An economic downturn amid a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic has been the likely reason for an increase in medical school applications. The unprecedented conditions, in spite of the uptick in application volume, have also led to medical schools offering more flexibility in the admissions process.
According to a recent survey of medical school admissions officers across North America conducted by Kaplan, 93% of respondents have made their admissions process more flexible due to the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
“This is not the application cycle that any aspiring doctor could have predicted or wanted when they took their first premed class as a freshman, but medical schools seem to be taking steps to make the process as straightforward as possible under extraordinary conditions,” said Petros Minasi, senior director of pre-health programs at Kaplan.
“Premeds should keep in mind, though, that although most medical schools are taking steps to remove roadblocks, that it won’t be any easier to get into medical school than in recent years,” Minasi said. “In fact, with applications surging, it’s more important than ever to put together the strongest application possible.”
What flexibility looks like
Over the past eight months of uncertainty and facility closures, major aspects of a medical school applicant’s portfolio—such as in-person volunteer experience and physician observation—have become more difficult to obtain.
“It’s the consensus with my colleagues across the spectrum of med schools that we’ve all come to an understanding that this cycle is going to be limited in terms of expectations based upon what would be the normal volunteer activities,” John D. Schriner, PhD, told the AMA. He is associate dean for admissions and student affairs at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, one of 37 member schools of the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medicine Consortium.
In addition to volunteer experience expectations, Kaplan’s survey revealed that medical schools are:
Accepting pass-fail grades for prerequisite courses.
Extending score submission deadlines for the Medical College Admission Test, which had been disrupted during key windows in the testing cycle.
Moving admission interviews online.
A less rigid approach to admissions could potentially provide stress relief to applicants who have been through a cycle riddled with tumult and uncertainty.
“Applicants hold a pre-pandemic vision from advisors and near-peers of what it takes to succeed in the admissions process,” said Kim Lomis, MD, the AMA’s vice president for undergraduate medical education innovations. “That is daunting, since many of the traditionally valued experiences and metrics have simply not been possible to attain this year. Hearing that schools are cognizant of these constraints and are being open-minded will hopefully reduce anxiety and let students focus on their enthusiasm for a career in medicine.”
As applications spike during COVID-19, candidates are asking how to make their applications stand out, while admissions officers are taking steps to handle the influx.
At Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, applications for admission to the class of 2025 are up more than 35% compared to the same time last year. At Boston University School of Medicine, they’ve risen by 26%. And at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, admissions officers have seen applications increase by 27%.
In fact, nearly two dozen medical schools have seen applications jump by at least 25% this year, according to AAMC data.
Final tallies won’t arrive for another month or so — all schools’ application windows must close first — but early numbers are striking. So far, there are more than 7,500 additional applicants nationwide, according to data from the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®), which processes submissions for most U.S. medical schools. That’s an increase of nearly 17%.
“We’ve been experiencing a leveling off in recent years, so the large increase was quite surprising,” says AAMC Chief Services Officer Gabrielle Campbell. “It’s also inspiring.”
Experts don’t know exactly what’s behind the increase, but they point to several likely factors. Some are rather mundane, including students having more time to focus on applications as college classes moved online. But at least some of this year’s applicants are driven by COVID-19 patients’ terrible suffering and front-line providers’ extraordinary heroism.
“I make an analogy to the time after 9/11, when we saw an increase in those motivated to serve this country militarily,” says Geoffrey Young, PhD, AAMC senior director for student affairs and programs. “This certainly seems like a significant factor this year.”
Even in a usual cycle, applying to medical school is no simple matter. Candidates spend many months preparing for the MCAT® exam, writing essays, and collecting recommendations. Applying for entry in 2021 meant completing the AMCAS application in the spring or summer of 2020, followed by individual schools’ required secondary applications. Once applications are completed, applicants anxiously await interview invitations, which could extend into the spring of 2021.
