Episode 36: Listener Questions

Joni and Ben discuss some recent listener questions sent via email and text.

1. How important is Illinois residency in Pritzker’s admissions?
2. Is it better to enroll in a formal post-baccalaureate program or do something less structured? Is there any value to these programs?
3. Of ~600 interviewees, how many are rejected outright prior to May 15?

If you have questions for us, please send them to pritzkerquestions@gmail.com. Or, call (773) 336-2POD and leave us a message.

[Music: “The Area” used with permission from Eliot Lipp. “Shiggidy” used with permission from Greg Spero and GMG.]

Episode 36 Transcript

Ben Ferguson: Hey everyone. Welcome to Episode 36 of the Pritzker Podcast. I think it’s time to do a listener question show. We’ve gotten a lot of listener questions from emails and texts from listeners. And Joni has joined us today to answer some of those questions, so welcome to the Pritzker Podcast, Joni.

Joni Krapec: Thank you.

BF: How’s it going?

JK: Good. How’s everything with you?

BF: It’s going well. Let’s jump into some of these questions. The first one was submitted by a person named Jean via email, and she says, “To apply to the Pritzker medical school”–or Pritzker School of Medicine, I guess–”or any of the Chicago med schools, is residency in the state of Illinois important for consideration?”

JK: I would say, at this medical school, we’re a private school, so it is not an influencing factor on whether or not somebody is accepted. I would guess that at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s medical school that it would be a factor because that is a public institution. But most of the Chicago schools, except University of Illinois, are private, so I think at most of those schools, being a state resident is not an influencing factor one way or the other.

Typically, the only way it influences us, if at all, and really with any applicant: we just always kind of like to know why somebody is interested in our school. So, certainly, if somebody is from Illinois and this would be coming home for them or staying close to family, it helps us to better understand perhaps if the person would want to enroll at Pritzker if they were accepted. But in terms of determining whether or not we would invite somebody to interview or whether or not we would accept somebody, the state of residence really is not important to us since we’re private.

BF: Okay. And I think in the past we’ve said something like a quarter of the class is from the state of Illinois and then three-quarters are either from outside of Illinois or international students.

JK: Right.

BF: Which, 25%, I think, is a good chunk, but definitely not something that the University of Illinois can boast. They probably have considerably more.

JK: I would imagine, yeah. And actually we could find that out looking at the Medical School Admission Requirements book, which the AAMC produces. It says in each school’s write-up the number of in-state versus out-of-state applicants that apply are interviewed and are accepted. So that would be a good resource for anybody from anybody’s state trying to figure out whether their state schools show any preference towards them, it would be good to look at the MSAR because I know the University of Michigan is a public medical school but they actually have greater numbers of out-of-state residents than they do in-state. So it’s a good thing to just look at for whatever your home state happens to be. I would check out the MSAR and see what that means for your state schools.

BF: Yeah, good to know. And I think, it’s not in Chicago, but Southern Illinois University is also public, so they probably have a lot more Illinois residents in their classes as well.

JK: Exactly. And I think at the University of Massachusetts, if you’re not a Massachusetts resident, you have no hope.

BF: Oh, really?

JK: They only take Massachusetts residents, yeah.

BF: Yeah, that’s kind of similar for the University of Washington, too, I think, if you’re not in that consortium of states up there, then they won’t really consider you.

JK: Exactly. Yeah.

BF: Okay. The second and third questions are actually similar, but they concern post-baccalaureate programs. So one person sent an email–his name is Tim–and he said, “I’m a prospective non-traditional applicant planning to go back soon to take pre-med coursework,” and his actual question is, “Does Pritzker prefer students enroll in a formalized post-bacc program over a less-structured, informal program?” I’m guessing just taking random classes here and there.

And a similar question, if I can pull it up here… The other question is from a person named Sonjana, and she says she has a strong upward trend and a decent MCAT, but she still doesn’t think that she will be competitive enough for Pritzker or some other medical schools, so she was considering doing a Master’s program out at a university on the East Coast, which is 11 months long and you’re ranked among current medical students at that program just to sort of figure out where she fits in terms of her academic qualities. What do you guys recommend for that situation?

JK: What we always recommend is if somebody is needing to improve upon a GPA, it always, I think, looks better and is much more effective to be enrolled in a full-time degree-seeking or formalized post-bacc program, whether it’s a special masters program or whether it’s a post-baccalaureate program, I think if you’ve had struggles in the past–and that’s what this second writer said, that the first two years of undergrad weren’t so good–I think it definitely helps the committee to see further evidence that when you are in a full-time science curriculum, that you are able to do well. And the thing that’s nice about the formalized post-bacc programs or special Master’s programs is that they have a reputation with them. So we’re familiar with the different programs that exist and whether or not their graduates tend to fare well in our medical school. So I think, particularly if you’ve ever had any academic struggles, a more formalized program is a better bet for you than taking classes one at a time or taking classes kind of independently, just because it carries a little bit of that reputation with it as well.

For the applicant that’s a non-traditional student, largely, it’s up to that applicant. I would say if their undergraduate was a strong performance and so it’s mainly just taking the science classes that they may not have taken as an undergraduate student, really, they can take those classes on their own and not need to enroll in a structured program.

