An inside look at the NYMC MD program and how to get accepted [Show Summary]
New York Medical College’s MD program offers students robust clinical experiences and ongoing academic and career mentoring. Dr. Karen Murray, Associate Dean of Admissions, gives an inside scoop on how students can get accepted to this competitive program.
Interview with Dr. Karen Murray, Associate Dean of Admissions for the SOM at NYMC [Show Notes]
Welcome to the 474th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for tuning in. Calculating your GPA for med school can be difficult, especially if you are applying via AMCAS, AACOMAS and/or TMDSAS. However, Accepted has a free tool that can really help you. Using our brand new and free GPA calculator, just enter your classes and credits to calculate your GPA. If you are a couple of years away from applying, you can download the GPA calculator spreadsheet and assess the impact of your grades as you earn them. Or you can calculate the impact of different anticipated grades and see what your GPA will be if you ace that course, or if you take a hit. Just download the spreadsheet template at accepted.com/medgpa, and you can use and update it as needed. Plus it’s free.
Our guest today is Dr. Karen Murray, Associate Dean of Admissions for the School of Medicine at New York Medical College. Dr. Murray graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor’s in Biology and Biological Sciences. She immediately started medical school at NYMC and graduated in 1991. She then did her residency in OB/GYN also at NYMC and has been an attending physician and Associate Professor at NYMC since 2003. She became the Associate Dean for Admissions for the School of Medicine at NYMC in 2018.
Can you give us an overview of NYMC’s approach to medical education focusing on its more distinctive elements? [2:23]
New York Medical College has recently undergone a revamping of its curriculum. This was geared toward the changes that are happening with the USMLE. Unlike the traditional medical school where you had two years of full, straight lecture courses followed by two years of clinical, we are actually starting our clinicals early.
They start out during the first year with the fundamentals, which go from August to March. Then, starting in March of your first year, you start your systems. Your systems-based learning goes from April of your first year and continues through to February of your second year. Usually somewhere between the end of February and March, you take the Step 1, and immediately after that, you start your clinicals. Your clinicals start in April of your second year and run through into your fourth year and graduation. We’ve put a little bit more clinical in there and start the clinical a little earlier.
A lot of students go to medical school because they really want to put that white coat on and get out and start seeing patients. You do see some of that in your first year during your fundamentals. You may have a preceptor you meet with once a week. Then your core clinical rotations start at the end of your second year like prior to getting into the third year.
So students have a little bit more than two years of clinical rotations? [3:54]
Is there anything that you would like listeners to know about New York Medical College or perhaps a myth that you would like to dispel? [4:10]
New York Medical College follows a holistic review of the application and the applicant. This is something that comes from AMCAS where we use the E-A-M model which stands for Experience-Attributes-Metrics and each is weighted equally. Your experience comes from whatever kind of medical research clinical experience you may have that you put in your application. Your metrics are pretty obvious. That would be your MCAT or your GPA. Your attributes come from your personal statement, the MMI interview, and any letters of recommendation that you have. Keep in mind that it’s holistic so each part is equal, but sometimes I think students feel that, “If I have a 520 on my MCATs, I’m going to definitely get in.” Or if they didn’t get in and they have a 520, then they’re like, “Oh, why didn’t I get in?”
We would have to remind students that the interview process is a part of it and the experiences are a part of it as well. You may have good letters of recommendation, you may interview well, you may have good metrics, but you’ve done absolutely nothing in the medical field. It has to be a full well-rounded individual. That’s who we are looking for.
I think one of the biggest myths out there in premed students is that you have to be a science major. You really don’t have to be a science major to be a doctor. I always encourage folks to just do something that they love doing to expand and find out all the different sides of them. The only thing that’s required is your prerequisites, which are biology, physics, chemistry, English, organic chemistry, and biochemistry if your school requires it. Those are your prerequisites. Other than that, nothing else is required. I think a lot of students go into college being a biology major or a chemistry major thinking that they need to do that to get into medical school. And sometimes what happens is when you take this major, along with this major comes other upper-level classes that are more challenging and more difficult, and they are not really required by medical schools.
