Introduction/ Choosing medical schools to apply to

If you’re going to pick a region why not put all the schools in that region. In DC there is also Howard. In Maryland there is Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland. If I had my options of Maryland and DC schools I would pick Maryland because of their schedule however Howard has put some insane money into their medical school program. JHU is…well JHU. I’d go there for residency but not medical school but that’s just me and my experiences.

My plan is to apply to 30 schools. 10 Top 10 schools. 20 I’m competitive for and 20 “safety” schools…every single DO school…the Big 4 in the carib…1 school in Mexico…1 in Cuba…2 in Nicaragua… Like I said 30.

dtrainer from Tulane,

Here’s some real advice. You seem like someone who can sift through the wheat and the chaff of this whole string. The bottom line is that there are 17,005 seats in the first year class of allopathic schools and who knows how many more from osteopathic schools. There is a fixed number of qualified pre-meds. Your GPA may be low, but most of it is from prior to your service in the Air Force. People who are free with their opinions in this organization as well as AMSA tend to be on the far left, so I will give you an alternative view of reality. Your list of med schools is very sound. I do not think you need to apply to any off shore or international schools. Your graduate grades are excellent, although I confess I did not look at the exact courses, and they are from a level 1 school, Tulane. Your MCAT is competitive. Your military experience was a clear factor in your turn around. I don’t know know old you are, but if you are physically qualified, USUHS is a place you will find people like you who have had real life experiences, already made a real commitment to service to others (not just to themselves or their own families), and who value the freedoms of this country (including the freedom to protest) and all of its citizens and residents. Here are the keys to successful admission/completion for med school, because remember that getting INTO med school is the easy part!!

  1. MCAT scores - this is the screener. Most schools accept a range between about 24 and 35. Above 35 and below 24, most people are looking for red flags. Above 35, there are fewer red flags, but they are there.

  2. Grades - you can get a 4.0 from a community college, but med school biochemistry will be a nightmare. So, Barron’s does a nice job of telling us what schools are more competitive, and which ones are less. In general, a 3.0 in the BCPM from a level one school will at least get your application looked at. The mean for admitted students is about 3.54 or so for even the med schools who fancy themselves the most competitive. But we also look at what courses you took and how rigorous your major was. In your case, we want to know what course work you did most recently, and can we get past your past. Your GPA of 3.25 will get your record screened at about 2/3 of the med schools. It is absolutely true that the Harvards, Penns, Stanfords, etc. of the world have plenty of interesting, altruistic, caring, multi-dimensional applicants who have GPAs >3.6 and MCATs >32, so unless you have something non cognitive even more spectacular that that, you probably don’t need to waste the money.

  3. Interviews - everyone is entitled to an opinion, and some interviews/interviewers will try to get to you. If you behave in a professional manner to every person you encounter, you will do well, because professionalism will be a part of who you are. If you suck up to the doctors and treat the secretaries like your personal servants, we can see through it. If your opinion about absolutely everything is more correct than anyone else’s and you need to make sure everyone knows how right you are, then you won’t get in either. So, bottom line, be respectful, acknowledge that the world is a diverse place and your patients will represent every economic, ethnic, and social group you can think of, and you will do well.

  4. Service to others - most applications show a preponderance of service to self - badly disguised as serve to others. We like to see genuine concern for others - for example, rather than doing a month of an elective in Africa, why not go over with the Peace Corps - or do Teach for America - or work in Appalachia. There are a huge number of applicants that do the “sexy” thing - whatever gets the media attention - not through their own fault, but because that’s what they think is available - like church groups going down to New Orleans (I’m sure you’ve seen a ton of that) while schools, neighborhoods, etc. in D.C. are a shambles. (Who is oranizing THAT mission trip???)

  5. Humility - this is also called “Learning Life’s Lessons.” I have interviewed applicants for med school for 12 years. I cannot tell you how many people think breaking their arm and being treated in the E.R. is some kind of life changing experience that makes them want to be a doctor. If you can communicate your wonder at life and the resiliency of the people around you, you will do well. Patients do not put doctors on pedestals - they want to know you can feel their pain, understand their choices (even if you would’t make the same ones), and help them to take part in their own recovery. They want to know that for that 15 minutes, you care more about them than about anything else.

