My 2008-2009 Medical School Application Process

Application Services

I wanted to share my experiences from applying to Texas medical schools with those who aspire to follow the same journey. Hopefully they will help you make wiser decisions regarding the overall process and help clarify some ambiguities along the way. First, all the Texas medical schools (except for Baylor College of Medicine) take part in a common application service known as the TMDSAS. These schools are as follows:

Baylor College of Medicine uses a separate application service known as the AMCAS. I applied to BCM as well as UTMB, UTSA, UTSW, and UTH.

My Timeline

It’s a well known fact that the early applicants get the early interviews (and therefore, the acceptance letters). Knowing this, I attempted to finish everything as early as possible. I now realize there were things I should have done a little differently to streamline the process even more.

Application for 2009 Enrollment

5/1 TMDSAS opens.
5/12 TMDSAS submitted and transcript requested from undergrad.
5/16 TMDSAS receives transcript.
5/18 MCAT score is posted online.
5/23 MCAT scores are electronically released to TMDSAS. $115 fee is mailed along with passport photos and certification page to TMDSAS.
5/27 TMDSAS receives certification page, fees, and photos.
6/4 AMCAS opens for application submission.
6/5 AMCAS submitted ($160 fee) and transcript requested from undergrad.
6/13 Committee letter mailed to TMDSAS and AMCAS.
6/19 AMCAS receives transcript.
6/25 TMDSAS receives committee letter. TMDSAS is now complete.
7/1 Baylor’s secondary app is posted online. I completed and submitted it the same day ($80 Paypal fee).
7/8 AMCAS receives committee letter. AMCAS is now complete.
7/24 UT Southwestern’s secondary app is posted online. I completed and submitted it the same day (no fee).

Based on the timeline above, there are several things which I’m glad I did:

  • Finished my personal statement before the applications went online.
  • Already knew which schools I was going to apply to.
  • Submitted my secondary applications the day they were posted.
  • Ensured that I was first in line to have my recommendation letter compiled and mailed out.
  • Followed up with all the schools after my initial processing was completed.

Of course, there are number of things I advise you to do differently than me:

  • Send your transcripts to TMDSAS/AMCAS as soon as you have an account number (even though you’re still working on your actual application)
  • Get around ten passport-sized photos before May.
  • If possible, take the MCAT early. This will prevent you from receiving your score after TMDSAS has already opened.

By implementing the aforementioned list of improvements, I could have been faster in having my initial processing completed. For those who don’t know, medical schools begin receiving applications only after the initial processing has been completed. Therefore, earlier should be better. My timeline above could have been streamlined a little more, but it wouldn’t have really made a difference. The additional time allowed me to double check my applications for errors, revise my personal statement, etc.

Interviews

Medical Institute Interview Invite Interview Acceptance
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston 8/22 10/17 ¹ 12/10
University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston
University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio 7/24 8/11
University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston 7/2 8/8 11/14
University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas 8/8 9/13 6/15
¹ Rescheduled from 9/19 to 10/17 due to Hurricane Ike

Links

Here are some posts which summarize my thoughts after each interview and other posts which are relevant to the application process.

Best of luck to those who are applying, and leave me a comment if you have any questions!
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31 Comments
  1. jesse says

    hey, if you don’t mind, what did you score on your MCAT?
    it’s totally cool if you prefer to keep that information under the wraps…

    1. Rishi says

      I sent you an e-mail. 🙂

  2. Riikka says

    Hey Rishi,

    I know all this was years ago for you but since you’ve remained involved in the admissions committee, maybe you could answer this question – what’s the best way to follow up with schools I’m interested in? I have a strong application on all fronts but I just want to show how stoked I am about some of these programs and I think maybe if I show that energy/interest, maybe I can help myself ensure an interview. Thoughts? Or is it better to leave those poor admin folk well enough alone? I don’t want to bother/burden them!

    1. Rishi says

      Hey Riikka! I’m not sure there’s a “right way” to convey enthusiasm prior to an interview. Some applicants rely on phone calls to showcase interest. These inquiries are typically fielded by an admissions coordinator who are great for answering questions and addressing concerns, but have very little direct input on offering you a slot in the upcoming class.

      Based on the fact that you have a strong app, you’re likely to interview at many places. Never forget that these invites already have an inherent “we like you based on your grades, MCAT, and extracurriculars” built into them. What they’re looking for is you as a person. I can’t stress how important this is to realize going in.

