How to apply to medical school: join us today for a conversation with Accepted’s own Cydney Foote!
Cyd has a background in healthcare education administration at the University of Washington Medical and Dental Schools, where she served on several fellowship admissions committees, as well as years of experience in writing and marketing for various businesses. And it’s that combination of persuasive writing and medical school admissions experience that she has drawn on since she joined Accepted in 2001 and became a medical school admissions consultant extraordinaire. We’re also going to draw on those parallel strengths today in this show.
Cyd, welcome to Admissions Straight Talk!
Considerations for the average med school applicant when it comes to deciding where to apply? [1:55]
It generally comes down to time and money. Be smart and look reasonably at your chances. Most people generally apply to between 15 and 30 schools. There’s a tradeoff when you apply to more schools – it costs more, and you might not have enough time to put together strong secondaries.
Do your research to see where you’re a competitive applicant. Look at the numbers: don’t go below the “lows” on MSAR, but if you’re in the average range it’s worth applying. Also note that state schools often have a higher acceptance rate for in-state students. And that there’s a tradeoff when it comes to numbers, too: some of the schools with low average stats also have low admissions rates, because a lot of people apply to them.
You should also do your research: look at each program’s strengths and focus. Do you want somewhere research oriented? Patient oriented? Arts focused? Research up front will help you when you’re answering secondaries and preparing for interviews, too.
I definitely advise organizing and keeping your research. (A spreadsheet can be helpful.) [5:25]
It can also be helpful to talk to mentors, doctors you’ve shadowed or done research with, etc.
How can applicants determine which experiences to write about in the personal statement, and which in the activities/meaningful experiences? [6:30]
Before you start to write, think about what you want to talk about in the application overall. (Think through some of the stories you would like to tell, and do some prewriting – basically, work on generating your inventory of stories.) When you’re working on your meaningful experiences and secondaries, think about things you didn’t have the space to talk about in your personal statement.
You can imagine the application process as a ladder where each section leads to the next. Be consistent—all of the pieces come together to present a picture of you as a qualified applicant. (Another metaphor: a jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces come together, but they don’t overlap.)
Reinforce rather than repeat – be balanced. Make the parts of your application (including the pieces of the primary app, the secondaries, the interviews) work together as a cohesive whole.
Each step in the process is a rung in the ladder: the primary app, the secondaries, the interviews.
Do you recommend that people save stories? [10:25]
Yes. I recommend that people write more than they need to for the primary personal statement, and when I review personal statements, I’ll often suggest that they save a certain story for the secondaries.
Advice for the personal statement [11:20]
Step 1: do some prewriting
Step 2: Know that you can’t include it all.
Show a link to how your experiences brought you to medicine. If those experiences help you establish a structure to talk about your research and clinical experiences, then you’ve got a strong essay.
The ability to show communications and team work shows critical skills for med school. [13:30]
Med schools don’t want people who are single-mindedly dedicated to medicine through their entire life. They want people with other activities, people who relate well to other people. People who are well-rounded.
Advice on writing succinctly and staying within the short length limit? [15:00]
With the 700 character limit, many people stick to CV descriptions, and it’s not enough. You have to show why it was important for your development.
Writing more than is needed to begin with is key here – it lets you make your writing more active and helps you find the core value of each activity.
How do secondaries differ from primary apps? [17:10]
Secondaries are more about fit. They help the school determine how the applicants will fit with their program.
Know whom you’re writing for. Your research is really important here!
How to handle the time between submitting the primary and getting secondary applications? [18:40]
I had a client last year who started writing secondaries early, based on prompts he found on SDN, so he was able to submit right away when he got his invitations. Some prompts rarely change, some change a little bit – so there are some essays you can start to work on ahead of time. For example, you could start by working on commonly asked questions, like the diversity question or the “greatest challenge” question. (FYI: Accepted has tips for many secondary essay prompts from the previous application cycle organized by school. We will update over the summer.)
Once you get secondaries, you need to turn them around within two weeks.
Secondary timeframe [20:45]
Prewriting is important – draw on the inventory of stories from your prewriting work so you can access them quickly and not start from scratch.
I had another client who worked on a secondary for 6 weeks last year – and it’s just too long. Two weeks is the max guideline – don’t procrastinate.
What are some common mistakes people make? [22:30]
Some people have the problem of telling interesting stories with no link to medicine. They may also ramble too much (you need to make it to the point).
Another problem is trying to cram too much in. If you do this you lose the impact of the essay.
Avoid mistakes: make sure you get your story clear, concise, and structured, and make the connections clear.
If somebody uses a non-medical story, do they need to make the relationship to medicine explicit? [25:00]
They need to show why it’s important.
Say someone’s a dancer and choreographer for their school’s bhangra group. This experience can show leadership, teamwork, motivation, etc. But it’s important to show what you learned from it, not just tell a story about it. If you don’t make the link, the admissions committee won’t make it for you: they’re too busy, and it’s not their job.
Advice for reapplicants [27:35]
The first step is to assess what went wrong and figure out how to address it. If you can, get feedback from the schools.
When you sit down to write, definitely don’t reuse your personal statement. Focus on new work to show how you’ve gotten stronger.
Apply when you’re strongest: if that means taking time and doing a postbac program or doing research, then take that time.
Another mistake to avoid [30:00]
When people are writing secondaries, sometimes they miss the prompt. They may have a story they want to tell or an essay they want to recycle, but it doesn’t fit the question. Make sure you answer the question.
• Cydney Foote’s bio
• Write Your Way to Medical School: How to Create a Winning Application, an ebook
• An Interview with Our Own: Cydney Foote
• 7 Med School Acceptances: The Early Bird’s Story
• Medical School Reapplicant Advice: 6 Tips for Success, a free downloadable guide.
• Create a Winning AMCAS Application, an upcoming webinar. Register!
• Med School Conversation with Cyd Foote
• 3 Ways Temple Can Help You Become an MD
• MedHounD Hunts The Right Med School for You
• Sophie Davis School Of Biomedical Education
• The Do’s And Don’ts Of Med School Interviews
• Baylor College Of Medicine: A Holistic Approach To Admissions
• Attn Med Applicants: A Class Is Matriculated Every Single Year