AAMC has published its summary report of the Post-MCAT Questionnaire (PMQ), a survey that collects information from MCAT test-takers in order to help med schools and medical educators better understand their prospective students. Here are some highlights from the PMQ, from questionnaires filled out in 2013-2014.
• There were 40,820 PMQ respondents in 2013 and 37,677 respondents in 2014.
• In both years, the most commonly reported native/functionally native/advanced proficiency language other than English was Spanish (29.7% in 2013 and 30.3% in 2014). This is followed by Chinese (11.7% both years), French (10.9% in 2013 and 10.3% in 2014), Hindi (6.5% in 2013 and 7.1% in 2014), and then Arabic (5.7% in 2013 and 5.9% in 2014).
• Just under one-third of respondents (30.2% in 2013 and 31.3% in 2014) reported that they had decided to study medicine during high school or before college.
• More than one-half of respondents (54.7% in 2013 and 56.5% in 2014) were taking college courses at the time that they took the MCAT.
• Most respondents (93.0% in 2013 and 93.3% in 2014) were full-time students while undergraduates.
• More than two-thirds of respondents (71.5% in 2013 and 70.3% in 2014) said they had used an MCAT prep book (hard copy) to prep for the MCAT. In both years, 42.1% of respondents who had used an MCAT prep book said that it was “Very useful.”
• Nearly half of respondents (46.3% in 2013 and 47.4% in 2014) indicated that no one helped them prepare for the MCAT.
• 85% of respondents in 2014 and 85.1% in 2013 reported that they were “Very likely” to apply to an MD-granting medical school.
• In both years, “Finding a medical school where I will feel comfortable” was most often cited as the thing that would encourage applicants to apply to med school. “Grades, MCAT scores, and other academic qualifications” was the most commonly cited concern that would discourage respondents from applying to med school.
• 56.2% in 2013 and 56.4% in 2014 reported having no college/pre-med debt.
• For those who reported undergraduate loan debt, $25,000 was the median education debt in 2013 and 2014.
See the full PMQ report for more details.
My previous post on defining your fit with Wharton addressed two of the four components of “The Wharton Difference” (Largest Global Network and Culture of Engagement). Here I’ll look at the third component: Innovative Leadership Learning.
On the Wharton website, the short paragraph introducing this component contains the keys to unlocking its real meaning and import. Let’s look at those keys – literally, the key words and phrases. They reveal the adcom’s core interests and values.
• “You’ll find your leadership style…” Leadership isn’t the pivotal word here, but rather find. Of course MBAs are about leadership. But “find” indicates that the adcom wants people who are “in process” – seeking, growing, and changing in response to what they learn.
• “…by participating in unmatched entrepreneurship and leadership activities.” What’s the pivotal word here? Yeah, participating. It means active involvement. The little word by is important too, because it indicates that this participation is the way through which you grow, change (including finding your leadership style).
• “You’ll take risks, try new roles…” Wharton adcom equates risk-taking with action; putting yourself out there; opening up not just intellectually but personally. Wharton’s leadership and entrepreneurship (and other) resources offer avenues for risk-takers to try new roles. And note the word try: you don’t have to follow a straight, smooth path to a goal; the adcom recognizes the growth value in varied experiences, which you internalize and synthesize along the way.
• “…inspire others, and work with peers to shape your experience.” In a word, collaboration. In Wharton’s culture, it’s the magic through which the alchemy of growth happens. The verbs inspire and shape imply deep experience and profound, transforming outcomes. Innovative Leadership Learning clearly is more than “gaining skills” and “building networks”…
Here’s how you can portray the “Innovative Leadership Learning” component to demonstrate fit with Wharton in your application:
• Throughout your essay(s), weave in anecdotes and examples that show you participating, taking risks through collaboration, inspiring others in the process – and growing as a leader as a result. Given the tight word counts, you can even do this within 1-2 sentences, e.g., “When I [did some activity/initiative], it challenged me to [think differently in some way; be specific], which proved valuable when I subsequently [led in a new capacity].
• The Wharton interview process is a natural extension of this component – develop a strategy for portraying these qualities in a way that is natural to you.
• In your resume and application form, mention activities where you took initiative and/or drew others in and/or “stretched” beyond your comfort zone. These won’t be as in-depth as the essays, but they’ll enhance the related points elsewhere in the application.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com.
This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with med school applicants and students. And now for a follow up interview with Ashley Paige White-Stern, who just completed her first year of medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. We first met Ashley two years ago – you can read our first interview with her here.
Accepted: Last time we spoke, you were in the middle of your postbac program. Can you bring us up to speed? Where did you end up applying to med school? Where do you currently attend med school and what year are you?