      That being said, I think the best way to show your strong interest is at the interview day itself. Often times when we open up the floor for applicants to ask questions directly to the deans, there’s dead silence – this isn’t advantageous for interviewees by any means. Be that applicant who introduces him/herself to the deans… and explains why they think the program is a great fit… and what they plan to do once they start. But do it genuinely, not with the intention of “maybe if I ask certain questions, they’ll think I’m more interested and give me a spot.” You need to be honest with yourself during the application process and find which program you fit in best based on the curricula, training hospitals, student life, etc.

  3. Shruti says

    Hi Rishi,
    It was great reading about your journey to medical school and later… I submitted my AMCAS/TMDSAS apps in the second week of July and they are still being processed! I am submitting my Baylor secondaries this week. So as far as my application timeline goes compared to yours, I am wayyy late….

    Anyways here are my stats… I am a foreign undergrad with a Masters in Biomedical Eng from Duke. One publication. Currently employed in medical devices- so plenty of OR experience and patient interaction. Currently taking classes at a community college to finish “90 hrs US undergraduate coursework.” I am really hoping to get an interview from Baylor since I am based in Houston… It is my top choice

    Considering the above, what do you think makes my application particularly strong/weak for Baylor? I would appreciate any other input you might have as well!
    Thanks,
    Shruti

    1. Rishi says

      Hi Shruti!

      Just like the other Texas medical schools, Baylor Med has a preference for Texas residents (roughly 70% of my classmates are Texas residents), so if you’re not already a resident, find out what you need to do to become one. The fact that you have both clinical and research experience is definitely a plus, but ideally, you also want a relatively high MCAT/GPA (33+/3.8+) to make you really stand out. As you’re applying, focus on experiences (research, clinical, or even unrelated to medicine) which drove you towards wanting to become a physician. Be able to discuss, in depth, these events at your interview, and use them as the cornerstone of your application rather than producing a laundry list of minor achievements and extracurricular involvement which had no bearing on your decision. There’s no magic formula to get into BCM, but it looks like you’re definitely on the right path. Keep up the good work! 🙂

  4. recyclingbinh says

    Rishi,

    just out of curiosity, did you interview at UT-Houston? Or did you not apply there and TX Tech? i’m surprised that UTMB and UTSW didn’t accept you. It’s their loss 🙂

    1. Rishi says

      UT-Houston didn’t show me any love. 😐 It seems that was the case for most of my fellow classmates. As for Tech, I didn’t actually apply there.

      Haha, UTMB did take me and offered me some money… but after I received my BCM acceptance. I’ve never been so indifferent rejecting a sum of money, lol. I think UTSW was put off when I mentioned BCM during one of my interviews. Oh well, both schools train great physicians, so I’m happy I got one of them.

  5. recyclingbinh says

    sup!

    I go to UH and saw your comment on SDN. Great stats and CV. i will apply this cycle 2010. hopefully i can get in with my subpar stats. i will defnitely need your help with TMDSAS and the whole process.

    my chem tutor at Princeton Review went to HBU and he’s an MS1 at BCM.

  6. Cancerkiller007 says

    Congrats on BCM. I applied to UTH, and been praying for it. I should find out in about 3 weeks *crossing fingers*

    1. Rishi says

      Best of luck to you, man! Haha, we’ll be across the street from each other. 🙂

  7. GigEm91 says

    What kind of organizations were you in, and what were some that you may or may not have been in that you would recommend? how may hours of volunteering and shadowing did you do? Also from reading your posts about your different interviews, it seems a pre-med student must be very knowledgeable about the landscape of medicine. You seemed to be fully prepared for many of the questions that were asked about contemporary medicine. What site did you look at or what were some things you did that helped you learn about medical news. What are some specific things that one should research and know before they go to an interview.
    Were you really in two frats? thats awesome haha

    1. Rishi says

      I went to a MUCH smaller school than Texas A&M, so my on-campus extracurricular involvement was limited. Rather than listing my involvement in everything, here’s my vita. I’m an Internet junkie, so I obtained the majority of my medical knowledge from sources like PubMed and Google Health News. I’m glad you had a chance to look through those posts and find some similarities in the interview questions. As far as “hours” spent doing everything, this is going to get you in trouble. I remember some people at my interviews bragging that they had spent hundreds of hours in some hospital or received a thousands of dollars in research grants. Never did the phrase “it’s quality, not quantity” mean so much. Choose activities in which you’ll be exposed to valuable, productive activities. Anyone can sit in a hospital for hours a week doing nothing but sorting papers or restocking glove boxes, but the individual who witnessed even one neurosurgery will overshadow all those hours in an instant.

      Where’d you get the idea that I was in two frats? Lol, I was in Alpha Phi Omega which was a co-ed “frat”, but not the stereotypical “party frat.” It’s an organization dedicated to service, and quite frankly, the most important organization I was involved in as far as life experience goes. I talked a lot about APO experiences during my interviews.

