Episode 14: International Applicants


Joni (Huff) Krapec joins us to discuss issues to consider while applying as an international student.

If you have questions for us, please send them to pritzkerquestions@gmail.com.

[Music: Stephen Asma – Check It]


Episode 14 Transcript

Ben Ferguson: Hello everybody! Welcome to another episode of the Pritzker Podcast. I am happy to be joined by Joni Krapec who used to be Joni Huff. You may know her as Joni Huff, but she got married recently. So hey, Joni and congratulations!

Joni Krapec: Hey, Ben! Congratulations to you as well. We got married about a week apart.

BF: Yeah. I just got married actually as well. I’m not changing my name to another name fortunately so that saves me a bit of trouble. But you were on what? November 8th?

JK: Yup.

BF: Okay. Cool.

JK: And you guys were on the 14th?

BF: 15th.

JK: 15th. Okay.

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BF: Yeah. So well, congratulations to you. We are trying to stick with this short episode theme again because we have a bunch of listener questions. So I think we’re just going to take one of these at random and discuss it for a few minutes just so these are easily digestible. So the one I think we’d like to focus on today is regarding foreign applicants, and especially Canadian applicants. One of the questions that we got was do I personally have Canadian classmates, but Joni you can speak more globally to Canadian applicants I guess. He says he’s applying this cycle and he’d like to hear what kind of hoops they have to jump through, financial aid questions, etc.?

JK: Okay. Sounds great. Yeah, we definitely do accept applicants from all over the world. And we have a pretty steady stream of Canadian applicants that we receive. Speaking about international students broadly, both Canadian and non-Canadian international students, we at Pritzker view the applications the exact same as any other application. I have heard that there are some medical schools that have a separate screening or that have a separate application process for international students. We are not one of those schools. So our Canadian applicants or any other international applicant goes through the exact same process as a citizen applicant. And also goes through the exact same Admissions Committee deliberations as a citizen or permanent resident applicant does. We don’t have a certain number of seats that are set aside either for interview or for the class total for Canadian or international students. It’s basically an open pool and we select the students that we think are going to be the best fit for Pritzker, whether they are current residents, permanent residents, or whether they are international students.

Financial aid is the biggest kind of challenge for international students and I can speak a little bit about what Pritzker does and then overall some things to think about. For our personal scholarships that we have that we offer through Pritzker, those scholarships are open to all of our applicants. So that’s for citizens and for international students. The tricky part comes with federal student loan money, which is how a lot of students pay for their time in medical school. So federal student loans are only able to be offered to citizens or permanent residents of the United States. There are loan programs that exist within the United States at several different banks that international students are able to qualify for provided they have a co-signer on the loan who is a US citizen or permanent resident. So if you are international, that might be something that you want to think about.Canadian students actually have a great advantage in that the Canadian government will give you Canadian government loans that you can bring into a medical school in the United States. So you can be funded through Canada but study in the United States. So that would be something good for Canadians to look into. And my understanding is that there are several other countries throughout the world who have that same kind of governmental loan program. So that would be something to look into. If your home country does not have that loan program, you might want to think about a co-signer to be able to apply for loans to come in to medical school within the United States.

Along with that, the other thing that you want to think about is whether the school requires you to have the cost of attendance in a bank account somewhere. There are some medical schools who will say if you are an international student, you need to show that you have the full cost of attendance for all four years of medical school sitting in a bank account. And the reason that some schools do that is because they don’t want to have somebody living in the United States, run out of money or not be able to get money to continue into the medical school years. Typically, it happens after the first or second year that that might occur. At Pritzker, we only ask for one year. And what we ask you to do is to just show us any loan money you are able to receive through your own personal finances if you have any, which is not the case for a lot of medical students, and/or through any scholarships you’ve received that you can meet the cost of attendance for one year. So, those are some of the things to think about. And it’s always important for Canadians in particular when you call a medical school to ask about opportunities for international students that you specify that you are a Canadian. Having been around this environment for a while, there seems to be, I think because Canadian students can get loan money from Canada, it’s a lot easier to admit Canadian students and know that they can pay for the experience. So if you’re a Canadian, specify Canadian when you call a school to ask questions. If you are an international student who is not Canadian, it would be good to specify that as well so that you’re sure that you’re getting the information that most pertains to you.

