Making the final decision

As some of you may have already guessed, after finally stepping out of the waitlist limbo, I had a question to answer: which medical school was I going to call home for the next four years?

After obtaining my first acceptance from Wayne, I decided that it was probably where I would end up, regardless of whether or not I got off of the other waitlists. The factors that led me to this conclusion were primarily:
  1. solid history of pumping out medical doctors [Wayne has been doing it since the 19th century…]
  2. location [I wanted to be close to home, or at least reside in the midwest to ensure I had my support network]
  3. cost [let’s be honest here, the economy sucks and we can’t say that we know if physician salaries will continue to be as “cushy” as they are now]
In the end, even though I loved MCW [and my best friend was conveniently moving to Milwaukee!], I could not justify the cost of tuition [~$44k — making it about $15k more per year] and moving expenses when Wayne’s program would most likely get me where I wanted to be for $60k less of debt. This same cost argument was applied to OUWB at the time, but with the added fact that OUWB didn’t have a reputation at all. At that point, I had already thrown NYMC out the window completely — the lure of being close to the city didn’t make up for the fact that it was kind of in the middle of nowhere [oh, and that scary cab driver that picked up another guy to make double the $$$ and didn’t have a GPS didn’t really turn me on to Valhalla… thank god I made it safely to NYMC the night before the interview!].
Come May 15th, I was sitting pretty comfortably on the idea that I was attending Wayne State University School of Medicine and would soon call the streets of Detroit my second home. I even changed my Facebook profile information to reflect the decision!
Around that time, I was still checking up on the School-Specific Threads on SDN and noticed that someone had been recently accepted off the OUWB waitlist with a generous scholarship. A mixture of emotions swept over me — I felt like I had been passed over [despite my heartfelt update letter] and the news reminded me of how much I longed to be part of OUWB’s history. At that point, a friend of mine had already been accepted to the school and I often felt pangs of jealousy — it didn’t seem fair that the school that I loved didn’t love me back.
One of the lessons I learned from this whole process is to never, ever expect anything. All of my expectations were thrown out the window by the end — the schools I thought I would definitely get an interview from, sent me rejections relatively quickly. The schools that I did receive interviews from ended up being much better fits than I had suspected when I submitted the primary and secondary applications.
A week after the May 15th [well, 16th since the 15th was on a Sunday] deadline, as I walked into my apartment after work, I received a call from a 248 number that I did not recognize. I answered to Michelle’s distinctive voice and an acceptance to OUWB’s School of Medicine. In retrospect, I wish I had been a bit more enthusiastic when I answered the phone, but after 8+ hours of work, I was ready for my nap.
As I mentioned earlier, at the time I received the OUWB acceptance, I was 99% sure I would attend Wayne.
That is, until the generous scholarship offer.
After I hung up the phone, reality settled in. My heart had been at OUWB since the interview day and Wayne had not blown me out of the water. The scholarship had leveled the playing field on cost between the two schools. My only reservation was that I had no history to compare the two schools.
When I retell this story to people, I always say that it took me a long time to decide — but my significant other insists that it took me all of 2 hours. While I believe that on some level I had always known what I wanted, it was not apparent during the week that I had to make my decision. In the end, I needed some way to compare the schools on paper and not just in my mind — here is what I came up with:
  • Class size/community/culture: Wayne is known for having one of the largest medical school class sizes in the nation — although 300 students/class does not sound like much when a lot of students come from high schools where the class size was double this, for a medical school, this is huge. Furthermore, I distinctly remember during the tour that the classroom where exams are taken was a bit overwhelming. OUWB’s inaugural class size of 50 is pretty tiny, but also gave me the piece of mind that we would all get to know one another. Moreover, the community and culture at Wayne was automatically going to be different because there were so many “streamers” — students who just stayed home and watched streamed lectures. Although the idea of mandatory attendance brought me back to high school, I realized that this was the only way that a community could really be established. Groups will inevitably form, but I would personally like to graduate knowing every single student in my class.
  • Curriculum: Traditional vs. Integrated — in importance, I’d say that this was pretty much tied with class size. After this many years of school, I have come to realize that I usually need help seeing the bigger picture. This, in addition to the fact that many “established” medical schools are also moving toward an integrated curriculum, OUWB really beat Wayne out of the water on this. Furthermore, I was relatively impressed with the TBL [team-based learning] exercise during the interview day and believe that it’ll help in the long run with learning effective teamwork.
  • Grading: Tiered, with z-scores vs. H/P/F — [keep in mind that at the time I was under the impression that Wayne would keep the tiered grading scale — I have seen rumors of a move away from tiered grading to be effective this fall] while having tiered grading didn’t bother me, the z-score part did. I do get curious as to how I’m doing relative to my peers, but in the end, this is medical school. The graduation rate is in the high-90% at most schools and it is that way for a reason. We were all accepted because a committee thought we were capable of becoming competent physicians. Yes, doing well is important, but I didn’t want a system that contributed to a competitive atmosphere. This goes back to the culture thing — I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable with my peers, knowing that some of them are trying to do whatever it takes to get the highest z-score. Thus, OUWB’s purely H/P/F system was definitely a plus.
  • Location: Having grown up in comfortable suburbia my whole life, the idea of being plopped in one of the most dangerous cities in the country was a bit irksome. In fact, it bothered me quite a bit. Not to say that I don’t know how to take care of myself, but let’s be realistic here — I’m a female, and wanted the comfort of knowing that I could study in the library until late at night and safely walk back to my car. This being said, I heard that mid-town is relatively safe, and that Wayne does a good job with ensuring that students are kept out of harm’s way, but since I was given the option not to have to worry, it became pretty apparent that this was a factor.
  • Clinical rotations: Wayne has some great sites for clinical rotations, but I always knew that Beaumont would be a top choice for rotations. Since Wayne students will no longer be able to rotate there because of OUWB… this definitely put OUWB ahead.
  • Cost: OUWB is comparable with the scholarship [I did not get a full-ride]. Enough said.
  • Other: The final factor was where I felt there was a suitable fit… and OUWB came out way ahead on this one. Something about the faculty and staff’s warmth and investment in the students [oh hey, student-centered approach!] really made the school stand out.
There you have it!
Is there anything else about the process that you’d like to hear about? Let me know by commenting!

