Wednesday, December 31, 2014

CHM: 50 Years (And Beyond) of Innovative Thinking

Today marks the last day of 2014, officially closing out a very special year for the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM)—our 50th Anniversary.

Green. White. Golden.


MSU College of Human Medicine 1964–2014 from MSU MD on Vimeo.

As national pioneers of community-based medicine, the trait that Dean Marsha Rappley feels is most commonly associated with the College is innovation. And through innovative thinking, our goal has always been to prepare future physicians to meet the ever-changing needs of the medically underserved.

A main way to do that is naturally through curriculum. With so many medical advancements in the last half-century, CHM has always understood that thoroughly preparing our students means being continuously self-aware in regards to updating the curriculum through time.

From emphasizing new angles on primary care and family practice to growing the concepts of problem-based learning, medical students have had the opportunity to get actively involved in consuming the sciences with clinical content at affiliated campuses across the entire state. Even in 2014 are great minds discussing new curriculum designs, meant to prepare ambitious students as well as possible.

Beyond the classroom, CHM has always been active with administration too, utilizing faculty and staff who've consistently promoted what is, for their time, uncommon of academic establishments. A solid foundation for female faculty, staff and, students is one initiative among others seeded in our history to ensure geographic, cultural and socio-economic diversity.

Since 1964, CHM has been about opportunity. As CHM has expanded, so has our will to be further embedded in the community. The Secchia Center was built in 2010 on Grand Rapids' medical mile, allowing the College to increase our research portfolio. This, in turn, now allows collaborations with the likes of respected organizations like the Van Andel Institute and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Recently, another opportunity to strengthen our communities arose closer to eastern shores. We had the opportunity in November to expand our medical education and public health programs in Flint.

Our sites in Flint and Grand Rapids are just two examples of opportunities that stemmed from the past yet are advantageous to many more in the future, such as the plan to further make an imprint in Grand Rapids with a new biomedical research facility.
"We felt, as we still do, [that] medicine is human life. And to understand how to be a good doctor, you have to understand how people live and how people think and how people live in communities."
-Art Kohrman, MD
 Associate Dean for Educational Affairs (Retired)
Times change. People change. Schools change. But our propensity for innovative thinking will not. We are still committed to community-based medicine. What has guided us from day one...will continue to do so.

***
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Monday, December 8, 2014

It's All About Fit: A Holistic Approach To CHM Admissions

By Joel Maurer, MD, FACOG
Assistant Dean, Admissions
Michigan State University College of 
Human Medicine

Over the last five years, CHM Admissions has solidified its commitment to an admissions process that uses principles of holistic review (a balanced consideration of academic metrics, activities in preparation for a career in medicine, and personal characteristics consistent with the kind of physician we strive to train and graduate) in selecting each incoming class of medical students.

Historically, our College has long understood that intelligence is a key component in becoming a successful doctor, but it also appreciates that above and beyond a certain level of "smartness" does not necessarily make a better doctor.  While activities listed and discussed on a medical school application and during an interview process also remain a key component in the decision-making process, the evaluation of personal characteristics consistent with becoming a successful doctor has been more challenging.

In order to provide a more structured evaluation of applicant personal characteristics in the admissions process, the admissions committee agreed to transition our interview format three years ago from one that placed heavy emphasis on a semi-structured, one-on-one process to one that uses a series of eight highly-structured, short (eight-minute) "interview" stations that are specifically designed to evaluate personal characteristics, such as compassion, cultural sensitivity, maturity, self-awareness, etc.

This interview instrument is called a multiple mini-interview (or MMI) and not only relies on faculty involvement, but also respects the important evaluative input of or students, staff, alumni, and vested community interviewers.  Topics are discussed using a variety of interview and observational modalities: direct questioning regarding a predetermined topic, project collaboration between two applicants, and role play situations.

Though early in its use among other medical schools, evidence-based research tends to support the validity and reliability of the information gathered by the MMI over other modalities of interview.  Our MMI data supports improved applicant satisfaction using the MMI over traditional interviews that are comparable across multiple demographic factors (race/ethnicity, age, disadvantage status, and gender).

It is our hope that future data will show that the use of this interview format will result in improved academic performance and professional conduct of each applicant who matriculates.

Yet to get to the interview portion of the process, one must first display a strong passion for becoming a physician, supplemented by activities and interests that resonate with our mission. At CHM, there are no specific MCAT or GPA cutoffs as we strongly consider nonacademic variables to be an important aspect in determining one's fit with the College.

Holistic review of medical school applicants is relatively new and beneficial to both the school and student. Innovations in medical education are redefining what it means to be a modern physician. As more and more admissions committees make this philosophical transition (over 1/3 of medical schools in the U.S. now use holistic reviews at each stage of the admissions process), the Association of American Medical Colleges has been proactive in making changes to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) that now allow applicants to submit information about their upbringing and life experiences.

Other factors like letters of evaluation, secondary application essays, and personal statements are also very important among others to our review. From the AMCAS application to the interview, we are looking for specific competencies that align with the College's direction.

We want to ensure that each individual who puts on a white coat from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine is a great fit.

Indeed, it's all about fit.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Waiting On A Decision: Post-Interview Outcomes & Scenarios

The interview process for the incoming class is in full swing and applicants are now receiving word on their decisions. If you're out there interviewing, that's a good sign that your application is competitive. A strong showing in the interview can decide what you ultimately hear from the school.

