Advising Services—Health Professions
Students should apply to a reasonable number of schools. You should know enough about each school that you apply to that you know specifically why you are interested in that school. You should also apply to no more schools than you have time and energy to complete effective and polished applications, keeping in mind that the application process has many steps. With any school, consider if you would be happy to go to that school if it was the only school you were offered an acceptance.
Many health professions schools receive a substantial portion of their funding from the states in which they are located and must, therefore, give preference to state residents in the admissions process. The degree of preference given to state residents varies from school to school. A few schools, such as the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will simply not accept applications from non-residents. More commonly, a certain number or percentage of seats in each first-year class is reserved for state residents, and non-residents who apply must usually present significantly better credentials than residents in order to be considered seriously for admission. Some states enter into contractual arrangements with other states whereby each state signing the contract agrees to admit to its own schools certain numbers of residents of the other contracting states. This practice is particularly common among veterinary and optometry schools.
In general, state schools have different rates of tuition for residents and non-residents, and the tuition for residents is usually quite low as compared to the tuition assessed by the typical private institution. We don't mean to suggest that cost must determine everything, but you should do keep in mind.
You'll be spending four years of your life in professional school, and you'll enjoy it more if the school is located someplace you like. If you know now that you are not a good fit for life in a super-large city, eliminate big-city schools from your list. Conversely, if you will be bored to death in a "small-town" environment, don't consider schools in smaller cities or semi-rural areas.
Professional schools generally claim not to have cut-offs in terms of grades and test scores. This may or may not be true, but such cut-offs as there may be are not publicized. However, we maintain records that include GPA, test scores, acceptances and rejections on our applicants, and based on these records, we can advise you as to where you are more or less likely to have a good chance at an offer of admission. PLEASE NOTE: There are various sources that provide general information about health professions programs, and we urge you to review them. Some are better than others. Publications of respected third-party vendors or, even better, national professional organization (such as the AAMC, AAVMC or AACOM) are excellent sources of preliminary information. Typically, the books will state mean GPA's and mean test scores of recently accepted applicants. Please be careful interpreting this data. Even if it's true that the mean GPA of the 2008 entering class at School X was 3.65, applicants from Rochester may well have been accepted with GPA's between 3.5 and 3.6.
If you already have a specialty area in mind, find out how graduates of the schools you are considering have fared in obtaining jobs or residency placements in your area of interest. School catalogues and/or web pages will list the placements of the most recent graduating class, and admissions officers can supply you with additional information, such as what percentage of members of the typical graduating class are placed in their first-choice residencies. Aspiring dentists, vets, optometrists and podiatrists should seek information about the kind of employment placement assistance available from various schools. Will the school and/or its alumni/ae assist new graduates in locating practice opportunities? Do new graduates find more practice opportunities in certain parts of the country than in others? Admissions officers are a good source of such information, as are currently enrolled students and alumni who are now in practice.
The basic required courses don't vary much from one school to another, but there may be substantial differences in electives, research opportunities, and when students have their first contact with patients. Early patient contact is becoming more common; many schools (but not all) now offer required first-year courses that involve meeting patients and their families, observing examinations and diagnostic procedures, and learning the basics of patient interviewing. Some schools, such as our own School of Medicine and Dentistry, offer a problem-based (as opposed to lecture-oriented) curriculum. Many schools (particularly medical schools) also offer courses that focus on effective communication with patients. Schools also offer a variety of combined degree programs such as MD/PhD, MD/MPH, DO/MPH, DDS/PhD, DVM/PhD, PharmD/MPH etc.
If you have a serious interest in research, you may want to consider schools that offer combined MD/PhD programs. Many universities offer such programs, but a special program is available at about 30 schools. The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) offers up to six full years of tuition plus an annual stipend to qualified students. (Please note: It usually takes longer than six years to complete the degrees, but other sources of funding are available for the research component of the degree program.) About 120 MSTP positions are available nationally each year, so the competition is very keen. Interested students should begin their planning early, and should acquire a substantial background in research during the undergraduate years. The UR medical school is a MSTP participant, and detailed information about the program is available from the MD/PhD Program Office at x-58721.