    And finally, 6. Be realistic. And I mean this as a self-assessment. Do not be someone/something you are not. Your description of why you joined the Air Force, and what it did for you is compelling. I would count that as having learned one of life’s lessons, and you’re still paying for that lesson (talk about tuition!!) But, there are plenty of others who flunked out of college and joined the military. What makes you different? How did the Air Force help you? These are some areas of introspection that you can answer for yourself - not what you think someone would want to hear. Let me give you an example of what I’ve seen on justification statements - for say, an arrest for underage drinking - “I didn’t even know I had a police record. Me and my friends just had a few beers …” No remorse, really no explanation - you know the attitude. Blaming law enforcement or any other authority figures for your own bad judgment does not endear you to any admissions committee.

    I hope this insider insight has been helpful. You are welcome to email me - check out our website and click on Recruitment and Diversity. I think we have a toll free number listed.


Recruiting or not, I appreciate SoccerDoc’s comments. While there are negative aspects to military medicine, as there are with any career path, it also has many positive aspects. Variety being the greatest in my mind. Few physicians have the opportunity to change assignments every few years as you do in the military- or to take career broadening assignments in areas outside your area of expertise. Many people have no desire to do these things and that is quite understandable. To others, like myself, these characteristics of military medicine make it quite attractive.

I think military medicine offers a great chance to make a difference to people who are in urgent need, and now more than ever.

A couple of things beyond that. It irritates me that the poster above seems to think that the med school advising on this forum “comes from the far left” and is somehow biased by this fact. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t been a part of this forum long enough to know the large number of veterans and even active-duty members of the military who are already a part of this forum, and even the close association of several of the members of this thread with the military.

It has taken me years to figure out the politics of many of the long-standing members of this group, but having done so I can say that I am one of the very few members of this group who actually is from what this poster might consider the “far left”. Anyway, I think the fact that I’m at an academically-oriented research-focused medical school with tough admissions standards, and came there from state schools and a non-formal post-bacc program, all are much more important in evaluating the bias which I bring to conversations on this forum than the apparently horrifying prospect that I might vote for Obama.

Even so, I’ll state my bias up front: Like most Americans, I do not agree with our current foreign policy. Having said that, take this for what it’s worth: the rest of it’s not about politics.

Don’t join the military because of the educational opportunities it offers or because of the opportunity to change jobs. Both of these are abundantly available in the civilian world. There is a great deal of flexibility in medicine, especially if you are ready to accept lower pay from time to time. As a civilian, you can travel, change jobs, change areas of expertise, and even work in combat zones. You can certainly provide medical care to veterans as a civilian, and if you want to work in a VA, you can make this your life’s work.

From my point of view the primary reasons to join the military medical system are:

  1. You want to join the military because you believe in its mission, believe that it represents a chance to serve your country that is the best fit for you (i.e., vs other ways to serve your country), and you want to be part of it.

  2. You have very particular interests which would be uniquely served in the military (i.e., trauma surgery, vaccine research, aerospace medicine and so on).

    Even so, most of the interests which are well-served by the military can be well-served elsewhere. Therefore the primary reason to join the military is that first one. If you get past that one without doubts than I think it is a great option–because if that’s true, it really doesn’t matter as much whether the recruiters are really telling the truth about all the bonuses and extras.

    To put it another way: If you want to buy a truck, buy a truck: you don’t have to be convinced that cargo space in the back is a good thing, and it doesn’t matter if it comes with one cupholder or two. But if you want to buy a car, don’t let someone sell you a truck. Buy a car. Do not let recruiters define for you what is unique about military medicine; ask military docs or recently out-of-the-military docs what they think is unique. And then think about if you want to go back in to the military for its own sake while furthering your goal of becoming a physician.

    Either way, good luck.