Ashley: Happy to! I ended up finishing my postbac program and applying to medical school through its linkage program. This effectively eliminated the “glide” or “gap” year – and the months-long application cycle that I would have otherwise had after finishing the program. In my second year of the postbac, I visited a number of medical schools and one really stood out to me: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. I felt like I would be a great fit in the community there, and really fell in love with the student body. This is why I applied to Columbia through linkage. I was lucky that it ended up working out for me, and I’m now preparing to start my second year in medical school here! Time really flies.
Accepted: Do you think Columbia is the best med school for you? How do you think you’re a good fit for the program?
Ashley: So, I alluded to this question in the previous answer, but yes, I do. I remember coming up to the medical campus from the undergrad campus for a tour: I just instinctively felt like I “fit” here. There is a vibrancy to the student body.
In medical schools all over the U.S., students are incredibly smart and really motivated. What I loved about Columbia is that everyone is smart and motivated and also really involved in extracurricular activities. In my class, students are musicians, actors, athletes and teachers. One classmate of mine competes in heavy lifting outside of school. Other peers used to perform on Broadway or act on television. It’s really an incredibly diverse range of talent.
I have my own strengths that I can lend to the group – here at Columbia, for example, I have begun to find my voice in public health and in fighting structural racism through and in medicine. I’m also really passionate about medical education and interested in how we train medical educators.
The nice thing about Columbia is that as different as we all are, all of our passions and talents are welcome, and brought to bear on our training. It’s incredibly enriching.
Accepted: Now that you’ve completed your first year, you must have some good advice for our readers – is there anything you wish you would’ve known before starting med school? Were there any surprises during your first year?
Ashley: My biggest two pieces of advice may seem in tension with each other, but I think they’re both important.
First, I think it’s important for medical students to be brave. Not to be cocky or arrogant, but be brave and stretch yourself in medical school. Don’t be afraid to take a risk – sign up for a class that you wouldn’t otherwise take, volunteer in a clinic as a medical student. Remove the pressure of trying to be perfect (which can be hard to let go of after a competitive premed experience) and just try to learn.
The second piece of advice I have is to be kind to yourself – medicine is such a long road. As a premed it can be easy to believe that the finish line is entrance to medical school, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Starting medical school is the first step to residency, to fellowship, to a long and demanding career. Setting up good habits of self care – knowing when to take a break, when to give yourself a rest from studying, making time for friends and family, keeping up with interests outside of medicine, and getting enough sleep – is imperative to staying effective as a clinician and not burning out.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about med school? Least favorite thing?
Ashley: I love all the challenges and the wide range of skills we start to acquire – interpersonal skills, skills in physical diagnosis, scientific inquiry, learning how to be part of a care team, recognizing patterns of disease and health, thinking about improving health care delivery.
I will say that even the parts of medical school that can be more mundane – like long lectures and PowerPoint slide decks – have redeeming qualities. For example, even though our lectures are recorded so that students can watch them at home rather than going to class, I actually prefer to go to class for many reasons: I get to see my friends and learn in a more socially engaged way; I get to meet truly brilliant clinicians and scientists; and I get a chance to engage with questions after the lecture. So there’s usually always a way to reframe the less amazing parts of med school!
Accepted: Are you involved in any clubs or associations on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?
Ashley: Extracurricular life is HUGE here at P&S – I actually can’t think of anyone in my class who “just” goes to school. Even though the material is challenging, our exams are pass/fail, which really liberates us to pursue a range of activities outside of the library.
I am the President of the Black and Latino Student Organization (BALSO), a club that unites our Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter and our Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA), founded in the 1970s by former P&S student Dr. Mary Bassett, who is currently the Commissioner of the NYC Health Department. We’ve been very involved in the work of national group White Coats for Black Lives, one initiative that medicals students have undertaken to support Black Lives Matter.
I am a Curricular Representative for my class, working with two other medical students on increasing communication and transparency between faculty and students, and taking part in the ongoing conversations about curricular reform. I am also a co-leader of the Emergency Medicine Interest Group, which connects students with shadowing opportunities in the Emergency Department and also provides workshops on suturing, splinting, and venipuncture.
One highlight about P&S is that there is incredible student-to-student academic support, and second-year students lead review sessions and make study sheets for first-year students through a program called the Student Success Network (SSN). This fall, I will be working as an SSN teacher, helping give review lectures on first-year biochem classes – I’m really looking forward to that!
Accepted: Looking back at the medical schools admissions process, what would you say your greatest challenge was? What steps did you take to overcome that challenge?
Ashley: I think the biggest challenge for me was really forcing myself not to compare myself to others. I knew that I was smart – so are the other applicants. I knew that I wanted to go into medicine – so do the other applicants. I felt I would make a great doctor – so will the other applicants.
