicants do not get accepted, meaning most students fail to matriculate into any of their medical school choices when they first apply.

More specifically, American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) statistics show that just under 42% of applicants in 2013 matriculated into medical school. The reality is there's a ton of great applicants for which schools simply don't have open seats.

At MSU in particular, we receive thousands of applications annually from students who have put in a great deal of time and effort to prepare their medical school applications. We understand how one can feel taxed after not receiving an acceptance.

If the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) was one of those choices that you were unsuccessful with and you have not been admitted to any of your additional choices, there are steps you can take to become a more competitive applicant should you intend to reapply to CHM in the future.

Steps to improve your application for the following cycle can only begin once a review of your profile has taken place. Awareness of where your application may have been weak is key to knowing how to correct your deficiencies going forward.

For that reason, any unsuccessful applicant who applied to CHM can use this Self-Assessment Guide, which will help you assess where you have room for improvement. One of our admissions advisors will review and respond with comments.

An honest assessment of your application can identify areas to strengthen.
Some common problem areas for unsuccessful applicants are:
  • Inadequate GPA and/or MCAT scores
  • Limited Experiences and Achievements
  • Issues with Prerequisites
  • Poor Essays
Please note that anyone who intends to reapply to the college in the future must complete and submit the Self-Assessment Guide. From there, our admissions advisors are available* to meet with unsuccessful applicants for a self-assessment appointment.

Appointments can be held in person, by phone, or even Skype. However, advising appointments are exclusive to unsuccessful applicants who:
  • have completed and submitted their Self-Assessment Guide
  • have been rejected from all other schools, and
  • have not yet submitted the AMCAS application for the next application cycle
Once all of the above criteria are met, submit your completed Self-Assessment Guide to us by fax at 517. 432.0021 or by mail:

Michigan State University
College of Human Medicine
Office of Admissions
804 Service Rd., Room A112
East Lansing, MI  48824-1317

After submitting your Self-Assessment Guide, go to our Advising Appointment form and complete the form. One of our advisors will contact you by email to set up an appointment.

To be a successful reapplicant, analyzing your profile will help you determine which factors might have contributed to your non-acceptance.

If you're convinced medical school is still the path for you to take, a little perseverance can go a long way. For those that are willing, that still can mean medical school.

*Decisions made by the Committee on Admissions are not subject to appeal or revision. Therefore, representatives of the Office of Admissions will not discuss your application with you once a final decision has been made. So while we cannot go over any specifics regarding why your application was not accepted, advisors are happy to help identify areas you can strengthen.

For more daily tips and insight, follow the MSU College of Human Medicine Office of Admissions on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

5 Steps to Take In Preparation for the AMCAS Application

Let's face it. The medical school admissions process can be very competitive. Here at the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM), for example, over 6,000 applications are received annually.

It is said often and truthfully that one of the keys to successful admission into medical school is applying early. Applicants should be ready at every stage of the process, which means preparing before the process even begins.

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application will be available on May 1st and is scheduled to begin allowing submissions on June 3rd. With the starting line for the next cycle right around the corner, now is the time when potential applicants are wondering how they can prepare in order to place themselves in the best position for when the AMCAS application opens.

Here are some tips of what you can be doing to prepare in the meantime. This helpful video below via Eye On Admissions offers some good advice that we will use as a reference point to expand on.

Make A Plan
Or in other words, make a timeline if you haven't done so already. This means doing some digging for relevant dates and deadlines. Each medical school has their own timeline so it'll be helpful in the long-run to make note of all important dates, should that information be available.

Beyond having those dates, making a plan will help alleviate some of the anxiety that may occur throughout the cycle. A plan can help keep you steps ahead and will allow you time to keep preparing for subsequent stages of the process.

Research and making a plan go hand-in-hand because the timeline you take moving forward is heavily influenced by the schools you are genuinely interested in. By now, you should have a strong interest in a few.

While gathering the dates and deadlines (usually found on the school's website), spend a little more time to look over the schools with the intention of evaluating where each school still stands. Doing a little more research can help you make some decisions that could be beneficial if made at this point.

As Linda Abraham points out in the video, "You're going to have to check off boxes to schools that you want your AMCAS application sent to. There's no need to send them to schools you have absolutely no interest in going to."