I totally have to second what Joe stated. As a prior military member with a husband currently in active duty…I have seen many folks join “just to get college money/medical school money” that have come to hate the military. The miltary has a unique purpose and mission make sure you KNOW what that is. First you will be a soldier/marine/sailor/ no matter what your duties. Please do not take it lightly and assume the military is a good way to pay for medical school. There can be some serious consequences for you and your family. No institution offers money for FREE and the military is no exception. You will pay that tuition back in ways that you cannot fathom right now. Good luck.

“You will pay that tuition back in ways that you cannot fathom right now.”

Well, actually I can fathom it because I spent six years in the Air Force working in the medical field. I worked side by side with physicians and heard more than my share of complaints. I am quite aware that military medicine is just that- ‘military’ medicine and unless that is what one wants to pursue it is probably not the best route for one to take.

I appreciate the comments that people have given but I must make a few observations before I end my contribution to the topic I started and perhaps to this forum altogether. While this is a place to share advice and perspective I feel that there is a patronizing attitude that permeates this forum. Often this patronizing attitude is not warrented. The number of posts a person has contributed is not indicative of the knowledge a person has about the process.

My original question was regarding how one chooses which schools to apply to. With few exceptions the conversation turned into a ‘raise your GPA, don’t retake the MCAT’ thread. This was said with such conviction one would think I was being told this by a group of med school admissions deans. It came as a shock then when I discovered that many of the people who posted were no further along in this process than me and that many of them had stats lower than mine. While raising one’s GPA is generally a good idea, it is not the universal solution to all problems nor is it a practical solution for many people.

In summary, I think it would be helpful if people read the original posting carefully to understand the person’s background and their question. It would also be nice for people not to consider everyone a complete neophyte because it is their first post nor for one to consider themselves an expert because they have posted here 100 times.

I believe this completes my contribution to this topic and website. Good luck to everyone!

Advice to an individual on this forum is always not only advice to the original poster but to all people who might be reading it. It’s important not to think of these threads as email exchanges meant only for you, but as conversations in a public forum started by your question and in reply to it, but addressed to all who read the replies. That may help you feel less frustrated in other similar forums.

At least three people who have posted on this forum are people who are considerably farther along than you are, and in our time on this forum we have seen a lot of people struggle with similar issues. You can take our advice for what it’s worth; we write knowing that maybe someone else will find it useful even if you don’t. (These threads are not only read by many others now, but archived for later reference.)

Along those lines, the last two posts from Efex and me were to underline the point that the advantages you discussed about military medicine (flexibility, travel, etc) are not the main reasons to join the military, and that you should make sure you also understand the alternatives that the civilian world offers before you assume that only the military can offer them. Whether or not you understand or agree with the point we’re making, we both felt it was important that we make our opinions about this issue clear–not simply for you but for the many others who read this thread.

I hope you’re able to find the advice and support you’re looking for somewhere even if you haven’t found it here. Looking back on this thread it seems to me that at least some of us have made a good-faith effort to give you good advice, including some of us who are farther along; I’m sorry that it apparently wasn’t useful to you.

One last thing: medicine is more like the military than you might think. It’s fine to have whatever reactions you want on this forum–that’s what it’s for. It’s actually great that there’s a place you can get advice and not take it, and it’s one of the things I really value about the existence of this site. But when you start talking to med school faculty in person, you should get ready to use your “sir, yes sir” mode to take even the most critical advice without flinching. I’m sure you are well-practiced in this–just remember to apply it to your new situation as well. Medicine is a culture that dishes out a lot of advice and criticism and expects you to like it–even if you don’t.

Good luck wherever you end up.


Gosh, it was not my intention to ruffle any feathers. I think Joe has stated my thoughts exactly. Good luck regardless.

  • dtrainer Said:
I believe this completes my contribution to this topic and website. Good luck to everyone!

Terry it should be obvious....he contributed 100% of his post to his thread. See what you fail to understand is that we have to adjust the forum to newbies.

Maybe I’m over-reacting, but I’m a little disturbed by some of the snarkiness (for lack of a better word) that seems to have been occuring on a semi-regular basis when someone new to the forum says they don’t like the advice they get, etc. In a few cases, it has been justified, but in others, I don’t think it has been necessary.

