Tips for the Application Process: Selecting your Schools
When I began the application process, one of the most nerve-wrecking choices for me was actually choosing the schools to apply to. Part of me wanted to apply to every school in the country to increase my chances of getting in…but as Dr. Anani already told you, this process is already an expensive one and in no way do you have the funds to do that (unless your last name happens to be Gates and your parents are Bill and Melinda 🙂 and I can guarantee you don’t have the time to the secondary applications, let alone the interviews. So if that was your plan, throw it out the window. NOW. Seriously. There is strategy that can and should be applied to selection of the medical schools to apply to and the one that you will eventually go to!
The first thing that I recommend for any student in this process is to have access to the MSAR® (Medical School Admission Requirements), a product of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) (or the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book from the American Association of Osteopathic Colleges of Medicine (AACOM) if you are applying to Osteopathic schools). These books provide crucial information about each of the medical schools including important admission requirements and acceptance statistics. Armed with this book you will be able to make educated and appropriate choices as you create your list.
The next step is to perform an open and critical evaluation of your performance record. This will include your numbers (MCAT, GPA) but also your activities and other unique characteristics. I recommend talking through this with your mentor or health professions advisor. You need to have a good picture of how competitive you are and then you can move on to the fun (or nerve-wracking ) part.
Starting the List
To start the list, I recommend thinking about a couple of things to determine the number of schools you will apply to 1) your competitiveness level (discussed with your mentor or advisor) and 2) your finances. Most applicants will need to apply to 10-15 schools. This is a cost-effective number but should allow for variety in the list. Note, this number may fluctuate (mainly go-up) based on your competiveness. (Also international students might need to apply to more.)
As you think about schools and how to break down this 10-15 number, I recommend putting 2-3 schools that are your dream schools where you feel like it is a real reach for you to be accepted, the majority (7-10) where you feel that meet their admission requirements and statistics for recent classes and 2-3 where you feel your chances are “good” for getting in. Once again, the theme repeats…talk about this with your mentor and advisor!
The next thing to consider and remember is YOU WILL apply to your state schools!! This is where your chance of getting in is best! This is usually the state where your parents reside, unless you have declared residency where you are going to school etc. For folks from Texas, this is actually an entirely separate application service (TMDSAS). It can also be important to consider your alma mater…they know you the best 🙂
Moving through the MSAR
As you compile your list, use the MSAR. If you are looking at public medical schools in states that are not your home state, make sure that you check that they will accept out of state students.
As you move through the MSAR, it can seem a little overwhelming so a few other guidelines to consider when selecting schools:
- – Location—Is the school located somewhere you can see yourself living and being happy for 4 years? Is it near family? Does it provide social outlets for you?
- – Finances—Is this school out of state for you? Is the outstate tuition something you are willing to consider?
- – Specialty Options—Do you know what type of doctor you would like to be—you don’t have to know this at all, but if you do—is this school known in particular for that specialty?
- – Other special options the school offers—curriculum options? International experiences? Community experiences? What types of things are important for you and that you would want to be involved with in medical school?
In the end, you will have a list of schools, one of which will be your home for the next 4 years! So my last piece advice is to take time with this and put thought into it.
Best of luck!