Article by Ben Feuer. Photo by Barry Solow.

School Nickname: Langone

Median MCAT: 520

Median GPA: 3.91

Associate Dean: Rafael Rivera, MD

Specialties include Pediatric Radiology and Radiology. Earned his MD from Cornell in 1995, and his MBA from NYU in 2015.  Has published on Appendicitis and Magnetic Resonance Angiography.

Details on the School: Highlights below

In 2016, NYU Langone received two significant awards from Vizient—the Bernard A. Birnbaum, MD, Quality Leadership Award and the Ambulatory Care Quality and Accountability Award for demonstrated excellence in delivering high-quality, patient-centered outpatient care. We also received The Gold Seal of Approval® by The Joint Commission, the leading accreditor of healthcare organizations in America, reflecting a commitment to high-quality patient care.

 

U.S. News & World Report named us one of the top ten hospitals in the country for neurology and neurosurgery.

 

NYU offers an accelerated 3-year MD, which is uncommon among top medical schools.

 

Top Residencies: 

Anesthesiology

orthopaedic surgery

emergency medicine

pediatrics

Application: More here

Two-stage.  First stage MUST be done through AMCAS, with a deadline of October 15th.  There is then a secondary application that usually arrives between July and September.

It is rare that we admit individuals from foreign universities because the Admissions Committee does not have satisfactory means of evaluating premedical educaiton at universities outside of the United States and Canada.

Premedical Coursework

 

We recommend that MD program applicants demonstrate proficiency in the following premedical courses:

 

general biology with labs

general physics with labs

inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry with labs

genetics

English

We consider courses completed at schools of dentistry, nursing, veterinary medicine, or pharmacy as part of your application materials but do not provide credit for such courses.

If you’re invited for an interview, you participate in multiple mini interviews, in which you meet with several interviewers, rather than just one.

Previous Year Questions:

1. What unique qualities or experiences do you possess that would contribute specifically to the NYU School of Medicine community?

2. If you have taken any time off from your studies, either during or after college, please describe what you have done during this time and your reasons for doing so.

3. CHOOSE ONE: The most meaningful achievements are often non-academic in nature. Describe the personal accomplishment that makes you most proud. Why is this important to you?

CHOOSE ONE: Conflicts arise daily from differences in perspectives, priorities, worldviews and traditions. How do you define respect? Describe a situation in which you found it challenging to remain respectful while facing differences?

This is a ‘CHALLENGE’ essay, specifically focused on working with people who are different than you. What kind of different?  That depends – it could be a socioeconomic or cultural difference, a language barrier, or pretty much anything!  But in order to answer the question effectively, you need to break down your own thinking in detail – how did it feel to encounter someone so different from you?  What was your first response?  How did you overcome that initial resistance and eventually find an effective way to work with or help this person?

CHOOSE ONE: Describe a situation in which working with a colleague, family member or friend has been challenging. How did you resolve, if at all, the situation as a team and what did you gain from the experience that will benefit you as a future health care provider? 

4. The Admissions Committee uses a holistic approach to evaluate a wide range of student qualities and life experiences that are complementary to demonstrated academic excellence, strong interpersonal skills and leadership potential. 

5. If applicable, please comment on significant fluctuations in your academic record which are not explained elsewhere on your application.

6. The ultimate goal of our institution is to produce a population of physicians with a collective desire to improve health of all segments of our society through the outstanding patient care, research and education. In this context, where do you see your future medical career (academic medicine, research, public health, primary care, business/law, etc.) and why? Your answer need not be restricted to one category. If your plans require that you complete a dual degree program, please elaborate here. 

This question falls into a category we call ‘PRACTICE’ essays – they ask about your future intentions as a doctor. Some people have a tendency to get too detailed when answering this type of question, filling in details about their field of practice and specialty that they honestly don’t know yet. Others have a tendency to freeze up completely and feel they have nothing to say. But everyone has something to say about what kind of doctor they want to be, what they consider important or valuable about the practice of medicine, where they’d like to practice, and what kind of people they see themselves helping. So focus on that, and you’ll be fine!

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Formerly Known As: New England Female Medical College

Median MCAT: 35

Median GPA: 3.74

Degrees Offered: M.D./Ph.D., M.D./M.B.A., M.D./M.P.H., M.D./J.D., M.D./M.S., and a 7-year college->M.D. program

Dean of Admissions: Dr. Robert A. Witzburg

Expertise in systems development in health care delivery and in medical education, with a focus on holistic evaluation of candidates for medical school. Published author in the field of holistic review of medical school applicants.

Core Mission:

Our core mission is training the next generation of physicians, dentists, and scientists. Health sciences education has changed substantially. Although computerization facilitates learning, more information exists to be mastered. Boston University provides today’s health sciences students with distinguished and committed faculty, thoughtful and humanistic mentoring, state-of-the-art learning facilities, and clinical experiences in one of New England’s most respected teaching hospitals, as well as in other locations in the Boston area and internationally. We remain committed to providing future doctors, dentists, scientists, and public health professionals with an outstanding education in both science and humanism.