I know that many of us who post on here on a regular basis are devoted to OPM. We have found great support, advice and camaraderie on here. I, myself, take it a little personally sometimes when somebody says or implies that our advice sucked (especially if its a thread I have posted on). But, I shouldn’t. Just as we have the right to post our “advice”, people have the right to tell us they disagree with us. There were times that I didn’t agree with the advice I received or find it helpful as well - it DOES happen on here, even though we all have the best of intentions.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I would like to see us keep this a welcoming, supportive forum. Let’s show some class when somebody says that they didn’t get help here and just say “I’m sorry you didn’t get what your were looking for here, we wish you the best of luck.” Perhaps people were unrealistic in their expectations of what they would find here, but there is no reason to be offended if they say they didn’t find OPM helpful.

Just something that has been bugging me - no offense to anybody (I just hit reply to the last post on this thread, so I’m not specifically directing this at anybody)- I’m sure if I do a search of my own posts I can find some snarkiness that has crept in. However, I intend to try and keep that out of future posts and I hope others will do the same.

Sorry, I seem to have become a bit impatient lately with the “I’m new here, your advice sucks” type of postings that have been popping up. I’ll try to keep my mouth shut in the future.

Well…I’ll just let you guys handle the apologies. I’ll be the crotchety jerk who stoops to their level, slings mud, points the finger right back at them and calls them on their brand of crazy and BS.

People are coming here to be supported regardless of how asinine their plans are. I’m not in med school nor have even applied to school but I don’t need a PhD to see a plan that is silly. This isn’t directed at the OP. His plans weren’t silly. He was too sensitive about his GPA and I agree with him that he shouldn’t have posted it. We focused on that and disregarded his intent in posting.

However the vast majority of people lurk. When they need something will pop a question in and pop back out. Then there are the regulars who we seem to almost live here. (Thank the Lord for govt. contracts…) We seem to have a new breed that comes on, starts a thread with conviction, and if they don’t get the advice they want to hear then get snarky and out come the comments that OPM is full of worshippers of the OPM trinity and we’re all robots fooling ourselves and offering out dated advice.

Many of these acidic personalities don’t need to be coddled. I was run off from OPM by one of these…actually e-stalked but that’s another story. My point is every forum is a community of people. We will all band around a new member and offer support and guidance commensurate with our level of experience. If that new member decides to then spit in our collective faces I’m not the type to chant and sing kumbaya about it. I’m not a social worker nor work in mental health. If someone thinks what I recommend on what I post on is way off the mark they can disagree and correct what they see wrong. That’s not what happened here.

My posts could be way off the intent of OPM. So I will await until I get guidance from the Holy Ones of OPM. I say this tongue in cheek because I’m well aware I’m also slightly on the bitter side of personalities. My wife neutralizes it most of the time but she don’t comes around here so…

Well, as a relatively newcomer (although I’ve over 100 posts to date), I’ve felt very welcomed and never ridiculed when I would post my occasional neurotic age worries I also go to SDN at times, and there are at times topics that you read where you go “uh oh…these poor people are going to be eaten up.”

I defintiely feel more at home and at ease on this forum.

Just a thank you from a semi-newcomer!


I agree that there does seem to be an increasing amount of, for lack of a better word, firestarters who have been showing up here. Whether this is a case of SDN (hell) filling up and people spilling over into other sites, I have no idea. I don’t see what’s so ridiculous about the advice that is given here. Perhaps if some of the new members (and thankfully it’s only one here and there) who scoff at OPM went to SDN, they would realize how benevolent the advice given on here is–considering it /doesn’t/ simply consist of “omg stfu n00b ha ha” or something equally ignorant.

I normally have a very short temper and even I’ve only been angered by advice directed toward me once that I can recall; and it was about probably two years ago when I didn’t know shit about the process and that fact was pointed out. So if someone who hates being wrong and has a horrible temper can remain on these boards peacefully and appreciate the advice given, I fail to see why these newcomers are getting so offended if they don’t hear what they want to. I’d say that attitude certainly needs to be corrected before medical school, because if simple advice on the internet offends them, god help them when they start 3rd year.

