CASPer (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is an online exam that is used by some medical schools in the admissions process. It assesses an applicant’s situational judgment in various scenarios.

New this year are two additional components of CASPer, now known as the “CASPer Suite.” This includes Snapshot, a video interview (one way–there is no person interviewing you) consisting of three questions. In addition, an inventory of your preferences in a medical school is called Duet.

Most medical schools do NOT require CASPer and of those which do require it, most do not require Duet or Snapshot. This information is still fluid, in terms of which schools want applicants to complete the entire suite.

Here is the most recent list of MD schools requiring CASPer. Check with individual schools regarding their requirements of Snapshot and Duet. If a school has made it clear that it does not require Snapshot/Duet, it has an asterisk beside it.

Baylor

Boston University

Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin

Drexel

East Tennessee State (Quillen)

Florida Atlantic

Hofstra

Howard

Indiana University

Marshall

Medical College of Georgia

Medical College of Wisconsin*

Michigan State*

New York Medical College*

Northeast Ohio

Oregon Heath & Science

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson

San Juan Bautista

Stony Brook (Renaissance)

SUNY Upstate

Temple (Katz)

Texas A&M

Texas Tech University Health Science Center (El Paso)

Texas Tech University (Lubbock)

U of Colorado

U of Illinois

U of Miami

U of Michigan*

U of Nevada, Reno

U of Texas, Houston

U of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

U of Texas, Southwestern

U of Vermont

U of Washington

Virginia Commonwealth

Virginia Tech

Wake Forest

To get ready for the CASPer, read about the format of the exam and what to expect. Here are tips to help you prepare for the exam, provided by Altus, the company that administers the test. Samples of CASPer scenarios are provided here.  To discuss how best to prepare for the CASPer please contact me via email at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Posted in 2019 and updated in 2020 and 2021

 

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Secondary applications arrive soon after the primary application is transmitted to the medical schools. It is important to return secondary applications quickly; an application is not considered complete until the secondary has been received. The suggested time window for returning a secondary application is within two weeks of receiving it.

Do the math—if an applicant applies to 20 schools, that’s 20 applications to complete within two weeks, all with several essays to write. Let’s say the average secondary application has three to four essays–that’s 60-80 essays. Writing that many essays in a short period of time obviously creates a tremendous amount of work. Medical school applicants rarely anticipate the amount of work that secondary applications entail.

To streamline the process, many applicants pre-write secondary essays, putting the finishing touches on them when the secondaries are actually released. Bear in mind, as well, that secondary application prompts can change from year to year—so sometimes prewriting a secondary can result in wasted time if an applicant writes an essay that is no longer relevant.

The secondary applications are as important as the primary application; they should be completed carefully and with great care. 

There are several ways to approach pre-writing secondaries:

  • Look for common themes amongst secondary applications and focus on fleshing out ideas for those topics and prewriting a paragraph or two on each. You can then focus those essays for particular schools, tailoring them to the exact prompt, when you receive secondaries. Common themes can be found in my blog post on common secondary prompts.
  • Do a quick Google search for secondary application prompts and you will easily find them for particular schools. Start writing.
  • Be mindful that some essays can be recycled from one school to another but only with great attention. Always read the prompt for each school carefully—and tailor your response specifically for that school, answering it precisely. Keep in mind each school’s mission and focus, and tailor your essay accordingly.

If you have questions about secondary applications feel free to reach out to me via email at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted 2017 and updated in 2019 and 2021

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The CASPer test has been around for a while and is now required at many medical schools. It is a situational judgment test that presents scenarios via video after which applicants must write an essay about how they would handle the situation. It is open-ended in terms of the responses (no multiple choice questions). The results are shared with medical schools but not with applicants, leaving them in the dark regarding their performance on the test.