  8. GigEm91 says

    Wow man,

    i can see you really had your mind set on your goal. Great job man.

    Any tips on how u prepared for the MCAT. When did you start prepping. Im a freshman at Texas A&M so i wanted to know when someone w/ experience like you did.

    Any other advice you can offer me would be great

    btw my name’s Yash and i’ve seen a lot of your stuff on this site and it was really cool because many of your beliefs are things i share. I especially loved the one about quantifying intelligence. Your are one of the few people who realizes there is more to life than satisfying ones senses/pleasures.

    1. Rishi says

      Haha, thanks for the kind words buddy. I’m not the type of person who can sit down and focus for a month or two and be ready for an exam like the MCAT. Instead, I started studying on and off about a year before the exam. Mind you, I did take it twice. This is my first piece of advice – study for the MCAT like you’re going to take it ONCE. Trust me, from first hand experience, it’s the most annoying thing you’ll do in your undergrad. Second, get involved in as many things as possible. Use your extracurriculars to gain valuable life experiences rather than to fill your application. For example, BCM is particularly interested in what makes each candidate unique, so you really need exposure to a wide variety of things. Since you’re still a freshman, you have plenty of time to get involved in school-based organizations, volunteer/shadow at hospitals, take on officer positions, TA for classes, etc. At the same time, as any pre-med knows, your GPA is kind of important. Find a balance which will allow you to maintain a high GPA but also excel in worthwhile extracurriculars. All of us have an intuitive idea of what it takes to get into medical school, and while the competition you will face during your application year will be undeniable, you still have time to outdo them. If you have anymore specific questions, feel free to leave another comment!

  9. Rishi says

    Hey Natalie! Thanks for the comment! In short, I would definitely take UTMB over UTHSCSA because a four letter acronym is easier to memorize. 😉 Personally, I like UTMB’s program and facilities (yes, even after Ike) more than SA. Also, being a Houstonian, Galveston is closer to home than SA. Truth be told, the fact that UTMB is on an island is also appealing. 😀 If I were pre-dent, I’d take SA in a heart beat; however, as a pre-med, UTMB is my pick.

  10. Natalie says

    Hi, I’m ncpheartsyou on SDN and just saw your link when reading through the TX thread and thought I’d say hi. Your blog is neat. Do you think you would go for UTMB over UTHSCSA? I know you like UTSW more but just thought I’d throw that question out there…

  11. Rishi says

    I wouldn’t say it’s *completely* random, but to a certain degree, there are factors out of an applicant’s control which drastically influence whether or not they’re accepted (for example, ethnicity). As far as being qualified for certain schools, I have a few friends who got into UTSW who are just as qualified as I am. They too have their eyes set on BCM, but I guess time will tell where we all end up. In all honesty, I’m rather disappointed in not being pre-matched to UTSW, but my hopes for BCM are still alive, so I’ll remain optimistic. 🙂 There’s no sure way to know whether UTSA and UTSW consider me “below” or “above” the expected framework of their students. I just gotta convince myself that I’m fortunate to have received an acceptance from a great, mainland MD school. Thousands of others did not, and for their sake, I should be proud of this accomplishment. 🙂

  12. Dazed and Confused says

    In your humble opinion, what do you think UTSA and UTSW are thinking? Do you think you’re overqualified or underqualified?
    If I had to guess as to the results of the prematch decisions, I would say that the adcoms have been stalking you and they know you have your heart set on only one school, Rice College of Medicine.

  13. Oscar says

    I thought they were laying off workers! LOL
    Congratulations sir!
    I’m sure others will give you a holler as well!
    If you know what I mean…

  14. Fyfy says

    CONGRAT dear friend, This world need more people like you. Rishi I have a feeling you are going to change this world.

  15. Rishi says

    I received an pre-match acceptance offer from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston today. 🙂 I’m going to be a doctor! Hopefully, the next month will offer more acceptances.

  16. Athene says

    Congrats, dear friend, congrats.

  17. Rishi says

    Great point Oscar! But actually, being an English major would give you a slight advantage in conveying a holistic education. Medical schools receive thousands of applications from science majors, so having some other major would make you more unique. On the down side, studying for the MCAT is easier if you’re a double science major. 🙂 Furthermore, you’re right about the rigors of pursuing an English major. I dislike reading in general, and therefore suffered on the verbal section. I can probably attribute my success on the writing section to… well… I don’t know… maybe blogging. 😉 So the three month countdown is on its way down for you. Good luck!