 

Top Residencies: 

anesthesiology

Obstetrics

emergency medicine

pediatrics

 

 

Application: More here

Two-stage.  First stage MUST be done through AMCAS, with a deadline of October 15th.  There is then a secondary application for P&S with a deadline of November 15th.

BUSM does not pre-screen information from AMCAS. All applicants indicating interest in BUSM on their initial AMCAS application will receive a secondary application from us in due time. All applications are completed electronically. Due to the retention of the current student body, Boston University School of Medicine does not have any slots available for advanced standing in the second or third classes.

Applicants who have not graduated from an accredited U.S. or Canadian institution, but who completed a minimum of two (2) years in such an institution, including all of the prerequisites, may be considered to be eligible and should bring the details of their record to the attention of the Committee on Admissions.  Occasionally a candidate of unusual ability is accepted after attendance for three academic years in an undergraduate school if he or she has satisfactorily completed all of the prerequisites and the minimum entrance requirements of 90 semester hours.

Required Courses --

  • One year of English
  • One year of Biology with labs
  • One year of Physics
  • One year of Humanities
  • Two years of Chemistry, one of which must be Organic Chemistry, one of which must be biochemistry

All prerequisites must be completed before a student can matriculate at BUSM. We generally prefer that applicants take these courses at 4-year undergraduate institution rather than utilize advanced placement credits. If an applicant chooses to use advanced placement credits, rather than taking a course at a 4 year accredited college, he/she will be asked to explain the circumstances as a part of their BUSM secondary application.  The Committee on Admissions will then consider the matter as a part of its comprehensive review of the application.  This applies also to CLEP, community college, and junior college courses as well. 

 

Current Year Questions:

 Secondary Application Essays:

1. Did you go on to college directly after high school? (1400 character limit, approximately 280 words)

This may seem like a trap, but this essay actually has the potential to help you greatly – medical schools strongly prefer applicants with diverse life experiences. Use this prompt to tell them a story, assuming you have one, about the time you spent between high school and college and how it helped you mature or change.

2. Are you expecting to go on to medical school directly after completing your undergraduate degree? If no, explain. (1400 character limit, approximately 280 words)

Be honest and specific.

3. If you have spent more than 4 years as an undergraduate, please explain below (You may skip this question if you have graduated within 4 years.). (1400 character limit, approximately 280 words)

4. Please provide a narrative or timeline to describe any features of your educational history that you think may be of particular interest to us. For example, have you lived in another country or experienced a culture unlike your own, or worked in a field that contributed to your understanding of people unlike yourself? Or, have you experienced advanced training in any area, including the fields of art, music, or sports? This is an opportunity to describe learning experiences that may not be covered in other areas of this application or your AMCAS application. It is not necessary to write anything in this section. (2000 character limit, approximately 400 words)

Don’t try to be comprehensive here – pick a couple things that you consider particularly distinctive or memorable. Use them to shape a story about who you are as a candidate, what you believe in and what life has taught you.

5. (Optional) Use the space below to provide additional information you feel will provide us with a comprehensive understanding of your strengths as a candidate for a career in medicine.This should include only information NOT already included in your AMCAS or other sections of the BUSM Supplemental Application. Most applicants leave this blank. (3000 characters)

 

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Got questions about your application? Schedule a consultation to get some answers.

 


 

By Ben Feuer, photo by Kevin Dooley

It’s a truth that these days borders on a truism; you can’t get into a top-tier school without a top-tier application. That means having the right names and dates on your resume, having the right numbers in the right boxes, and most importantly of all, connecting with readers through the medium of your personal statement.

If you’re reading this article, you probably already have a sense of what an LL.M degree is and who it’s for. But just in case you’re some sort of zombie with a Google account, the LL.M is a degree for people with international legal training to become academically acquainted with America’s laws and systems. Some folks use it as a way to transition to the US legal market, and others use it as a way to gain prestige in their home countries and advance in their careers. Either way, it’s a useful set of letters to have in your pocket.

The personal statement (or statement of purpose, or personal essay, or whatever your institution of choice prefers to call it) is a bit different for LL.M students than it is for JD applicants (or, for that matter, the wide range of other degrees that call for one). Here are a few vitally important points for you to remember as you start writing.

This is an academic degree. Although many people see it as a professional degree, the LL.M is first and foremost an academic degree, particularly on the higher end. It’s important to emphasize which legal questions and subjects interest you, and to explore how you might advance your understanding of them at your target school. Academics value curiosity, intellectual engagement with the world and a willingness to ask questions, so make sure your essay highlights a few of these qualities.

Be conversational and tell a story. While you’re busy trying to sound smart, remember that all of this fabulous research and thinking you have done in the past and plan to do in the future has to fit into a larger narrative; who are you, and why is this the ideal moment for you to apply for an LL.M?  Far too often I see personal statement drafts that simply list a string of things that happened to you, expecting the reader to connect the emotional dots. Focus less on the what and more on the why of your history, and don’t feel enslaved by chronology – deal with incidents in whatever order best helps you tell your story.

