302-831-3030 CPHPS-FAQ@udel.edu

Applying to Medical School

Introduction

At UD, there are two distinct pathways by which students can gain admission to a professional school. One is open to all majors and requires only a basic knowledge of science and mathematics (see pre-med course work). Students taking this option are evaluated by the Health Professions Evaluation Committee (HPEC), which writes a University of Delaware recommendation to medical institutions of the student’s choice. In addition to required course work, students must participate in volunteer work and shadowing. However, to be seriously considered, students should participate in other activities.

Certain tasks must be accomplished each year. While the freshman and sophomore years are devoted primarily to studies, in the junior year students must complete their HPEC pre-med files, be interviewed by two HPEC committee members in preparation for the University’s evaluation of the student’s record, and take the standardized medical admission exam, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). During the senior year, students apply to medical school, travel to medical schools for interviews and receive decisions on their applications.

The other pathway, the Medical Scholars Program (MSP), is open only to second semester freshmen. The MSP is an early admission program with Sidney Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. The program leads to a B.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Delaware and an M.D. from Thomas Jefferson University.

General Schedule for Premed Students

Freshman and Sophomore Year

During the freshman and sophomore years, students should make an effort to determine if medicine is a good career option. Students should set the following goals:

  • Obtain excellent grades: Medical school admission generally requires high grades (above 3.5 for allopathic schools and 3.3 for osteopathic schools).
  • Get to know your professors: If you do well in a course and want the professor’s recommendation, do not wait, ask for one at the end of the semester.
  • Give careful consideration to your choice of career by volunteering: Getting involved in a healthcare setting during this time is invaluable in letting you know that medicine is the field for you. In addition, start shadowing physicians bot allopathic and osteopathic.
  • Open an official HPEC file: The appropriate forms for opening a pre-med file and forms for obtaining letters of recommendation are available from a health profession advisor in the Center for Health Profession Studies. Pre-med files must be opened no later than the first semester of junior year.

If you have questions, contact Dr. David Barlow, Director of the Center for Health Profession Studies (105E Pearson Hall, 302-831-4535) or Dr. Don Lehman, director of the HPEC.

The state of Delaware is part of the Physician Area Shortage Program (PASP) at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College. The program includes the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania. Priority for the PSAP Program is given to Pennsylvania and Delaware residents and to students from the seven undergraduate institutions in Pennsylvania and Delaware that are part of the PSAP Cooperative Program. This includes the University of Delaware. After filling out your secondary application, you will need to complete a separate form on the Sidney Kimmel Medical College website for the PASP.

This program selects medical students from small or rural towns in the state who plan to become family practice physicians in similar areas, not necessarily their own home towns. It provides special mentoring and rural/small town clinical experiences as part of the normal M.D. training at Thomas Jefferson University. There is a small amount of need-based financial support but it is very limited. Students applying to Thomas Jefferson University who indicate an interest in this program are given special consideration for admission to Thomas Jefferson University. If you are interested in being considered as a PSAP applicant, be sure to read the information on their website and to identify yourself to us when you open your HPEC file or earlier.

Junior Year

This is a very busy and important year! The HPEC will be making their evaluations and recommendations in June of this year. To be evaluated, you must inform the Center for Health Profession Studies that you want to be evaluated that year. This must be done prior to April 15. Hopefully your file will already be completed. If not, do so now. This is also the year you will take the MCAT exam.

Senior Year

Finally you will need to apply to medical schools. This is initiated with an on-line application to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) or the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS), which is usually done before the end of August. Sometime during the fall or winter semester, you will be asked to interview at medical schools. Most students are admitted to medical school between November and April; however, some students are admitted as early as October or as late as August.

What are Secondary Applications?