New last cycle was the AAMC’s Situational Judgment Test (SJT). It was piloted at only a few medical schools, and has been expanded this year to six medical schools (Geisinger Commonwealth, Morehouse, University of California-Davis, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Des Moines University). This test assesses eight pre-professional competencies that medical schools value highly (and which overlap with the VITA):  social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, reliability/dependability, resilience/adaptability, service orientation, capacity for improvement, ethical responsibility to self and others (the additional competencies tested on the SJT as opposed to VITA are bolded). The SJT is designed to promote holistic review of applicants such that schools can assess them more broadly. It is a remote proctored examination that tests applicants’ understanding of effective preprofessional behaviors; they are not expected to have mastered these behaviors. Unlike the VITA, the SJT is a scored exam with results between 1 and 9 (9 being high); the score is reported on a scale with a rank. For the details on scoring and other particulars of the test, please visit the link above and the AAMC’s other materials on the SJT.

It remains to be seen whether both the SJT and CASPer will be required in future application cycles; my guess is that the SJT may supersede the CASPer and obviate the need for the latter exam. The CASPer is not designed specifically for medical school whereas the SJT was designed by medical schools in conjunction with the AAMC.

For information about how to prepare for these exams or to schedule a mock interview please contact me at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Originally posted in August 2020 and updated in April 2021

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As a premedical advisor for over 25 years and as a medical school admission consultant, I have read thousands of personal statements. I have read countless essays written by applicants and have helped them refine and focus their essay into a cogent, convincing piece of prose. I know what’s important to include in the personal statement and am an expert in helping applicants sharpen their message.

The personal statement is a vital and central component of the medical school application. Think of the personal statement as an opportunity to tell your story and convince the medical schools that they need to meet you. The personal statement should be engaging and compelling, while being simple and straightforward enough that admissions committee members can read them quickly. Admissions committees have thousands of applications to read; do what you can to make yours shine!

There are five essential elements of an outstanding personal statement. Once you have a draft of your essay, review it to make sure you have included the following:

  1. Motivation: Have you conveyed your motivation and reasons for wanting to be a physician clearly and logically? If not, tweak your draft. It should be abundantly clear to the reader why you’ve chosen this path.
  2. Evidence:  Have you showed, with concrete evidence, that you’ve tested, explored, and confirmed your interest in the medical profession through a variety of experiences in the field?  Medical school admissions committees will want proof that you’ve gotten your hands dirty and know the realities of patient care and the challenges of the profession.
  3. Altruism: Have you shown through past experiences that you care about others? Experiences in the community—volunteering at a soup kitchen, in a homeless shelter, or a food bank—are highly prized by medical school admissions committees. These experiences indicate that you care about others enough to put your empathy into real action. If you’ve done these things consider including them in your statement to build evidence as to your caring nature.
  4. Clarity: Have you used relatively simple words and syntax to get across your main points? Readers spend approximately one to two minutes reading your essay. Make your essay logical and clear, yet compelling. Don’t make the reader struggle to get your meaning; readers will lose interest and move to the next file to read if your essay is confusing. This should be a statement of your interest in medicine, not a philosophical treatise.
  5. Flow: Applicants often have complicated stories to tell. Sometimes their path to medicine is not altogether straightforward, as in the case of nontraditional students. No matter your story, your statement should have logical and smooth transitions from paragraph to paragraph, which when combined create a convincing whole. Check your statement’s transitions to make sure they are seamless, thereby creating a perfect whole.

In the end, what your statement should do is make the reader want to meet you in person and have a conversation. Once you have written your statement ask yourself the final question: have you convinced the reader to invite you for an interview?

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

First posted in 2013 and updated in 2016, 2018, and 2021

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In the 2021-2022 application cycle, AMCAS opens May 3 for applicants to start entering information; submissions begin on May 27. AMCAS will not transmit any applications to the medical schools until June 25th.