Create a call to action, or engagement. Much like a marketing campaign, personal statements should invite the reader to join the writer on a journey to a specific destination, whether that’s a deeper understanding of a particular point of law or a platform from which to move the world. Once you know your goals and your trajectory, don’t neglect to explain why they matter, not just to you but to those around you. Give schools a reason to support you and they’ll happily do just that.

Still got questions? Of course you do! Fortunately, we’re just an email away, and we’re happy to help you better understand your next steps. Until we meet again, happy writing!


Tuesday, October 04, 2016

How to Research a School



How to Research a School
By Ben Feuer, Photo by tallchris

To gain entry to a top school these days, applicants and parents need to wear a lot of hats – scholar, change-maker, networker. One of the less-appreciated (but vitally important) hats is that of researcher. Across academic disciplines and continents, schools are turning to their full-length bedroom mirrors, striking a pose and whispering to candidates everywhere, “Tell me that you love me.”

The truth is, even though parents and students think of themselves as being in competition for the schools' affection, schools are also in competition with one another to snag the best students. And their preferred mode of salving their academic insecurities, apparently, is by having applicants write worshipful ‘why our school is the best’ essays. It's really not as crazy as it sounds, though, there are some good reasons for it. For one thing, it separates out those who are 'just tossing another on the pile' from those who are serious. And for another thing, schools know that if they make you research them, you just might fall in love with them unexpectedly. That's why somehow, even when essays get cut and word lengths shrink, this topic always seems to stick around.

It ain't because they're popular, we can tell you that much. School research essays drive candidates crazy, and many smart kids who cruise through every other stage of the process get stumped by this one. So we here at Forster-Thomas are taking a few minutes out of our busy schedules to get you up to speed on how to nail your school research.

***

Dig deep on a few topics. Most school specific essays are like aerial bombardments or spaghetti foodfights – throw stuff everywhere and hope something sticks.  But the great ones are like surgical scalpels, cutting to the heart of the inherent bond between the candidate and the school. The key question to ask yourself while researching is – Do I care about this aspect of the school?

Once you pull a list of three or four specific things you care about (for a list of possible research topics, check out our other blog on this subject), it’s time to do your deep dive. Figure out the relevant keywords and Google them in various combinations and iterations. Read the first 5-9 links that come up – news articles, Rate my Professor reviews, EventBrites and Meetups, student blogs, Linkedin profiles, what have you. When evaluating this kind of material, the question you need to ask yourself is -- Does this sound different, or better, than how it’s done at other schools? How? Then -- and this is a key step -- WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. By efficiently combining and clearly referencing your sources now, you’ll be setting the stage for success later.

Think like a reporter. So now you have research. How do you put it to good use? Reporters don’t go into an article wondering what they’re going to learn. They already know most of the basic facts of the case before they set fingers to keyboard. In other words, they have a thesis, just like scientists and sufferers of college writing seminars. When they’re drawing on sources and pulling quotes, they’re filling in the gaps of a story they already know. On the other hand, most candidates approach conversations with adcoms, former students and professors with a nearly total blank slate, expecting their partner to fill them in on everything. Sorry, guys, but that’s not possible!  If you want a useful answer, you need to ask a useful question, which means you need to know what question to ask, which means you, too need a thesis as to why you're a good fit for your target school.

So write one out. Right now. In a sentence or two. It should be different for every school.

Good. Now that's done, you can start contacting your sources and filling in gaps.

Say you’re interested in the XYZ Club at RFD University. It would certainly be a great idea to talk to the former student who used to manage that club – but NOT until you’ve already Googled the club, checked out their Facebook page, studied the programs from their last three events, determined how large it is, how long it's been around, and a half-dozen other similar questions. That way, your conversation won’t consist of platitudes like “How did you like the club?”  You’ll be able to ask them “So last semester, who was it that got Bob Smith to come to campus? How was his talk? Did he recruit anyone out of the club last year? Whatever happened with that power struggle in the leadership where the club split two years ago?” When you then go to write the essay, you’ll be armed with quotes supporting a very specific thesis concerning where the club stands, what it does well, and how you can contribute to its further growth. Sound like too much work? For you, maybe. But the guy next to you is going to do it. And he's going to have a leg up on you. This part of the process is completely meritocratic -- you get out what you put in.

Show your sources. Name names of students and give class years IN THE ESSAY. Name the professors, classes, clubs and initiatives that interest you IN THE ESSAY. Reference the student blogs and websites you have read ... wait for it ... IN THE ESSAY. (Need a list of student blogs? We made one!)

Don’t self-censor early drafts. One mistake many applicants make is collecting a ton of research, throwing up their hands while trying to organize it all into a small word count, and then throwing it away and replacing it with one generic sentence they could have come up with before they ever applied!  This is where having a smart, thoughtful, patient reader comes in handy. Instead of trying to decide for yourself what sounds good, present the most comprehensive and strong argument you’ve got, and let someone else suggest where to trim.

