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2012 SUNY Upstate Admissions Q&A with Jennifer Welch

Audio for Q&A (Click to listen now, or right click and choose “Save As” to download and listen later.)

Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s Q&A. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about SUNY Upstate’s Medical University. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top medical school. I also want to give a special welcome to Jennifer Welch, Director of Admissions at SUNY Upstate. Thanks to everyone for joining.

I’m going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask the first question. Jen, what’s new at SUNY Upstate?

Jennifer Welch: I think one of the greatest things that we’ve got going on is one of our newer offices on campus called Community Outreach and Global Health Education. And one of the things that we are trying very hard to do is to establish some electives for students that are across the global. One of the newer programs that we are hoping to set up by this fall is actually in the country of Peru. It will give students an opportunity to go there and learn about healthcare and how it is administered in third world countries, and it will be a really great opportunity for students. So that is something we are actually hoping for this fall. It will be open to students in between their first and second year, and that also is an elective for students in their fourth year. So it is something that we are very excited about it.

Linda Abraham: That sounds very exciting! I was in India in March as a guest at the Indian School of Business, and they were talking about some of the healthcare delivery issues that they had been dealing with in India. And they actually had lowered infant mortality by cutting the cost of a standard, normal, non-complicated delivery. It was very interesting. And of course the question was whether some of the lower cost methods of healthcare delivery can actually be moved to the developed world where we have our own issues.

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely. I went to a presentation on this Peru experience just last week. And just the photos of the hospital and the operating room were amazing, something that you would never expect. And that’s why I think students are really going to have a great opportunity to get in and see how things really happen. So I’m really excited about it.

Linda Abraham: Nadia asks, “How do you compare undergraduate and graduate GPAs? If the undergraduate GPA is low, will a very strong graduate GPA in the finances make a difference in the admissions cycle?”

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely, and I can’t stress that enough. I think one of the things we are really looking for is how students have done most recently. And if students have not done as well as they would have liked in their undergraduate degrees, they can certainly go on and prove themselves in a graduate program. And I absolutely would encourage a degree in one of the areas of hard science to show the admissions committee that you can handle the academic rigors of medical school. And I think that it would be great to do that.

Linda Abraham: Can it be any of the sciences, or is there any preferred area of science?

Jennifer Welch: I would say any area of science that the student is interested in. I certainly wouldn’t want a student to get a degree in something that they weren’t passionate about. So if the student has an interest in neuroscience or biochemistry or something like that, I would absolutely recommend it. Even a master’s in public health; that filled with hard sciences would also be something that students can pursue.

Linda Abraham: When should an applicant apply “early admissions” at SUNY?

Jennifer Welch: We have early admission and we also have early decision. Early admission would be for students that are finishing up their sophomore year of college. In between the sophomore and junior year, they could apply for our Early Assurance Program which is really geared for students that have a 3.5 GPA in the sciences as well as overall, and a 1300 SAT. And they could be guaranteed acceptance for the medical school for two years later. And what we are hoping for with that program is that students will really use that time, the two years that they are not applying to medical school, to do some other things that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do if they were applying through the regular admissions process. They can get involved in leadership opportunities on campus or maybe spend a semester or even a year or two abroad. We see it as a great opportunity for students to solidify their admission to medical school, but also to go out and get some additional experiences that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to do.

And then we have the Early Decision Program, and we typically enroll about 2-3 students a year for that. And that is really for students that only want to apply to Upstate. I would certainly ask students that are interested in applying for the ED Program to touch base with me first to find out whether or not I think it is a good opportunity for them, because it does limit students in applying to other schools. So I’d rather talk to students to see if they are good candidates before they do that.

Linda Abraham: Is the Early Assurance Program only for students who are currently enrolled at SUNY Upstate as undergrad?

Jennifer Welch: No. It is for students from any accredited college or university, and they have to be in sophomore standing. It is really open so they can come from anywhere. And like I said, we are really looking for students who are looking to gain more experiences that unfortunately, with the long admissions process for medical school they may not get the opportunity to do that. So our hope is that they can get involved in something like that.

Linda Abraham: Applicants also tend to be super, hyper-focused. And here they have the opportunity to experiment a little bit, especially since they’ve already proven themselves. So they have the opportunity to explore other areas or experiment a little bit without worrying what the impact is going to be on their GPA.

Jennifer Welch: Right. The only thing is you have to have a 3.5 coming in and then you have to maintain it. Even a 3.48 won’t cut it; we’re very strict about the 3.50. This will be the first year that we will be requiring the MCAT of students coming into Early Assurance.

Linda Abraham: Oh, so do they have to take the MCAT in their sophomore year?

