How on Earth Do I Decide Where to Apply?
With only three months until AMCAS applications can be submitted, it’s fairly safe to say I’m freaking out. In fact, I just stopped writing this post to email my research professor and make sure she had everything necessary for my letter of rec. Within the last twenty four hours, I suddenly came to the realization that I do not know where I’m going to apply and that is not okay. Sure, I’m aware that I will be applying to local schools, but where else? Where will I be a competitive applicant? In what cities would I enjoy attending med school? Will I feel comfortable with my peers? How much gold do I need to withdrawal from my Gringotts volt? Are you upset that I just made a Harry Potter reference? I’ve had to think about the answers to all of these questions, although I admit I’m not too concerned with you being upset about the HP reference.
To start tackling this multitude of questions, the best place to start, in my opinion at least, is MSAR (that’s Medical School Admission Requirements, if you were unaware). If you are applying this year, or ever for that matter, Google it, subscribe, and utilize immediately. If you’ve never looked at MSAR before, your first though is probably going to be something like, “I never knew there were more med schools than McDonald’s in America.” Alright, that’s clearly a hypothesis but that was my initial thought.
In case you forgot, or you haven’t read my earlier blog posts, my verbal reasoning score is the game-changer for my application, and not in a good way. Even though I’ve scheduled to retake my MCAT, I am currently basing my school selection on my current score. That being said, I started filtering out schools where my verbal score would severely hurt my app, leaving in a couple reach schools that I just think are really cool. MSAR has nifty tools that allows you to sort schools by tuition, GPA, or MCAT score, which you better believe I used. MSAR will display the range of matriculants’ scores for each subsection of the MCAT from the 10th to 90th percentile. Since my other two subscores are competitive, I looked at the bottom 10th percentile for verbal scores to see where I could get accepted, considering the rest of my app is pretty competitive. This can be done for any area of weakness. If your GPA is on the low side but you rocked the MCAT, screen for schools where you can play on your strengths.
Once you have an idea of where you might be competitive, consider the location of these schools. Do you want to go to school in a major city or would you prefer a more relaxed setting? Personally, I’m digging Washington D.C. and Chicago right now. Also consider how expensive it will be to live near the med school. I may be digging Chicago, but I really don’t want to pay for food there. Don’t forget that tuition also exists. Some schools have outrageous out-of-state tuition, which is definitely something to keep in mind. BUT, and this is a big but, you should not let tuition prices hinder you from attending the school that is best for you. There are ways to pay for med school. As soon as I get one acceptance letter, I’m applying for the National Health Service Corps. Sure, you have to work for the government for four years, but THEY PAY FOR YOUR SCHOOLING and I personally would pursue work in the under-served areas anyway.
Last but not least, you need to make sure you’re applying to schools where you will thrive. I’m more concerned with having supportive peers than attending a prestigious school – but some people need competition to motivate them. I really don’t think you should base your list of schools solely on ranking. Just because you’re capable of getting accepted, doesn’t mean attending will help you grow or prepare you for the type of work you want to do. Dig deep, and make sure you really want to go where you THINK you want to go. I’m still working on that, so excuse me for now future docs!