What is each school's focus/mission and do they align with your interests? What are each school's premedical requirements? How much does it cost to attend? Do you want to concentrate on applying to schools out-of-state, closer to home, or does proximity not matter?

Right now is when you can cut the schools you can't see yourself attending from the list. Once you have a better picture of  the schools you'd like to seriously apply to, you can also make note of their premedical requirements and adjust accordingly, which may play a big role in your timeline.

Additionally, you should also review how to apply to AMCAS. There, you will find information on frequently asked questions as well as descriptions to each of the application's sections.

Elizabeth Lyons, admissions advisor for CHM, would also suggest potential applicants take a look at the resources page on the AMCAS site.

"Applicants often have trouble with certain sections of the application, so if they can familiarize themselves early, the process of applying may be easier," Lyons says.

Jay Bryde, admissions officer for CHM, agrees with Abraham that having both clinical exposure and examples of leadership are extremely important to your application. Exposure can be acquired in a number of ways.

Shadowing a doctor is a great route to getting that exposure and has proven very enlightening for many applicants. Finding a physician to shadow may take some time and effort so it's a good idea to be proactive sooner than later.
While some applicants have been able to acquire employment at clinics and hospitals, volunteering is naturally another great option.

Shadowing is a fun way to get clinical exposure
At CHM, we strongly suggest that your volunteer experiences help identify your interests. If you have a desire to study, say, pediatrics, an example to consider would be volunteering at a children's clinic, hospital, or some sort of youth organization.

Organizations like the American Red Cross, United Way, and Susan G. Komen Foundation often look for volunteers. Places like nursing homes or community centers are also good options to consider.

Getting a look at day-to-day activities and gaining some valuable experiences are of obvious benefit. Yet it should not go unnoted that you will also be making some important contacts you should, in turn, be able to utilize in the future. You will need people to write letters of evaluation and recommendation, right?

In regards to leadership, your experiences don't have to be medical- or health-related. However, like your volunteer experiences, we suggest that it reflect your interests. Sometimes, volunteer opportunities can even lead to leadership opportunities. For example, volunteering at Susan G. Komen can lead to organizing a local Race for the Cure committee.

Exemplifying leadership can mean taking active roles in numerous types of organizations, such as ethnic or religious organizations. Have you participated in committees for sports leagues, festivals, or other events?

If you feel you have the time to gain even more exposure, now is the time. We'd love to hear about it in your application.

Begin Working on Your Personal Statement
Beyond the experience and academics, an extremely important portion of the AMCAS application is the personal statement. The personal statement is 5300 characters, which is approximately 1.5 pages, single-spaced.

Personal statements are vital to helping schools differentiate candidates from one another. It's what your statement says about you that can have a strong impact on whether you receive an interview or not, so taking the time to write, er, orchestrate your personal statement is a solid decision.

We'll be discussing the personal statement at length and offering more tips in another blog post in the future so stay tuned. At this point, drafts should certainly be created. Note also that MD/PhD candidates must also supply two additional essays.

"This is your opportunity to describe who you are and why you are uniquely qualified for a career in health beyond GPA and MCAT results." says CHM admissions advisor, Brian Ulrich.

"Advocate for yourself."

Gather & Review Your Paperwork
Applications will not be reviewed without the necessary documents so gathering the pertinent paperwork beforehand can be very wise.

This is a great time to get your letters of evaluation and recommendation in order. Up to ten letter entries can be created in the AMCAS application. Be thoughtful of who can provide some solid examples of your contributions and ambitions.

Copies of your transcripts and experience information will also come in handy as certain portions of the AMCAS application require detailed information regarding your course work.

But Bryde believes gathering your paperwork is just the first step. With your paperwork gathered and readily available, it's also important to take time to review your documents for grammar and typos.

There is no spellchecker in the AMCAS application and applicants are not allowed to change anything once an application has been submitted.

So there you have it. We, the CHM office of admissions, hope this information serves you well. AMCAS also provides an instruction manual that they suggest potential applicants read before applying. Take a peek and make sure that, if there are any steps to take yet, you ensure they get done. The journey is just beginning.

Good luck!