Jennifer Welch: No, they don’t have to take it in their sophomore year, but prior to admission. And they need to get a 30 or higher. But they have two opportunities to take it.

Linda Abraham: So they can’t check out quite clearly, but they do have a certain amount of freedom.

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely correct.

Linda Abraham: It sounds like a great program! Nadia has a follow-up question on her earlier question. “Is there a minimum number of graduate credits required before the admissions committee considers a graduate GPA at a significant level?” So I guess the question here is if she could just take graduate courses and not necessarily get a graduate degree.

Jennifer Welch: Yes, and that is absolutely fine too. And I would recommend no less than 15 graduate credits. And I don’t want her or anyone to just take one course here and there. We definitely want to see that you are challenging yourself just like we would want to see in an undergraduate curriculum. If you are working full-time and you are taking two graduate level courses -- that is what we would want to see.

Linda Abraham: Who is a good candidate for the Early Admissions Program to SUNY? Is it just a real commitment to SUNY, or are there other qualifications that you would like to see? Now I’m talking about the Early Decision Program, not the Early Assurance Program.

Jennifer Welch: Really what we are looking for is a student who is definitely committed to Upstate, has a strong GPA, a strong MCAT, and really has a good chance of getting in through the Early Decision route. But it would typically be students who either have a strong commitment to the area or to the mission of Upstate, whatever the case may be. And that is really why I like to talk to students first. If it’s a long shot, I’d rather that students don’t put all of their eggs in one basket.

Linda Abraham: How would you describe the mission of Upstate, and how do you recommend that applicants demonstrate, as oppose to claim, an affinity for that mission?

Jennifer Welch: We are certainly dedicated to the region around the Syracuse area, and we serve 17 different counties. We are interested in diversity. We are also interested in meeting the world’s needs within NY State as well as throughout the world. But we’ve really taken a tremendous interest in getting doctors into communities that serve underrepresented populations, rural populations. So I think that students that have a commitment to that or come from those types of communities would definitely meet the mission that we are set to hopefully provide to the area.

Linda Abraham: Do you look for evidence of volunteering, let’s say, in rural settings?

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely. That is absolutely imperative. Sometimes students will sit with me and they’ll say that they have a real interest in serving a rural community, and then I’ll ask them what they’ve done and there is no response to that. So we are definitely looking for that. And we do find that in the application process students may select that they are interested in rural, but then they come in and they really have no interest, and it’s very easy to tell that. So we are absolutely looking for something in the background that shows that students are committed to pursuing that as a career or an interest or whatever. So absolutely having some volunteer or clinical experience or any type of contact in those types of communities would be very beneficial.

Linda Abraham: Every so often I talk to a medical school applicant who has great grades, has done some fascinating research, and was so involved in that stuff that they just didn’t have time to do any clinical volunteering. How would that kind of a candidate, with high grades and a competitive MCAT, be viewed at SUNY Upstate?

Jennifer Welch: Well, we’d have some major concerns about that. I think that one of the things about being a doctor and going through this process is that you need to be sure that it’s the right career and the right thing for you. And so one of the things that we are going to be looking for are students who have investigated the field, have a clear understanding of what they are getting themselves into, and are able to articulate that to the interviewer that they are meeting with or even in the application process itself. There are a lot of students that have grades and MCATS, but if you don’t have the clinical experience and you don’t really know what communicating with patients is like, or what’s it’s like working with the team of not only physicians but also physical therapists and respiratory therapists and nurses and everybody else who makes up the healthcare team, you may really struggle in it. It may not be exactly what you think it is going to be. So it is absolutely imperative that students get clinical exposure.

A lot of the time what I get asked is -- How do I get that experience? One of the things that I really recommend to students is that they reach out to the folks that they are closest with, whether that is a family doctor or a pediatrician or a gynecologist or a dermatologist; somebody that they have had some experience with. Get out there and give them a call and tell them that you’re thinking about becoming a doctor, and you’d like to come and shadow them if they wouldn’t mind. Nine chances out of ten, the doctor will to say to come on in and they’ll let you shadow them. And I think that is a great way to get in and get some experience. Often times though, students will say that they called so and so and asked if they could come and shadow with them for the next six months. Please don’t do that! Just give them a call and see if you can do it for a couple of hours. They’ll be much more apt to bring you in and have you spend some time with them. If they think they have to give you the next six months of their life, it’s never going to happen!

Linda Abraham: Then it’s a little bit more than a shadow!

Jennifer Welch: I recently had a doctor call me and say that he just had a student call and the student said he wanted to come for six months and the doctor couldn’t do it. So start with a little and work your way up, because nine chances out of ten, they’re going to invite you back.