Generally, there are three scenarios post-interview:
Accepted
Congrats! Your path to becoming a med school student just got a bit clearer. But there are still some issues you must consider. For instance, if you are accepted at several institutions, a decision on where you'd like to attend is imminent.

Not many people get the luxury of receiving several acceptances so if you are certain of which school you'd like to attend, it's helpful and considerate to withdraw your application from the school(s) you choose not to attend. This way, they are clear about having that spot open for other candidates. Admissions offices appreciate it.

Some schools also allow applicants to defer a year, pending a valid explanation. While we can't speak for every school, our admissions officer reviews each request on a case-by-case basis. Still, some of the more typical reasons for deferring are due to an applicant finishing up research or another post-graduate program. Family issues such as children and/or a marriage are also quite common, but deferment depends on the circumstance, of course.

Once January hits, it's time to prepare your FAFSA. Having paperwork settled early will give the school more time to prepare a financial aid package best for you. 

Specific to the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (CHM), some applicants may be recommended for the Advanced Baccalaureate Learning Experience (ABLE) program, which is a sort of conditional acceptance. In reality, 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.

Selected disadvantaged applicants who show promise for medicine, yet may lack the science background required to perform optimally in medical school, are referred to ABLE by the Committee on Admissions.
Waitlisted
Hang in there. We know this isn't the news you'd most like to hear but it is still very possible for you to get accepted. In fact, being waitlisted is pretty typical. 

To help your cause for the time being, many schools allow those on the waitlist to submit updates and supplemental materials. If you have any that are readily available, don't hesitate to send them in. A little extra effort can go a long way.

Updates can include grades and scores not submitted earlier as part of your AMCAS and/or last communication with the school. Any new experiences, research, awards or publications are good to submit. Some schools also appreciate a letter of continued interest, explaining why you feel the school is a good match for you.

Those waitlisted should continue working on updates
Make sure that you follow the school's preference in regards to how they would like to receive updates. Schools like candidates who can follow instructions (trust us). Our admissions office generally accepts email or snail mail.
A scenario here is that you are waitlisted by your top-choice yet have an acceptance elsewhere. In this case, applicants must name a choice among the acceptances by April 30th, 2015. While you cannot hold any other acceptances after that point, you can remain on your top school's waitlist. Should your top-choice accept you later, you can make the switch.
Rejected
One thing applicants should not do is take a rejection personal, nor should you take it to mean you are not suited to be a doctor. Generally, applicants are rejected because they were either not a good fit for that particular program or their application was simply not strong enough.

With applicants applying to anywhere from 8-20 schools, rejections are part of the process. There are great applicants across the continental map, so schools want to dig deeper for people who are good fits for their program.

Look on the bright side: if the school felt you weren't the right fit for the program, you probably weren't. And the last thing that would have benefited you as a medical student was to be in an environment where your characteristics and ambitions just don't fit.

In the case that your application wasn't strong enough and you don't receive an acceptance this cycle, this is something you can work on moving forward for the next.  Some schools even offer feedback about your application. While CHM counselors 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.

A great number of re-applicants get accepted from year to year and that is because they showed persistence and took time to strengthen their application's weaknesses.
Should you need to re-apply next year, it's important to reflect on this experience and be aware of your continued growth. Needless to say, the goal is getting accepted this time around, but we want to stress that there are numerous ways and opportunities to get there. We wish you the best of luck!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

All About The MMI: Tips on What To Expect and How To Prepare

Applicant interviews are underway across the country and medical schools are finally coming face-to-face with candidates for their incoming classes next fall. Each institution has their own characteristics to look for as well as their own strategies for evaluating applicants.

Here at MSU, we've utilized the Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI) format in our Interview Day since 2011. In fact, the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) was the first medical school in the state of Michigan to implement the method.

While this is a relatively new interview format in the United States, it has been used successfully for years throughout Canada and Australia.

Developed at McMaster University (Canada), more and more stateside schools are adopting the MMI each year, which has become increasingly popular beyond just medical schools. To understand why, it's important to know what the MMI is.

What is the MMI?
 The MMI is a series of short (timed), highly structured "interviews" through which applicants rotate. Normally, there are 6 to 10 interview stations that can differ in type. Schools will have their own set of stations and scenarios of course, but some typical examples include question-and-answer, collaboration, and even role-play.

At MSU, our questions and scenarios provide each interviewer the means to evaluate specific personal characteristics the College of Human Medicine believes are vital to becoming a successful physician.

There are no right or wrong answers. Instead, the MMI's purpose is to give insight on the applicant's thought process and interpersonal skills as well as individual values and ideals—qualities beyond grades and scores. Schools want to know if the applicant is a good "fit" for their student body.

Using a scale to rate the candidates, the task of rating at CHM Interview Days is shared between a team of administrators, faculty, staff, and students who have been trained specifically for the MMI process at the College of Human Medicine.

This provides a more reliable assessment because the admissions committee can use input from numerous interviewers rather than be entirely dependent on one person or small panel. When applicants are rated by numerous interviewers instead, it minimizes the potential effects from compatibility issues or unconscious bias that may be present in a traditional interview scoring system.

A Visual Mock-Up of a MMI Circuit

Tips & Words of Advice
Before the Interview Day
Again, there are no right or wrong answers so unless you are provided sample questions directly from the school in advance, preparing yourself means taking a general approach towards the goals of an MMI.

Applicants should expect to talk about themselves of course, but not in the same manner one would for a traditional interview. Schools are already aware of your scientific knowledge and accomplishments. In fact, that's what got you the interview. Instead, familiarize yourself with current events, medical issues and social policies.

