Behind the Scenes with Deans

Admissions Tips for Geisinger College of Health Sciences

Get an insider’s perspective on the admissions process as Michelle Schmude, EdD, MBA talks about the admissions process at the Geisinger College of Health Sciences. Below is a transcript of the conversation.

An Introduction to Michelle Schmude, EdD, MBA

Hello, everyone. My name is Michelle Schmude. I serve as the Associate Provost for Admissions, Enrollment Management, and Financial Aid at the Geisinger College of Health Sciences. Additionally, I hold a faculty appointment as an associate professor of medical education. I’ve been with Geisinger College of Health Sciences for nearly nine years, a name that was recently adopted this Wednesday.

I ventured into medical education while researching on LinkedIn. Originally from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton area in Pennsylvania, I discovered a leadership position in admissions at the Commonwealth Medical College while working at a local higher education institution. Established in 2008 as the Commonwealth Medical College, I joined in early 2014. By January 1, 2017, we became a part of the Geisinger Health system, transitioning to the Geisinger School of Medicine. As of two days ago, we’ve evolved into the Geisinger College of Health Sciences.

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What Makes A Pre-Med Applicant Stand Out? 

So what I say to each and every student who asks me this question is that you need to be yourself. It is when people say this to me, stand out, stand out amongst 50,000, 60,000 applicants, that’s really hard to do. And so what I suggest to students is to reflect on their own experiences, their own attributes, their own characteristics, and how those align with the field of medicine, and then begin to highlight those. And again, each and every candidate is unique. They bring in, like I just said, different attributes, different experiences.

They have different IQs, other individuals have different EQs, emotional intelligence. And again, all of those items that I just mentioned really come into play when schools holistically look at an applicant. And so what I recommend to students is reflect, and understand who you are and how your experiences, attributes, and characteristics align with the field of medicine.

What Are Some Recent Changes to the Medical School Admissions Process?

I always say it’s a silver lining, even though a lot of people don’t believe that COVID has any silver lining. And so when I entered the field of medical education, we would never have considered virtual interviews for students. In fact, I don’t believe I know of one institution that offered virtual interviews. I could be wrong, but prior to COVID I don’t believe any medical schools allopatmedical schools offered virtual interviews. The COVID Dandemic forced us to pivot and pivot very, very quickly in terms of transitioning from in person interviews to virtual interviews.

Virtual interviews have really provided and expanded access to students who might not have had the financial resources to travel across the country, stay in a hotel, and absorb 1001, $500 maybe in cost to interview. And so I think that I’ve seen an evolution in how we consider candidates in terms of how they interview right? And we were forced to do that. I think that that’s a positive. I’ve also seen changes in terms of apprehension and the experiences that they’re bringing, and I think it’s a positive.

Again, another silver lining. Students have really had to think outside of the box in terms of service opportunities, in terms of clinical opportunities, and how they would take part in activities such as those that were virtual. How can you engage in other activities that meet those competencies if you couldn’t get into a clinical arena? And so I think it really demonstrates the creativity, the capacity for improvement for students who are engaged in the process and who have been engaged in the process. So I’ve seen a positive evolution in that respective area.

What Makes the Geisinger College of Health Sciences Special?

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Geisinger School of Medicine, which is one of the schools within Geisinger College of Health Sciences, which I referenced in my introduction. And so Geisinger School of Medicine, I’m just engaged in a curriculum renewal, and we launched our total health curriculum for the MD class of 2025. And with that being said, we transition into a 1, 2, 3, 4 year approach into a phase curriculum. We have three phases in our curriculum, and those are the principles of medical science and practice. The second is core clinical immersion, and the third is career differentiation and exploration.

Through this phased approach, within our total health curriculum, our students engage in both the clinical as well as the biological sciences. At the same time, in addition to the phases, we have six themes that are threaded longitudinally throughout our curriculum health, equity and justice, personal and professional development, health system citizenship, primary care, community immersion, and population health. All of our students actively participate in our curriculum and do not sit in lectures. Our educational program is offered through active learning sessions. We believe in the science of learning, and that having our students actively participate in active learning experiences better prepares them for their future career as a practicing physician.

