Friday, June 24, 2011


Lately, a lot of people have been asking me which medical schools I plan to apply to next year.  I work with a lot of nurses, dentists, dental assistants and doctors so they are pretty familiar with the options in California.

That question generates a lot of anxiety for me, which is partly why I have been putting off doing research.  A lot of pre-meds I've met in the past have always had a dream school that they can declare with certainty, "I want to go THERE!"  I haven't really read up on schools, or cared enough from things I've heard, to have a strong desire to go to a particular institution.  I can say where I would like to live while I attend school, which is important, but I shouldn't pick schools purely based on location.

I'm planning to apply to about 12-15 schools because it seems like a reasonable number and was a number that was generally recommended by pre-med counselors.  I was also informed, a loooong time ago, that I should apply to "safety schools," "reasonable schools" and "reach schools."  That also seems reasonable to me...I should apply to schools that I feel slightly more confident about getting into, schools where my chances may or may not go well, and schools that seem - on paper - far beyond my reach but maybe, just maybe I can hope. 

It's a daunting task.  How high do I reach without asking for the impossible? What would be "safe" for me without "settling"? Is this "reasonable school" actually a "reach school" for my abilities?  And sometimes, on a really bad day, I wonder, "Do I even want to do this?!"

I think there will always be uncertainty and self-doubt, and the only way to get around it (according to the Nike slogan) is to JUST DO IT.  And who knows, maybe I'll look back at myself one day and think my internal debate was downright silly.


  1. I would apply broadly. Once you start interviewing, you are going to be surprised - a lot of times, you go to a school with an idea of what the place will be like, or have heard/read "stories," but then when you get there you realize that it's a great match for you (or viceversa). It comes down to finding a place where you will feel comfortable while also getting a great education.

    Best of luck to you in deciding!

  2. I didn't have this debate when I applied to medical school, as in Canada it's ridiculously difficult to get into a medical school in a province where you don't meet the residency requirements, but I certainly had this debate when I applied to residency. I opted to apply everywhere I could, which in retrospect was not a great idea, as it meant spreading myself very thin applying even to schools that I would never have wanted to attend. I think a good approach is to decide on a reasonable number of schools to apply to (no idea what that is!) and only apply to schools that you could genuinely see yourself attending. And when you (fingers crossed) get into a school, I think the key is to go in to it determined to have a good experience, even if it isn't where you had hoped to end up. I've known a lot of people who got residency spots that were low on their lists, and the quality of their experience in residency has been very dependent on whether or not they've been determined to make the best of it.

  3. Thanks for the support!

    I'll definitely try to keep an open mind on schools to apply to. I'd definitely like to have a good experience overall, which I suspect will ultimately come down to the "vibe" I feel when I get to that interview stage.