Better yet, consider a variety of perspectives and develop some thoughts, some opinions of your own. Practice how you form and verbalize your conclusions. Having the ability to provide thorough, logical answers is important.

Having the ability to provide thorough, logical answers in a short period of time is even better. MMI circuits are heavily dependent on time. Once a buzzer or bell signifies the end of a station, the interview must end even if the applicant is not finished giving an answer. Good time management is crucial to MMI success.

During The MMI
Additionally, there are also a few more tips to be aware of once you are actually participating in the MMI.

The way that the MMI is structured forces students to think on their feet—analyzing the scenarios posed, synthesizing problems, and discussing positions. So the first thing you should do is really pay attention to what the scenario prompt is and thus, what is being required of you. Schools want to know how you think and communicate, not a re-hashing of your credentials.

Applicants are given time to read through a prompt before beginning the "interview." Schools may or may not allow notes.
Also understand that there won't be enough time to reflect, which can be a good thing. Keep moving forward and don't dwell on those stations you didn't feel too great about. Many schools, including our own, will not offer feedback or direct input as to how you are performing, so there's no sense in stressing.

Essentially, there's only enough time to think how one would ordinarily think or behave how one would ordinarily behave. So, the last key to the MMI is simply being yourself. Do not overthink the scenarios. How you present yourself plays a big role in deciding if you're a good fit.

All in all, the MMI can seem overwhelming but most leave the MMI circuit feeling it was a fun, refreshing experience. While it is a challenge, MMIs are also advantageous for applicants in that they have more opportunities to showcase a variety of personal characteristics and skills. The applicant feels more at ease knowing they have several different "interviews" to make an impression.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

College of Human Medicine Assistant Dean for Admissions To Host Workshop at Nation's Largest Pre-Health Conference

The largest pre-health conference in the country is just around the corner, with CHM's head of admissions scheduled to lead a workshop. The 12th Annual UC-Davis Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions National Conference will be held just 15 minutes outside of Sacramento on October 11-12.

The two-day event will cover health professional topics just as varied as the selection of keynote speakers, panels, and workshops. Our very own Joel Maurer, MD, FACOG, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the MSU College of Human Medicine, will be speaking at the conference for the fourth consecutive year.

"I always look forward to describing the mission of our college, as I believe there are certain components of it that should truly resonate with most people who attend. Since we typically matriculate 15-20% out-of-state applicants (much higher than most state-supported medical schools), I like to encourage them to at least look at us," says Maurer.

The AMCAS Personal Statement, What's Up with Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Preparing Gay Students for Medical School are some of the topics Dr. Maurer has spoken on in past UCDPHSA conferences.

This year, he'll be giving a workshop on preparing the written AMCAS application. Dr. Maurer enjoys the workshops in particular because presenters, as experts on the topics, can usually address any question fielded, which is of clear benefit to the attendees.

"I really enjoy getting the opportunity to help counsel premedical students who need some friendly advice about the medical school admissions process," Maurer states.

Beyond its reputation for being the largest pre-medical and pre-health professions gathering at an undergraduate institution, the conference also emphasizes its support for URM students (underrepresented in medicine, as defined by the AAMC) interested in a career in medicine.

"For this conference, the vast majority who attend come from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and under-represented backgrounds in medicine. So to be able to reach out to this demographic with some tangible advice and encouragement is really satisfying," affirms Maurer.

Just over 200 students attended the first conference in 2003. Over the last 11 years, the UCD Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Conference has steadily grown, hosting over 7,400 attendees last year at the University of California, Davis.

One of the premier elements of the conference for those thousands of attendees will be the Dean's Panels, lining up administrators—including Dr. Maurer—representing schools across the country.

Elaborating on his experiences, "Most students at this conference are really positive and enthusiastic. For others, it can be overwhelming. I’ve been the recipient of hugs and tears, of joy and heartbreak."  

Whether it's supporting that joy or relieving that heartbreak, Dr. Maurer is eager to help spread the proper messages, which include some insight into our great institution at CHM.

"There’s a lot of representation of medical schools that attend and promote themselves:  allopathic, osteopathic, off-shore; so we’re part of the diversity that attends," he declares.

"There are a lot of west-coast schools there, so geographically we offer something a bit different.  Our community-based model of education is also very different from most other schools in attendance, so I can really play-up the wonderful things about this model to conference attendees."

Something else that makes the conference unique is the fact that it is "entirely planned, staffed, coordinated, and funded by pre-medical and pre-health professions students keenly aware of the challenges facing their peers, who aspire to become health professionals."

The UC Davis Pre-Health Student Alliance is a partnership between the pre-medical and pre-health student organizations, fraternities, and sororities at UC-Davis and other local colleges in Sacramento.

See Dr. Maurer's presentation from last year's conference.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

CHM Admissions Uses A Mission-Based Assessment Beyond Academics

As we've mentioned before, the reality of the medical school application process is that it is competitive. Tens of thousands of students across the country are vying for what amounts to only a few thousand spots. Sure, good grades and high scores are important to being a competitive applicant.

But that will only get you so far.

More and more schools such as the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (CHM) are looking beyond one's academic profile. Truth is, every cycle is full of applicants with terrific scores and grades. What sets you apart?

While we strive for a class with GPA and MCAT scores approximating the national average of accepted students, the CHM admissions committee uses a mission-based assessment of applicants that strongly considers nonacademic variables. For this reason, the CHM Office of Admissions does not use specific GPA and MCAT cutoffs.