You may not really love them and you have to work really hard because the one thing you want to do when you’re applying to medical school is make sure your MCAT score is good. Make sure your GPA is good. You really want to make sure that you spend time doing the things you really like doing and not wasting time doing stuff just to fulfill your undergraduate major.
Can you explain the House Advisory Dean Program? [6:47]
If you think back to Harry Potter, it’s something similar to that, the houses. It’s been around eight to ten years since we’ve come up with this system. What happens is each student is put in a house when they come into school. Each house Dean has about 80 students or so per class. So you have 80 first years, second years, third years, and fourth years. Within each house, you can do peer tutoring. Every once in a while they have sports competitions between the houses. It’s really just to form congeniality between the students of the different classes.
This isn’t a residential program. It’s a social grouping. There’s an Advisory Dean who heads up that house and also acts as a mentor for everyone in the house. They will meet with each student depending on the year at least once a year so that they can counsel them and give them feedback. As you get closer to your third and fourth year where you’re looking for specialties, a lot of these Advisory Deans can weigh in because they are also specialists. They can give you specialty advice, or they can direct you to someone who can give you specialty advice. We also have a few other doctors who are not a part of the House Advisory Dean Program but who are advisors. We really try to make sure these students get a full array of advice as they go through medical school.
Is the secondary application automatic? [8:49]
Yes, the secondary is automatic. Once you submit your primary application, you basically tell AMCAS where you want to apply and then it goes to the schools that you want to apply to and you get that automatic request for the secondary.
The secondary question is a COVID question and only requires one 300-character response. Why this specific question? [9:06]
I will tell you the history behind that one question. It actually came from AMCAS, believe it or not. It was something that was generated during the pandemic. During the pandemic, many students had their rotations, studies, and MCATs interrupted. There were so many interruptions that happened, and AMCAS thought it was a good idea to have a question like this, which allowed the applicants to give us an explanation if they did have one of these interruptions.
When we read their application, if it seems like their experiences were completely blank or if they only had a few experiences, then we could look to this question to get more information. It was really geared towards helping the applicant have a space to give us an explanation as to what happened.
We also have a social media policy question as a part of the secondary application. Basically, our social media policy question asks if there’s anything that would show up to embarrass you in medical school. We also give the applicant a chance to talk about that so that if something does come up then it’s not a surprise.
Do you have any plans to expand the secondary or are you happy with the simple secondary? [10:50]
Right now since COVID is still around and affecting a lot of things, we think it’s really pertinent to have it that way. I think once we get out of the pandemic, we may think about other things that we could possibly ask the applicant, but for now, I think it’s still relevant.
What are some of the common mistakes you see applicants make either in their primary or secondary application? [11:17]
You know, I have to say I think people sometimes gloss over the personal statement. The personal statement is really the first time the college gets to know a person. The rest of your application is really filling in metrics, experience, and other things. Your letter of recommendation, you really have no control over, but your personal statement is all about you. It gives me a picture of who you are.
Make sure your personal statement does not have grammatical errors in it. You’d be surprised how many personal statements we get that have grammatical errors. Have someone read over your personal statement, not because they’re going to change the content of it, but just to make sure it makes sense and to make sure you have no errors.
The other thing that people do in their personal statement is name people specifically. It’s really a better thing not to name anyone in your personal statement, but to be more generalized. Sometimes they may want to say, “I worked with the Chief of General Surgery or I worked with a director of so-and-so.” It’s really best to just kind of keep it more generic. Tell us what you do and really leave people’s names and details out of your personal statement. That’s what I would say I found mostly.
Do you find that people are more frequently too personal or are they more frequently too generic? [12:57]
I think for the most part most people get it right. Maybe 10% will try to give you more of that prose type of personal statement. I think sometimes the applicants get it wrong in that they think that the personal statement is something that’s supposed to make them look good. The personal statement is really to tell us a little bit about you. It’s not supposed to be your platform to shine. It’s supposed to be something that allows me to get to know “Who’s Linda? What kind of person is Linda? What kind of doctor is Linda going to be?”
A lot of times you get many personal statements where they’ve talked about a lot of things but they haven’t told you why they want to be a doctor. That’s the question.
