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Tips for Writing the Medical School Personal Statement

By Dr. Eaton | Published April 7th, 2014

If you’re gearing up to apply to medical school for fall 2015 entry, now is the time to get started with your personal statement. Keep these tips in mind as you sit down to write:

  • Start long and then condense. For the early drafts focus on the overall content, structure and message, and then edit down your ideas to fit the length limits for the application (5,300 characters including spaces for AMCAS, 4,500 for AADSAS and 5,000 for Texas).
  • Incorporate examples, anecdotes and details to make your statement compelling and convincing.
  • Don’t try to squeeze in every activity and accomplishment you have. Med school applications contain sections to list your work, volunteer and extracurricular activities, so use the personal statement to focus on a smaller number of essential experiences that support the story of why you want to become a physician and why you’ll be a good one.
  • Take some time between drafts. A few days or even longer between drafts will allow you to read yours statement with fresh eyes and see what is working, and what isn’t.
  • Keep the purpose of the statement in mind. A great personal statement serves as a letter of introduction to the admissions committee and will convince them that this is an applicant they want to get to know better.
  • Get others’ opinions, but don’t go overboard. Having an advisor, physician or professor look over your statement and give you feedback can be invaluable, but if you try to take advice from too many people, you’ll find your distinctive writer’s voice lost in a sea of other people’s thoughts and opinions.
  • Proofread relentlessly.

Getting started is the hardest part of the writing process, so my final piece of advice is to pick a time to just sit down and begin. Even if you’re not thrilled with your first draft, getting something down on paper will give you something to work from.  Sit down, fill a page or two with your thoughts and then go back and revise again and again.

 

Need the help of an advisor experienced with medical school applications? Contact Dr. Eaton at (626) 768-2154 or info@prehealthadvising.com for a free 20 minute phone consultation.

Getting Familiar with the 2015 MCAT: What’s Changing and What’s Staying the Same

By Bryan Schnedeker | Published February 6th, 2014

We welcome the following guest blog post from Bryan Schnedeker of Next Step Test Preparation. Bryan provides a great update on the new 2015 MCAT.

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By Bryan Schnedeker, Next Step Test Preparation

Starting in 2015, the MCAT is going to undergo its biggest revamp in over twenty years. Here’s a quick guide on what you need to know about the new test:

What’s staying the same?

  • To prep for the MCAT you’ll still need to have a year each of biology, chemistry, physics, and organic chemistry under your belt.
  • The Verbal Reasoning section is getting a new name: Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills, but is fundamentally the same. That is, you’ll still be expected to read lengthy, boring passages on topics from the humanities and social sciences and then answer tricky inference-based questions about the text.
  • The Biological Sciences section is getting a new name: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (BFLS), and it will continue to depend heavily on biology concepts. Roughly 65% of this section will be biology, but only 6% will still be organic chemistry.
  • The Physical Sciences section is getting a new name: Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (PFBS), and will continue to test physics and general chemistry. Roughly 33% of this section will be gen chem and 25% will be physics.

What’s New?

The new test is going to be significantly longer. With the new psychology section, the exam will run about seven hours. If you include the often lengthy wait during the check-in process, and potentially longer breaks between sections, students can expect the MCAT to take eight or nine hours to complete.

Next, a new section is being added: Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior. This new section will work much like the other sections. Students will expect to see a mix of lengthy experiment-based passages with accompanying questions, interspersed with a few independent questions that purely test outside knowledge.

The new BFLS and PFBS sections will also be seeing several big shake-ups in the content they test. The biggest issue is the addition of biochemistry content. That’s an entire semester-long course that’s being added to the MCAT list of prereq’s. This means that starting in March 2015, an MCAT student will want to have finished all of the following:

  • 2 semesters biology (3 recommended)
  • 2 semesters general chemistry
  • 2 semester physics
  • 1 semester organic chemistry (2 recommended)
  • 1 semester biochemistry
  • 1 semester psychology
  • 1 semester sociology
  • 1 semester statistics (recommended)
  • 2-3 semesters of humanities, philosophy, social sciences, or other courses that involve intensive reading (recommended)

Here’s the AAMC’s breakdown on content areas in the new sections:

Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems (95 min)