The golden question. Wondering if you’ve gone deep enough on your research? This golden question will give you the answer. If I replaced the name of the school in ANY sentence of this essay with another school’s name, would the sentence still be true and make sense?  If the answer is YES, you need to do more research. If the answer is NO, you’ve done enough. Whether you’ve done it well is another matter.

Cohesion. Although you can’t treat a school-specific essay like a narrative essay (it doesn’t tell a story), you still need to consider whether the topics you’re discussing form a cohesive picture of how you’ll operate at the school. Are you really going to join the consulting club AND the finance club? Are you really going to be active with the East Asian students AND the Mambo club? Probably not, if you’re being honest with yourself. Your choices of what topics to discuss define where you’re looking to grow and how the schools can help you grow, so make choices that cohere.

***

Sound like a lot of work? It can be. But here’s the good news – there actually is a silver lining to this cloud. All that research you’re doing just might actually help you figure out which school you want to attend in real life! You might meet someone, or learn something, that opens up your mind to the wide and wild world beyond the US News Rankings. We could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.


 

 

As one of the top medical schools in America, you might think that getting into JHU is a complex, multifaceted process – and you’d be right!  Fortunately, we’re here and happy to guide you through the absolute basics of what you’ll need to be a competitive applicant.  If you have questions about your specific case, of course, feel free to reach out to us and ask.

School Nickname: JHU

Median MCAT: 36

Median GPA: 3.9

Associate Dean of Admissions: James L. Weiss (Also Here)

Dr. Weiss studied at Yale and graduated in 1968.  He is now director of the Cardiology Fellowship Program, the director of the Heart Station, and the Michael J. Cudahy professor of Cardiology.

Application Overview: Highlights below

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine pioneered modern medical education at our founding and is dedicated today to developing medicine’s future leaders. In our search for students who embody such promise, we look for applicants who demonstrate not just high academic achievement but also leadership qualities, a dedication to service, an ability to work collaboratively and a commitment to medicine. If this describes you, we encourage you to apply. 

Top Residencies: 

Drug and alcohol abuse

Pediatrics

Women’s Health

Geriatrics

Application: More here

Two-stage.  First stage MUST be done through AMCAS, with a deadline of October 15th.  There is then a secondary application for P&S with a deadline of December 1st.

Recommendations can include committee letters, letter packets or faculty letters.

Note: If you have a graduate degree or significant full-time work experience of a year or more, you are also required to send a letter from the individual who supervised your work. If you held more than one position of at least one year, include a letter from each direct supervisor.

Required Courses --

  • A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from an accredited institution.A minimum of 24 semester hours is required in areas of humanities (English, History, Classics, Foreign Language, Philosophy, Arts, etc), social science (Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, etc.)  and behavioral science (Psychology, etc.).College biology with laboratory, one year
  • General college physics with laboratory, one year
  • General college chemistry with laboratory, one year.  Acceptable advanced chemistry courses include the following:  a second semester of organic chemistry; a second semester of biochemistry; analytical chemistry (quantitative or qualitative); physical chemistry, applied chemical equilibrium and reactivity, etc.
  • Calculus and/or statistics, one year
  • Organic chemistry with laboratory, one semester (4 semester hours) are required.
  • Biochemistry. Three or 4 semester hours are required. Lab is not required.

ADDITIONAL FACTS:

The School of Medicine accepts prerequisites completed at the community college level. In order to be competitive in the selection process, we encourage prospective applicants with community college prerequisites to supplement these courses by taking advanced courses in related subjects at their four year institution.

  • Extension or evening courses taken in fulfillment of premedical course requirements are not acceptable unless they are identical to courses offered in the college’s regular academic program
  • Online courses are not acceptable
  • Preparation in foreign universities must be supplemented by a year or more of work at an approved university in the United States
  • Prerequisites do not need to be completed to apply but must be completed by August 1, just prior to matriculating at Johns Hopkins. Until successful completion of the requirements, acceptance is considered conditional
  • All coursework submitted in fulfillment of admission requirements must be evaluated on the basis of a traditional grading system. Such a system must employ a range of numbers or letters to indicate the comparative level of performance
  • CLEP credits may not be substituted for any course requirement

Previous Year JHU Questions:

1. If you have already received your bachelor’s degree, please describe what you have been doing since graduation, and your plans for the upcoming year. (This space is limited to 700 characters.)

Answer the question clearly and directly, with an emphasis on approachability and intelligibility. Don’t overthink your responses or shape them in an attempt to ‘look good’, whatever that might mean to you. Just focus on being clear, direct and simple, and wherever possible, show a distinctive, original mindset and a connection to the humanistic principles of JHU (helping people).

2. If you interrupted your college education for a semester or longer, please describe what you did during that time. (This space is limited to 700 characters.)

3. List any academic honors or awards you have received since entering college.  (This space is limited to 600 characters.)

4. Briefly describe your single, most rewarding experience. Feel free to refer to an experience previously described in your AMCAS application.  (This space is limited to 900 characters.)

