Subjective but not false school info?

Hello, folks–

As I gear up to apply for fall 2012, I am seeing a real void in the huge overload of info. out there. When I was applying to colleges from Southwestern City X, in an educated but totally unworldly family, I relied heavily on this Barron’s book and a couple like it. It has ~5pp. narrative accounts of life at Schools X compiled from student interviews. Subsequent experience has revealed this info. to be basically true.

I cannot find any such longer-form resource for med schools. So my decisions are based on very little. For example, I am applying to Maryland based on the positive remarks of posters here who are in primary care. I am applying to Pritzker because UC undergrad is a nerdy place and I am very nerdy. Downstate because I have spent a lot of time working in NYC’s poor and immigrant communities. NOT applying to Eastern “Safety” X because I have a family friend who has taught there for decades and lambasts their students from dawn to dusk and beyond. Or, to be exact, he teaches from dawn to dusk and prepares slides and lambasts from dusk till dawn.

Laugh if you will–I think this is basically how people pick. But for such a high-stakes endeavor, I would like a little bit better info. ESPECIALLY when it comes to making a case for acceptance to School X. Already talking to everyone I can.

Sorry to say that SDN’s interview feedback database is pretty useful. But still, it’s not considered or vetted in any way. Basically more almost-spurious sound bites.

Is there such a book? How can there not be?

Thank you for any help. Merry Christmas or good shabbos, if applicable!



IMHO one’s decision to go to a particular school will be based on subjective parameters.

Objective parameters are the one used to rank schools for instance. The issue there is that these tend to take into account the big picture and notions that hardly relate to the individual student, rather the group of students (and really the faculty).

You may elect to go a school for its research, but perhaps the faculty suck or are inhumane in the way they treat their students and fellows. Yet they are productive and that would explain the high ranking.

You said it yourself, the SDN interview database is not vetted because it encompasses many subjective impressions that can not be summarized in one objective measurable. The best one can do is try to compose a consensus and keep the aspects that matters the most to the individual.

In my own case, I intend to do the following:

1- Apply where I can realistically go (keeping in mind that geography is a major limiting factor for me)

2- Once I get acceptance(s), I would simply go and see for myself. I believe, like you, that it is an important decision and it is worth going for a week or two into each school and visit, meet students and faculty and find out. It is not much and may not be representative of your future life as a student but it is better than nothing.

I don’t think that when applying to med school you will end up with the luxury of choice that you may have when you apply to grad school or undergrad. You end up with few acceptance(s) and you often hardly have the choice. I am not sure how a book of all colleges would really help at the individual level. All we each want is one acceptance. If it is the only one and even if the school sucks for such and such reason, most of us would still be happy to go.

My opinion, not a truth in itself.

No, I agree 100% that I won’t have the luxury of choice as far as my ADMITS (I would be thrilled to choose 1 out of 2!). But still some more info on where to APPLY would be helpful. Oh, well. Will keep my eyes out.



I guess the most important is to apply as widely as your circumstances allow. Once you get acceptance(s) (and hopefully more than one) then before making a decision, you can always dig as deep as you can, even go to the school and book an entire week or two to explore it.

Good luck.

The MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) published by the AAMC is very helpful in deciding where to apply. They give you statistics on number of applications, number of interviews, number accepted, etc. This is also broken down by in-state and out-of-state. I believe they also give statistics for acceptances, as well (ave. GPA, MCAT). This certainly helps if you plan on applying to out-of-state schools. For example, there are a fair number of state schools that accept virtually no “out-of-state” applicants. Those are schools that you probably don’t want to apply to.

Sam -

I know what you mean. I think having the reviews of what life is really like at the school would be wonderful. For me, I got that information from visiting the schools. In 2 cases, I went to open-house events at schools I was interested in to decide whether to apply there (I did, both). At those events one typically has the opportunity to talk to a number of students and get the “nitty-gritty”, as well as scope out the town where they are located and get some sort of feel for it.

Many schools also have student representatives who are willing to share email correspondance, of whom you can ask questions even without having visited.

I based my decisions on where to apply more on geography and the information I gleaned from the school web site, as well as what was in the guide mentioned for medical schools and for osteopathic medical schools. I started by looking at every school in the area where I was willing to go geographically (pretty wide), and narrowed it down based on whether there were opportunities for rural and international experience built in to the program.

At my first interview, at EVMS, a student there gave some great advice about things to ask re a school. He said your quality of life will be shaped in no small part by the testing policy and scheduling at the school. He recommended looking for schools that do block scheduling, so you can concentrate on only a few courses at a time (I heartily second that!!!). Also, find out how frequently they have tests. If there are only 1 or 2 tests per course, or (even worse) tests in everything at “midterm” and “finals” this can be quite a bit more challenging to prepare for than if they have a test every 2-3 weeks. The amount of material is HUGE. (My school has tests about every 3 weeks in courses, and will have 2 courses combined on one exam, which is usually 3-4 hours long).

Also it’s good to ask students if there is anything to do in town, how affordable and available housing is - that sort of thing.

Hope that is a little helpful. I made the decision AGAINST one school where I was accepted because every student I spoke with there looked miserable and no one had anything very positive to say about the school.


Kate has some very good points. Location is very important - people will say that you won’t have time to enjoy where you live, but I don’t think that’s really true. If you are miserable where you live, you will be miserable in school. Curriculum is also important. Is the curriculum set up to encourage competition among students or a more cooperative setup? As Kate mentioned - how do they test? Ohio State had one exam every 2-4 weeks. That was great - one of the other schools I applied to had “courses” and each “course” had an exam every so many weeks.

Thanks, guys.

There is also a searchable database of student feedback SOMEWHERE on the AAMC site, but darned if I can find it. It lets current students rank things 1-5 and has a comments section at the end (the comments are what I’m after). Has anyone seen it and can post the link? Google is failing me.

You can tell it’s sort of abandonware because Rosalind Franklin is still listed as Finch/CMS, but the survey results are current. You’ll know it when you see it.



Here it is. Some good person on SDN located it. Not on AAMC after all. Small data set but still useful b/c it comes from current students/recent grads.