Peer Career Advisor (PCA) and Posse Scholar Zoey Ellis ’22 interviewed Daniel Buchman ’19 to answer common career related questions LGBTQ+ identifying students might have when seeking job opportunities.
The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.
Zoey: What activities or student organizations were you involved in during college and how did they help you get to where you are today?
Daniel: I did a few different things. Three that stand out are debate, ResLife, and language tables. Debate was a stand-in for all the philosophy courses I still regret not taking. It helped me take apart arguments and speak persuasively. Those skills have served me in everything from job interviews to visa adjudications. ResLife taught me how to mediate conflicts and create spaces where people feel supported and willing to speak honesty — both skills I have used in my work already. As a language nerd, I loved serving at language tables, but when I became a manager, it was all logistics and not particularly fulfilling even though it felt like a promotion. I’d argue the same principle holds true for a lot of jobs. Sometimes the most gratifying work happens at lower levels, and a management role isn’t always a better deal.
Zoey: As a graduate who identiﬁes as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming, Genderfluid, or Queer, what are some of the questions you suggest students should keep in mind when researching employers and applying to job opportunities?
Daniel: I’d say the most important thing is to ask the questions. Small red flags you notice early can easily become exhausting parts of your workday, so to the extent circumstances allow, try to avoid rushing into a job without doing your due diligence.
Beyond considering the mission of the organization you’re joining and its impact on other queer communities, I recommend asking folks inside the organization — apart from those interviewing you — about internal policies affecting queer employees. I’ve sent hundreds of LinkedIn messages to random strangers, and I’ve gotten the most responses when I mention from the get-go that I want to discuss being queer in their office. I ask all sorts of questions. Is there an employee affinity or resource group for queer employees? Does it have a track record of successfully advocating for its members, or is it just window dressing? Does the healthcare, if offered, cover gender-affirmation procedures? Are there many openly queer employees? Is parental leave offered for adoption or surrogacy? Even if you don’t see these questions applying to you directly, they can serve as a litmus test for the degree to which folks are comfortable with queerness within the organization.
Zoey: Would you suggest students consider to what extent they would like their career to incorporate their LGBTQ+ identity? Do you want your identity to have a major role, such as working for an LGBTQ+ advocacy group? Or expressed differently, like joining the LGBTQ+ affinity group for employees at an organization?
Daniel: Having my identity highlighted in my work wasn’t necessarily something I wanted, but it has become a big part of my job, and I’ve found that to be extremely rewarding.
Before this job, I was never really active in any queer orgs or queer advocacy. Now, I’m a diplomat, and I represent the United States. Being out and proud, wherever I am in the world, is integral to doing my job well. I show folks overseas from all walks of life that, in the United States, the gay son of Russian Jewish immigrants from South Brooklyn can go out and represent his country without hiding any part of who he is. At the same time, being queer means having a greater perspective on the more challenging aspects of U.S. society. Discussing those and our country’s other struggles honestly, empathetically, and with humility makes me a more credible interlocutor.
During her time as a national security advisor, Susan Rice said “think of the LGBT person in Bangladesh who knows that someone at the American embassy understands who she is… That is how we build bridges and deepen partnerships in an increasingly globalized world.” Reading that for the first time inspired me to become the Embassy’s representative of our LGBTQI+ employee affinity group. Today, my identity is absolutely central to my day-to-day professional life. It’s been one of the most rewarding parts of my time as a Foreign Service Officer and also the least expected.
Zoey: Could you recommend any career-related LGBTQ+ resources that helped you in the job search process?
Daniel: I think Facebook groups are an undervalued resource. There are groups for just about everything. Search or ask around for a Facebook group of queer professionals in whatever sector you want to join. It almost certainly exists and will give you access to an incredible network. Being queer has enabled me to build immediate connections with queer folks at even the highest levels of the State Department. It’s given me a network of mentors, friends, and supporters, which I would not have been able to access otherwise.
Zoey: Have you come out to your employer, and if so, when in the employment process and how?
