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What’s New for 2022: VMCAS Applications

Wondering what’s new for 2022 VMCAS applications? Curious about the ever-evolving essay prompt and length requirements? Read on, friend!

Official 2022 VMCAS prompt, per the AAVMC website: Your personal statement is a one-page essay (not to exceed 3,000 characters) that gives veterinary admissions committees a clear picture of who you are and, most importantly, why you want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

For those of us keeping track, it comes as no surprise that the VMCAS application has changed yet again. Over the past several years, VMCAS essays have seen a number of iterations: from a longer autobiographical essay, to several short essays of shifting lengths, to this year’s personal statement format.

If you’ve applied previously (loads of vet applicants are actually reapplicants, so you’re in good company), perhaps you recall writing several “short” essays. Personally, I liked this format! It allowed applicants to explore distinct aspects of their strengths and experiences.

However, applicants who took those prompts way too literally wrote generic essays. Consider this question from last cycle: In what ways do veterinarians contribute to society and what do you hope to contribute? Many applicants dutifully dedicated half their essay to listing vets’ contributions. If you’ve read one list of contributions, you’ve read them all. Admission committees were probably bored stiff.

Why did I like those prompts? Because they gave creative applicants an easy advantage! What a gift!

But now we’re back to a standard personal statement like you’d write for nearly any professional or graduate program. Except not quite…

What’s different about writing a veterinary school personal statement? I have a couple of quick tips. (Full disclosure: I do save a little something back for my personal clients. After all, vet school is insanely competitive, and my clients come first.):

  • 3000 characters=insanely short personal statement. For perspective, medical school applicants get a generous 5300 characters. Medical residency applicants are permitted an outrageous 28,000 characters! The VMCAS short essay format from previous years allocated 6000 total characters. Your takeaway? Boil this sucker down to your best possible material. Yes, shorter is actually harder.
  • Do not waste characters. I mean it. Consider omitting: quotes from famous people, your philosophy of the profession, lists of jobs that interest you, activities from high school, descriptions of the classes you took in college, that story about the time you made a splint for your hamster.
  • Differentiate yourself. Everyone has a dog/cat. Everyone took hard classes. Everyone learned to study better in college. Everyone thinks spaying/neutering is important. What have you done and learned that sets you apart? Highlight unique experiences and stellar performance.
  • Not everything you include has to be animal-related. We want the reader to step away with a clear picture of you who are as a person and what kind of student/colleague you will make. They want to hear your story and know what makes you tick.
  • Edit the heck out of your personal statement. You won’t get it right on the first go. You need feedback.

Obviously, this is the point where I remind you that EssayMD can give you some amazing writing input at an affordable price. And I where I reassure you that we’ve worked with lots of other people like you. And that we helped them stand out. By all means, feel free to reach out to me personally (marci@essaymd.com) if you’re interested in taking your VMCAS application to the next level. We provide comprehensive, knowledgeable editing and proofreading for all aspects of your veterinary application!

COVID-19: Adjusting to the new normal in medical school and residency applications

While we continue to await definitive news on how COVID-19 will impact the 2020 and 2021 application cycles, one thing’s for certain: the process, as we know it, will be very different than years past. Though the AAMC is still hedging its bets with a “wait and see” approach, we can all reasonably assume that many, perhaps most, deadlines and processes will accommodate widespread education, business, and social fallout.

The majority of applicants will face a litany of unprecedented issues:

  • final term grades converted to pass/fail
  • MCAT exams cancelled or postponed
  • volunteer, shadowing, or internship positions cancelled
  • delays in obtaining letters of recommendation
  • delays in obtaining transcripts
  • fallout from job insecurity or being placed on furlough
  • drastic changes in financial status

In short, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Most applicants will face some major complicating factors. The AAMC already realizes it will have to make BIG adjustments. Sit tight, remain calm, and get ready for a fun ride.

