Podcast Episodes

Podcast Episode 3: Reflections on the 2017-2018 Medical School Application Cycle

Join Dr. Renee Marinelli and Dr. Edward Lipsit as they discuss the 2017-2018 medical school application cycle. They will focus on what made applicants successful this year, what to do if you are still waiting to hear from medical schools, and will share important tips gleaned from the competitive admissions process.

Reflections on the 2017-2018
Medical School Application Cycle

Dr. Renee Marinelli, Director of Advising with MedSchoolCoach, spoke with Dr.Edward Lipsit, a former admissions committee member at Virginia Commonwealth University, and one of MedSchoolCoach’s master advisors, to discuss the 2017-2018 application cycle. Dr.Edward Lipsit provided a valuable perspective on this application cycle, since he has vast experience with many applicants in past application cycles.

For the most part, applicants receive either acceptances or rejections, and if they’re in the latter group, they’re planning a reapplication. But many people end up on the waitlists to receive admissions decision.

Increasing Competition

What was Dr. Edward Lipsit’s view of the competitiveness this application cycle? He felt, as in most years, the application cycle was very competitive. Many of the applicants that have been screened are at the undergraduate level, are highly motivated, and are very accomplished. Despite that, less than half gain acceptance to a medical school during any given cycle, so it’s a massive supply and demand.

According to Dr. Lipsit, this last application cycle seemed more competitive than others in the past. As the number of applicants increases, the number of allopathic seats has been relatively stable. But, interestingly, the osteopathic places have increased due to some new schools and expanding class size at some of the existing institutions. But, he would say that this cycle has been as competitive as any that he’s seen.

The Bar Has Been Raised

Dr. Marinelli remarked that a lot of applicants this year really had top MCAT scores, really high GPAs, and they still had trouble getting in. She was holding her breath with one of the applicants she worked with, and eventually, he did get an admission. It seemed, for her, like even some of the more top applicants she worked with struggled this application cycle. Dr. Lipsit agreed that his impression is that the bar has been raised a bit with applicants, having higher and higher GPAs and MCATs.

Shadowing, Volunteering, Domestic Service, and Extracurriculars!

Whereas in the past, maybe 40 or 50 hours of physician shadowing may have been the norm. Dr. Lipsit now sees candidates, especially the successful candidates, with hundreds of hours of exposure to a wide range of disciplines. The volunteer work is often intense, and they include weeks, or even months abroad providing medical support. And, domestic service usually involves catering to vulnerable populations in the inner cities or neglected rural areas. Dr. Lipsit believes that the activities have become, more sophisticated and perhaps even more exotic.

Similarly, Dr. Marinelli, has definitely seen a growth in really trying to expand extracurricular activities and trying to make them as unique as possible.

Awesome Acceptances

What about the acceptances for some of applicants that Dr. Lipsit has been working with? The acceptances have been gratifying! They’ve been all around the country. In the Northeast, some institutions include NYU, Drexel, and New York Medical College. In the Middle Atlantic region, the University of Virginia. In the Midwest, Oakland University, and the William Beaumont School of Medicine. Also, there were at least a number of acceptances to Florida State, University of South Florida. And, on the west coast, the University of California at Irvine and California North State.

He’s had a lot of success with osteopathic institutions to include Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of New England, Lake Erie, Toro, Nova Southeastern University.

Check out Dr. Lipset’s Article about Applying to Osteopathic Schools

Dr. Lipset wrote an awesome blog for MedSchoolCoach about making the decision, whether or not to apply to osteopathic schools, and it’s definitely worth a read. It makes a lot of good points about applying to osteopathic schools and how you will have more options.

Even if you get into an MD school, and a DO school, at least you’ll have more options on how you can proceed from there. It’s a great blog and helps some people going forward with their application.

Advice for Getting Off the Waitlist

What is Dr. Lipset’s advice to applicants on the waitlist? That depends on the school. Some schools appreciate a letter of interest indicating that the applicant still wants to be considered. Whereas, on occasion, schools actually tell you not to follow up with a letter. So, his advice would be to follow instructions, to go to the specific website of any school, and if they do welcome those letters, by all means, send them along. Send them with an update so that the letter has some meaningful content.

Dr. Lipset’s overall suggestion? People may not be like this, but the fact is you just have to be patient. What’s going to happen is, there were students who are fortunate enough to be accepted at multiple schools, but, obviously, they could only go to one. And at the end of April, usually, or at the beginning of May, they are obligated to release these additional acceptances.

Dr. Lipset likens it almost to a popcorn popper, where all of a sudden there’s a lot of motion, a lot of activity, and places open up. So, you’d just have to be patient, that’s the best advice that he could give. Places will open up, but not until late spring.

Advice for Those Seeking Reapplication

Dr. Lipset sums it up by saying that the individual has to be brutal.

There are many worthy applicants who don’t gain admission, but there are usually some areas that can be upgraded for a more competitive next cycle. I almost consider myself a forensic reviewer, because I like to look at the application and try to see if there are some areas that could be improved.

Now, interestingly, if you call or email schools for an assessment and advice, there are some schools that simply don’t have the wherewithal to help you, but there are some who will provide amazingly personalized and candid advice. You just have to dial or email, because why go blind? If there are areas that they will help you, if they will specify, those are the areas you need to address.

So, you target the areas that need to be addressed. For example, if you have a low GPA, just saying that the GPA doesn’t represent your true academic potential gets you nowhere. If you take high-level courses, and if you do a master’s program in science, public health, maybe a special masters, and you excel, you do better than a 3.5 or maybe a 3.8, 3.9. You’ve proven that the undergraduate GPA probably didn’t represent your true academic potential; you can do better and you will do better. That’s impressive and they’ll take that into account.

Specific Lessons Gleaned

I would tell people that it’s a wonderful profession and a noble profession. And, unfortunately, the bar keeps being raised. However, don’t give up, make sure that your applications are technically perfect, that’s important.

Apply early in the cycle with really as much professional help as possible. Being realistic about school choices and cast a very wide net, because the admissions process is not perfect, and anomalies occur. And, finally, I would urge individuals to think long and hard and consider both the allopathic and the osteopathic options.

Renee Marinelli MD

Renee graduated magna cum laude from California State University San Marcos with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. While attending school, she worked for a neurosurgeon where she led clinical trials. Renee attended the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine where she served on the admissions committee and interviewed many applicants. In medical school, Renee met her future husband, a military scholarship student. After medical school, both Renee and her husband attended family medicine residency in Hawaii where she also served on the residency admissions committee. She has mentored and assisted many students in the medical school admissions process and brings a wealth of experience serving on both medical school and residency admission committees. She is excited to continue to provide guidance to students while spending quality time with her son.

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