Linda Abraham: Jared asks, “At my graduate program, we had the opportunity to take the National Board Shelf Exams. Would scores in the seventieth or eightieth percentile for the individual exams be favorable to add to our applications? Would those scores carry significant weight at Upstate?”

Jennifer Welch: I would say they would absolutely be welcome, but really what we significantly are going to be looking at are grades from the four years of school and then also the graduate level program and then the MCAT. I think it can only add to the application, but I can’t at this point say how much weight it will play into it.

Linda Abraham: It wouldn’t make up for a low MCAT, let’s say?

Jennifer Welch: No.

Linda Abraham: How do you view graduates of Post-Bac programs relative to applicants applying straight from undergrad programs?

Jennifer Welch: If a student majored in history, psychology, English, or something like that, and then pursued the Post-Bac program, I think that those are favorable. For those students though that have majored in any other kind of science, I would always recommend a master’s program over pursuing some kind of a Post-Bac program. Really what we are looking for is graduate level coursework within the sciences. I don’t want to see that you can go back and take organic chemistry over again; I want to see that the graduate level coursework is what you are going to be successful in. So going back and doing some kind of a Post-Bac program is probably not going to benefit you tremendously if you’ve got some kind of a science background.

Linda Abraham: What if the grades in the sciences were poor in the undergraduate program?

Jennifer Welch: I’d want to look at that on a case by case basis. If during freshman year, they took Intro to Bio and Intro to Chem, I’d be looking for that progression of grades. So did they goof off or did they have lots to get used to in their undergraduate college and leaving home and all that kind of stuff? Those types of things are explainable; that is something we could talk about. But I would really want to look at it individually because I can’t make a blanket statement about that.

Linda Abraham: What is the one thing you would recommend to a 2012 applicant that they could do now to improve their chances of acceptance, assuming that they already have good grades and MCAT scores? Is there anything you could put your finger on?

Jennifer Welch: Number one would be to apply early. Number two would be clinical work. And I think, also really working on that personal statement. That really is the only time that a student becomes who they are. You’ve got all these numbers and you’ve got the grades and you’ve got the MCATs, but it’s really not until that personal statement when you can really sit down and figure out who the student is and what they are all about and what they may or may not be. So I’m always looking for students that get pretty personal in their personal statement and can tell me about some personal experiences that they’ve had. It basically will come down to that. Let’s say I’ve got fifty applications to review and I’ve got one interview, and they all primarily went to the same kind of college and have kind of the same basic GPA and MCAT, it’s going to come down to that personal statement. That is really going to be the breaker for me; what they’ve done and how they’ve gotten there and who they are and what they are all about. So I think that that is really important. Sometimes students will give all of their experiences, and that is great. But then they’ll reiterate that in the personal statement. I don’t want that. I want something completely different. We’ll get, “I went to such and such a college and I got these grades and this MCAT, and had these experiences…” -- and it’s just a reiteration.

Linda Abraham: It’s a real waste of time!

Jennifer Welch: Yes. So something very special in the personal statement would be really beneficial.

Linda Abraham: Do you expect the personal statement to answer the question – “Why do you want to go into medicine?” Or can it be something else?

Jennifer Welch: It could be something else. Why do you want to be a doctor? I certainly would hope they would come to some kind of conclusion about that in their personal statement. But how did you get to this point? And where do you see yourself, and why do you see yourself there? Those would really be great pieces. Sometimes people try humor in their personal statements, and I would really recommend that students not do that. I think that one thing that students tend to forget when they are applying is that this is your resume. This is really who you are. And I have read so many applications where they spell “physician” wrong.

Linda Abraham: Or they spell “SUNY” wrong.

Jennifer Welch: It has happened.

Linda Abraham: Or “SUNY Downstate” instead of “SUNY Upstate”.

Jennifer Welch: Yes, that has happened a lot. Or it’s spelled “SUNNY”. But all of those things are very important when you are using this paper format to present yourself. It’s kind of like when you are writing a cover letter or you are putting a resume together. It’s got to be perfect. If you spell the person’s name wrong that you are writing your cover letter to, guess where that resume and cover letter is going to go to?! It’s going to go into the pile of “no thank you”. It’s the exact same thing with this application; this has to be perfect. And there are folks on my admissions committee that have that red pen and are going through and are looking for those kinds of mistakes. You are not going to be able to make those mistakes on patient charts, so why are you doing it in an application? So really just thinking about those things when you are putting it together is really imperative.

Linda Abraham: Those are the micro areas of errors with the red pen. I guess the macro level error that you mentioned would be reiterating information found elsewhere on the application.

Jennifer Welch: Sure.

