Every school is unique in its own right. Knowing what makes schools different is a good way to figure out what school is best for you, and a great strategy for articulating in an interview what your own interest is in attending that school. I had a great deal of difficulty finding out what each school is proud of. Yes, I did all the typical preparation; I was on the school’s website, read recent press releases, and knew the school’s access sites for clinical rotations. These days, every school boasts research opportunities, clinical examination training, computer enhanced evidence based medicine learning, and extra-curricular support. The school has a small class size for attention and support, or a large class size for variety and social opportunity, it’s in a city for experience with a diverse patient population, or it’s outside the city for a more defined campus and scholastic environment. None of these reasons differentiate one school from the 125 other accredited US medical schools
Check out the National Institute of Health Research funding website to look up the school. This gives a detailed ranking of funding given by NIH (arguably the most prolific and respected funding organization and consequently a reliable indicator of the institution’s research legitimacy), as well as to what specific area the institution was awarded the most funding for. In 2007, Tufts School of Medicine was awarded 39 grants, of its 158 total research grants, in the field of biochemistry; you just learned insight into what makes Tufts tick.
Current students are the best resource for figuring out small details about the school that might peak your interest. Email the admissions office and ask if they can put you in touch with a current student, or email your pre-med advisor for a list of medical students that went to your undergrad and are now students at the school you will be interviewing. Get on the phone with them. Spend 5 minutes hearing them talk about their experience as a student, little ins and outs of the school will allow you to understand and comment on why being a student at that SOM is best for you. I spoke with a student at NYMC who told me she loved how close her furnished dorm room was to her classes because she could ‘roll out of bed in the morning’ and that she was most excited for the powder puff football game. Take away: I want to be a student at NYMC because I am the type of person who would benefit from living in a dorm setting and studying with others and who will enjoy the class spirit. A Stanford student told me he was encouraged to take his third year off and attend math courses to supplement his interest in medical health informatics development. Take away: I want to go to Stanford because I will take advantage of the opportunity to take courses in other areas of study to further hone my specific interest in medicine. While discussing what to expect at Tufts, a current student told me ‘they are going to talk your head off about the new exam rooms in the Clinical Skills Center, oh yea, and the gym.’ Fact is, Tufts recently built state of the art exam rooms physically located on campus with cameras, microphones, etc. for students to practice medical interviewing and physical diagnosis (the facility really is incredible). They are also building a gym one floor below the lecture hall. Take away: I want to be a Tufts student because Tufts is investing in teaching clinical physicians and making efforts to improve student life. Point, talking to students is the easiest, quickest way to get a heads up on life as a student at that particular med school.