Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Match Day" An Achievement To Strive Toward For Incoming Students and Potential Applicants

Before graduation commences and the final day as an MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) student comes to a close, the culmination of medical school ultimately leads to this.

Just over a month before the official graduation ceremony, a nice banquet room at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the northwest corner of MSU's East Lansing campus is filled with fourth-year students. Other CHM sites, like those in Grand Rapids and Traverse City are also hosting students on this special occasion.

In each of those rooms, anxiety and anticipation are just as present as the students, friends, and family that fill the seats. It is minutes before noon on Friday, March 21, 2014, and each medical school senior is being handed a plain, white envelope with very important information nuzzled inside.

It's Match Day.

While CHM's Class of 2014 has now been removed from the medical school application process for several years now, Match Day serves as very visible mark of achievement for potential medical school applicants to dream about and strive toward. It's one of the most important milestones in a student's time at medical school.

CHM students gather with family and friends on Match Day, a milestone for medical school students.

This suspense-filled ritual is where graduating medical school students find out where they will begin their careers as doctors. The annual "Match" is conducted by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Students rank their preferences of hospitals and, likewise, the hospitals choose which students they want as residents. Each side's preferences go into NRMP, which is the system that matches those preferences.

Once the clock strikes noon, students receive the go-ahead to open the next page of their lives and see which residency program they've been matched with. Anxiety and anticipation soon are replaced with relief and joy.

It's been a long time coming, after all. Four years of hard work in classrooms and clinical sites have led CHM's graduating class to spend much of their senior year interviewing at hospitals around the country.

They're not alone.

Each year, over 16,000 medical school graduates will have competed for residency positions. Thus, Match Day is celebrated across the nation on the same day and time with hundreds of medical schools taking part in the event.

This year, CHM seniors had a terrific 98% match success rate. The national average is just over 94%.

Students are each handed envelopes with results to which residency program they are matched with.

"(My emotions) have been just all over the place. I had no idea where I would end up. I applied to a wide range of places so it was kind of up in the air," said graduating CHM student, Abdullah Wafa.

While Wafa didn't get into his most preferred destination, he was happy to be matched with an institution in his top five.

"That uncertainty was pretty heavy to deal with but I’m fortunate enough to have listed only places that I’d really like to go to. So, that was a little bit of a relief," Wafa added.

According to the Assistant Dean of the CHM Lansing Campus, Renuka Gera, MD, a large number of people did receive their top preference, however. One of those students is Detroit-native, Simran Chawa. While the match can take some people across the country, Chawa will not be traveling far to begin life after medical school.

"I’ll be in Detroit—Henry Ford (Hospital). I was actually born in North Carolina but raised in Detroit, so I’ll be going back home," said Chawa, who felt relieved after initially coming into Match Day nervous yet excited.

"Right now, I still need time to process it but I feel good. I’m actually feeling quite good right now,"  Chawa says with a smile that wouldn't cause anyone to doubt it.

CHM seniors celebrate after finding out where they will begin their careers as official Spartan MD's.

"This is what they work for," points out Dr. Gera. "A majority of the students interview at 8-10 programs. There's a lot of travel, anxiety, and effort in trying to match."

It is this fact that makes Match Day's revelations so emotional.

"I'm so excited! I just can't wait to go there," says Erica Graney, who will be joining Chawa at Henry Ford Hospital—also her first preference.

It is that emotion that leads Graney to reflect on how CHM has helped her get to this point despite her anxiousness to move forward. "I feel like MSU was a great place to be to get me towards where I wanted to go. I think the environment really prepared me well for matching at my number one."

Erica Graney (alongside a friend) and Abdullah Wafa are very pleased with their Match Day results. Good luck!

So while the end result may be challenging to see for someone who is still only applying to medical school, the light is there for your own emotional Match Day. Yet it is what Match Day represents that is the main goal.

"I’m still in shock-mode right now but I am relieved that I actually know where I’m going to end up," says Wafa. "I’m looking forward to moving to the next stage of my career."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Post-Interview Process Offers Several Possible Scenarios Including ABLE Program

January and February have come and gone in a blink of an eye. It's March.

At this point in the medical school application process, people are wrapping up their interviews for spots across the country in the hopes of soon adding "med student" to their list of titles. If you've had interviews, your application has been competitive and you're on the right track.

While some applicants will join the class of 2018 at their preferred medical school, others will still be overjoyed to enroll at a second or third preference.

Committee on Admissions decides which of four
possible outcomes is rendered for each applicant
Regardless of where you end up, all of the nation's medical school applicants will finalize their candidacies with each school through a number of possible scenarios and outcomes. Though the process to get to these scenarios may differ depending on the school, a general set of outcomes is usually imposed—acceptance, waitlist, and rejection.

In this sense, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (CHM) generally follows suit. However, there's one exception at CHM called, ABLE.

So what is the process for applicants following an interview with CHM? What is ABLE?

After interviewing, candidates are presented to our Committee on Admissions, where outcomes will be discussed and rendered to each individual candidate.