Does the required CASPer play a role in determining who gets an interview or the final acceptance decision? [14:10]
I think the CASPer helps overall in general. It’s a situational judgment test so it tells me how you would respond to certain situations and gives me an idea of you as a person. It does help with the holistic review about bringing folks in for an interview, but it is also a part of the full application that’s reviewed as well. It’s not considered by itself but the committee looks at it in addition to other things.
What process does an application go through when it’s complete? [15:26]
Once they finish the primary application, they select the school that they want it to go to, and it comes to New York Medical College, and then they get our secondary application. They fill out our secondary application, and they pay their fee. Then the application gets reviewed by the admissions committee and the screening committee. Applicants are chosen through that screening process to be invited for interviews. The applicants are sent an invitation for an interview. And when they are sent the invitation for the interview, they’re given a list of dates.
The applicants actually choose the days they come in for an interview. Whether they come in early, in the middle of the cycle, or later on in cycle – that is their choice. Once they’ve picked their date of interview, we send them all the information they need for the actual interview itself. On the day of the interview, they go through an MMI. Once they’re finished with their MMI, it’s put together with their application and it is forwarded to the admissions committee for review. The admissions committee meets twice a month so usually, the applicants get a decision anywhere from four to six weeks after their interview about whether or not they’re accepted, put on the waitlist, or rejected.
Are you planning to be in-person for interviews in the upcoming cycle? [17:01]
For the upcoming cycle, we’ve made a decision to be virtual. We considered being in-person, hybrid, or virtual. We took a survey of other medical schools in New York, and so far about 10 out of 12 medical schools are doing completely virtual. I think two are thinking about hybrid, but we’ve decided to go virtual because the cycle starts in September. As soon as the first cycle ends, the second cycle starts. There is actually a little bit of overlap. We have to start planning for the next cycle by the beginning of July and this cycle doesn’t end until the end of July. Right now, COVID’s on the uptick again. It’s even more contagious and more prevalent than it was before. It’s not as serious in terms of the illness and it’s not as unknown as it was two years ago, but still, it’s on the uptick so we’ve made the decision to go virtual
Once COVID is under control, do you see yourself going back to in-person interviews? [18:16]
One thing COVID has taught us is that there are a lot of things that we can do without spending so much money. It’s very costly for applicants to fly everywhere and stay in hotels. I think if COVID was not an issue, we’d probably go with a hybrid model where we’d give the applicant the choice of whether they wanted to fly in or they wanted to just do a virtual interview.
We’ve talked about this and we would probably have a couple of virtual days and a couple of in-person days just so we’ve set them up differently. We would send out the invitation for the interview and let you know which is a virtual day and which is an in-person day. That way, the applicant can choose which they want to do. I think that’s probably the wave of the future.
Where does NYMC stand on receiving updates from applicants? [19:49]
We welcome updates as long as students are still active in the cycle. Usually, we get updates mostly at the beginning of the cycle, as people get things accomplished and finished. Once folks are accepted, we don’t get as many updates, but the ones who are on the waitlist will send updates up until the point when the class starts.
Do you encourage or discourage gap years? Or is it an individual decision in your opinion? [20:51]
In my opinion, it’s an individual decision. I think what you need to do is take a look at your application. If your application is one where you could use some more clinical experience, then I would say you would take a gap here to get that clinical experience that you don’t have. You want to present yourself as a well-rounded person to the admissions committee for acceptance. If you look at your application and there’s nothing else to do to improve it, then why not go ahead and apply? That’s why I would say it’s on an individual basis.
How do you look at candidates who have faced mental health issues? [21:36]
When it comes to mental health issues, we actually don’t know anything because that is a voluntary thing that the applicants will tell us. The applicant may choose not to tell us that during the cycle. It’s not required to report to us. It is not used as a part of the application whether for acceptance or rejection.
We actually do have listed on our website some folks in our developmental department who applicants can reach out to directly if they have a mental health issue and they want to talk about it or they want to discuss a particular part of their application. That’s not something that’s communicated to us. That is completely between them. We’ve set that up in a way that they have that option to reach out to someone confidentially to get that information to them, and that they can get whatever resources they need to them.