That isn't to say your numbers aren't important. They certainly are. Admissions teams need to know that a candidate is capable of completing the curriculum. Yet what makes an applicant competitive is relative to what each school is looking for in a student. At CHM in particular, there are a number of factors we look to analyze. 

As a community-based medical school, a major focus of our mission at CHM is to educate future physicians interested in working with underserved populations (rural, inner city), particularly within Michigan.

With that said, the CHM admissions committee looks for applicants with whom our mission resonates. Successful applicants bring a range of experiences and interests to the College of Human Medicine, which typically align with our mission's direction and demonstrate a person's passion for medicine.

Personal characteristics consistent with the college's values are assessed via activity descriptions, application essays, letters of recommendation, and interviews. Applicants who enhance their profile by adding community service and clinical experience help their cause.

Those who get accepted to CHM can be assured they are good fit with our mission.
It's also important to note that CHM will consider students with a strong upward trend despite a lower GPA. Basically, students with significant experiences and goals clearly consistent with our mission typically demonstrate more curricular success than those with a downward trend or stable performance at a lower GPA level. 

For some right on the brink, our ABLE program may become an option. The Advanced Baccalaureate Learning Experience (ABLE) is a year-long enriched academic experience offered each application cycle to an invited group of disadvantaged students. Applicants who show promise for medicine, yet lack the science background required to perform optimally in medical school, are referred to the ABLE Selection Committee following their interview for regular admission.

The goal of the ABLE program is to build upon participants' science base through enrollment in upper-level science and medical school course offerings. Students who successfully complete the minimum requirements of the ABLE program are offered regular admission to the following year's entering class.

Each member of our entering classes can be assured that they were accepted to CHM because, out of the applicant pool, they fit CHM the best. All in all, we seek to admit students who are not only academically competent, but also representative of a wide spectrum of personalities, backgrounds, talents, and motivations.


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Monday, August 25, 2014

Head of CHM Admissions Office Takes On ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; Offers Hefty Challenge of His Own

Ordinarily, having a bucket of ice water dumped over your head isn't something someone would do for fun. But this is more than that. There's something special going on here.

Folks from coast to coast are taking up the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in what has turned out to be a national craze on social media. Uploaded videos across the internet show people taking on the challenge and daring even more souls to either accept within 24 hours or donate to the ALS Association.

Adults and children from all walks of life have participated, raising awareness and funding for the cause.

Sure enough, the challenge was bound to reach the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM). Faculty and staff are taking Dean Marsha Rappley's lead, which includes our very own Joel Maurer, MD, Assistant Dean, Admissions, who was recently challenged by a long-time friend.



With students from CHM's incoming class on hand and the Magic Johnson statue towering above, Dr. Maurer issued his own challenge: for every incoming student who submits a video to the office of admissions by Labor Day, he'll donate $10 on their behalf to the cause. 

So...what do you say, incoming class of 2014? Are you going to take the challenge?

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

From the website:

"The ALS Association has committed $99 million to find effective treatments and a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Our global research effort has helped increase the number of scientists working on ALS, advanced new discoveries and treatments, and has shed light on the complex genetic and environmental factors involved in ALS."

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

How To Tailor Your Secondary Application

The secondary application process typically begins around July, when verified primary applications from AMCAS start getting sent to individual institutions.

Some medical schools, such as the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM), automatically invite all applicants to submit secondary applications. In contrast, other schools review their candidates before deciding who is allowed to send a secondary.

Now in August, you may already have a nice stack of secondary applications, each with several essay prompts. The secondary essay prompts, in general, should help address any deficiencies in the application, helping the reviewers better assess the applicant.

Each school has their own set of prompts, specific to what they are looking for in a candidate. So while applicants may encounter similar questions and prompts, note that secondaries should be tailored in two specific ways that, essentially, go hand-in-hand.

1. Secondary applications should fill in the gaps.

Reviewers and admissions teams have already seen a ton of academic profiles, MCAT scores, and AMCAS essays. Institutions are now trying to acquire information not covered in the primary application. This means that your secondary should not, for the most part, repeat information that was already given in your primary.

Instead, your secondary should go further in-depth to complement the other parts of the application without overlap. Discuss experiences that you were not able to bring up in your primary or take different angles to experiences you have discussed.

The goal is to distinguish yourself and, most importantly, show why you should be accepted. Keep it interesting and present your case. Boring writing and repetitive information will get your application looked over.

2. Each secondary should correspond to that particular medical school.

It's important to fill in the gaps so reviewers can better assess whether you're a good fit. Each school has a different mission and the whole point of the review process is to find applicants who resonate with what the institution is accomplishing.

At CHM, a big part of our mission is to respond to the needs of the medically underserved. Additional optional essay prompts in our secondary application are directly correlated with two special programs that help carry out this mission: Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved (LMU) as well as Leadership in Rural Medicine (LRM).

Other schools may have additional optional prompts as well. If you have a good amount of secondaries to go through though, it's understandable to be a little burned out with essay writing. However, do not be tempted to recycle your essays. It's important to follow each school's individual instructions and answer each specific prompt.

Not crafting your answers for each school poses two issues. First, simply using the same answers over and over again may mean not directly addressing each school's different prompts. Basically, answer the prompt. While you might find recurring themes throughout the applications, generic answers may not go in depth enough to show each school how you fit.

