After all your hard work to prepare for and apply to medical school, you’re probably ready for a break. But don’t relax just yet.
Entering the admissions process is a challenge in and of itself. Now is the time to not only make a good impression, but also ensure you properly evaluate your options to see which school best fits your requirements. Independent research can only yield so much information. There comes a point when you need to speak to someone who knows the ins and outs of the school you’re considering.
This is where the admission teams come in. Sure, they’re there to assess your qualifications as an applicant. But they can also serve as a valuable resource to help you determine where you want to spend the next few years, and which school will best set the stage for your career.
Take this time to do your research and uncover details about their curriculum, culture, career placement, and more. It all starts with asking your medical school admissions team the right questions.
Ask your medical school admissions team these critical questions
We connected with admissions professionals from a variety of institutions to find out what information can and should be considered by prospective medical students during the admissions process. Their insight may be just what you need to navigate medical school admissions.
1. “Where do your graduates end up and how are you helping them get there?”
According to Bob Ryan, the dean of admissions at St. George’s University (SGU), this is one of the most critical questions to ask when you talk to admissions. He emphasizes the importance of knowing that your investment of time, money, and energy will pay off upon graduation. Will you be able to secure a residency where you want? Will you be able to specialize in the areas that matter most to you?
Some medical schools, such as SGU, offer student support services like career guidance and student development. Having access to assistance and advice about opportunities during clinical years, how to prepare for a residency, and other important aspects of medical school can be a great advantage, so it’s important to ask up front.
"The support along the way makes a difference."
“The support along the way makes a difference,” Ryan says, “and it helps students develop the tools they need to launch careers early in their education.”
2. “What research opportunities are available on campus?”
Ryan also asserts that career preparation is not just about alumni networks. It is also about the type of work you can be involved in while in school, and how you can leverage that work when you apply for residencies.
“If you can do some research while you’re in medical school and get published, that is going to be very important when it comes time to sit down for a residency interview,” he says. Having this knowledge beforehand can help set you up for success down the road.
3. “What is campus life like?”
“You wouldn’t buy a $300,000 home without looking at it, so why would you invest in a medical school education without experiencing some part of campus?” Ryan asks.
While it is impossible to get a complete understanding of the ups and downs of medical school life, you can at least get a feel for the atmosphere and energy by visiting campus and asking admissions reps. Ask about events, organizations and clubs, facilities, and activities available to students.
Ryan suggests also checking out programs or visitation weekends when available, even if that means travelling to do so. Nothing will give you a better sense of where you will want to spend the next few years than setting foot on campus.
4. “Which organizations are available to help students connect with like-minded peers?”
Another way to get a feel for the campus life is by asking about student organizations. These groups are critical to student success, according to Tara Cunningham, associate dean of admissions and student diversity at Texas Christian University and University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine.
Cunningham stresses the importance of these organizations, explaining that students will need to seek mentorship opportunities and inclusive environments where they can connect with other students of a similar background. Those connections help provide support through medical school’s trying times. They also help pave the way for professional connections that can help with career development.
“No matter which school we work in, we’re all here to help students get to graduation,” she says. “How we do it is what makes a difference. Medical school should be a fond memory. You want to create humanistic physicians, and to do so, you have to give a human experience to students.”
5. “What kinds of support services are available for students on campus?”
The environment you choose to enter should contribute to your success, not just weigh you down with work and stress, according to Omonivie Agboghidi, pre-medical student representative board member for the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). She has a firsthand understanding of the challenges of applying to medical school, attending medical school and helping to influence medical school program initiatives nationwide.
“See what type of support services they have for students,” she suggests. She lists examples like tutoring, mental health support, counseling, life coaches, and more. “[These services] show they are checking in on students and helping them keep their heads above water.”
It’s no secret that medical school will be a challenge. Even a well-prepared medical student who has historically been a high achiever can face bumps along the way. You’ll feel better knowing you have the option of academic support to keep you moving forward.
6. “What does your program curriculum involve? Has it changed in recent years? In what way?”
Schools are always reworking their curriculum, and it is not an overnight process. “This not only can help you understand how to succeed, but also will help you understand what opportunities and challenges you’ll be exposed to,” Agboghidi explains. “Curriculum changes are not necessarily bad. It doesn’t mean the information is changing, but they may be changing the way that information is presented.”
"Curriculum changes are not necessarily bad."
According to Agboghidi, this can influence whether or not you have access to mentors who understand what you’re specifically going through. Students further into the program might not be as familiar with what you’re dealing with, and they may not be able to provide the guidance you might be seeking.
7. “What role do students play in your medical school’s development?”
As the field of medicine evolves, so will medical schools. But part of that evolution should be the result of student input. “Students should ask admissions teams about how a school takes student perspective into account,” Cunningham suggests.
If students are consistently struggling to stay afloat, are not getting research opportunities they need to compete, or are not able to explore the areas of specialization they want, the medical school should be able to respond and adjust accordingly. The medical school you choose should have operations in place that give students a voice.
8. “What kind of financial guidance do you provide your students?”
It’s no secret that medical school is quite costly. By now, you’re probably well aware of the amount of debt you are about to incur. It’s a necessary and worthwhile move if you plan on fulfilling your dream of becoming a doctor. But it’s still nothing to take lightly.
You would be wise to ask the medical school admissions team about financial services they have available on campus. Many schools offer assistance with financial planning, budgeting, and even counseling on literacy and smart borrowing. Make sure the school you choose is committed to helping you make financially sound decisions and assisting you in navigating your debt.
From medical school admissions to enrollment
Once you’ve asked the right questions and done all your research, it’s time to start weighing your options. If possible, get in contact with not only the medical school admissions team, but also current students, alumni, staff, and anyone else who has a finger on the pulse of the school you are evaluating.
Ultimately, the school you choose should help you achieve your goals, as both a medical school student and a practicing physician after graduation. For more insight on how to continue the evaluation process, check out our article, "How to Choose a Medical School: 9 Things to Evaluate Before Accepting."
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