Beware the Hippo: Choosing Where to Apply to Medical School

If you are applying to medical school this year, it soon will be time to compile your list of schools to which you will apply.  “Ms. Pre-health Advisor,” you ask, “How do I come up with a list of schools?  Where should I apply?  How many schools should I choose?”  Assuming my most Yoda-like posture and voice, I say, “You choose the schools.  You choose the path.  But help you I can, yes.”

First, you might enjoy listening to two podcasts produced by the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in which two medical students discuss how they chose schools and former Director of Admissions & Outreach Joni Krapec gives her perspective on the process.  The podcasts highlight some of the factors applicants consider when selecting schools including curriculum, location, and size.

Now, here are two less effective, but fairly common, ways of selecting schools followed by some thoughts to keep in mind:

Hippopotamus. Digital ID: 436886. New York Public Library

Beware of Hippo Mind.  You know the toy with the four hippos, advertised as a “frantic marble munching game,” where you pound the lever frantically to help your hippo eat, eat, eat!  And the marbles get stuck in the middle, and jammed under your hippo’s jaw, but it really feels good to make the hippos go crazy.  There is an element of good fortune involved in medical school admissions; however, if you are compiling a very long list of schools thinking, “I just want to get in somewhere,” then you are using Hippo Mind to grab your marble.  Pre-health advisors are good at talking people through Hippo Mind.

Beware of Dreamer’s Mind.  It’s a beautiful day today and I’m working at home next to the open window and I can see cherry blossoms.  I would love to live in California — I’ve lived in Pennsylvania my whole life!  I’m going to apply to all the medical schools in California.  Seattle is cool, too.  Pre-health advisors are good at dream interpretation.

Dreamer’s Mind is important and valuable, and Hippo Mind, too, lends energy to the enterprise, but they alone may not help you reach your destination.

Consider these points:

Applying to medical school is an investment of time and money.  What is your budget on both counts?  Applying to, say, more than twenty schools might not increase your “chances” of admission, but it may result in debt or “passive withdrawal” from schools when you find there isn’t time to complete all the secondary applications.

Gather information about schools.  Use the MSAR and other statistical information we have in our office.  Find out how many out-of-state or international applicants are interviewed and eventually matriculate to the school. Look at the size of the incoming class compared to the number of applications received.  Check not only the mean GPA/MCAT, but also the range for accepted students.

Have an open mind and reflect upon your career goals.  You will receive a great education in medical school and take the first steps toward becoming a doctor. There are about 170 accredited allopathic and osteopathic medical schools in the U.S.  Interestingly, we have a book in the Career Services library called The Best 162 Medical Schools. Familiarize yourself with many schools and consider which are “the best” for you and your application.

Lastly, remember that you need not rely on The Force (or The Blog) alone, but are always welcome to make an appointment at Career Services to discuss your application plans!

Consider the possibilities…pursue your interests…be yourself…

By: David Ross

If someone asked me about my philosophy on the job and internship search, my response would be the mantra displayed in my office: “consider the possibilities…pursue your interests…be yourself.”  It’s very easy to be consumed with the end goal of your search – securing the job or internship – without focusing on whether the job or internship is a good fit for you.  With that in mind, here are some things to think about:

–  Consider the possibilities.  It is not uncommon for those seeking employment to apply for multiple positions – and it is very easy to focus on the number of applications submitted opposed to the details of any particular position.  So instead of simply applying for positions based on company name, position title, location or other criteria, look closely at each job description and try to imagine yourself in the position.  Think carefully about what you are specifically hoping to gain from the job.  And do not be afraid to explore opportunities that differ slightly from your previous experience or can leverage your knowledge and existing skill set in new and exciting ways.

–  Pursue your interests.  As you navigate the job or internship search, it can be tempting to focus on the advice of others.  There can be comfort hearing validation from someone else about the type of work you hope to pursue.  I am not saying you should not leverage the help of others as you progress in your search – just be sure that the actual jobs or internships you are pursuing match your interests and you are making the important decisions.  After all, you will be the one working in the position and you will have to deal with the ramifications of your choices – not anyone else.

–  Be yourself.  Always be yourself.  Try not to be someone else or who you think the ideal candidate would be.  Demonstrate the competencies and abilities you do have as you proceed with your search.  Be proud of who you are and what you have already accomplished.  Be true to yourself, your values and beliefs.  Some employment opportunities will be a great fit for you and others may not – and that is ok.  Focus on finding work environments where you feel comfortable enough to be yourself.

Day in the Life: Research at Tulane University’s Anthropology Department

We’re excited to welcome Dr. Melinda G. Nelson-Hurst, Ph.D to @PennCareerDay on Tuesday, March 12th.  Throughout the week of March 11th, we’re going to focus on careers in education from K-12 to policymaking to research, as a follow up to our Education and Social Services Career Day on February 27th.  To learn more about Dr. Nelson-Hurst’s bio read below, and be sure to follow her on the 12th!

@PennCareerDay_TulaneResearchDr. Melinda G. Nelson-Hurst is a research associate in the Department of Anthropology and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Classical Studies at Tulane University.  She completed her Ph.D. in Egyptology (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Graduate Group) at the University of Pennsylvania, where her doctoral work and publications focused on the social history of the Middle Kingdom period of Ancient Egypt.  This work particularly centered on the part that family played in shaping the administration of the period, as well as on the social and religious roles that different family members fulfilled.

Since 2012, she has been conducting a research project on the “Tulane Mummies” collection at Tulane University (a small collection that includes multiple Egyptian artifacts, as well as two mummies).  This most recent project has brought her Egyptological background together with new research into the modern history of the Egyptian artifacts now at Tulane – and into the history of the discipline of Egyptology itself – in order to answer questions about this enigmatic collection.

As both a research associate and an adjunct assistant professor, Dr. Nelson-Hurst’s time at Tulane University is typically divided between teaching and research on a variety of topics.  However, during the current semester she is focusing entirely on research, most especially that on Tulane’s Egyptian collection.