  • Biochemistry: 25%
  • Biology: 65%
  • Chemistry: 4%
  • Organic Chem: 6%

Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (95 min)

  • Biochem: 25%
  • Biology: 2%
  • Chemistry: 33%
  • Organic Chem: 15%
  • Physics: 25%

Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (95 min)

  • Psychology: 60%
  • Sociology: 30%
  • Biology: 10%

Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (90 min)

  • Humanities: 50%
  • Social Science: 50%

Finally, the AAMC has indicated that they will be placing a renewed emphasis on questions that hinge on experimental design and the interpretation of data, including the statistical meaning or significance of data. It’s still unclear if any specific coursework can be used to prep for this new outlook, but students may want to consider taking a one-semester course on statistics as a way to prepare.

So if you will be taking this new MCAT, what can you do about it now?

The main thing you’ll want to do is get all of your course work in. Make sure you plan to complete all of the classes listed above before your test.

In addition to getting the right course work done, you’ll also want to make sure you have all of the relevant up-to-date info. For that, you can like our Facebook page and check for official updates on AAMC’s 2015 page.

Good luck!

Next Step Test Preparation provides one-on-one MCAT tutor programs nationwide.

2014-2015 Dental School Application Timeline

By Dr. Eaton | Published November 30th, 2013

Since most dental schools have rolling admissions, applying is important. As the cycle proceeds and spots in the class are filled, admission for the remaining spots can become more competitive.  The entire application process takes nearly a full year to complete. By familiarizing yourself with the application process early on, you can develop a schedule for the many application-related tasks you will need to complete and submit a high quality application early in the cycle.

 There are two separate centralized application services for U.S. dental schools:

 AADSAS (Associated American Dental Schools Application Service) https://portal.aadsasweb.org/

TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service) -  For Texas residents applicants Texas dental schools. http://www.utsystem.edu/tmdsas/

 

In addition to submitting a primary application through one of these services, most dental schools require a secondary or supplemental application. The final step in the application is an interview.

Here is a timeline for the 2014-2015 dental school admissions cycle to help you with your planning:

2013

December

Become familiar with the application process. Good sources of information are the AADSAS and TMDSAS sites and your pre-health advisor.

Gather information about dental schools. The ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools is updated each spring and available for purchase at the ADEA site.

Check to make sure that you are on track to complete the pre-requisites courses for dental school.

Find out if your undergraduate institution school offers a prehealth committee letter and the process for obtaining one. If your school does not have a committee letter, make sure that you check with the dental schools you plan to apply to regarding their requirements for letters of reference, as they vary from school to school.

Continue to gain dental, community service and/or research experience throughout the next year.

2014

January -March

Request letters of recommendation from faculty and dentists individually or obtain a committee letter per your undergraduate institution’s protocol.

April-June

Register for the DAT. Information regarding the DAT may be found at the American Dental Association (ADA) site  http://www.ada.org/dat.aspx

Prepare for and take the DAT. Take the DAT earlier if preferred, but do not delay past July if at all possible in order to have scores submitted to the schools early in the cycle.

AADSAS applications become available online in mid-May but may not be submitted until the cycle opens around June 1.

TMSDSAS cycle opens in early May.

July-September

Retake the DAT if needed.

Complete secondary applications. (Note: a few schools request that secondary applications be submitted at the same time as the primary application.)

September 2014 – Spring 2015

Continue submitting secondaries.

Interview at dental schools.

Schools notify applicants of acceptances beginning Dec. 1 and continue until the class is full.

Stay in contact with schools you are waitlisted at.

Fall 2015

Begin dental school!

The application process to dental school can be time-consuming, so plan ahead so that you can complete each step early in the cycle.

Need the help of an advisor experienced with dental school applications? Contact Dr. Eaton at (626) 768-2154 or info@prehealthadvising.com for a free 20 minute phone consultation.

 

Medical School Application Timeline for 2014-2015

By Dr. Eaton | Published September 18th, 2013

The medical school application process takes nearly a full year to complete. Therefore, excellent planning and organization are essential, especially since most medical schools have rolling admissions.  Rolling admissions means that the school does not wait until all of the applications are submitted to begin evaluating applications. Therefore, applying later in the cycle could place you at a disadvantage in the application process. Many schools begin interviewing in September and some offer acceptances as early as mid-October. As spots in the class fill up, it may be more difficult to gain admission.