Once AMCAS has sent out your applications, you can expect to receive secondary applications from the medical schools directly. There is quite a range of possibilities here. A few schools do not bother with a secondary application and use only the AMCAS. These are rare. Other schools will send anyone who applies to them through AMCAS a secondary application. This can be very rudimentary or quite complicated, requiring additional essays and information. It almost always requires another application fee. The average is $60 per school. (You already have paid AMCAS at least $250 and probably more to send your AMCAS application). Some schools include the average MCAT scores and GPAs of the previous year’s class for you to compare to yours. Weigh your chances against the expense of applying. There are some very selective schools which do a pre-screening of the AMCAS applicants and send a secondary application only to those students who have some chance of admission. Consider yourself complimented if you receive one of these applications. Realize, however, it is still extremely difficult to be accepted at one of these schools.

Complete the=e secondary applications very carefully. This will take a great deal of your time and become a considerable nuisance to you. Remember, this is what it is all about. You cannot fulfill your goal of being a physician without getting admitted first! So persevere. And once again, do it as soon as possible. Just because the final due date is, say, Oct. 15 or Dec. 15, mail it in immediately. If you wait until near the due date you are most likely to be rejected or at best be put on the waiting list. Medical school wait lists can be as large as 1,000 students. It is best to have completed this process before the start of the fall semester of your senior year. That means submit all secondary applications no later than the end of August if possible. If not, definitely submit no later than the end of September.

Some schools are starting to require applicants to complete a situational judgement test (SJT), a psychological test that is designed to determine behavior, assessing how people act in certain situations. Applicants are given hypothetical scenarios and asked to identify the most appropriate response or to rank the responses in the order they feel is most effective. A number of SJTs are available; a commonly used one by medical schools is CASPer. Some schools require an SJT of all applicants, while in some cases it is part of the secondary application process.

MD/PhD Applications

M.D./Ph.D. applicants will do all of the above (including the AMCAS). In addition, when you receive your secondary applications they will include an additional application for M.D./Ph.D. students. Sometimes, only one secondary will be needed that replaces the usual M.D. application. Often, however, you will need to complete two separate applications, one designed for review by the M.D. admissions committee and one for review by the Ph.D. admissions committee. Both are complex and require a lot of time to complete. You can expect to be asked for additional recommendation letters for the Ph.D. portion, in addition to those already requested for the M.D.

Applying to Osteopathic Schools

For applicants to Osteopathic Medical Schools, the process is very similar. There is a different initial, centralized application form from the AACOMAS that you will need to complete and submit. Again, do this as early as possible. Also, most osteopathic schools will want a letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician. If you have not obtained one as part of your evaluation file, you will need to get one now.

Where to Apply

There is often considerable misinformation in the minds of most college students about medical school admission. This is understandable. The admissions process you are most familiar with is the one you have just experienced, applying to college. Unfortunately, medical school admission is in many ways the complete opposite of college admission.

This difference stems from the very regional acceptance preferences of medical schools. Unlike college, where most non-state schools are looking for students from other parts of the country to have diversity in their student populations, medical schools show tremendous preference to students from their own state and region of the country. This is true even for many private medical schools. There is a good reason for this:

  1. It is very costly to educate a medical student. Much of the money to do so comes from the state where the school is located.
  2. The school would like to maximize the chances that the students they are educating will remain in that state or region to practice medicine.

Many private medical schools say they show no preference. However, if you look at the in-state vs. out-of-state statistics for accepted students it becomes obvious that very few schools show no preference. Your state medical schools offer you the best chance of admission. Most state schools fill classes with better than 90% state residents. There are a few that have a lower percentage than this (University of Maryland and Penn State are examples) but they still have significant preference for students from their state. An exception to this regional preference are the MD/PhD programs at many schools which often do not have a regional preference for acceptance.

Delaware has no state medical school. What do I do?

Delaware residents are at a disadvantage here. They have no state medical school. However, 20 places are reserved at Sydney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and five at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine for Delaware residents. All Delaware residents should seriously consider applying to Thomas Jefferson University. All Delaware residents are automatically in the Delaware Institute for Medical Education and Research (DIMER) program but must go to the Sidney Kimmel Medical College Admissions Application website and complete the DIMER program application form. The Delaware Institute for Dental Education and Research (DIDER) program sets aside fives places at the Kornberg School of Dentistry at Temple University for Delaware residents.