BF: Do you have any information or sense of how many international students apply every year versus how many are accepted? And any breakdown between like European or Canadian or any other continent?

JK: Oh, that’s a good question.

BF: Not that Canada is a continent, but yeah. You know what I’m saying.

JK: No, that’s okay. I know what you mean. For Pritzker I think we typically have, I should look up this thing on paper. I think we usually have about 400 or so international applicants every single year.

BF: And this is versus roughly 6,000 total?

JK: Exactly. I actually just found the paper. We had total for the entering class of 2008 7,374 applicants. 474 of those were international. From that group, we interviewed about 30, 35 of those international students and we wound up having three international students in our entering class for 2008.

BF: Wow.

JK: So it’s definitely smaller–there’s always a smaller number of international student in each medical student class. But there’s also a significantly smaller number of international applicants to a medical school class. So that’s something to think about. Our breakdown–we do have a lot of Canadians, so that is something we can see a lot of. Beyond that, it tends to be primarily African countries and East Asian countries that we see the most applicants from. I think part of that is because in some countries, the way that the education process works is that you are basically finishing high school at 16, taking some test and kind of doing some self-direction, and you go straight into a professional collegiate experience. It’s not the same as our undergraduate four years and then you choose your profession and potentially go into graduate school after that. So I think that prohibits some people in other countries from having the path that would lead them to be able to start medical school here.

BF: And just finally, regarding applicant numbers, like individual numbers, how do you guys interpret things like GPA or professional and pre-professional exams in their home countries like the MCAT equivalent or any other sort of exams that they have to take? How do you guys interpret that in line with what our guidelines typically are?

JK: Oh, that’s a good question. Yeah. We say for any international student, and I should probably preface this by saying that most of our international students have completed their undergraduate training either in the United States or Canada. So for most of the international applicants that we receive, they did their four-year college degree either here or Canada, where the systems are very similar. Obviously in the United States, we know how to work with that one pretty well. The Canadian system is pretty similar, other than they tend to have much less grade inflation than what we have here. So typically, the GPAs in Canada–

BF: Grade inflation? I never heard of that.

JK: Yeah. No, none at all.

BF: And then so I imagine most of them take the MCAT-proper too or something like it?

JK: Exactly.

BF: Okay.

JK: And so then for students who have done and undergraduate degree, and sometimes even a graduate degree, in other countries, we require that they spend at least one year at a four-year college or a university doing science coursework, whether in the United States or Canada. Because AMCAS, that giant application that you all have to go through when you’re applying, does not accept international transcripts.So that’s where we get all your course information from, and if they don’t accept your international transcript, we don’t have it either. So we do require that the person has gone to school for at least one full-time year either in the United States or Canada, and then also those sits for the MCAT.

BF: Got it., got it. Well, Joni I think that’s a nice overview, so thanks for chatting with us.

JK: You’re welcome! Thank you, Ben.

BF: So, thanks again for listening to the Pritzker podcast. To hear more visit iTunes or pritzkerpodcast.libsyn.com. We also hope that this is an informative resource for you. And if it is, we’d love for you to send us an email to tell us about it. You can contact us at pritzkerquestions@gmail.com. And also, you can comment on our podcast page directly in iTunes telling us how we’re doing.

We’d also love for you to submit questions of your own so that we can address them on the air for all of our listeners. Chances are there are many people out there with the same question. Also, if you want to hear more about a certain topic in depth in the future, don’t hesitate to write in. Take care.

Posted on December 12, 2008 to:

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