On Thursday, October 15th, I had the opportunity to attend the Med School Panel, which was part of the Graduate School Fair. There were seven panelists, all of whom have vast experience in the admissions process into healthcare graduate programs. The panelists were able to answer numerous questions and provided valuable insight into not only the typical admissions process, but how the process will be affected due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
To begin the discussion, Hillary Lyons, Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions at Regis College, highlighted that the main components of the typical application process include an inquiry state, the application itself – full with letters of recommendations, necessary tests scores, and any other specific materials, and finally an interview.
Vincent James, from the Harvard School of Public Health, added that a big factor in the admissions process is determining if your goals align with the school’s goals, and that they want to see if the program can help you achieve them. He emphasized that the admissions process is a two-way street, and that as much as you need to have skills from certain experiences that you will bring to the classroom, you should expect a program to supplement your path toward your end goals.
When asked about the personal statement, Catherine Hamilton, Sr. Director of Enrollment at Bouve College of Health, highlighted the importance of authenticity, and that it should be about the path you took to get to where you currently are. She emphasized that the types of personal statements that really stand out are the ones that tell a story of your journey connecting with a community and discovering yourself along the way.
We also touched on the panelists’ thoughts on gap years, and Sean Sendall from the Cornell School of Nursing at Boston College asserted the idea that it is a growth year and not a gap year. He explained that as long as you are doing something to develop yourself as an individual or applicant, taking a couple of years off is no problem. He stressed the importance of actually doing something during these years, whether it be volunteering, shadowing, working, taking classes, or any other personal development, but he along with the other panelists maintained that gap years can be extremely beneficial and are not looked down upon if used to their full potential.
The panelists also commented on interviews, and how to talk about different issues in society today. Catherine Hamilton mentioned that it is okay to discuss that the current environment is challenging, and that more schools are learning how to include cultural competencies in their acceptance. She emphasized the importance of being cognizant of what is happening in the world, and that one of the goals of an interview is to see that you can articulate your views on the fly, and not just in a written format.
There was also discussion about the shift towards a more holistic admission. Lauren Putnam from the MGH Institute of Health Professionals explained that holistic admissions implies looking at the entire application, which means showing your best self through essays, recommendations, community impact, etc. She also mentioned that some programs may not require standardized testing, or alternatively, may be leaning away from that being the major focus of the application.
Going off of that, in terms of the pandemic, Dr. Keat Sanford, former admissions staff at the UConn School of Medicine and current Pre-Med Advisor said that UConn Health, as well as many other medical schools have added a question to the secondaries asking what impact the pandemic has had on you, and that there will be more focus on what you did instead to demonstrate support to your community. Brett DiMarzo, Director of Grad Admissions at Simmons University, added that with the pandemic, filling typical observation hour requirements isn’t the end of the world; however, it’s important to keep track of different programs to fulfill specific requirements. The general consensus was that schools are responsive to the fact that everyone is in this together and that the larger theme is a student’s altruism and commitment to others.
If you didn’t have a chance to attend the panel, or would like to catch anything that you missed, feel free to watch it at the link below.