Bottom line: if you are adaptable—which you should be if you want to be a great physician—this could be your year. We predict that the total price tag for the application process will be significantly reduced. It is likely that most/all interviews will move to a virtual format, equating to HUGE SAVINGS for applicants. For perhaps the first time ever, you don’t have to be hamstrung by a tight interview travel budget. Broadening your geographical range can be a major asset in the admissions game!

Here are a few tips and resources as you prepare for an adjusted medical school and residency application season:

  • Get started early. Yes, we mean it. Get started early. Use any new gaps in your schedule to not only finish course work, but also get a jump on the application.
  • Source and obtain your references now. University, clinical, and research personnel are facing their own challenges due to the pandemic. The sooner you get your LoR on their radar, the more likely you are to actually collect those letters. Again, use it to your advantage that some people have extra time on their hands.
  • Investigate whether your transcripts may be delayed and how they need to be delivered. Electronic is always preferred, but if your school relies on paper format, you’ll need even more time to procure.
  • Start mapping your revised MCAT plan. The MCAT has been cancelled globally through May 21, 2020. What does your schedule look like after that? Start preparing for potential makeup dates.
  • Write your personal statement. Compose your experiences descriptions. Get some feedback.

2020 hasn’t been the easiest on anyone, but you can make the challenges work in your favor. Applicants who persevere through life disruptions may realize unprecedented advantages. Best of luck!

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Medical School Admissions

How will Coronavirus (COVID-19) affect medical school admissions? 

At this point, it’s all conjecture! But COVID-19 is already making its impact on current medical school students and applicants. As schools suspend operations, move to online formats, and work to slow the spread of the pandemic, flexibility will be key.

 

In the short run, the adjustments feel relatively minor:

  • The couple of programs that are still interviewing (Wait. What? For real?) are mostly cancelling in-person interviews in lieu of remote interviews. While that’s a real money and time saver, applicants miss out on the gut-level decision making that a physical visit often provides.
  • Match Day 2020 looks very different than in years past. Many schools put the brakes on the usual gatherings, instead offering “students only” gatherings and more intimate ceremonies, if any at all.
  • “Second Look” weekends have largely been cancelled. A virtual format is a likely alternative.
  • Some MCAT centers (especially in other countries) have cancelled/postponed testing. In the US, MCAT test takers are facing options ranging from wearing disposable gloves to rescheduling without penalty.

But what about the long run? What happens to the next class of medical school applicants? Best case scenario, this all wraps up neatly and the impact is negligible. Worst case scenario? The entire process is turned on its head. A few of our predictions for how things might shake out:

  • If travel remains disrupted, dangerous, or limited, we will see a general shift toward more virtual/online/remote interview options. We’re talking about potentially thousands of dollars of savings here! In fact, lower-income applicants (and all those students pinching pennies) could find it more feasible to afford their medical school dream. But interviews will likely feel a little trickier for those who shine in face-to-face interactions. Also, it may be more difficult to really gauge the pulse of a program through a screen.
  • International applicants could be looking at more hurdles in matriculating this cycle. However, those who persevere may actually see higher acceptance rates than usual.
  • If you are an international student currently studying in the US and you can maintain that status through the whole of the application cycle, you may have an edge over students looking to move from abroad.
  • Domestic applicants may enjoy a slight bump in their odds. International applications will likely drop this cycle, as they do during times of instability.

One final thought: COVID-19 has sharpened the public’s interest in the current state of American medicine. It is possible that we will see some major injections of funding into our healthcare, research, and medical education systems to shore up our crisis readiness. If that happens, your timing may be perfect to apply!

What GPA and MCAT scores get accepted to medical school?

Question: What are my chances of getting into medical school?

When it comes to medical school admissions, are you more than your numbers?

Answer: In 2019-2020, the AAMC reported 53,371 total applicants to US medical schools. Of those, 21,869 matriculated*. That translates to a 41% acceptance rate. Not too shabby, considering medicine is a highly competitive professional path. Granted, these numbers also reflect a certain level of self-selection: most applicants do possess the basic qualifications if they’re willing to put themselves through the hassle and cost of applying. But if you’re a “glass-half-empty” kind of person, you’ve probably already noted that about 60% of applicants do not make it into medical school.