Before the application opens you will hopefully have written your personal statement and activity descriptions. For guidance please refer to my other blog posts on those aspects of the application. As you gear up for the application cycle, here’s a checklist of tasks to complete once you start your AMCAS application:

  • When the application opens enter your biographical, school, and letter data immediately; this will allow you to generate a Transcript Request Form (TRF) and Letter Request Form (LRF). 
  • Send the TRF to the registrar’s office of all schools attended; transcript delays are the #1 processing problem for AMCAS applications. Ensure that you request your transcripts early, just in case problems arise, so you have time to sort them out.
  • Give or send the LRF to those who will write letters on your behalf; if using the AMCAS Letter Writer Application, your letter writers will need the AAMC Letter ID on this form, in addition to your AAMC ID.
  • Follow the guidelines provided by your undergraduate premed advising office in regard to the letter process (if you are still a college student or if you’re a nontraditional or post-bac student with access to institutional advising). For example, if your college/university provides a committee letter, you may only have to send one copy of the LRF to your premed advisor. Circumstances will vary according to applicants’ individual situations.
  • Alternatively, you can use Interfolio to gather and disseminate your letters to AMCAS (this is for applicants who do not have a committee letter process in place at their school).
  • Working directly from your college transcript/s, enter course information EXACTLY as it appears. Individuals at AMCAS will verify the course data you enter against the physical transcript for accuracy. The two should match. AMCAS will also convert the credits earned into a uniform system so that course credits can be compared at one institution vs. another; this makes it easy for medical schools to compare applicants’ course loads, apples to apples.
  • Enter your activity descriptions into the AMCAS application. These are important and perused carefully by the medical schools. Take the time necessary to hone your descriptions. Remember to give both information and reflection, where appropriate.
  • Enter your personal statement into the application. Put in the time necessary to write a statement that makes you shine. Seek out input/assistance from people who have experience reading statements.  Remember: this is your chance to present yourself, your motivation for a career in medicine, and your future goals. Be convincing!
  • Assemble a thoughtful and comprehensive list of medical schools to which you will apply. This is a tactical exercise: you should have a range of schools on your list.
  • Submit early in the cycle. Please see my other blog post on the importance of submitting an early application. 
  • Early is good but don’t rush and make mistakes. Be careful in your preparation and proofread, proofread, proofread. A perfect application is better than a rushed application.
  • Good luck!

Feel free to email me with questions about your particular situation at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted in 2018 and updated in 2021.

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waiting-list

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The medical school application process starts in June of the year prior to medical school enrollment and extends to the following April. But for some applicants—those placed on waitlists—the long process extends into the late spring and summer and can span 14 months. I have over 25 years of experience guiding students to in regard to medical school waiting lists, and thus have advice to offer to those on waiting lists, along with guidelines to follow and the proper protocol.

1. Be grateful that you still have a chance! A waitlist position is better than a rejection and you still have a chance for admission. As such, start thinking about what you can do to emphasize your strong interest in a school where you are waitlisted.

2. Think thoughtfully and carefully about what you would add to the incoming class at any medical school where you are waitlisted. Express this cogently and convincingly in a letter you send to the admissions committee. If you want to move from the waitlist into the class you MUST convey your interest to the admissions committee. The only exception to this would be schools that prohibit contact–be sure to check each school’s rules before sending letters. Submit a letter soon after being notified of your waitlist status. Articulate specifically why the school appeals to you and what you would add to it. Express your enthusiasm; schools want students who are eager to enroll and who will contribute positively to the environment. If you’re certain you would accept a spot in the incoming class if admitted, you should write a letter of intent.

3. Be sure that your contact information is up to date if you’re on a waitlist and be prepared to be contacted at any time. Also be prepared to respond to a waitlist offer quickly. There are AAMC rules pertaining to waiting list protocol.

4. Do not badger the admissions office of any medical school where you are waitlisted with repeated calls or letters. Do not communicate with the admissions office more than once a month and do not pull out the “important” people with connections to the school to try to advance your case; this will only annoy admissions committees.

5. Keep the medical school informed if there are important updates to report.  If you publish research, win important awards or earn honors you should keep the medical school apprised of these accomplishments.

Movement from waiting lists usually occurs in April, May, and June. Occasional spots open up in July, and can even occur up to the first day that a school starts. As a medical school admissions consultant, I advise applicants through the waitlist process. Feel free to send me an email at liza@thompsonadvising.com or call me to discuss your particular situation.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted in 2018 and updated in 2021.

