Biology - Pre-Med Admissions Process
Medical schools seek students who they believe will make a good medical student and more importantly, a competent, caring physician. There is a huge investment made by the medical school and the taxpayers in the training of a physician (believe it or not, the $ 25,000-30,000/year tuition of public medical schools in Kentucky cover only a portion of the total costs) and consequently decisions are made very carefully, using information from a variety of sources including: overall undergraduate GPA, science (BCMP) GPA, MCAT score, letter(s) of evaluation, personal statement, health related experience, extracurricular activities, and the interview. These factors are assessed by the admissions committee, usually appointed by the Dean of the Medical School, that typically include faculty from both basic and clinical science departments, as well as practitioners.
The Evaluation Process-
Admission committees strive for objectivity in their decision making. Medical schools are looking for students who present evidence of strong intellectual ability, a record of accomplishments, and personal traits indicative of the ability to communicate and relate to patients in a realistic and compassionate manner. The five most important factors used in making the decision are:
1) undergraduate academic record- Studies indicate that an important predictor of success in the basic science classes in medical school is the quality of work in subjects leading to the baccalaureate degree. It is evidence of your motivation and ability. The academic record includes the overall GPA, science (BCMP) GPA, non-science GPA, performance in some individual courses, and the overall trend. For instance, a poor freshmen year followed by improvements over the next 2 years may be somewhat overlooked, whereas a declining record may not be. The difficulty of your chosen curriculum is also noted. If you consistently take the path of least resistence and avoid the tough classes, this will negatively impact your record.
2) MCAT score -The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) has been shown to be the best single predictor of medical school academic performance used by admissions committees (virtually every school in the nation requires it). National standardized tests, like them or not, are a fact of life in medical school and beyond (eg. USMLE, COMLEX a.k.a "the boards"). There is a significant positive correlation between MCAT scores and board exam scores.
3) letter of evaluation - At WKU, a single committee letter is sent to the admission committee, composed by your pre-med advisor (committee chairperson) with input from two other individuals (eg. faculty from which you have taken a class or done research with). The letter is written following a meeting (interview) with each member of the committee. Many students find this helpful, serving as good practice for your medical school interviews. For the 2011 entering class, WKU will be using AMCAS letters for applicants to M.D. schools and VirtualEvals to transmit letters of evaluation for Osteopathic (DO) schools.
4) personal statement (essay) - The AMCAS application forms include a one page essay on a topic of your choosing. This can be a very difficult and introspective part of the process. This is the student's opportunity to really let the admission committee know who they are, to focus on their special strengths that they feel they can offer the profession. After all, you want to somehow distinguish yourself from all the other applicants with good grades and high test scores. What interesting experiences or skills do you possess? What interesting personal anecdotes can you relate that illustrate these experiences, skills, or traits ? Be yourself and write about your best points. Be prepared to discuss these points at your interview.
5) supplemental (secondary) application - Almost all medical schools, including UK and UL, require a suppplemental application in addition to AMCAS. They vary significantly in their content and reflect the questions that particular school considers important. It is recommended that the applicant review the mission statement of the school and other on-line information before completing the secondary for that school. Submit your secondary in a timely fashion to get an early interview.
6) impression made in the interview- Typically the candidate will be interviewed by 2 members of the admissions committee, each for 30 minutes. Click here for a typical interview schedule. Interviewers will evaluate the student candidate according to: a.) experience and knowledge of the profession; b.) interpersonal skills; c.) motivation for seeking admission; and d.) responsibility and commitment. While different schools may employ different rating systems, UK for instance has each interviewer rank the candidate on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being totally unacceptable and 10 being an outstanding, clearly superior applicant. Once an interview is scheduled, students may take advantage of a mock interview conducted by the staff of the South Central AHEC on Western's campus. The AHEC office can be reached by calling 745-3325.
Extracurricular activities are important in that they are indications that you can juggle a rigorous curriculum and still participate in outside activities be they work, athletics, volunteer experience, or research experience. The AMCAS application allows you to list up to 15 such activities. The level of your participation is more important than the number and diversity of your activities. It is better to be immersed in a few activities, and achieve increased levels of responsibility and leadership than to gain a shallow experience in dozens of arenas. It is important to realize that time spent outside of your academic pursuits is not a substitution for a modest academic record. It may instead be an indication of poor judgement, poor time management or skewed priorities. If your time spent in extracurricular activities is negatively impacting your coursework, you would be best advised to scale it back a bit.
Health Related Experience- It is crucial that you gain some experience in a health related activity. Whether you volunteer in a hospital, clinic, physician's office, hospice or nursing home, this activity will serve three important purposes. First, it will help you clarify your decision to pursue a career in medicine. You may find out that being around sick and dying people makes you uncomfortable, that it is too stressful, or that you faint at the sight of blood or would never be able to perform routine procedures. Better to find this out now than after you get to Medical School. Second, admissions committees view this as a sign of your dedication and motivation to a career in medicine and service to your community. It will show that you have tested your career choice and have reinforced your commitment. Third, it will give you experiences to draw on for your personal statements and interviews. If applying to DO schools, shadowing experience with a D.O. may be required and if not required is at the least strongly recommended. To find a DO near you: Click Here to Find a D.O. While arranging volunteer/shadowing experiences is completely the responsibility of the student, information on willing physicians/agencies/hospital contacts can be obtained from the South Central AHEC on Western's campus (745-3325).
Research Experience- While performing biological research has its own intrinsic rewards (a deeper understanding of concepts, personal satisfaction, development of problem solving skills, exploration of the unknown, etc.), it also is an important extracurricular activity to admissions committees, particularly those schools where academic medicine and biomedical research are stressed.