I’m guilty of lurking, but I tend to see these posts as very useful. I operate under the premise that if you’ve “been there, done that” (or in some cases, “doing that”), you know what you are talking about. I am just starting the application process, and it is helpful to me to see what difficulties and successes OPMs are having. PLEASE keep the advice coming!

It’s a pretty high pressure field we’re all going into, and it’s understandable that some folks are going to get testy and impatient along the way. I try to cut people a lot of slack.

However, people without a lot of experience or understanding about cyberspace often are not aware that their words, uttered in a rush of irritation because they’re having a bad morning, are immortalized. Even if they realize what a mistake they’ve made, biting the hand that fed them and ruining a networking opportunity in a fit of pique, and they delete their offending post, it’s too late because the internet has cached the words for the benefit of future generations, not to mention that others may quote their post or email it to a friend for laughs.

  • Quote:
I normally have a very short temper and even I've only been angered by advice directed toward me once that I can recall; and it was about probably two years ago when I didn't know shit about the process and that fact was pointed out. So if someone who hates being wrong and has a horrible temper can remain on these boards peacefully and appreciate the advice given, I fail to see why these newcomers are getting so offended if they don't hear what they want to. I'd say that attitude certainly needs to be corrected before medical school, because if simple advice on the internet offends them, god help them when they start 3rd year.

Yup, same here, and what I learned is that I didn't know beans about medical training, am only beginning to know something now after several years, and others on this forum are much more knowledgeable. It's their patience that I've benefited from as much as their knowledge--putting up with my ignorant questions and assertions. I realize now that this process is going to be long, hard, and will make me a better person in the long run if it doesn't break me first.

Crooz/Terry -

I wasn’t suggesting anyone apologize. We have indeed had a rash of newcomers who have been rather vocal about expressing their displeasure with the advice received or lack thereof. It’s easy to want to react. This is such a great, supportive forum overall that I just want to see it stay that way.

I have to say that I’ve seen some snarkiness, too. When someone doesn’t find our advice helpful, even if we’re sure we’re right and they’re wrong, I’d rather send them on their way with best wishes than send them off with a sniping response. Everything we say DOES stay around on these forums. Even if people sometimes leave here unhappy, I want to welcome the next person who comes here, who, as Joe pointed out, may read these same threads for advice.

I especially hate to see those of us who have been around a while add posts that lower the tone of a discussion. I see a difference between “telling it like it is” and telling people off for not liking the way we say it is, and I would like to think we all know the difference. It’s just another iteration of the classic advice not to poop where you eat.

Let’s keep providing support to one another and maintain the forums as a nice place to visit.


Ok, so the guy comes to this site looking for support and it’s assumed he doesn’t like the advice given. So what? How does that makes this site a less supportive environment for the hundreds of people who visit it?

I’m just wondering why can’t we just accept that fact that some people are going to be snarky or whatever you guys call it? Call me an optimist, but snarky people are often snarky for reasons we have no clue about. So perhaps instead of judging people for being “troblemakers”, why not allow people to be whoever they are? If the advice given is solid which it often is on OPM, and the person neglects to follow, then that’s their butt. Sometimes the best lessons in life are learned the hard way.

  • ttraub Said:
.......Even if they realize what a mistake they've made, biting the hand that fed them and ruining a networking opportunity in a fit of pique, and they delete their offending post, it's too late because the internet has cached the words for the benefit of future generations....

As a person who tends to make controversial statments on the internet yet is more laid back in person, I felt I had to respond to this. And with a DH whose a trained Network Engineer and is involved with DHS, I find this comment very interesting.

I think you're absolutely right that people need to be aware of the consequences of what they're saying on the internet. But internet disagreements/debates should not result in an offended participant threatening to make contact with an adcom at an applicants prospective school as was the case for me a little over a year ago on another site in a debate about discrimination in health care.

I say if you're going to "go there", then keeping in this vein of being aware of consequences, people should be aware the result could be civil litigation.