How would you look at a candidate who has a criminal record or academic infraction on their record? [23:01]
That’s something that’s pretty individualized because it all depends on what it is. Sometimes you have applicants who consistently get an academic infarction or applicants who are caught with the most common, which is alcohol and underage drinking.
It really is taken on an individual basis to see whether they learned from their mistake and what the criminal infarction was. We do a criminal background check on our accepted applicants who are committed to our school.
What recommendations would you have for the re-applicant to NYMC? [24:07]
So as in anything, I think they have to be realistic. When you are not accepted, you need to sit down and look at your application and say, “What was I missing? What could I improve?” Focus your time on doing that. If you had an MCAT score that was on the lower side, you may benefit from retaking your MCAT. Study really hard, retake your MCAT and try to improve that grade.
If you look at your application and don’t see enough hours then maybe take that gap year to do a nice clinical rotation or some kind of research. Something to enhance your experiences. Sometimes you can talk to admissions officers and say, “You know what? Was my application missing? Can you tell me why I didn’t get in? Can you give me some feedback?” I know some schools are willing to do that. It’s hard to do it for everyone who applies, but I know some are willing to do that if you do reach out to them.
Is research something that’s really important to NYMC? [25:18]
Research is not required, but the way we look at it is it’s like you’re applying for a job. How do you apply for a job if you know absolutely nothing about the field, absolutely nothing about medicine itself? We want to see that you’ve had some interest and you’ve gone out and you’ve explored your interest and see that it’s something you really want to do.
You could do some shadowing with some folks. It doesn’t take a lot to do shadowing. You shouldn’t shadow for 5,000 hours though. I don’t think you need 5,000 hours of shadowing to decide whether or not you want to be a doctor but really get out there to see the field and learn about the field. Some folks have gotten jobs working as medical assistants or something like that. You can get some exposure some other way like EMS or EMT.
You have to show us that you’ve really looked into it and not that just showed up cold. You have to show us this is something that you really have a passion for and you really want to do.
How was NYMC’s application volume this year? [26:33]
Pre-COVID, it used to be about 11,000 applicants. The first year of COVID, we had a boom up to 15,000 applicants. For this past cycle, we went back down to 12,000, which is still up from the 11,000, but it’s down from the 15,000 from the year before.
I think a lot of people either found their mission or they thought it was a nice opportunity because they figured MCATs wouldn’t be required. The thing about the MCAT is that most people take it a year or two before they actually apply to medical school. So for the actual pandemic, most people already had their MCATs.
NYMC is associated with Touro, which is under Jewish auspices. Is there any influence or difference that you feel that that makes? [28:00]
I don’t think so. I think the school has kept the same policies and mission statement. None of that has really changed even though they’re under Jewish auspices. We have been working a little bit with Touro trying to see how we could create a linkage program but nothing really beyond that right now.
This is from a podcast listener: “If you were a premed student [and you obviously at one time were] what is the one thing you would be doing to prepare yourself for medical school?” [28:47]
The one thing that I think is the best preparation is to do well as an undergraduate. Do well as an undergraduate. Pay attention to your courses. I think sometimes people look beyond where they are instead of being focused on the moment. I think it’s really good to stay focused on the moment to get through where you are. Then once you’re through that, you can look to the future. I think doing well in your courses prepares you for your MCATs.
The other thing that I would say is to get some good experiences under your belt. Some folks realize they have to do a gap year. Or you have to start really early. You can’t start as a senior in college because you’re just not going to have enough time. My suggestion is if this is something you think you’re interested in, start in high school. Take your summers off and enjoy yourself and relax, but take some time out of the summer to do some investigational stuff and some volunteer work and get some experiences that way, so you can like slowly build up. It shows a couple of years of doing it versus trying to get it all in at the end and it’s just not possible to get it all in at the end.
Where can listeners learn more about New York Medical College School of Medicine? [31:25]
Nymc.edu is our general website. Once you get on the website, you can click on the admissions link to learn more about admissions. You can find our mission statement. You can learn a lot about us there.
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