Daniel: I started coming out on the first day of orientation. In the Foreign Service, your colleagues double as your second family away from home, so I wanted to build open and honest relationships with my colleagues right out of the gate.
I was in a relationship at the time, and I would drop it into casual conversation, e.g., “my boyfriend and I are planning a trip this weekend.” Outside of specific contexts, it’s always awkward to say “I’m queer!” I’ve always tried to have segues ready like “around the time I came out…”, “my ex-boyfriend introduced me to…”, “all my non-queer friends think…”, etc. Depending on the context, these can work at dinner parties, happy hours, job interviews, and water coolers.
I was really nervous during the hiring process and thought coming out would’ve added a layer of stress I wanted to avoid. In hindsight, I think having come out would’ve actually helped me. The State Department really values intercultural competence, and like a lot of queer folks, being queer taught me how to code-switch. Because my identity is perceived so differently depending on the places I go and the people I meet, I’ve become pretty good at knowing how to adjust my approach to interaction, depending on the cultural context. I didn’t say any of that in my interview and wish I did.
Zoey: What advice would you give your younger college self?
Daniel: Prepare to make mistakes — a lot of mistakes. At Midd, I was super high strung; perfection was the standard, and failure wasn’t an option. That was maybe sustainable, though definitely not healthy or helpful, when the bad grades that sent me on anxious spirals, thinking that I had ruined my future and would never amount to anything, came once every couple of months. Now, I mess up much more frequently. Not because I’ve become less competent, but because I have more responsibilities and thus more opportunities to drop the ball. I care about doing a good job. I’m a public servant, and how well I serve matters to me, but if I took every mistake as an indicator of my worth the way I did in college, I would be worse at my job—not better. So I’m working on being better at making mistakes, and I wish I had started learning that skill much earlier.
Zoey: Is there any other advice that you’d like to share with Middlebury students?
Daniel: Empathy and compassion are as much life skills as they are professional skills. Being kind to people, leveling with them, listening, working to understand others’ experiences, etc., aren’t just nice things to do, they will also make you better at your job. No one is perfect at them, and it takes a lifetime to get good. But college — during a pandemic that affects everyone differently — is as good a time as any to practice, so I’d recommend starting now.
If you would like to contact Daniel Buchman ’19, please reach out via Midd2Midd!
Do you like to meet new people? Do you want to develop your professional skills? Well come join the team at CCI. You’ll join a great group at CCI and get wonderful training and access to support your own career development too!
Below you will find the job description and the link to apply.
*Front desk reception coverage *Work cooperatively with others and accepts direction from supervisors *Provide coverage of reception desk, including assistance with Career Services Drop-Ins *Assist with data entry and various projects during time at front desk on an as-needed basis *Answer phones; distributes email and mail *Greet students and other visitors to Kitchel House. *Assists with making appointments *Demonstrates knowledge of CCI resources and services. *Assist with other projects as needed. *Must handle confidential information in a discreet manner *Perform other duties as assigned
Qualifications *Reliable/strong commitment *Pleasant in person, email and telephone demeanor *Patience with the public *Work well under pressure *Willingness to greet and direct office visitors in a friendly professional manner *Must be organized, detail-oriented, a clear communicator, and able to work independently *Must be able to work cooperatively with others and accept direction from supervisors *Computer software experience essential, including MS Office, (Word, Outlook, Excel) *Strong familiarity with Internet software applications, (Google Apps, Social Media, etc.) *Experience with CCI’s online resources and services. *Good Academic Standing
If the following describes you: kind, approachable, compassionate, energetic, spirited, resourceful, and can maintain a smile and sense of humor even during the most challenging of days then we hope you will apply for this opportunity.
Applicants must submit a résumé, cover letter and the names of two references to be considered for this position. Strong candidates will be contacted for an interview. Underclassmen and students with diverse backgrounds and interests are encouraged to apply.
Click here and apply now! Deadline is Sunday, May 16!