Don’t repeat yourself here, that’s a waste of an opportunity. Instead, brainstorm a few really meaningful experiences you have had that tie into JHU’s mission and values. Don’t write about a fun party you went to once, but don’t write about a day spent doing beach cleanup volunteering either. Pick out a topic that you can write genuinely about, and expound on what it meant to you.

5. Are there any areas of medicine that are of particular interest to you? If so, please comment.  (This space is limited to 1100 characters.)

6. Briefly describe a situation where you had to overcome adversity; include lessons learned and how you think it will affect your career as a future physician.  (This space is limited to 900 characters.)

7. If applicable, describe a situation where you were not in the majority. What did you learn from this experience?  (This space is limited to 1100 characters.)

There are some ‘obvious’ ways to approach this diversity prompt, but the question is worded in such a way that anyone should be able to find a compelling response. We’ve all felt out of place. We’ve all felt like something about us is inherently different, that we in some way don’t fit. Explore what you did to respond to those feelings, how you managed them, how you grew as a result of facing them.

8. If applying to the dual MD/MBA program, please describe your reasons for wishing to obtain this degree.  (This space is limited to 1100 characters.)



Article by Ben Feuer. Photo by James Jordan.

 

WHAT IS 2+2, ANYWAY? 

Is it an overgrown arithmetic problem? A formula for Noah’s ark?

Yes, but it’s also a highly selective program targeted at undergraduates in their junior year, designed to ‘lock them into’ Harvard Business School two to four years in advance of their attendance.

If you’re a top student, especially if you also happen to be female or an under-represented minority, you’re gonna be a very sexy target for graduate programs. Business school may seem to you like the least attractive option: dull, money-centric, excessively technical, and culturally irrelevant. Plus, it takes years of work experience and total industry commitment to even be considered!

Enter Harvard, always a thought leader, once again attempting to shift the conversation. The 2+2 program is that attempt. 

This program is designed to convince and convert brilliant ‘on the fence’ students, locking them into Harvard’s prestigious business school, HBS, at the ideal age — just when as they might otherwise have gone over to the medical or law schools.

Even if you already know all this, it’s important to remind yourself of it before you think about applying. By understanding the type of student Harvard wants, you can better position yourself in your application.

 

FACTS AND FIGURES 

Here are some statistics that can help give you a sense of the overall landscape of 2+2 admissions. 

The 2+2 program accepts around 110 students each year. The selectivity of the program is around 11 percent

STEM and humanities majors are preferred … however, business majors are accepted every year. In fact, 26 percent of the most recent class were business or economics majors, compared to only 12 percent humanities majors! That said, econ is going to be much more competitive than undergraduate business.

You’ll need great stats. The GRE is an option, but GMAT is still more popular70% of admitted students chose GMAT.

 

FOR BUSINESS MAJORS

~780 GMAT target.

~3.9 GPA target.

 

FOR NON-BUSINESS MAJORS

~750 GMAT target.

~3.7 GPA Target.

 

2+2 is not just for undergraduates.  Many people don’t know this, but candidates from master’s degree programs who have not held a full-time work position (not including law, medical or Ph.D) are also eligible to apply.

 

HOW TO GET IN 

Getting into HBS 2+2 is both the easiest and the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It’s hard because very few people are successful. It’s easy, however, to understand why they’re successful.

Want to know the secret? Here goes —

 

Lead in what you love.

 

2+2 is, at its core, a blank check from Harvard to you. They’re saying to you, “No matter what, we have your back. Now go out and change the world, then come back to us and change it again.”

So you better have at least two key things if you want to get in —

 

1. A proven track record of creating change, in a leadership role.

2. An area of the world, not business, that you are currently focused on changing.

 

Once you know what that is, the rest is simple, at least in theory. The execution can be more of a challenge. You need to reorganize your essays, your resume, your extracurriculars, your potential recommenders, and probably your life, to reflect this new direction you now realize that you have. 

All of these aspects of your candidacy are important, but pay special attention to your recommenders. For younger students like 2+2 applicants, character is incredibly important because there’s less of a track record to look at. So pick recommenders who know you really well, and have known you for a relatively long period of time. Think years, not months. Strong, enduring relationships are a good indicator of success in a program like 2+2, which has 2-4 year gaps between accepting students and reeling them back in.

When it comes to your essays and resume, dwell in the land of the firsts and the bests. What have you done that is different? How did it change you?

There are many potentially compelling extracurricular profiles. Here are a few we’ve seen succeed in the past.

 

•Non-profit founder

•NCAA star athlete

•Major engineering/design competition winner (especially team projects)

•Small-to-medium business founder (revenues up to $50 million)

•Overseas educator

•Anti-poverty crusader

•Early career success in competitive field (entertainment, politics)

•School, class or association president

 

One last tip. Don’t get too hung up on name brands. Harvard’s attitude towards them is lukewarm at best — they want to add brand recognition, not join the back of a conga line. They’ll take a state schooler with extraordinary leadership qualities over a middle of the pack Ivy leaguer every day of the week.