Do not underestimate how important "fit" is. For many schools, the secondary is the barrier between you and the next step—an interview.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

GUEST POST: Medical School Not Exclusive to Students from Affluent Backgrounds

By Brian Ulrich, MA
***

With all of the ways that physicians are portrayed on television and movies these days, it can be easy to form a certain perception of what it means to be a doctor. Often, these portrayals have less to do with healthcare and more to do with an actor’s physical appearance, status, power, or on-screen charisma.

This image, however, is a mirage.

The point here is that it can be easy to mentally put ourselves in certain boxes based on messages that we receive or perceive from the world around us. While these boxes can be empowering for some, they are often very limiting for others. Literature within the field of student affairs calls this “meaning making”, or, put another way, the way we make sense of our individual identities based on the messages we receive from the world around us.

So, as a prospective student to medical school, what types of messages are you receiving from the world around you about pursuing medicine as a career? What kinds of inferences are you making from these messages? How might the decisions you make based on these messages be impacting the field of medicine?

Data over the last decade had suggested that students matriculating into medical school have increasingly come from families with higher socioeconomic backgrounds. As Figure 2 (also pictured below) shows in this AAMC brief from 2008, there is a concerning trend of a greater number of matriculating medical school students coming from the highest national parental income bracket.


To that point, one physician named Eric Lee recently wrote a solid piece on the recent lack of socioeconomic diversity for KevinMD.com, citing that "In the U.S., 60% of medical students come from families with incomes in the top 20% of the nation."

Additionally, the increase of medical students from families with higher socioeconomic backgrounds between 1992 and 2008 is most noticeable among Caucasian students. In the last ten years, the numbers of applicants from many underrepresented minority backgrounds has either not changed or decreased.

So, what this data might be insinuating is that the predominant view within the pre-medical student population is that the field of medicine is only for a certain kind of student; a self-categorized student who looks or acts a certain way, or fits into a certain box. This is a concerning trend given the increasingly diverse patient population that today’s physicians will be serving.  This data also may suggest that the messages students receive about becoming a doctor are creating a dichotomy of thinking where medicine is for “them” rather than for “me”.

So what are we to do?

The MSU College of Human Medicine is among many medical schools working hard to counter this trend through a more holistic admissions process. This essentially means that we are tying admissions decisions back to our institutional mission, rather than making decisions simply based on academics or some other rather arbitrary measure.

When admissions decisions are tied back to institutional missions, we are able to ground our selections in a set of criteria that is fixed, and has a greater significance to both the medical school and health care community at large. In this way, the admissions decision is a part of a much larger picture, rather than an end goal in itself.

Even aiming earlier, we are also reaching out to students prior to the admissions process with our Health Careers Pipeline Program. The primary focus of this program, where both high school and undergraduate students receive exposure to an array of health tracks, are people with disadvantaged backgrounds.

Still, more needs to be done. We, as medical schools, need to get the message out prior to the application process that becoming a doctor is not just for those from certain types of backgrounds. This paradigm does a disservice to prospective students, current students, and most importantly patients.

A diverse student body is important to CHM
So our message is simple:  

Don’t get trapped into thinking medical school is only for those who can afford to take summers off to tour the world, have access to shadowing doctors, or the means to dedicate all of their non-academic time to extracurricular involvements.

What we are looking for is a sincere and genuine commitment to service, an understanding of the clinical environment, and experiences that have allowed you to grow and develop personal competencies that will help to make you a strong physician. Being a doctor is not only for those from affluent backgrounds. It is about being a competent, compassionate professional who is capable of providing quality care to an increasingly diverse patient population.

We are looking for a diverse applicant pool that fits our mission and has the ability to provide patient-centered care to all whom they serve. This message is crucial to our nation’s goal of diversifying the medical profession and creating a workforce that will be representative of the patient populations we serve.



Brian has been an admissions counselor at the MSU College of Human Medicine for four years. He has a Master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration from Michigan State University and a Master’s degree in Professional Counseling from Central Michigan University. He is currently a doctoral student in the Higher Adult Lifelong Learning program at Michigan State University.



 
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Friday, July 11, 2014

Early Decision Program Applications Due August 1st: Is EDP Right For You?

The MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) is one of the many medical schools that prospective students can apply to via the Early Decision Program (EDP). Those looking to participate in EDP must submit their AMCAS application by Friday, August 1st.

Before applying through EDP, however, applicants need to decide whether this route to medical school is right for you. It's extremely important you fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of applying as an EDP candidate.

What is the Early Decision Program and how does it work?

Simply put, the Early Decision Program allows prospective medical students to apply early and be assured of a prompt response.

EDP applicants apply to one U.S. medical school with the full intention of attending if accepted. The school, in turn, agrees to notify an applicant of a decision by October 1st—much earlier than a regular admissions process, which can extend into the following spring.

People go the EDP route when they have a clear first-choice in mind.

"[Applicants] need to be sure they've researched what the school is looking for. Is it a good fit? Additionally, they need to be sure this is a school they genuinely want to attend," said Jay Bryde, CHM admissions officer.

Still, the medical school you wish to attend is just one thing to consider before applying. Take the time to judge how competitive your application is. This shouldn't be taken lightly as EDP is particularly useful for exceptionally strong candidates.

Applicants to CHM who are accepted through EDP typically have favorable trends and parameters on the higher end of national averages. A proven track record of curricular, non-curricular, and community activities that reflect our mission also go a long way while strong letters of evaluation from people who know you well are important too.

CHM encourages students to apply as an EDP applicant only if they see themselves as an excellent fit in all of these areas.