6 thoughts on “Making the final decision

  • July 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm
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    two questions!

    1. can you explain z-scoring?
    2. are the rumors you mentioned about wayne state going P/F relatively confirmed?? because that is really exciting!

  • July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm
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    1. A z-score is based on basically standard deviations — I believe that you are at 500 if you scored average on an exam and 100 points correlates to one standard deviation. So if you scored 1 standard deviation above the rest of the class, you’d get a 600. Sounds like they need to keep this system in place because of how large the class size is.

    2. Looks like they are getting rid of rankings for sure, but the honors part is still under consideration. I asked a current student and he said that he heard rumors of dropping honors, but nothing has been confirmed.

  • August 12, 2011 at 8:42 pm
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    You mentioned sending OUWB an update letter and in another post you also mentioned letting admissions know about your “late” application. I was just wondering when you sent OUWB that update letter (before or after you received an invite to interview?) and what’s considered “late”?

  • August 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm
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    @Anonymous: I apologize if I was unclear about the “late” application portion — I didn’t formally “let admissions know,” it was just the fact of the matter that I submitted my secondary application a couple of days before the due date, making my completed application one of the last ones to be reviewed for one of the last two interview days left.

    So, I guess “late” to me is basically anyone who submits secondary application materials very close to the deadline.

    Update letters are usually second following an interview and being placed on the waitlist. Usually, this is a technique used to show the admissions committee that you’re still interested in their school and a chance to show them what other scholarly activities you have been up to since last speaking with them.

  • September 20, 2011 at 8:32 am
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    A week after the May 15th [well, 16th since the 15th was on a Sunday] deadline, as I walked into my apartment after work, I received a call from a 248 number that I did not recognize. I answered to Darlene’s distinctive voice and an acceptance to OUWB’s School of Medicine. In retrospect, I wish I had been a bit more enthusiastic when I answered the phone, but after 8+ hours of work, I was ready for my nap [I feel like Darlene was a bit taken aback by how monotonous my voice was after the “Congratulations” was said].

    As I mentioned earlier, at the time I received the OUWB acceptance, I was 99% sure I would attend Wayne.

  • February 14, 2012 at 2:16 am
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    What matters is you get the quality education you need. This will allow you to pursue a meaningful career in the future.

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