 

WHEN TO APPLY 

The 2+2 applications have only one deadline this year: April 3rd, 2017. Applications are not reviewed on a rolling basis so your application will not be considered until the April 3rd application round.

 

MORE QUESTIONS?

No problem!  Hit us up and we'll be happy to discuss your particular situation and answer any questions you may have, including how competitive you are.




By Ben Feuer, photo by Wonderferret

Hey there, dummy!

Just kidding! As everybody knows, grades and intelligence don't necessarily correlate. That said, if your current goal is to attend a good four-year college, then the whole ‘grades’ thing?  Yeah. It’s gonna factor in.

Fortunately, we've been helping academic ne’er-do-wells right their ships since 1995. There are no magic wands to wave here, and no quick fixes. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can definitely find yourself standing on your dream campus in a year or so.

This guide is designed for students who want to go directly into competitive four year schools out of high school. However, there are a number of other options for you to consider as well, including —

• Entering a trade school or joining a professional union
• Taking a gap year
• Enrolling in a two year private or community college with the intention of transferring
• Attending a school with relatively low selectivity, such as a relatively obscure liberal arts college or a non-flagship state school
• Being LeBron James

Each of these options is going to be right for some of you and wrong for others. You (possibly with some professional guidance) are going to have to figure out what works best.

PERFORM A SELF ASSESSMENT


The first step you have to take in any college application is performing a realistic self-assessment. In other words, who the heck are you? And I don’t mean your name, rank or serial number, I mean how should you be seen in comparison to other students like you? What makes you stand out? What have you been up to on the planet that is revolutionary and game changing?

What are your strengths?  Your razor-sharp wit?  Your faith?  Your encyclopedic awareness of The Big Bang Theory?  Overcoming tough obstacles in your personal background to get where you are today?  Are you a savant, brilliant at a few things and terrible at everything else?  Are you a reformed mega-jock now looking to score an academic touchdown?

Now look at your weaknesses. Where did you get your worst grades, and why? Details matter. If you struggled in advanced-level courses, that’s a very different matter from struggling in remedial Algebra. This is the kind of information you’ll address in your so-called supplemental essay, which usually goes in the additional information field, or is uploaded as a separate file.

Get tested for any potential disorders, such as learning disabilities and autism spectrum. This kind of hard evidence can help explain to schools why you struggled so mightily.

BUILD A TARGET SCHOOL LIST

Be smart and realistic about this. Apply to a wide range of colleges — eight’s a good rule of thumb.  Seek out a range of possible partners, from reach schools to safeties. Choose places that you think might respond to your story and your candidacy. Are they a good match in subject matter, goals, faith, ethnicity, geography?  Would they have some reason to value you more highly than other schools?  What about satellite campuses of schools you like, or schools that offer exchanges with schools you like?

Whenever possible, build relationships with professors and administrators. Especially at small schools, this can sometimes make a big difference with borderline candidates.

PROVIDE ALTERNATE EVIDENCE

Believe me, colleges find your transcripts even more boring than you do. The average admissions officer considers a transcript for 30 seconds. 30 seconds. That’s barely the length of a Budweiser spot.

So no one is going over your history with a fine toothed comb. They’re looking for standout highs and lows (A+’s and Ds) and considering where, when and how they were earned. Then they’re making a snap judgement. Can he compete academically with everybody else at my school, or will he be overwhelmed and drop out?

If you have a weak GPA, you need to show that you can stand on an equal academic footing, or at least come close. How? Here are some of the best ways.

• High test scores — ACT, SAT, AP
• Summer school — A’s from quality colleges
• Testing for professional programs, or admission to other selective academic programs

BACK UP YOUR STORY

So hopefully, by now, you know what kind of candidate you are, where your strengths lie and how you’d like to be seen. The trickiest part is finding an elegant way to present this information, showing rather than telling the school who you are.

People judge you by your results and your actions, as well as by the opinions of others they trust. That’s why schools weigh extracurricular activities so heavily. If you’re a subpar student, then you’d better have some really impressive results to draw on from outside the classroom. That doesn’t mean you need to have acted on Broadway or founded a startup. It can simply mean that you grew your chess club from four members to fifteen, or created a template for delivering the school’s morning announcements that is still in use today.

Choose and use your recommenders strategically. Of course, you want people who are very familiar with your work and your personality, but you also want people who are naturally sympathetic to an underdog story. The type of recommender who will fight harder for you because you overcame adversity others didn’t have to face.

ODDS AND ENDS

There is at least one other very important factor to consider — money. Many schools are willing to take on subpar students, as long as they’re prepared to pay full freight.  That’s a lot of cash, so think carefully before reaching for that top tier school. Be sure that you’re going to get good value for your dollar.

Academic reachers should always apply regular decision rather than early decision. That way, you’ll be faced with a talent pool that more closely resembles you.

Have questions? Of course you do. Fortunately, we’re just an email or a call away!