So how can you realistically gauge your odds of getting accepted to medical school? Glad you asked! The AAMC offers a handy grid that spells out past applicants’ odds of acceptance, based on MCAT and GPA: https://www.aamc.org/system/files/2019-11/2019_FACTS_Table_A-23.pdf

Remember, the AAMC employs a holistic approach to applications*. Don’t ever assume that your numbers predetermine your outcome. Underperformers still have a chance and overperformers still get rejected.

Everything in your application matters. An experienced medical school admissions editor can help you put your best foot forward.

*Source: https://www.aamc.org/system/files/2019-11/2019_FACTS_Table_1_0.pdf

*Source: https://www.aamc.org/services/member-capacity-building/holistic-review

ERAS Personal Statement Length

How long should my residency personal statement be?

A residency personal statement should be under 750 words. I shoot for 650-700 with my clients. Yes, ERAS allows a whole lot more. Don’t take the bait. You’ll be a laughingstock if you submit something overly long or ridiculously short.

Here’s the rub: Everyone will tell you that this sucker needs to fit on a single page. BUT, everyone also has a different calculation for what that means.

Let’s face it, the single page rule is a pre-digital dinosaur. Did you know that aspiring residents used to mail handwritten letters to their programs of interest? (For those who complain about customizing residency essays to specific programs, at least you don’t have to worry about your penmanship!)

All this begs the question: How many characters or words are equivalent to one page in ERAS? Well, if you type directly into the form or cut-and-paste from Word, you may get about ~3500 characters or so. Probably too short! You may also notice some funky formatting issues. However, if you follow ERAS’s instructions and type your essay into a plain text editor, then cut and paste that text into the ERAS form field, VOILA! You should have plenty of room for 650 words.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’d like guidance on how to optimize those 650-750 words: marci@essaymd.com

Wishing you happy writing and a perfect residency match!

Marci Martinez

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Can I talk about my family in the personal statement?

 

Our families often inspire our choices.

But is it really appropriate to talk about family in your essay?

Find the scenario below that best applies to your situation:

 

Scenario 1: Some aspect of my family’s history is fascinating and unique.

→ Did your family’s history directly impact your education and/or personal development? → Will this influence the way you someday practice medicine? → If yes, tell an interesting story that summarizes, in a nutshell, what happened and then connect that to a patient care story (or some other “eureka moment”) that helped crystallize your decision to pursue medicine.  → Remember to keep most of the focus on what you learned and how that translates into action.

 

Scenario 2: My family is not particularly unique, but I love them and they inspired me.

→ Did you do something unusual or remarkable as a result of their encouragement? → If so, tell a story; that’s your focus, not your family. You might briefly mention them, but that’s about it.

 

Scenario 3: My family kind of let me down, but I have achieved a lot in spite of them.

→ Did you achieve what should have been impossible, given your circumstances? → If so, describe some of those obstacles (Tell a story!) and how that experience made you stronger. Don’t focus on how others disappointed you; tell your story without blaming or accusing.

 

Scenario 4: My family introduced me to the field of medicine.

→Do you have a parent (or other immediate family member) who is a physician? → You might briefly allude to that, but avoid making it a central focus. For example, you might mention working summers in your mother’s practice. No need to chronicle your parent’s journey to medicine, or education, or life philosophy. This essay is about YOU, not them.

 

Scenario 5: My close family member faced a life-threatening illness.

→ Were you extensively involved in their care or affected by their diagnosis? → Did this forever impact your view of medicine? → Are you comfortable talking about the experience and providing the basic details (type of illness, outcome, etc.). → If yes, then you can mention it. But try not to devote more than one paragraph to the subject, and make sure it connects to the other main points of your essay.

 

Scenario 6: Someone in my family told me I should be a doctor.

 → Don’t mention it! Even though our loved ones influence our decisions, you don’t want to send the message that you are primarily swayed by others’ preferences or pressure.

 

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