Most schools only admit a small percentage of EDP candidates into their incoming classes, so it is cautioned that only highly qualified applicants consider EDP. 

Rejected EDP applicants may apply to other schools but only after being notified of the decision and subsequently released of their EDP commitment. You can even still apply to the same medical school through their regular admissions process to be reviewed independently from EDP. At CHM, we may choose to automatically place you in the regular applicant pool.

Here's the catch:

As mentioned, rejected EDP applicants will not be allowed to apply to any other schools until notified of their rejection, which can be in October—pretty late in the cycle.

Additionally, applying through EDP may mean giving up the potential for better funding opportunities elsewhere. But if gaining admission into your dream school outweighs your concerns in regards to funding, EDP may be worth it.

The Early Decision Program isn't for everyone but can be advantageous for the right candidates, depending on the situation. Your situation should be analyzed at great length before applying.

If you have your dream school decided, know you're a great fit and believe your profile is strong enough to be competitive at the highest level of potential applicants, EDP may be a very tempting track to take.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CHM Kicking Off 2nd Annual Gran Fondo: Rolling Party Benefits Skin Cancer Research

The College of Human Medicine (CHM) kicks off its second annual Gran Fondo this Saturday with proceeds once again going towards skin cancer awareness, prevention, and research.

The Gran Fondo is a non-competitive cycling event for riders of all skill levels. Beginning in downtown Grand Rapids, participants can choose between four different routes ranging in distance, including a scenic 80-mile trek to Lake Michigan on the state's gorgeous west coast.

Over 1,500 riders participated in CHM's inaugural Gran Fondo
Along the routes, riders can also enjoy catered rest stops offering the area's finest cuisine.

Riders will return downtown after snaking through the cityscape and West Michigan countryside, as the event culminates with the Finish Line Festival. The public can welcome back riders outside the B.O.B. at this post-ride celebration combining live music, craft brews, wine, and great food.

Italian for "Big Ride," Gran Fondos are typically long distance, mass participation cycling events and have become increasingly popular in the US. Last year's inaugural event was the first Gran Fondo of any kind in the city of Grand Rapids, raising over $100,000. Drawing over 1,500 cyclists, a total of 15 states and Canada were well represented.

From the Gran Fondo official website:
If you were part of the inaugural Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Gran Fondo last June, then you know it was one of the biggest and best cycling events ever held in Michigan. The second annual MSU Gran Fondo will be ready to roll once again on Saturday, June 28, 2014.
There's still time to register!

Riders can register as individuals, start a team, or join a team.  As this year represents the CHM's 50th Anniversary, riders are asked to meet a minimum goal of $50. Prizes will be awarded to riders who meet fundraising goals. With 100% of every dollar raised going towards skin cancer prevention and research, it's indeed "a big ride to support a big mission."


MSU Gran Fondo 2014 from MSU MD on Vimeo.

For more information, go to msugranfondo.com

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Friday, June 13, 2014

4 Ways for Potential Applicants to Maximize The Summer Months

Sure, getting in some relaxation over the summer to recharge should be on the agenda. Yet keep in mind that the summer months can be vital in acquiring the exposure and/or training necessary to pursue higher degrees in any competitive field.

If you're thinking about applying to medical school next year, consider this a great time to springboard yourself into the school year and, ultimately, the medical school application process.

The med school application process is competitive. The majority of applicants hold impressive academic profiles each year. Factors like experience and the personal statement are great ways candidates set themselves apart.

While it's understandable that carving out time to gain a good amount of experience can be difficult to do, prospective applicants should not feel like they need to gain really extravagant experiences from summer months, as some may not be able to afford taking the summer off to travel. Others may need to work to support themselves.

For this reason among many, showing the ability to balance and maximize your time is very important. Below are some simple types of activities to do over the summer:

Volunteer
Not only is lending a hand great for the community, the good thing about volunteering is that there are a variety of directions you can take to fulfill your goals.

Volunteering for any type of healthcare facility is of clear benefit, but don't feel obligated to only seek out opportunities in a medical setting. Allow your volunteer activities to show a range of experiences. But make sure that those experiences are indicative of your leadership capabilities and your commitment to helping.

Volunteering with organizations is another option. There are numerous non-profits around the country like the American Red Cross, for example. Each person's community is different so take a look at what organizations are available in your area.

Research what organizations align with your personal interests. For instance, if you're interested in pediatrics or family medicine, perhaps checking out a youth organization or a children's hospital is worth a try. 

Research/Work
The number of applicants with extensive medical and/or lab experience continues to grow every year, so getting experience of your own will surely do you well as an applicant.

Spending some time doing research will also allow you to really understand if medical research is for you.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website has a page dedicated to information on how to acquire lab experience. They point out:
"There also tend to be a lot of research opportunities in the summer, both paid and volunteer. The career center or your pre-health advising office may have a list. Some opportunities may be external to the school..."
It may not be too late in the season to find specific research internships, so it doesn't hurt to look. Academic and pre-health advisors can help in guiding you to good resources. It's also a good idea seek out professors or researchers that specialize in a particular area of interest to you.

If research isn't quite your thing, clinical experience is still very important in both quantity and quality. We touched on gaining experience via volunteering but there are also formal programs through hospitals and clinics that would serve you well.

The key here is simply engaging a real medical environment where you can observe both physicians and patients. On top of possibly gaining exposure to a variety of specialties, you should also be able to meet a number of professionals—good contacts you can utilize later as mentors.

But there's also another way to observe a real medical environment...

