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Medical admission changing

Survey shows the U.S. is breeding a different kind of medical student

Published: Monday, December 7, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Medical school applicants are less likely to decline admission due to financial reasons even in the current tough economic times, according to a recent Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions survey.

The survey, which included all 131 members of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and surveyed 82 of them, found that 20 percent of medical school admissions officers reported an increase in the number of applicants declining admission because of finances, as opposed to 28 percent of business school admissions officers and 39 percent of law school admissions officers.

"It's one of those situations in which the course of study is a little bit more set, whereas someone who's going to business or law school has more flexibility to say, ‘This isn't the right time for me,'" said Jeff Koetje, director of pre-health programs for Kaplan.

Another factor, Koetje said, is that many premedical students have been intent upon their course of study for quite a while. "Our thinking is that students who want to go to med school have been planning on this for four years," he said, "so they may have been doing everything from saving money to just being in the mindset that, ‘This is something I've wanted to do for a very long time, so I won't let a shift in the economy dictate when I go."

Despite the increase in financial complications, "there is one fact that perhaps suggests a silver lining," Koetje said.Twenty-four percent of medical school admissions officers said they are increasing the amount of financial aid given. "Med schools are looking at [the economy] and trying to meet the needs of the students applying," he said.

This information is especially pertinent to BC students because a large contingent  applies for medical schools each year. According to the Health Professions Graduate Schools Statistics and Placement Report, 152 students applied to medical school in the 2007-2008 academic year, and 173 applied to any type of health profession graduate school. The acceptance rate of BC students to such schools is 66 percent, above the national average of 46 percent.

This low acceptance rate may be another factor that causes the lower number of students declining admission for financial reasons, administrators said. "It is extremely competitive, so once a student gets in they usually want to go," said Robert Wolff, director of premedical programs at BC.

Because of this competitive atmosphere, many premedical students look for ways to make their application stand out. A crucial component, Wolff said, lies in academic merit. "The first priority is to focus on academics," Wolff said. "Other than that, my feelings are to follow your passions, and certainly do activities that indicate that you're a team player."

Another component of applications is generally clinical and research experience. Starting this process early can help students gain more ties to the premedical community and make the transition from premedical student to medical school student easier, Koetje said. "The earlier a student can get started on the preparation process, the better."

BC's particular process is to "take a very liberal arts approach," Wolff said. The PreMedical Program is not a major, but rather a designation that allows the PreMed Office to keep interested students informed about available opportunities. One such program, Eagle Docs at Work, allows students to shadow alumni who work in the medical field. In addition, the students can contact the Career Center and other organizations such as the Volunteer Service Learning Center (VSLC) to find internships and volunteer opportunities.

Brian Currie, A&S '10, has  been interested in medical school since he was a junior or senior in high school. He has worked at a hospital over the summer, volunteered at a hospital through Loyola Volunteers, and been involved in medical research. He also shadowed a doctor last summer through Eagle Docs, and is vice president and publicity officer of the Mendel Society, a pre-health club on campus.

Following individual interests is important, Currie said. "Do something you're interested in, because med schools are more interested in  seeing that than what you think will interest them."

Medical schools are also looking for diversity of interests in their candidates. "Not every beginning med student should be the same," Wolff said.

Increasingly, students are delaying their applications to medical schools until they are a few years out of college. According to the Health Professions Graduate Schools Statistics and Placement Report, in the 2007-2008 academic year 45 students in the class of 2008 applied to medical school, while 103 BC alumni applied. The average age of students entering health professions graduate school is 25.

Wolff said that it is never too late to consider medical school. "Consistent with BC's philosophy, we feel that you ought to be applying when you're readym," he said.

While Koetje also said that students have the flexibility to enter medical school later in life, for students planning on attending soon after graduation, there is a fairly set course sequence that takes three or four years to complete, so it can be important to get started early.

The Kaplan study also gathered information pertaining to social networking sites. According to the study, 15 percent of medical schools have policies regarding social networking sites, and all of these policies prohibit the use of them in evaluating applicants. Still, 13 percent of admissions officers have visited an applicant's page to help with their evaluation.

"While it is still relatively unchartered territory, there definitely seems to be a trend, and this is one we will continue to watch," Koetje said. "When a policy is instituted, it tends to be one that forbids use."

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