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This exceptionally strong medical school has a focus on primary care and draws most of its class from within the state of North Carolina.  In order to better understand its process and supplementary application, read this blog.

School Nickname: UNC
Median MCAT: 32
Median GPA: 3.75

Dean: William L. Roper.  From 1997 until 2004, Dr. Roper was dean of the School of Public Health at UNC.  Before joining UNC in 1997, Dr. Roper was senior vice president of Prudential HealthCare.  He joined Prudential in 1993 as president of the Prudential Center for Health Care Research.  Before coming to Prudential, Dr. Roper was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), served on the senior White House staff, and was administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration  (responsible for Medicare and Medicaid).  Earlier, he was a White House Fellow.

More about the school: Also read this

The UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine has a special opportunity and responsibility to educate physicians who can help meet the health care needs of our state, the nation and the global community. With a committment to producing outstanding physicians who are well prepared for meeting society's health care needs in the 21st century, they are interested in students who will join them in this mission.

Top Residencies: anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, orthopaedic surgery, family practice, pediatrics

Application: More here.

Preference is given to North Carolina residents. Consideration is given to each candidate's motivation, maturity, leadership, integrity, and personal accomplishments, in addition to the scholastic record. Reapplications are compared to those previously submitted.

Students should plan to take the MCAT no later than September prior to the year they are planning for matriculation.   For applicants taking the exam for the current 2015 application cycle, the latest scores we will accept will be from September 18, 2014 - there will be no exceptions. In other words, if you are taking the MCAT exam in October, November or December of 2014 for the first time,  you will not be able to use the scores for the 2015 application cycle at our school.

Prescreening: Our prerequisites must be met from an accredited college or university within the United States or Canada to allow eligibility for verification by AMCAS.

Supplemental applications will typically be sent to qualified out-of-state applicants who meet the following academic criteria: science GPA (or BCPM) of >3.49; cumulative GPA of >3.59 and a total MCAT score of 33 or greater.

Required Courses: full list here.   NO SUBSTITUTIONS ALLOWED.
    •    Eight semester hours of general biology
    •    Eight semester hours of general chemistry
    •    Eight semester hours of organic chemistry
    •    Eight semester hours of general physics, biochemistry strongly recommended
    •    Six semester hours in English, three semester hours in behavioral or social sciences
    •    Advanced Placement (AP) courses are accepted as long as they appear on your official transcript. If you have received AP credit for any of the required science courses, we strongly advise you to consider taking advanced level college courses to enhance your academic preparation for medical school.

Secondary Statement Questions:
*Respond to each prompt in no more than 1-2 paragraphs (150 words total).  Short!  Be extremely efficient in your word counts!  Don’t try to discuss more than one subject in any depth.

Prompt 1: We have all tried something and failed, whether it was something big or something small. Describe a situation or an experience you had when you realized that you were not up to the task, and tell us what life-lessons you learned from this experience.

Strong failure essays focus on owning the failure.  What does that mean?  Pretty simple — it means that rather than shifting blame or making a simple situation complicated, take charge from the very beginning, explaining what you did wrong and describing in detail the negative impact it had on yourself AND on others.  It’s not enough for it to just have been a problem for you.  You have to include the impact on those around you.  At the end, devote fifty words to explaining how you have changed as a result of this experience, citing a specific example when you were faced with a similar situation and succeeded.

Prompt 2: Much of medical school education is based on team-learning. What important activity have you accomplished that required a team approach, what
was your role in the outcome, and what did you learn from it?

This prompt is trying to assess how you operate as part of a team, or possibly leading a team.  The most important thing is to be clear up front about what actually happened, what the situation and the context was, so that the reader will understand the story you’re about to tell.  Once you’ve devoted 20 words to the where, why and what, explain your role rather than generally talking about the ‘team’s work’ — be specific as to who did what, and if you had to draw someone out or get someone to focus on a particular element of the job.  Conclude with 25-30 words explaining what you learned from the experience, with a focus on personal transformation.

Prompt 3: Give an example of how you have made a difference in someone's life whether it is a patient, friend, classmate, or a family member and explain what
this experience taught you about yourself.

The trap in this question is to focus too much on the ‘other guy’ — to make the entire answer about the person you were helping.  Remember the committee wants to learn about YOU — so when you speak about the person you helped, do so in a larger context.  How old were you?  What did you expect out of the relationship going in?  How did things turn out differently than you had anticipated?  Save 25-30 words at the end to discuss what you took away about your own personal growth — be specific, citing something you didn’t have or do before that you do now.

Section G: Research Interests (MD/PhD Applicants Only)
Please list your top 5 areas of research interest below. This list will help us determine which research faculty you should meet if you are invited for an interview.

Section H: Re-applicants (MD and/or MD/PhD Applicants)
Prompt 1: Explain why you have decided to reapply. Please respond in no more than 1-2 paragraphs (150 words total).

Focus on what has changed in your application since the previous year, highlighting things that the committee might have otherwise overlooked, particularly soft skills or informal elected leadership positions.
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Have more questions?  Email us!