To start, you need to know some basic information about how the medical school application process works.

There are three separate centralized application services for U.S. medical schools:

In addition to submitting a primary application through the applicable service, most medical schools require a secondary or supplemental application. The final step in the application is an interview.

To help you get started planning for the coming year, here is a timeline to follow for applicants planning to enter medical school in fall 2015:

2013

September-December

  •  Become familiar with the application process. Good sources of information are the application service websites above and your prehealth advisor. Find out if your school offers a committee letter for recommendations, and the process for obtaining one.
  • Gather information about medical schools. The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) Online, available for purchase through the AAMC site is an excellent resource.  The Osteopathic College Information Book can be downloaded online at the AACOM site.
  • Continue to gain clinical and research experience throughout the next year.

 2014

January-March 

  • Request letters of recommendation from faculty and physicians individually or obtain a committee letter per your undergraduate institution’s protocol.
  • Register for the MCAT at least two months prior to planned test date. Information regarding the MCAT can be found at https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/46412/mcat/
  • Begin studying for the MCAT several months before you plan to take the test.
  • Start working on  the personal statement and descriptions of activities for the primary application.

April-June

  • Prepare for and take the MCAT. Take the MCAT in the spring if possible, but no later than early summer in order to have scores submitted to the schools early in the cycle.
  • TMDSAS opens in early May.
  • AMCAS and ACOMAS are available online in May. At this time, you may fill them out online, although you may not submit them until early June when both application cycles open.

July-September

  • Retake the MCAT if needed.
  • Complete supplemental (secondary) applications. Some will come as soon as your primary application is verified, others will take weeks or months months. Return these to the schools within one to two weeks of receiving.
  • Interviews begin at some schools in late August.

September 2014–Spring 2015

  • Submit any remaining secondaries.
  • Interview at medical schools.
  • Some schools notify applicants of acceptances October 15. Notifications continue until the class is full.
  • By May 15, applicants to AMCAS schools should only be holding a spot at one school. They may remain on waitlists for other schools.

Spring-Summer 2015

  •  Update schools you are waitlisted at about new activities and accomplishments.

Fall 2015

  •  Begin medical school!

Need the help of an advisor experienced with dental school applications? Contact Dr. Eaton at (626) 768-2154 or info@prehealthadvising.com for a free 20 minute phone consultation.

Getting Ready for Behavioral Interview Questions for Medical School Admission Interviews

By Dr. Eaton | Published August 1st, 2013

Some medical schools have already started sending out interview invitations and many more will join in during the coming weeks.  As you prepare for your first interview, you’re likely to think about answers to the typical med school interview questions such as “Why do you want to be a physician?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” However, there’s a category of interview questions that you may not be familiar with, but are likely to encounter on the interview trail: behavioral interviewing questions.

Behavioral interviewing questions are aimed at determining how you have handled various situations and challenges in the past Your responses can help an interviewer determine if you how you may deal with the challenges you’ll face in medical school, residency and as a physician.

Here are some examples of behavioral interview questions:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone else.
  • Describe a situation in which you faced a problem with no good solution.
  • Tell me about a time when you faced an ethical dilemma.

Now that you know what behavioral questions are, you’re probably wondering how to approach answering them.

Coming up with a specific example on the spot can be very difficult, so one of the keys to success in a behavioral interview is to think of multiple situations before you go to the interview. Think through your academic career, clinical experiences, and other activities and life experiences to generate four or five examples that are very different than one another. For example, one situation may highlight a time you’ve succeeded despite an obstacle, another may focus on a time when you failed and what you learned from the experience. If you have a wide enough variety of anecdotes to choose from, you’re likely to be able to pull from those to answer a behavioral question, rather than being stumped and giving a weak answer or no answer at all.

While behavioral questions are usually only a small part of the interview, they can be some of the toughest to answer, so make sure you invest some time in preparing for these as well as the old favorites such as “Why do you want to attend this school?” Every question in a med school interview is important, so make the most of each as an opportunity to convince the admissions committee to offer you a place in their class.

Mock Interview Package – Dr. Eaton is available for mock interviews. Click for Details
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