Applicants must complete a very short form with biographical information that is signed by their parents (or themselves, if they are independent), stating that they have paid Delaware income taxes in the previous year. This will allow them to be considered for one of the seats set aside for Delaware residents.

In addition to medical schools within your state, you should also look at schools in your region. Private schools in the state of Pennsylvania often show some special consideration for Delaware and New Jersey residents, for example. You may even be able to get an acceptance at one of the state schools in your region if you are a very competitive applicant. All students should begin their selection process in this way. Then things become more individualized.

Honestly Examine Your profile

  • If you have a GPA, both science and overall, 3.5 or above, and also have a high percentile score on the MCAT, you can apply to any school in the United States that interests you. It will still be uncertain if you will be accepted at a particular school, but academically you have a chance.
  • If you do not have this kind of record, apply to the private schools that are less selective. The average MCAT scores and GPAs are published annually and can be obtained from the AAMC website. Remember, you do not need to attend Harvard to become a doctor.
  • In the long run, that is the most important thing. By all means, apply to any school you think you might have a fighting chance to get accepted to, but be reasonable. The cost and the time required for every additional application is considerable. Make the most of your choices.
  • For dental school applicants, the average Dental Admission test (DAT) Academic Average score for students accepted to dental school in 2018 was 20.5. and the average GPA was 3.55

Potential applicants should begin looking into schools during sophomore year. The Princeton Review and the U.S. News and World Report publish yearly guides to United States Medical Schools which are very helpful. Curriculum, innovations, location, grading system, availability of institutional financial aid, housing, etc. are all factors to be considered when making your choices, but only after you have looked at your state and regional schools.

There is also the option of applying to foreign medical schools. If you are thinking along these lines you should contact these schools to learn their application procedures, etc. There have been some reports in the media that residency slots after medical school will become increasingly difficult to obtain, especially for graduates of foreign medical schools. You should consider this when making your decision to apply outside the United States.

You can obtain excellent information about these schools and about other aspects of the medical school application process at the Center for Health Profession Studies (105e Pearson Hall on Academy Street. Contact the Center Director, Dr. David Barlow at barlow@udel.edu, or call 302 831-4949  to schedule an individual advisement appointment.

The Interview

Congratulations! You have received an invitation to be interviewed at one or more of the medical schools to which you have applied. This is the next step in your path towards becoming a doctor. Virtually all schools require an interview and receiving one is a significant hurdle to have passed in the acceptance process. Most applicants do not receive an interview. However, the acceptance rate after interview is also quite low. It ranges from 10% to about 50%, depending upon the school. Therefore you will want to have a good interview experience. If you are a competitive applicant and have applied to schools in a variety of locations, the interview part of your application process will be quite costly. The medical schools prefer, and most require, that you interview at the medical school. A few regional interviews are offered by some schools, but this is not the norm. Therefore, you may be flying around the country or traveling up and down the East Coast by car or train. The medical schools will either allow you to choose from a range of dates to interview or will be quite dictatorial and assign the date to you, indicating it will be a great inconvenience for them if you want to change it. Each school is different. Feel comfortable calling the school (if you can get through to them!) and asking for a change of date if you feel you absolutely need to change it. Do not do so for a trivial reason. These interviews are the last in the series of steps you need to go through to obtain your goal. They should be a priority. If you have applied to several schools in the same area, say New York City, and have received an interview at one, it is acceptable to call the other schools and see if there is any chance that they could interview you near that time. If, however, the school that has offered you an interview is considerably less selective than the one that you have not yet heard from, it may be better not to call. You will know best about this if you have accurately evaluated your level of competitiveness.