A couple of the potential benefits of a structured program, either if the person did not do so well academically in undergrad–that’s kind of the first part of the answer, to kind of reiterate that–or if the person basically wants to try to do this as quick as possible, there are post-baccalaureate programs designed specifically for career changers. That’s kind of how they’re–I guess the little nickname that they have is a ‘career changer’ program, where you can do all of your science coursework in the span of one year, whereas if you were taking classes independently at a college or university, it might take you much longer than that. The other benefit of a formalized program is that you do have advising and fellow post-bacc students to kind of have your own cohort and work through not only the classes but also how the entire application system works, gaining clinical experience, gaining research experience, if that’s of interest to you. Different things like that.

So it kind of depends on the student and where they are coming from, and if, for example, they need to continue working while they’re taking courses, it certainly is fine to do that, assuming that their undergraduate performance was strong. But the kind of full-time programs have the benefit of additional advising throughout the not only preparation but also application process, as well as having a shorter duration to get all of your classes done. And there’s a list of those actually that come into play for both types of questions that we just had. The AAMC website has a search engine where you can search for post-baccalaureate or special Master’s programs that are either designed to be academic record enhancers, which was one iteration that we had of this question, or those that are designed to be career changers. And you can search by program type. You can also search in terms of geography, things like that.

BF: And there seem to be kind of post-bacc programs and Master’s of Medical Science programs, and then there are really Master’s of Biology and Physiology and Anatomy programs. Do you guys kind of group those all together or do you view those separately somehow?

JK: For the most part, we group them together.

BF: Okay.

JK: It’s just kind of, to some degree–I don’t want to say “semantics” because I don’t want to discount a Master’s degree, but depending on which program you’re coming through, as long as the program has a good reputation, and I think it would be important to see, for example, as you’re shopping for programs, what is your yield rate of your graduates getting into medical schools, or what types of schools do those students get into, so that you can kind of see where their alumni have gone. The one benefit of the Master’s programs is that, for example, you don’t get accepted the first time you go through the process, then obviously a Master’s degree is just better on your resume and can get you a little bit further when it comes to a full-time job than a post-baccalaureate program could. But, again, I would look at those yields and see how successful their graduates are at getting into medical schools and where they go, and then kind of make your decisions based on that.

BF: Okay. And just as a final follow-up, I know Pritzker has in the past had some formal arrangements with post-bacc programs. Is that still going on?

JK: It is not.

BF: Okay.

JK: Those programs were suspended partly when we reduced our class size and put in a couple of tweaks to our curriculum. We wanted to make sure that we had all of that set and kind of ready to go before we were doing kind of any linkage programs with a curriculum that had had some changes to it.

BF: Okay. Do you know if that thing still exists, if certain post-bacc programs still have those links with other schools?

JK: It absolutely does.

BF: Okay.

JK: Yes. So I would definitely check that out as you research different programs. They are typically called “linkage programs” or–oh, shoot, what’s the other name for them? Oh, it will come back to me. But often they’re called linkage programs. Oh, “consortium”. Like they’re consortium schools.

BF: Okay.

JK: So that would be something to look into, yeah.

BF: Yeah, it seems like that would simplify the process a little bit more with kind of a guaranteed acceptance at one place.

JK: Exactly. Well, I should say that typically you have to still interview and be invited by the medical school.

BF: Oh.

JK: So it’s not guaranteed as in anybody who goes to this post-bacc program is guaranteed to go to Pritzker. It’s that you are able to apply instead of having–basically you’re able to apply during the year in which you are taking your courses as opposed to needing to wait until the end of that year, and then applying to medical school, which is what happens the majority of the time, which gives you, then, a glide year–

BF: Oh, I see.

JK: –or a year kind of independent. So you still apply, and if you’re accepted, you have certain thresholds that you need to meet with the rest of your academic courses and with your MCAT score in order to hold on to your spot at that medical school. It basically just eliminates that glide year.

BF: Cool. So it kind of helps you get your foot in the door at least.

JK: Exactly.

BF: And earlier.

JK: Yeah. Faster.

BF: Okay. And then the last question, I think, should be a quick one. We got this over text, actually, and just as a reminder to folks, you can text the Pritzker Podcast some questions and–let me just wait for our website to come up because I don’t know the text number. It is (773) 336-2POD or 336-2763. So, anyway, this question came in over text. And the question is, of the 600-ish students that are interviewed, how many are usually rejected prior to May 15th? Or is everyone essentially continued until that date?

JK: Most of the time, you’re continued until that date. Really, it’s fairly rare to be outright rejected. Typically, if we’ve invited you in for interview, we’re already pretty excited about your application, so we definitely want to keep as many applicants in the pipeline as possible. Typically, if you’re rejected before May 15th, it means something went a little bit drastically wrong. So that might be something that you want to follow up on so that you’re not perhaps repeating mistakes at other medical schools. But for the most part, we just continue people until May 15th, and then we start transferring people over to a waitlist or releasing them outright.

BF: Got it. Cool. Thanks, Joni. I think that will help. Thanks for coming on the Pritzker Podcast.

JK: My pleasure.