As I said before, our clinical sciences are offered alongside of our biological sciences, therefore allowing our students to have early clinical exposure within our healthcare arena. In addition, our students have expanded research opportunities because of our robust research program that we have within the gym or healthcare system.

And then finally, I’d like to mention one of our signature programs, the Abigail Geisinger Scholars Program, which is a service commitment program that allows our medical students to graduate debt free. Let me give you a little bit more information about the Abigail GeisingerScholars Program. The program is specifically focused for students who are interested in pursuing a specialty in one of these four areas.

It has to be family medicine, internal medicine, medicine, pediatrics, or psychiatry. If a student agrees to one of those four specialties, they receive tuition and fees and a $2,000 a month monthly statement for their four years here at Geisinger School of Medicine. They will then go into residency, and once they are finished with residency, they will begin employment as a guy singer physician, and they will practice for four years within our clinical arena and again participate in the service commitment portion of the Abigail Geisinger Scholars program. So if we give a student four years of funding for medical school, they will give us four years of service post-residency as a practicing Geisinger physician in either family medicine, internal medicine, medicine, pediatrics, or psychiatry, as one can assume with the increased cost of a medical education. This is a very attractive program for students.

And out of our class of 115 students, 45 students in each class are Abigail Geisinger Scholars.

What is Your Biggest Piece of advice for Medical School Applicants?

A couple of items to note. I always tell everyone that you have to apply with your best application. And what does that mean? That means you have to engage in reflective activities to assess how competitive you are in terms of the medical school application process. So, yes, you have to look at your grades.

You have to look at the experiences you engaged in, how they align with medicine, and then how they align with the premedical school competencies that we assess students on when we review applications. So you can go out to the AAMC’s website and look at those 15 entering competencies for medical students. But have you participated in a team? Are you a good member of the team? Do you have excellent interpersonal communication skills?

Do you have the capacity for improvement? Are you resilient? Are you reliable? Are you dependable? Are you culturally competent?

Do you have great ethics and professionalism? And those are just some of the premedical school competencies I highlight. There are many, many others in terms of science, as well as quantitative reasoning, critical thinking skills, and so on and so forth. So I always suggest to students to assess themselves based on those competencies and really reflect. But at the end of the day, if you believe there are other items that you need to improve upon, you may need to take a step back and say, maybe this isn’t my best application, and I need another year to make it the best application I can have.

If you’ve engaged in that reflective process and you say that this is the best application I have, then you know that you’re ready to enter the applicant pool for medical school.

Additional Tips and Information for Applicants

The School of Medicine is part of the College of Health Sciences. So within our College of Health Sciences, we have our School of Nursing, our School of Graduate Education, and our School of Medicine. And as I mentioned before, two days ago, the new name was announced. We also inducted our new dean and president, Dr. Julie Byerley, who began her tenure at GeisingerCommonwealth School of Medicine on January 1, 2022.

She is an amazing individual and has already advanced the mission vision and values of our great organization. We just launched a new regional campus in Lewis Town, Pennsylvania, so that’s very, very exciting for our medical school. We now have six regional campuses where we educate our medical students. In addition, I’d like students to know that we review applicants using a holistic review, meaning we look at metrics, attributes and experiences of each and every person that decides to apply to our school of medicine. We also highly encourage students to submit, although it is not required, the double AMC preview exam.

You may know this as their situational judgment test, but it is rebranded as the previous assessment. And again, that allows the students to demonstrate competency areas other than IQ. It really gets that they’re EQ their emotional intelligence and some of the premedical school competencies I mentioned before. And then finally, I’d like all of you to know that we transitioned from a traditional interview to a multiple mini-interview for the MD class of 2026. So we have one cycle under our belt.

We just started our second cycle. But again, we transitioned the multiple mini-interview because we believe that it is a better assessment that is holistic in nature and assesses the premedical school competencies as it relates to what a student has to offer you.

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