Suggestions for the Interview

  • Obviously, the interview process will interfere with your coursework, especially if you are very successful and are traveling to many places. To allow for this, try to make first semester senior year as flexible as possible, since that is when you will go to most of your interviews if you have followed our suggested time line for applying. If you have to miss classes, talk to the professor ahead of time and explain why. They know that this is important and will make allowances for you.
  • Dress conservatively and neatly for your interviews. There is no prescribed “right outfit”. Do not try to be flamboyant or to draw attention to yourself as a free-spirit by how you dress or wear your hair. You cannot know how your interviewers or others at the medical school will react to this. Why take the chance when you are so near to your goal?

What is the Interview like?

The interview process varies depending upon the school. Most schools will describe it to you when they request the interview or soon thereafter. There are also descriptions available in published materials available commercially. Expect to be asked just about anything. There is no formula we can give you that can prepare you for all possibilities. The major consideration is to show yourself as an articulate person who is well-read, informed about current issues, and who has ideas and opinions that he or she can support with rational arguments. You do not have to agree with everything your interviewer feels. Use this as an opportunity to ask questions about the medical school that show you really have an interest in attending it. It is difficult to know whether you have had a good interview or not. Most students underestimate how well they have done. You are likely to have different experiences at different places. You may really click with a certain interviewer, sharing interests that lead to a lively, enjoyable conversation, or you may have an interview that feels more like having your teeth pulled. Whatever it is, by having a number of interviews available to you, you should be able to get an acceptance at one or more schools where you will be happy to go. If you feel that you have had an unfair interview you must inform the medical school that same day. Often, you can convince them that you deserve another interview. This, of course, should be a rare request. But if you truly feel you have been unfairly treated, ask for another interview! Many schools include more than one interview as part of the interview process, which minimizes this type of problem.

A few schools use the multiple mini-interview system (MMI). These are a series (4-7) of scenarios that the student is presented with and then questioned about for a very short amount of time. Most schools, however, still use the traditional interview process.

Many schools give you the opportunity to stay with a medical student overnight before or after your interview, especially if you are not local. This is an excellent opportunity for you to get a birds-eye view of the medical school from the student’s opinion. It also lets you see what  living arrangements are available to you. We highly recommend it.

Acceptance

Depending upon the school, admissions decisions may be made monthly, at two or three times during the year, or all at once in February or March. Whatever the situation, you will be expected to respond within one or two weeks to the offer of acceptance. Usually this is only a note sent back saying you accept. Sometimes a nominal fee is required as well.

What if I get several acceptances?

Obviously, you have preferences. In order to allow students the opportunity to choose from a number of schools that offer them admission, the AAMC has guidelines that the medical schools follow. You can hold multiple acceptances until sometime in May, usually May 15. If you have not made a decision by then, you may forfeit your place everywhere. You must officially withdraw your place in writing once you have made your decision. You will probably receive a note from the medical schools in March or April, listing all of the schools that have accepted you, and seeming to threaten you if you do not make a decision between them. Do not be intimidated. You have until May to decide. Some schools have scholarships that are not decided upon until April and you deserve to have the complete picture before making your decision. Once you have, however, you should withdraw from the other schools immediately. You can, however, continue to hold any waiting-list slots you may have.

What should I do if I’m not accepted?

First, remember that the current admission rate is around 40% at best. A rejection does not mean you are not “good enough” to become a physician. It simply reflects the overwhelming number of applicants for a small total number of openings.

If you are not successful in gaining admission, you must seriously re-evaluate your profile. Are your grades a little too low? Pursuit of an advanced degree or matriculation at a post-baccalaureate program designed to strengthen your preparation for medicine have sometimes proven successful in the past for subsequent admission of students with lower GPAs. Is your MCAT score not competitive? Retake the test after serious, intense preparation. If you have been put on the waiting list at a medical school but not admitted, consider re-applying to that school under their early acceptance program. You have already been deemed “acceptable” by being put on the waiting list. By committing yourself to that school, you increase your chances that they will accept you.

Also, feel free to call the schools that did not accept you to get feedback about your application. Most admissions committees will discuss this with you.