Monday, July 21, 2014

Secondary Essays: Why Our School?

I receive a lot of questions from medical school applicants regarding the "why our school" secondary essay prompt. Although it's work, the goal is to research each institution and then link your qualities and interests with the school's.

Be very specific. Look into what makes the institution distinctive, including electives, curriculum, awards, international opportunities, and research.

The mistake I see is that candidates tend to use generalities, a tactic which doesn't afford the admissions committee members a sense that the applicant is really interested in their institution.

If your interests and accomplishments are linked to the underserved, for example, look into the school's commitment to that community (a free clinic at which students volunteer, a medical student program to teach sex ed in a struggling high school). Then, in your essay, specifically review your achievements and the school's associated opportunities.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gap Year

I'd recommend purusing this brief piece by Varsity Tutors' Dr. Anubodh “Sunny” Varshney regarding the benefits and drawbacks of taking a gap year before medical school. I should note that Dr. Varshney does not mention a gap year's financial drawbacks, which can be significant.

I took an extra year (although it was during medical school, part of HMS's 5-year plan) that grounded me and made me a more competitive emergency medicine applicant. If feasible, it's a great opportunity.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Same Hospital, Different Worlds

This is an interesting NPR piece (in text) about the discrepancy between a patient’s and his doctors’ perceptions of good care. I would strongly suspect that the patient was consented for the catheterization, which makes the story that much more striking.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Residency and Medical School Personal Statements Don'ts

Some of you may have read my Student Doctor piece on essay techniques to avoid. This article by Frank Bruni in the NYT makes the point with some bittersweet examples. It's worth a read.

Monday, June 23, 2014

ERAS 2015 Information Now Available for International Medical Graduates (IMGs)

If you are an IMG applying to residency this year, please take a look at the newly available ERAS Support Services section of the ECFMG website. There you'll find important information regarding obtaining your token (available July 1) and submitting your supporting documents.

Note that for ERAS 2015 all letters of recommendation must be submitted through the AAMC's LOR Portal (LoRP) or ECFMG's Medical School Web Portal. The former is for waived letters (highly recommended by me) and the latter is for unwaived ones.

Monday, June 16, 2014

American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Merge

As many of you know, in March the American Osteopathic Association (AO), American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) jointly announced a memorandum of understanding to consolidate the graduate medical education system.

I would recommend reading a short article about the merger called "Proof of Equality or a Loss of Identity?" in the recent ACEP Now magazine. (The magazine is a a publication of the American College of Emergency Physicians. The article starts on page 5.) The piece is a short summary written by J.D. Polk, the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Des Moines University. The article takes on a positive tone, highlighting the increased influence a unified front could have in positively affecting graduate medical education funding.

Monday, June 9, 2014


As many of you know, the 2015 AMCAS application opened for submission June 3.

Here are a few quick tips for writing your AMCAS (and ERAS) activities:

1. Use full sentences. Some applicants erroneously use phrases in their activity descriptors. You're submitting a formal application, and full sentences are appropriate.
2. Avoid abbreviations. Again, we're talking about a formal application here, so let's treat it as such :). Also, abbreviations you think are common might be unintelligible to the reader.
3. Do a spell and grammar check. Don't submit only to be embarrassed by a simple error.
4.. Although you are very familiar with your accomplishments you need to spell them out in your application as though you are speaking to a lay person. If your reader does not understand an activity (or activities) on your application you will not get "credit" for what you've done.
5. Ensure the email address you offer has a spam detector that is set low. You don't want to miss important emails.
6. Get help. Do not send your application without having it reviewed. You cannot afford to submit suboptimal materials.

For professional, individually-tailored assistance with your AMCAS or ERAS please contact me.

Monday, June 2, 2014

2015 AMCAS Application

Just a reminder that tomorrow, June 3 is when the 2015 AMCAS opens for submission. It's advantageous to submit as early in the season as you can while maintaining high standards for your written materials. 

Contact me for help.