Holding All The Cards

Oh, I’m not talking about me. In the medical school world, the institution holds all the cards. When you apply to schools and complete the secondary application, the rest of the process is entirely at the discretion of the school – that is, until they decide to make you an offer of admission.

Here’s what happens: When a school receives your completed application, they will review it when they get a chance. Or they won’t, and will wait to review applications until a predetermined date in the future.

When a school reviews your application, they will make a decision on whether to interview you. Or they won’t, and they’ll table your application for a month, a season, or half the year.

When you finally get on to campus and interview, the school can review your entire file at that point and make you an offer of admission – or not. Or they won’t, and they’ll leave all their applicants hanging for months or, again, half the year.

There is a wide degree of variability in how medical schools will set their timetables. Some schools will provide the applicant with a detailed timeline; others will simply leave it off their website. Some will tell you that you can expect a decision on an interview in 4-6 weeks; others will write, “You may be invited for an interview any time between August and March.” That’s kind of a long time.

Then again, it’s nice they say anything at all; some schools will simply say, “Applicants will be notified at some point during the year about interviews and acceptances. If you do not hear from us by April 15, you may assume we have not selected you to join our class.”

(That is a real quote from an admissions FAQ page.)

The worst situation, for me, is the array of five schools on my list (which shall remain nameless) whose admission policy is to interview during the fall and early winter, then to hold all decisions – accepted or not – until April. That means I could conceivably be invited for an interview in September and then have to wait the better part of a year to find out if I have a spot. The depressing part about this system is that some schools will make acceptance calls in the fall; an applicant can then hold that spot until May, hoping to hear from a school higher on their list. And that really sucks for the school that offered in the fall.

I’m not trashing the med schools. This is just simply how the game is played. With tens of thousands of applicants and far less spots, the schools are sitting in a position of strength. Applicants must simply play the waiting game.

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2 thoughts on “Holding All The Cards

  1. Pingback: The Cup Of Shame | Laughter is the Best Medicine

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