What are medical schools looking for in a successful applicant?
Three major attributes. Firstly, academic excellence is the first essential attribute for any student wishing to enter the health care professions. Successful applicants to medical school should aim for a science grade point average (G.P.A.) of 3.3-3.6 depending on the school. Secondly, students need to perform well on a standardized exam called the Medical Colleges Admissions Test or MCAT, which is designed to predict how well students will fare under the medical school curriculum. Thirdly, a successful applicant should have qualities, other than academics, that they excel in. Extracurricular activities such as a sport or hobby are looked on favorably as are experience in healthcare and service as an organizational leader.
What is the MCAT and how well do I need to perform on it to get to medical school?
MCAT is held online seven times each year (January, April, May, June, July, August, September) with results available about six weeks later. The test consists of four components; verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences and writing sample. Practice tests can be obtained on-line (http://www.aamc.org/students/mcat/practicetests.htm) and students may also opt to take prep courses such as Kaplan. Philadelphia University is now an officially recognized site for the Kaplan Prep Test Course, which runs from late November until April each year during the evenings. Students in the Pre-Medical Studies Major receive a subsidized rate for this prep course and in addition, five scholarships will be awarded each year to the most worthy students wishing to take the prep course. More information about can be obtained by accessing the Kaplan website at http://www.kaptest.com/. Current data on student scores suggests that most medical schools require a 9-10 in the science/ verbal reasoning components with a P score on the writing sample. This equates to the top 10-20% of those taking the exam.
When and how should I apply to medical school?
Students should begin the application process to medical school in their senior year. There are about one hundred and twenty-five Medical Schools in the United States and the majority of them subscribe to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). A student applying sends one set of references and transcripts to this service and then indicates which schools they would like them sent to. AMCAS can also be designated to receive the student’s MCAT scores and send them to each selected school. More information about AMCAS can be obtained on-line at http://www.aamc.org.
How many students does each medical school accept?
Most schools have places for between 100 and 250 students but may receive 2,000-8,000 applications for those places (http://www.aamc.org/medicalschools.htm). This means that you need to be patient in hearing from the schools. Also bear in mind that competition for each seat is intense and many students with good G.P.A. and MCAT scores will not be accepted. When applying to medical school check the ratio between acceptances and applicants and always include a “safe” school.
How much does medical school cost?
Medical school is expensive, costing from $30,000-40,000 per year of study for tuition and fees alone (http://www.aamc.org/medicalschools.htm). There are loans available to help with the tuition including the Federal Stafford and Consolidation programs. More information on these and other financial alternatives can be found on-line at http://www.aamc.org/students/medloans/start.htm.
What is the difference between allopathic and osteopathic medicine?
The pattern of study for both schools is the same with the first two years spent on basic science and the third and fourth year on clinical rotations. Both types of doctors can specialize in the same areas of medicine and are pretty much indistinguishable in a hospital or general practice setting. The main difference between an allopathic and an osteopathic doctor lies in philosophy and use of manipulation. Osteopaths believe that the body has intrinsic healing mechanisms so that patient health involves the whole person. More information can be found at http://www.aacom.org/data/annualreport/index.html.
What other things should I think about in choosing which medical school to apply to?
Being at medical school for four years anywhere sounds like a great prospect but, just like your undergraduate choice of Philadelphia University, it is important to consider the size of the school, its location and mostly what it “feels like” to be there. The American Academy of Medical Colleges (AAMC) produces a book “Medical School Admission Requirements”, which may help narrow down suitable institutions.
What other health professional careers are there?
Many opportunities exist to become a health care professional. Five major areas that many Pre-Medical Studies graduates enter are chiropractic, dentistry, physical therapy, podiatry, and veterinary medicine. Some important aspects of each career and places to go for additional information are summarized below. Students interested in careers in Midwifery, Occupational Therapy or as Physician Assistants should consider our current programs at Philadelphia University. More information is available at http://www.philau.edu/schools/ssh/grad_programs/.
Chiropractic – this field focuses on the impact that bone, muscular and neurological disease has on the general health of the patient. The approach is primarily holistic and drug-free and focuses on changing an individual’s lifestyle and nutritional habits to promote natural healing processes. Philadelphia University has a “3+3” agreement with Logan University, the oldest chiropractic school in the country, and those aiming for this field will be guided in their course selections by Dr. Cundell, who is the liaison for this program. Further information on the 3+3 agreement with Logan can be obtained by going to their website at http://www.logan.edu/articulation_agreements/philau_home.asp
Dentistry – this field focuses on
the mouth and facial areas and the majority of graduates go into private
practice. Most dental schools require students take the dental
admissions test (DAT), a four part examination similar in subject matter
to the MCAT, which is held annually in March or April. For more
information go to http://www.dental--schools.com/
Physical Therapy – this area of medicine involves interacting with patients injured during an accident or suffering with a progressive medical condition to help regain motor function. Physical Therapists also help train amputees to walk with prostheses and are involved in the care of stroke victims. Many schools also require an interested student to have shadowed and volunteering up to one hundred hours and to possess a valid CPR certificate. For more information go to http://www.physicaltherapy.com/.
Podiatry – focus on this area of medicine allows licensing to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the foot and ankle up to but not including the knee. Interestingly, 90% of illnesses initially show changes in this area so it is an important component of the disease process. Podiatrists perform physical examinations, biopsies and can prescribe medications. Many are involved in sports and geriatric medicine, where they work alongside and are not distinguished from experts in orthopedists. Students interested in becoming podiatrists should take the MCAT exam. For more information go to http://www.aacpm.org/
Veterinary Medicine – this focuses on all aspects of health in non-human patients including diagnosis, pharmaceuticals and surgery. Graduates may focus in a variety of areas after taking a further 2-3 years internship in fields ranging from exotic small animals to radiology and anesthesiology. Most schools expect entering students to have taken the general record exam (GRE) and to have an excellent G.P.A. For more information go to http://www.aavmc.org and http://www.gre.org
Prospective students interested in the pre-medical studies major should contact Dr. Diana R. Cundell at CundellD@PhilaU.edu.