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Medical School, for NonTraditional Students
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nontraditional med
school applicant timeline
Courses
The MCAT
Bloom's Taxonomy of
Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain is the
basis for standardized testing. It is out of print but available in
libraries. If you're going to take the MCAT, you should read these: Appendix
I to Bloom's Taxonomy and my
notes on Bloom's Taxonomy sites (Excel). Have you ever wondered
where
they get those reading sections for the MCAT? Read the articles in Arts & Letters Daily and tune
your car radio to NPR.
AMCAS
This is the first application, the nationwide application
where you'll deposit insane amounts of personal information for all the
medical schools to use. Hey, at least you only have to do it once.
Apply early. Like May. Even if you're not taking the MCAT until August.
I don't care if you'd rather wait to see how you did, get the damn
application in. NOW.
If you're applying to Texas schools, you also have
to fill out the TMDSAS
application.
What are the odds of getting into medical school? Odds and
chances are slightly different but for the purpose of medical school
applicants, "What are my chances of getting into medical school?"
is essentially the same question. Well,
let's say you're a Virginia resident and you get two interviews:
University of North Dakota and Eastern Virginia Medical School.
According to US
News and World Reports Ultimate
Guide to Medical Schools
UND accepted about 30% of outofstate students invited for an
interview in 2003, while EVMS accepted about 50% of instate residents.
Without knowing anything else you're best guess is that the odds
you'll get into medical school are exactly complementary to the odds of
being rejected by both schools. In the figure, the odds of total rejection is represented by the white area. (1 − (1 −
0.3)(1 − 0.5)) × 100% = 65% chance of acceptance. 65% of the figure
is some color of gray; the remaining 35% represents the probability
of total rejection.
Let's say you get a third interview, this one at
UVA, which accepts 70% of instate interviewees. (1 − (1 − 0.3)(1 − 0.5)(1 −0.7)) × 100 = 89.5%:
you now have an A− chance of acceptance. Spatially this could be
represented by a cube, but what shape would you use for a fourth interview?
The illustration only works to a point, but the math works no matter how
many schools you consider.
A bit more formally, for any school there is an acceptance
quotient: Q = (acceptances sent out) ÷ (number of applications received).
For any given student applying to some schools 1 thru n, the student's goal is
getting at least one acceptance, and applying to more schools,
mathematically, can't possibly hurt in the closed case (neglecting
social engineering, time spent on applications, etc), so the chance of
acceptance, C_{a}, approaches 1 with every new application in
the following fashion:
Ca = (1 − (1 − Q_{1})(1 − Q_{2})(1 − Q_{3})...(1 − Q_{n})) × 100 ...
[if you want to calculate your odds, use this equation]
Let's do another example. How many schools do you have to apply to
to garuntee you get in? 20? Well, there's about a 6% chance of getting
into any private or outofstate school; that means there's a 94%
chance of rejection.
(1 − 0.94^{20}) × 100%=71% ... [The power notation is just a little shorthand useful for this sorts of estimates]
Wow, that's a lot of secondaries at $30 per application plus
an average submission
fee of about $70. You're talking $2000 for a low C chance of
acceptance. Figure the average state school accepts about 30% of
instate applicants, and the average state has three state schools.
That's about
a 66% chance of acceptance. So, if you apply to twenty private and
outofstate schools and all your instate schools, you've got a 90%
chance of getting into medical school. You also just spent
$2300. Of course, since admissions are rolling you improve your odds if
you submit early. My guess is you probably pass through average and
start hurting your odds if you haven't submited all you're secondaries
by 1 October. That's the major stuff. If you haven't done the math and
the schedule, don't worry
about the next paragraph.
There are any number of minor factors that you
may want
to keep in mind. Apply to a couple top notch schools because the
schools know what other schools you applied to and they may take that
as a measure of your selfesteem (a doctor at Georgetown told me this).
Write letters to your favorite or mostlikelytogetinto schools. This
takes time, so make 'em count. Write the letters weekly. This worked
for me and has since worked for my wife in the job search world.
Filter what you hear from other medical school applicants. Y'all are
cutthroat (more so than actual medical students) and are generally on
the outside looking in. Know your enemy: find your current school's
admissions committee and see if they'll let you sit in on a review
session. Read up on admissions from the admissions perspective. Try to
find a book or two on being an interviewer (having interviewed people
for jobs, I can assure you it can be stressful).
Apply to a spread of schools. Here's where I would have applied in 2006 as a Texas resident ($120 to input data in AMCAS, plus $30 per school, $35 per
Texas school, unkown for New England Osteopathic):
Secondaries are rather individual. They generally
require one additional essay or five to ten short paragraph responses to
schoolspecific questions.
[Edit 20 August 2006] What you've just read are solutions to
the simplest problems of frequency
probability.
You will need to understand this stuff as a doctor, because you're
patients will ask "Doc, what are my odds?" Except instead of buying
your way into populations by paying for more applications, you will
have to filter studies for your patient's demographics to find as many
studies as possible in the literature that include people like him.
Then you'll do the same math to figure out their specific odds of
various outcomes as best you can. Your professors may call this Bayesian
probability, but it's really frequency
probability because we're dealing in real measurements of defined
populations. Bayesian work is mainly theoritical.
If you think it's hard to get into medical school,
you're right. The acceptance rate for business school is about twice
the rate for medical school. Harvard Business School, like Dartmouth
and Wharton, admitted 13% of it's applicants last year. Most private
medical schools admitted 6% of their applicants. State schools admit an
even smaller percentage of outofstate applicants. Here's
more on the not so competitive Bschool route. More to follow
(including law school comparisons).
Interviews
The StudentDoctor Network
and Old
PreMeds are invaluable. Sources of information for
interesting topics for
discussion:
Johns Hopkins
Department of Art as Applied to
Medicine
The
PhysicianPatient Relationship
The Collection of
Military Medicine Textbooks
Paul Starr. The
Social
Transfomation of American Medicine.
Basic Books, 1984. (A must read for the health insurance debate).
Dan Trembula's Some
Advice to Future Military Doctors
I Got Into Medical School, Now What?
Well, you can read my ongoing thoughts about how to learn in
medical school in my blog's archives
of medical education.
