Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Medical Schools Are Looking For

If you look up “What Medical Schools Are Looking For” on Google you will get 8,330,000 entries. You’d think that among some eight million entries you can find the much coveted answer. I found that most answers are too vague and unhelpful. “Be yourself” is not something that could help me build an impressive AMCAS profile!

I decided to look for answers from people who were on admissions committees at the schools I was interested in. Below I will share some information I found useful.

New England Journal of Medicine published two very interesting and helpful perspective articles on what schools were looking for in their applicants.

One was written by Dr. Jules Dienstag titled "Relevance and Rigor in Premedical Education". I cannot offer the entire article on the blog for copyright reasons, but you can get it here. Dr. Dienstag is the dean of medical education at Harvard Medical School and sits on their admissions committee. You can trust his opinion. If you find his article online look for supplementary information link – it’s a fifteen page word document which delineates Harvard admissions guidelines. A gold mine!!!

The second helpful article published in the New England Journal of Medicine is titled “From All Walks of Life – Nontraditional Medical Students and the Future of Medicine”. I highly recommend reading this article even if you are not a non-traditional applicant (I wasn’t). It’s written by Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, an MD/PhD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. You should primarily focus on what he thinks non-traditional applicants bring to the table. Realize that you don’t need to be a non-traditional applicant to be mature, informed, curious, etc. When you write your secondaries – this is the language to use! Finally, there was one book I read that was helpful in writing secondaries. It’s titled “How Doctors Think” by Dr. Gerome Groopman from Harvard Medical School.


  1. I'm definitely devouring your blog! Thanks for all the good tips here!

  2. I have a different approach that I chose to do when selecting schools. I know you posted this quite some while ago, but this may serve to help others. In selecting out-of-state schools, it helps to evaluate using Excel. You may use either the self-reported numbers from the current MSAR published by AMCAS or you may choose to find the numbers on each school's website (if you have a great deal of time to research). Use the number of Out-of-state applicants divided by the total applicants as the theoretical value, and the # of out-of-state matriculated divided by total matriculated as the observed. Then you can calculate the percent change (O-E/O)and have some definitive assessment of your competitiveness at these out-of-state schools. You are left with mainly negative numbers. However, if you look for those % between 0% and -10% then you can select schools where their average criteria are nearly synonymous with what you will be competing against. Of course, if you exceed the averages of an out-of-state school that accepts student from OOS then you can then see if your lack of in-state-residence will severely hurt you.

  3. I posted on the wrong post, please apply this to your post about selecting schools from out of state. Thanks.

  4. Thanks for being yourself. I'm glad to have found your blog. Keep it up :D


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  7. Hello. Could you clarify the title of the fifteen page word document which delineates Harvard admissions guidelines? thanks!

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