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The Liaison Committee on Medical Education accredits medical schools in the US and Canada. Accreditation ensures that medical schools meet standards set by the LCME. Medical schools are required to “demonstrate that their graduates exhibit general professional competencies that are appropriate for entry to the next stage of their training and that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.”

Most state medical boards require that U.S. medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for graduates’ licensure. US medical students cannot take United States Medical Licensing Examinations unless they are enrolled at an accredited school.

Each medical school periodically goes through a review and re-accreditation process. Occasionally schools are put on probation and must make changes to maintain their accreditation.

Medical school applicants should be cognizant of the schools on probation. If they apply to those schools they should find out what the schools are doing to rectify the situation to be taken off probation.

At this date the following schools are on probation:

City University of New York

The school’s public response to the probation can be found here.

Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine (Puerto Rico)

The school’s public response to the probation can be found here.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Updated in 2019 and 2021

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LGBTQ+ medical school applicants often wonder if they should disclose their sexuality in their application. The American Medical Student Association offered an online forum in 2013 which provided applicants with information and answered their questions about being out in the application process and in medical school. Quoting from the announcement about this event: “Getting into medical school is an intimidating process for nearly all premedical students, but it can be especially daunting for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Should I mention it on my application? During my interview? If so, how should I bring it up? How will I know if a school is LGBT-friendly? Can I be out in med school? What is life like as an LGBT med student? What kind of opportunities might I find for an LGBT med student?”

Stanford conducted a study which showed that of the LGBTQ+ students surveyed, about two thirds opted to disclose their sexuality in the medical school application process but almost half feared discrimination. In my work advising applicants as a medical school admissions consultant, I have found that schools do not discriminate and, in fact, welcome LGBTQ+ students.

A recent study showed that LGBT medical students may suffer from burnout. What are schools doing to help mitigate this? An article published in AAMC News describes how various schools attempt to create a welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ students. Some medical schools make an effort to actively recruit and/or welcome LGBTQ+ students. Yale, Penn, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, Washington University, and NYU are just a few among many which offer specific programs and interest groups. And the American Medical Student Association has a Gender and Sexuality Group focused on advocacy efforts. Stanford created LGBT-Meds, an organization which hosts events and lectures on LGBTQ+ topics. Some medical schools are also providing training for faculty and students to foster inclusion, such as the SafeSpace Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine hosted a forum on LGBTQ+ People in Medicine.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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Copyright 2011 Katy Dickinson

Copyright 2011 Katy Dickinson

Mentoring in medicine is important. Good mentoring helps premedical students envision themselves in the medical profession and learn from physicians or researchers. In medical school, mentors help students learn clinical medicine and focus on specialties of interest which they may want to pursue. Medical school applicants should be mindful of this as they select which medical school to attend once the application process is done. MentorCloud is a site on mentoring; you may want to explore it to learn more.  Continue reading

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Virginia Tech Carilion

Virginia Tech Carilion

One of the important elements of applying to medical school is assembling a thoughtful  list of schools. In response to a predicted physician shortage, several new medical schools have opened in recent years, such as KaiserCommonwealth, Hofstra, Quinnipiac, the University of California at Riverside, Hackensack Meridian, California University of Science and Medicine, Carle IllinoisWestern Michigan, and the University of Houston, among others. An article in Academic Medicine describes the opening of 29 new medical schools since 2000. For a full list of accredited medical schools, see the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

Should you consider applying to a new medical school?  Some of the risks are obvious, others less so. The Association of American Medical Colleges interviewed two students who chose to enroll at new medical schools;  they share their takes on the pros and cons.

If you are considering applying to a new school, ask questions of the admissions staff, faculty, and current students (if there are any). Find out about the school’s mission, vision, curriculum, clinical rotations, and faculty  Be sure to do your due diligence.

For help devising the list of schools you will apply to, feel free to reach out to me via email at liza@thompsonadvising.com. 

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posed in 2013 and updated in 2021.

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