Shadow a doctor
Shadowing a doctor is one of the best ways to observe what a typical day is like for physicians, offering you realistic insight into particular specialties of medicine.

Some of the insight you'll gain from shadowing a doctor may be what you refer back to when writing your personal statement.

This biggest issue we hear from potential applicants as it pertains to shadowing is that they don't know how to go about it. How do you find a doctor to shadow? The AAMC has some good information regarding this topic.

Study
The MCAT has changed substantially in the spring of 2015, "Designed to help better prepare tomorrow’s doctors for the rapidly advancing and transforming health care system." This will require exam-takers be prepared for new sections.

Use your free time this summer to prepare. The AAMC offers materials like the official guide to the MCAT Exam. Additional materials include the official MCAT Self-Assessment package, and a free e-MCAT practice test among others.

Most medical schools will accept MCAT scores taken within several years. At MSU, we accept scores up to four years from the current admissions cycle.

***
Some additional things to consider:
Whatever you decide to do this summer, be proactive in some fashion. Specifically, get experience doing things that genuinely interest you.

Furthermore, take note of the things you learn and how you feel about it. As we've mentioned, you're personal statement is very important. You'll want to be able to reflect on these experiences and show how they've helped you grow.

Lastly, don't forget to develop solid relationships with both peers and possible mentors. You'll eventually need contacts to write your letters of evaluation and recommendation. Beyond the letters, it's always good to have people who can understand the process and help you get through it.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Reapplying to Med School Means Changing Up Your Approach

While the current application cycle approaches its final stages, another begins with the next group of wide-eyed #medschool hopefuls, carrying more dreams of scrubs, stethoscopes and surgery rooms. Within the incoming wave of applicants, perhaps no one knows how competitive the medical school application process is more than unsuccessful applicants.

Less than 45% of 2013-14 applicants were accepted into medical school. So as the AMCAS application opens for submissions in less than a week (June 3), some of the more persistent applicants are preparing to go through the process for a second—even a third—time.

While having to reapply can surely be frustrating, consider this an opportunity to learn from your missteps and show your commitment to medicine. For those looking to reapply, improving your chances of matriculating may require you to simply reflect and react

REFLECT
If you applied to medical school and were not admitted, some personal time for self-assessment is a must. Hopefully, you've taken time to thoroughly explore the profession, as to fully understand the special demands needed to be successful in medical school.

If you understand those demands and still want to get into medical school, the ability to look back and critique your approach is an important step. As difficult as it may seem, it's vital to be self-aware about where your application is lacking.

How can you improve your application if you don't know what exactly needs to be improved?

An honest self-assessment will guide you through the appropriate stages in strengthening your application's weaknesses. Consider the various different portions of the application and take a magnifying glass to each one. Here are some questions to consider, based on common problem areas:

  • Could your MCAT score be higher?
  • Should you enroll in a graduate or post-bacc program to strengthen your GPA and/or meet all the necessary premedical requirements?
  • Could your interviews have been more effective?
  • Do you lack significant volunteer and/or clinical experience?
  • Could you write a stronger personal statement?

Your strategy moving forward lies in the answers to these questions, so taking a hard look now can mean a beneficial outcome later.

An honest self-assessment can be the key to improving your application.

Some schools may even offer some sort of feedback, such as a file review. A file review is where the school, at the request of the applicant, reviews the application and details why they were not accepted. There may also be premed or undergraduate academic advisers at your undergraduate institution willing to help.

Just as some schools will help you reflect, some can help you moving forward. The MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) Office of Admissions, for instance, offers a Self-Assessment Guide, which allows unsuccessful CHM applicants to meet with an admissions adviser upon submission. While our advisers cannot go over the details of your application or why you were not accepted, advisers will go over your self-assessment guide with you to develop a new direction.

REACT
While we know this is not the most desirable position to be in, understand that plenty of medical students were reapplicants. It can be done.

However, do not make the mistake of reapplying with the same exact application unless you want to see the same results. Here are some actions you can take to strengthen your application, again, based on common problem areas.

Expand
An advantage of being a reapplicant is that you have more time to fit in additional experiences. This is especially important for those lacking a significant amount of exposure to clinical and/or research activities.

Yet even if you have a good amount of experiences, expanding your resume to some degree should be on the agenda. Schools expect to see both leadership and patient-related activities on your application so it helps to acquire more. Summer is right around the corner—a great time to volunteer.

More experiences can even help you write a stronger personal statement. Read on...

Rewrite
Reapplying to medical school means going through the whole process again, including the personal statement. As we've mentioned in past posts, the personal statement can potentially be a huge factor in deciding who receives an interview.

One of the things you do not want to do is submit the exact statement you submitted in the last cycle. Schools will know and see through an application that has not improved.

Instead, use this experience to differentiate your next personal statement from your last. Consider how being an unsuccessful applicant has changed your perspective. What have you learned? What are you doing to improve?

The personal statement offers a great opportunity to show your resilience as well as your ability to reflect.

While submitting your application early is important, it may be better to wait a bit if you feel you need more time to ensure your personal statement is as solid as can be.

Enhance
It may be a good idea to review recent GPA and MCAT averages in order to see where you fall. If it is clear that your academic record was a contributing factor to you not getting accepted, take time to consider entering a graduate or post-baccalaureate program, especially if your profile was weak in the sciences.

Understanding in which percentiles your academic profile falls also gives you a guide to determine which schools' applicant pools you would be competitive in. Otherwise, strengthening your academic background before an official acceptance may take time.

