By Daniel Flores
The application processes for graduate and medical schools are quite different, although both contain some basic similarities. Both groups of applicants write a personal statement, attend an interview, and need to make a final decision. On February 22, 2016, the NICHD Office of Education held a panel-style event titled “The Application and Interviewing Process for Medical and Graduate School.” The panelists included a current medical student, a medical school applicant, a graduate student, a graduate school applicant, and a postdoc. Panelists answered many questions about the application process for both academic tracks.
The panelists agreed on many points. To start, applying smartly is key—there is no benefit in applying to as many schools as you can. Rather, the panelists recommended applying to those schools that genuinely interest you. They also recommended analyzing the average accepted exam scores (GRE or MCAT), looking at out-of-state and in-state acceptance rates.
When it comes to preparing your application, being able to talk in detail about anything on your curriculum vitae (CV) or resume is fundamental. One audience member pointed out that she was asked about a study abroad trip many years ago and was expected to expand upon it much more than what was written in her CV. Your personal statement is also not exempt from this point. An interesting thought that was brought up by an audience member was that you should be comfortable talking about anything on your personal statement. During your interview visit, the panelists further emphasized that it is key to treat everyone you encounter with respect.
When making your final decision, the panelists encouraged applicants not only to focus on the school itself, but also to consider if the geographical location is a good fit for you. Can you see yourself living there for the next four to seven years? Also, for graduate school applicants, is the stipend adequate to cover living expenses?
Lastly, all of the panelists agreed that the path to acceptance is indeed unpredictable. However, coupling this with stress will only make the process more difficult for you. Your dedication and motivation in your field of choice will ultimately ensure that you have all of the bases covered, and that you have prepared a quality application.