  18. Oscar says

    I must say though, one thing about being an English major, is that the Verbal Section doesn’t seem as intimidating. Reading critically is something that is developed over time, not in 1-3 months like most people taking the MCAT. That is something I have learned, that most people that are premeds just focus entirely on Bio and Chemistry or Bio and Psychology. I would recommend students at HBU to try the English major. Reading “tough” literature has helped me considerably on practice tests. Sure, an English major sounds rather weak and less impressive than a double major in science, but if you are looking to get into med school, an English major will help a lot for the MCAT. The thing is, most science students aren’t very attracted to reading Virgil, Homer, Plato, Dante, Goethe, and the other difficult but rewarding literature. English will not only help for the Verbal, but also for the writing sample. That is killing two birds with one stone.

  19. Rishi says

    Hey Danish, thanks for the kind words regarding the site. I sent you the information you requested, but in general, you should really focus on your MCAT. Keep in mind that having a 4.0 from HBU is different than having a 4.0 from Harvard, but having a 35 on the MCAT is universally accepted as a sign of academic ability. In other words, since you have some time before you take it, focus on preparing for the verbal section. I can’t stress this enough. It’s the hardest section, by far, and unfortunately the most difficult to prepare for. I don’t care what people say about there being “strategies.” From my experience, the best strategy is the one that you devise… and that takes some time. Extra-curricular opportunities will begin to open up as you advance at HBU, and you’ve already got some fantastic items for your vita. If there was ever an exam which “determines the rest of your life”, the MCAT, quite literally, is just that. Best of luck! 🙂

  20. Danish Ali says

    Hey Whats up Rishi! Glad to visit your site. It’s awesome! You have a pretty good collection of everything here. Site is very helpful! I wanted to talk about something. I know you had 4.0, but what did you get on your MCATs (give me a break down if possible)? As you know, I have just transferred to HBU. Right now, I have a 3.7 GPA and scoring about 19 on MCAT (this is before taking O chem I and II and Physics I and II, I took that test in freshmen year), I’ve done research in BCM and I have scrubbed into surgeries at Memorial Hermann for two summers. I have many community leaderships, but I still panic when I think about Med Schools. Is there anything I need to keep in mind or ANYTHING that you can tell me that I can do to improve myself as a better candidate for med school admissions. Also, I want to score 32+ on MCAT, so are there any tips that you have for me to help score better on MCATs. Overall, is there anything I need to do before I start the application process? I mean, looking at you, I feel like I am not even close to being a good candidate, you had zillions of activities, and I have like 3. Any advice would help. Thanks bro and stay in touch! ** you should visit HBU more often ** =)
    Regards,
    Danish Ali

  21. Rishi says

    Honestly, from first hand experience, the last thing you should feel is “nervous” about interviewing. Remember, to receive an interview is to have already met the academic requirements for medical school. You’ll have a lot of stuff to talk about (AED, tennis, etc.), so take pride in that. You’ll find that the interview experience is far less stressful than most people expect.

  22. Lynn says

    Rishi, you are so awesome. Reading about your interviews, makes me nervous. I feel like I have a lot to do. Oh well, it’ll be done with, eventually.

  23. Rishi says

    Great question, Brad. Though I can only speak with reference to my experiences in applying to medical school, I’m sure the advice may be universally applicable. It’s great to hear that you’ve already thrown yourself into the career by shadowing some doctors. On top of that, you’ve shown more than one way that you do indeed have a genuine interest for the sciences *cough-Facebook-videos-cough.* 🙂 In my humble opinion (and remember, I’m not a dean of admissions), the letters of recommendation don’t have as much of an influence on receiving an acceptance as “numbers” (GPA, admissions tests, etc.) Sure, the fact that you’ll have evaluations from two very credible/professional sources makes you even more unique as an applicant (definitely a good thing), but I wouldn’t use that as the sole factor in making you stand out. The shadowing experiences themselves will allow you to speak volumes during your interview and in your personal statement, so use that as a cornerstone in your application process. Best of luck, and thanks for the post!

  24. Brad Dawson says

    I read your section on the med. school application process, and it is definitely informative. Although I am not applying to med. schools initially, this is also useful for P.A. schools as well. Med. school is a foresight into the future after working as a P.A.; of course, I like to call it, the step-by-step approach. I’ve been shadowing a couple of docs over the summer, and I will continue this during the semester. How do you think these schools will see recommendation letters from these two doctors? I would be interested in finding out how much of a boost it would give your application. I hope you’re doing well, and wish you the best of luck. By the way, we started SAACS, and Ricki is the Historian. Milin is the President, and Aaron is Vice-Pres. So far so good. Let me know how you’re doing.

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