If you received any interviews last cycle, chances are your academics may not be the main issue. You may need to work hard at sharpening your interview skills. This time around, you know what to expect.

Lastly, it may be worthwhile to think about your letters of evaluation. Consider your sources and decide whether to utilize the same people for this next round, as you'll need new letters. Make sure you do your best to use sources that can provide not only a positive recommendation, but a detailed one.

Patience is most certainly a virtue when it comes to medical school admissions. Many rejected applicants do not reapply so be aware that you can earn a lot of admiration from an admissions committee by combining an ability to reflect on your weaknesses with a drive to address them.

Persistence can go a long way.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

4 Things To Consider When Finalizing Your Personal Statement

The AMCAS application for the cycle is now open and accepts official submissions in June. While we're sure a good number of applicants may have finished their personal statements already, there may still be a few with some finalizing to do.

Some applicants may have written a few drafts yet are looking for ways to polish their statements. The personal statement, after all, is one of the most important portions of an applicant's review.

As MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) admissions advisor, Brian Ulrich, points out, "The personal statement is where applicants can demonstrate the personal characteristics and attributes that are required in medical school. Many applicants will have great MCAT scores and a solid GPA. The statement helps set people apart."

We hope that by now you've written a draft or two. So if you're looking to tighten it up or round it out, here are some things to consider to ensure you'll have a solid personal statement.

**********************************

Is it about you?
It goes without saying but make sure your statement is about you. Does it reflect enough of your character? Remember that you are creating a mental image of yourself for the reader.

Each reviewer is looking for sets of characteristics that differ from school to school. An attractive applicant is subjective to each school's philosophy, so the general consensus is simply not to try to be anything you're not.

Still, attributes like maturity, compassion, professionalism, and ambition are characteristics universally enjoyed. Lead the reader to draw these traits directly from your accomplishments and experiences.

There are many views and opinions on how your statement should best be written to showcase your character. Ulrich admits, "There's no cookie-cutter way to write it, but there are fundamental ways to effectively tell your story."

He insists that applicants not be overly formal in their writing, but do be aware of your colloquialisms. The goal is to share your own, personal voice with a professional tone.

Components of a Statement
Is your personal statement all over the place? Here are five components that can help bring it all together.

Structure
Structure refers to how you choose to present the information. Ensuring your statement flows enhances the ability to understand what you are trying to get across.

A good structure to your statement could mean having the first paragraph introduce you and your theme while the second, third, and fourth introduces experiences/lessons via a story. The fifth and final paragraph can tie it all in, summarizing the theme while demonstrating what this all means—why you are interested in medicine.

Theme
The theme is the main point of your statement. As the underlying foundation for each paragraph, your theme is a general idea that provides perspective.

You may have heard a number of opinions on the importance of being unique. Rather than focusing so much on trying to be unique, it's important you tell a story that is personal and relevant.

Engage the reader from the start. Making sure each part of your essay helps tell your own story is key to creating a memorable application.

If your theme doesn't currently represent you or how you've come to be interested in medicine, it's suggested you change it to one that does. Your theme should do well to represent you because it's genuine, which can help you transition to other relevant aspects of your life.

Frame
While the theme is a general idea, the frame of your essay will shape the writing with details—places, people, reactions, etc. Many applicants will bring up stories upon stories of how they came to be interested in medicine. Yet it's better to choose one or two significant experiences to really elaborate on.

Depth is key.

"A big take-home for applicants to remember is that the statement is an opportunity for reviewers to know you on a deeper level. Without depth, it's hard to know why their story matters," said Ulrich.

The objective is to make sure the reader learns more about you rather than just what you've done. How have your experiences influenced you?

By framing the statement with an anecdote, you provide immediate access to your past and how you came to desire becoming a physician. Use strong verbs and an active voice. Paint a picture to make your statement as vivid as possible, as engaging as possible.

Strong descriptions and explanations show you've put thought into your experiences. Introspection is important, as we will get to further down in the post.

Strong Transitions
How well does your statement flow?

One way to check for clear transitions is to make sure the first sentence of every paragraph is somehow related to your last sentence in the previous paragraph. With a strong theme and frame, transitions should come easily.

Lead the reader through your enlightening, so they can understand, step-by-step, how you've come to desire a career in medicine.

Concluding Observation
"Applicants should have the ability to convey why medical school is a good fit for them based on experiences in their life and what they've gained," Ulrich points out. "It is of great benefit for the applicant to show an ability to reflect."

Does your statement offer some reflection? If not, it may be a good idea to restate your theme and show how it has evolved over time, perhaps from a specific lesson. How will these lessons continue to serve you in medical school? As a doctor?

Thoughtful and reflective decisions, not an instantaneous realization, should result in your current interest in medical school.

Your experiences and how you reflect on those experiences should help explain your passion for medicine. The journey of that growth will help set you apart. We mentioned you shouldn't concentrate on being unique simply for the sake of sounding unique. Again, depth is the key to being a memorable applicant.

Showing some reflection confirms you've given serious thought to medical school
Proofread Before You Submit
Time should also be devoted to thoroughly proofreading your essay. The application does not have spellcheck so once you submit your application, the essays cannot be edited. Submit the essay with typos and medical schools will be able to see them.

Writing a solid statement may require some patience and that's perfectly okay.  Take your time to ensure you're putting the best foot forward, so to speak. Again, the majority of medical school applicants will have pretty good MCAT scores and a nice GPA. The written portion of the AMCAS is where you can make a big splash.

Good luck!

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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
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.

Experience
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!