At a certain point, I really had to put others out of my mind and just focus on myself and what I could control. What I could control was my preparation, my studying, my attitude, and my outlook. It’s really human to want to size yourself up to others, but medicine is so full of brilliant, talented people that it can also be really depressing to do that. Once I decided to accept myself – to work on my flaws but not fear them – I felt a lot more comfortable in the application process. I think it helped me be more confident when interview day came, because I was genuinely excited to be in the interview suite and felt really curious to meet the other wonderful applicants in the room.
Accepted: Can you share your top 3 med school admissions tips with our readers?
1. Habits are behaviors that are practiced over time. Don’t expect that new habits will spontaneously form in medical school or residency: lay the groundwork for your future success. Practice self care (whatever that means to you), eat well, stay involved in a passion of yours that is outside of medicine (playing an instrument, athletics, painting, tutoring others, volunteering in a park or soup kitchen, etc.). Yes, you can list it as an extracurricular on your application, but more importantly it will continue to shape your development as a person contribute to your ability to care for others.
2. Don’t go it alone. No one becomes successful in medicine in a vacuum. Gather your support system early and check in with them often. Have a range of different supporters – you parents or caregivers or that one friend who you can tell everything to, a more objective person with a perspective like an academic adviser or premed counselor who can read your personal statement and give you editing tips, another premed friend who you can commiserate about studying for the MCAT with, and also try to keep some friends outside of the premed world – someone who wants to go into business, or who plans to get an MFA and teach art – these people can enrich your life by telling you their passions and will help you keep things in perspective.
3. Be curious about medicine itself – it’s a profession that has complex roots and continues to evolve in complex ways. Ask questions and learn its history. Read up on the Flexner Report and how that shaped medical education. Find out how health care delivery has changed since health insurance. Be curious about health inequities and how they are shaped by other structural inequities in this country. Understand the gravity of medical research and experimentation, and be sensitive to the fact that the culture of medicine was not always as deferential to informed consent as it is today. There isn’t always time to learn the history of medicine in medical school, but if you can dig in before you get there, you will be a resource to your peers and you will be able to frame our contemporary dialogues about medical care in a much more sophisticated light.
To read more about Ashley’s journey, you can follow her on Twitter @A_P_W_S. Thank you Ashley for continuing to share your story with us and we wish you lots of luck!
For one-on-one guidance on your med school applications, please see our catalog of med school admissions services. Do you want to be featured in Accepted.com’s blog, Accepted Admissions Blog? If you want to share your med school journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cooper Medical School of Rowan University received a five-year $1.75 million federal grant to be used to address the primary care doctor shortage in the U.S.
The school plans on putting the money towards its primary care training enhancement project, an initiative to transform primary care education for all medical professionals, including medical students, residents, nursing students, nurse practitioner students, and PA students.
According to Dr. Annette Reboli, vice dean at Cooper, the focus of the program is to help build a “larger and better equipped” primary care workforce with a goal of developing an accelerated primary care track for those students who wish to pursue careers in pediatrics or internal medicine. The program will also encourage greater diversity among primary care practitioners.
“We hope to build a prototype training environment that can serve as a model [for other medical schools],” says Reboli.
This might be a great opening line for a comedy night at a university student center, but can you use humor in a graduate school application essay? Should you even try?
The answer is . . . maybe. If you can use humor effectively, it will help you stand out from your competitors in an unexpected way. (“Oh, is she the one who joked about her first time playing jazz in a live audience?”, an adcom member might ask while reviewing the season’s applicants.) Humor can make us appear more human and relatable, especially with the most popular form of humor: the gently self-deprecating remark. For example, “My single New Year’s resolution this year is to buy a new bathroom scale, and, perhaps, one day, use it.” Or, “I discovered that I had a textbook case of ‘Congenital Fraidy Cat Syndrome.’ I knew it: my expanding medical knowledge was slowly killing me.”
This kind of humor reveals a writer’s vulnerabilities, making her sympathetic. However, as a grad school applicant, your goal is to show yourself as a focused, qualified, intelligent, and capable individual. If you lack the confidence to show that vulnerability, or the confidence to try to get a laugh, do not try. It is far more important to speak with your authentic voice. But if you have a track record of getting laughs among friends, don’t be afraid to use humor — judiciously — in a personal essay.
Here are a few examples of how – and how not – to use humor:
Good: “In all my travels, I had never before sipped anything called Toadstool Brew. After I was finished, I hoped never to have to sip it again.” This works because it is gently self-deprecating; you are poking fun at your own lack of appreciation for an exotic tea.
Not good: “In all my travels, I had never seen a more bizarre-looking individual. My first thought was, ‘This guy could get a gig on a reality TV show in the States.’” This doesn’t work because poking fun at someone else looks petty.
Never force humor into your writing. Use it when it feels natural, and perhaps try it out on another reader first. Adcom members will surely appreciate a laughter break while reading through all those serious essays!
By Judy Gruen, MBA admissions consultant since 1996 and author (with Linda Abraham) of MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.