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Applying to Med School Is Year-Long Process

By Amita M. Shukla

Even after going through years of pre-med classes, the MCAT and countless applications, students on the track to medical school face one more major hurdle--the interview.

For seniors applying to medical school, interviewing is an intensive and long-winded process which involves spending large sums of money on traveling and sometimes missing class for a few days.

Interviewing is only one part of a very long process, though, students say.

Many applicants start applying to medical school as early as June, when medical school applications are first made available. Even though most students complete the applications by September, for many, the process can drag to early March due to interviews.

In the past, interviews have usually extended only through mid-January, according to Steven L. Kalnakis '93, chief pre-med advisor for Leverett House.

This year, however, due to the increase in applications, medical schools are extending interviews through the beginning of March, said Kalnakis who is a fourth-year student at Harvard Medical School and a former Crimson editor.

Despite the amount of time it consumes, students say an interview invitation is encouraging, though stressful.

"It's nice to be invited to an interview because it means [medical schools] want to meet you and it also means you made the first cut through," says applicant Christine L. Shepard-Sawyer '97. "But at the same time it's just the beginning of the waiting game and everything is in their hands now."

Applicants say they usually visit a school as soon as they receive an invitation for an interview.

"If you hear you got an interview from a school, you probably don't want to wait to hear from another school," says David L. Yeh '97.

Sometimes this involves making multiple trips to the same parts of the country.

"People try to cluster their trips, but I had to make two separate trips out to California," Yeh says. "But, schools are generally pretty flexible."

Having to make several visits to far-off schools can be expensive. As a matter of fact, many students say the entire applications process can cost thousands of dollars.

"I spent about $3,000 to $4,000 for about eight interviews," Shepard-Sawyer says. "I do know people who applied to upwards of 20 schools so the numbers go up."

The average Harvard student applies to 15 medical schools, Kalnakis says. In addition to paying to visit the schools, students must pay an application fee of about $60-$80 per school. All students must pay an AMCAS fee of $300.

Students say the process is taxing on their schedules as well as their wallets.

"It's really time-consuming and it made taking a language class impossible for me this spring," Shepard-Sawyer says.

However, traveling to medical schools gives students the opportunity to learn more about the schools they are seeking to attend.

"It's important to emphasize that interviewing trips are mostly about learning about the school rather than the school learning about you," says a Winthrop house senior, who asked to remain anonymous. "It's important to find the right match."

However, Kalnakis says students tend to take the reputation of a school more into account than the school itself.

"Reputation's the foremost concern," he says. "For many, reputation's important because that's the basis of how residencies are chosen."

Although some seniors say they are stress over the admissions process, they keep it to themselves.

"People don't talk about it a whole lot," Shepard-Sawyer says. "Certainly not the same way they talk about recruiting," she added.

At the same time, some seniors say that applying to medical schools is not as difficult as it appears to those not part of the process.

"Overall the process is not that bad because it is not as high stressed as people make it out to be," says Micheal M. Takamura '97.

However, some students say that the process can be tiring.

"I guess I'm just sick of traveling," Shepard-Sawyer says.

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