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School Nickname: UW

Median MCAT: 31

Median GPA: 3.70

Dean: Stella V. Yee

More about the school: Also read this

Founded in 1946, the University of Washington School of Medicine is a regional resource for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho - the WWAMI states.

It is recognized for excellence in training primary-care physicians and for advancing medical knowledge through scientific research. The school's students, staff, faculty and alumni demonstrate commitment to community service through volunteer activities.

Top Residencies: Primary care, family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics

Application: More here.

Two-stage.  First stage must be done through AMCAS.  The UWSOM secondary application follows, including additional statements, letters of recommendation, course requirement workshop and TRUST application.  The secondary application deadline is December 1, 2014.

Prescreening: Applicants with approx. 2.9 GPA AND approx. 20 MCAT score will be rejected
        International students without US citizenship or permanent residency will be rejected
        Applicants who have three previous applications will be rejected
Typically more than 95 percent of UW School of Medicine acceptances are applicants from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana or Idaho (WWAMI).

Required Courses: full list here
    •    Four semesters of social sciences
    •    Six semesters of chemistry and biology
    •    Two semesters of physics
    •    Non-applicable social sciences or humanities: “how to courses”, English composition, English grammar, foreign language composition, foreign language grammar, journalism, leadership, music composition, music lessons, performance (dance, instrument, voice, etc.)
    •    Non-applicable science courses: laboratory courses, research, courses taught by a department other than basic science (for example, courses taught by the nursing department and listed as NURS rather than BIO on your transcript)

Secondary Statement Questions:
An autobiographical statement which should include (250 word limit)
    •    the origin and development of your motivation to be a physician
    •    your prior experiences in health care
    •    steps taken to explore a career in medicine
    •    your eventual goals as a physician
    •    and other issues of importance
The Personal Comments section of the AMCAS application may be used to satisfy this requirement, or an additional autobiography may be submitted with your secondary materials.  Your AMCAS personal statement will already be on file with our office.

At first blush, this is a pretty intimidating prompt.  The list of things they want to know is longer than the allowed word count all by itself!  But notice that they view this as a supplement to your AMCAS personal statement.  The most important thing, then, is to add to what you wrote for your general AMCAS statement any material that is specifically relevant to UW.  Did you have regional experiences or professional goals that would be of particular interest to them?  Is there anything that did not make sense for a broader audience but would for the more targeted audience of UW?

3 additional short essays (250 word limit each)

    •    How have your experiences prepared you to be a physician?

This prompt runs the risk of being doubly redundant with your AMCAS statement and your UW supplement.  Avoid this pitfall by focusing in on two specific experiences that you can discuss in depth, subjects that you did not analyze deeply elsewhere.  The experiences you choose don’t have to be professional, by any means, but they should have prepared you, either in terms of experience, values or character, to be a good doctor.


    •    What perspectives or experiences do you bring that would enrich the class?

This is a ‘diversity’ prompt — whatever makes you stand out as a person, be it your personality, your ethnic, racial or geopolitical background, or your experiences working with (and ideally bringing together) a wide range of different people, is fair game for this type of prompt.

    •    What obstacles to your goals have you experienced and how have you dealt with them?

Again, the prompt asks for multiple examples of obstacles, so don’t pick just one.  Do, however, limit yourself to two, as otherwise this would be extremely difficult to answer in 250 words.  In this case, the school is asking for obstacles you have overcome already, and how you overcame them should be the focus of the essay, rather than describing the situation, or worse still, the build-up to the situation.

For re-applicants: From your most recent application until now, how have you strengthened your application?
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Have more questions?  Email us!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Top Architecture Graduate Programs – Yale

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Yale's outstanding graduate architecture program offers remarkable flexibility for students with previous work experience, as well as opportunities for those interested in environmental impact.

WHY TO GO

•  Ranked #2 overall in DesignIntelligence’s 2014 top architectural program rankings.
• Offers several program options, a three year pre-professional and a two year post-professional M. Arch as well as a joint M. Arch / MBA and a Masters of Design
•  A fundamentals-driven approach — Yale believes that architecture is a palpable art form, not a CAD tutoring program.
• Collaboration with the school of forestry and environmental studies for sustainable design.
• A dedicated urban design workshop, founded in 1992.

HOW TO GO

Start by registering for an open house to become better acquainted with the program.  You can choose which faculty members you would like to meet.
The application is available here.   Deadline to apply is January 2, 2015.
The application system is online only.  Do not send materials to the school directly.
You must submit transcripts, GRE, a current CV, and three letters of recommendation.  At least one recommender should have direct knowledge of the applicant’s professional potential and academic ability.  For international students, TOEFL is required.  All programs except M.UP require a portfolio — an optimized PDF of under 64MB, 150DPI.  No video.
An essay, not exceeding one page, that includes a brief personal history and reasons for applying is required and must be uploaded to the online application.  Take note that this is also where you mention if you are a minority.

For more information, check out Yale’s website or contact us.