Long nights of studying and the persistent drive to get to medical school have paid off. Congrats!

If you're currently finishing up some premedical requirements, be aware that course(s) must be completed by matriculation.  Beyond that, please make sure that any necessary paperwork is completed and transcripts have been sent in to the office of admissions.

If you've indeed decided MSU is for you, take a big, deep breath and fill out your FAFSA. The MSU Office of Financial Aid (OFA) will be there to help. Once the pertinent paperwork is received, OFA can begin working on a personalized financial aid package.

Though thinking about how to pay for medical school may feel daunting, there are many financial aid resources like this financial aid toolkit from the American Association for Medical Colleges (AAMC) to help you navigate. In regards to MSU, more financial aid information can also be found here via the CHM office of admissions.

Soon, you will begin contact with several related departments heading into the fall to gear you up for your first day and beyond. Setting up your MSU NetID and email address among receiving your preclinical placement will all be forthcoming.

As soon as you know it, it will be Orientation Week and the White Coat Ceremony. It gets real.

Alternate (Waitlist)
If you are placed on the alternate list, don't panic. Being put on the alternate/waitlist is a very typical scenario for many applicants. In fact, thousands of applicants all over the country get placed on waitlists and indeed still begin the fall enrolled in #medschool.

Your file will remain under consideration until we notify you of a change in your status.  So what can you do? Ordinarily, the MSU office of admissions does not allow updates to any candidate's application. That is, unless you have been placed as an alternate.

Those on the alternate list are encouraged to supplement their applications with more information and/or letters of recommendations. Additional grades, training, volunteer and research experiences all are acceptable. Did you win any relevant awards or are you featured in any publications? We'd love to hear about it.

A continued letter of interest is also highly suggested. Again, this is the only time additional information will be accepted to update an applicant's file, so take advantage.

As long as the sun's still shining and your status hasn't changed, you still have a shot!

We understand that this is a scenario no one looks forward to...and neither do we. Each year, there's approximately only 200 slots available for the incoming class. So with over 6,000 applicants per year, rejections are a natural and necessary part of the application process.

Applicants who receive a rejection from CHM should not take it personally. There are excellent candidates in all of the groups we interview who do not matriculate with us. Statistics show that less than half of nationwide applicants get accepted on average.

As Assistant Dean of Admissions, Joel Maurer, M.D., FACOG, puts it, "Receiving a rejection from CHM is certainly not an indication that we believe you won't make a good physician. We're sure many of our applicants who receive this status will go on to become great physicians."

Instead, Dr. Maurer points out: "The reality is that there are good applicants who simply may not be the best fit for CHM, in particular. We look for certain characteristics and one of the main things we aim for is people with whom our mission resonates. That's an important factor because community-based medicine and the desire to help underserved communities are the basis of CHM."

One rejection doesn't equal many, as different schools look for different things in their applicants. Still, it may be wise to evaluate your profile and identify weaknesses to improve on in the case you are looking to reapply* in the future.

If you are an unsuccessful applicant, the application process is complete and no further consideration will be given to your application. However, we understand that medical school is a very important goal. So for those with great ambition, we want to help.

MSU CHM is one of only a few schools in the country who offer guidance as it pertains to strengthening your application upon a rejection. While we cannot offer specifics as to why your application was unsuccessful, people are encouraged to follow the procedure outlined in the Self-Assessment section of the Premedical Handbook and Self-Assessment Guide.

As part of that procedure, you may have the ability to meet directly with one of our admissions advisors to acquire feedback on your application and discuss a plan to become more competitive. Again, we want to help.

Regardless of where you stand with other schools or with your desire to attend CHM, we wish you the best of luck. If medical school is definitely where you see yourself, strengthen your competitiveness and keep trying.

It may take a shot or two, but you'll get there.

* Any unsuccessful applicant who intends to reapply to the college must complete and submit the Self-Assessment Guide for review and response.

Some applicants may be recommended for the Advanced Baccalaureate Learning Experience (ABLE) program. There is no direct application to ABLE.

Instead, selected disadvantaged applicants who show promise for medicine, yet may lack the science background required to perform optimally in medical school, are referred by the Committee on Admissions. The ABLE Selection Committee receives those recommendations and review the candidates.

ABLE is a year-long postbaccalaureate program that upon successful completion, automatically guarantees the applicant admission as part of the following year's incoming class.

 Additionally, successful completion also results in completion of some medical school coursework and a support system set in place even before you take your first step as a full-fledged first-year medical student. Needless to say, those are some pretty nice advantages.


The application review process takes time and each candidate can expect a fair individual review.

Use the CHM AIS system to check your application status. When a final decision is made on your application, that decision will be posted to your Application Status page in the CHM AIS system by 5:00 pm on the notification date.

Regardless of how you've done this cycle, consider what you've learned from this experience and what can be used to improve upon. In the grand scheme of things, only a few of the population are allowed to go through such an interesting experience. Take what you will from it and, most of all, enjoy it!