Linda Abraham: One of the metaphors I use while describing the application is that it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. When you are doing a jigsaw puzzle, each piece is not identical to the one next to it, and it also reveals something different about the subject or the picture you have. And it should be the same way in the application. The transcript reveals something, the MCAT score reveals something, the personal statement should reveal something new, and the experiences described in the experience section should reveal something different. But in terms of macro level mistakes in the personal statement or in the experience section, what could you point to as your top three there? One of them you mentioned is this repeating stuff found elsewhere.

Jennifer Welch: The other thing would be what we call the “I factor”. When you constantly say – I did this, I did that, etc. We want to know what you got out of it and how you helped others in all of that. And then the other thing that really is an incredibly picky thing but is really important is the whole formatting of it, and I don’t know if that is a macro or a micro, but in my opinion it’s really important. There are really times when it is formatted as one gigantic paragraph. And I’ve got to tell you that once we get through the first three or four sentences, we’re kind of like -- okay, let me move on. Admissions folks don’t have a lot of time. We’ve received 5,000 applications. We select about 700-750 for interviews. So there are times when we are screening through those pretty quickly, and you want to make sure that you’ve captured that person’s attention.

And one of the things that I always encourage students to think about when they are putting their application together is that there are so many different eyes looking at the application once it gets to an admissions committee. Our admissions committee is made up of 25 people, ranging from basic science faculty, there is clinical faculty, there are alumni, there are town docs, there are students, there is myself. And we are all looking for something different in the application. And I think if students can kind of think about that when they are putting it together, it makes it a little easier. There are some folks, maybe the basic science faculty, that are really looking for strong academics. The clinical folks are looking for the clinical experiences; that you have a clear understanding of what they do during the day. The students may be looking more for students that are going to be involved on campus. They’ll look if applicants were involved in their undergraduate. So they may be looking for that. I kind of focus more on service oriented work. I figure that as a student who is really dedicating your life to serving other people, you really better have some evidence of that in your background, so that is what I tend to look for. So I think if you can keep in mind that there are so many different people with so many different backgrounds looking at your application and you can focus on all of those different aspects, you will probably put together a really great application.

Linda Abraham: I guess that goes back to the jigsaw puzzle.

Jennifer Welch: Yes, absolutely.

Linda Abraham: Do you view a break between college and medical school as a positive development or as a negative?

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely a positive. I think that we are seeing more and more students, probably more than 50% of the applicants at this point, are taking a year off between undergrad and medical school. And I think it’s a really great opportunity for students to do a bunch of things, but ultimately to make sure that this is what they want. It’s a long time commitment; it’s also a very expensive time commitment. And if it’s not something that you are absolutely sure that you want to do, it can have really a detrimental impact on you later on. So I would say if students want to go and get clinical work or travel or do more volunteer work, go ahead. And there are also students who need to work to pay off their undergraduate loans or they need money to go to medical school. That is absolutely something that we recommend.

Linda Abraham: I am certainly seeing more non-traditional applicants. By that I mean applicants who are not coming straight from college – after having worked or studied or having done something else after college. I didn’t realize it was 50% +. So I assume that it differs from school to school.

Jennifer Welch: I think that it does. We really are seeing a tremendous increase in students doing that. I’ve gotten several requests for deferral this year for students that are doing research at the NIH and want to finish up a particular project, or that have an opportunity to go into the Peace Corps. So students are really spending a lot of time doing some really valuable things.

Linda Abraham: I would think there is a difference between students applying and then asking for a deferral as opposed to students just applying when they are 24-30. Is there a point where you feel it’s really too late to start medical school?

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely not. We’ve got some students in their forties here. And as I am about to enter that grouping, I can’t even imagine doing that. But we’ve got students that are here with families. One in particular that I’m thinking of is going into her third year. She’s got two children, and she felt that it was time for her. I think that if it is something that you are really driven to do, you are going to make it work. So I don’t think so. In the past, we’ve accepted a student in his sixties into medical school. And over the past couple of years, we have graduated students in their fifties, and they’ve gone on to do some great things. So I would say that there is never a time that it is too late; it’s just all in what you want to make of it.

Linda Abraham: Nadia asks, “What are you looking for in out of state students?”

Jennifer Welch: There goes that question of whether or not we are giving preference to NYS students, and yes we are. That has happened over the last couple of years when we started to give preference to NYS students again. Typically what we are looking for is a 20%-25% split. So 20%-25% of our incoming class will be from out of state. Really what we are looking for is certainly a strong GPA and MCAT, and then certainly students that have some great clinical experiences. So I would definitely say a 3.6 GPA and a 30 or better on the MCAT.

Linda Abraham: Do out of state students generally have to have higher numbers?

Jennifer Welch: I’d say a little bit higher numbers. But I have to say that the preference for out of state students is done at the screening level. So students that get here for an interview are on the exact same playing field as anybody else. The admissions committee does not take into consideration the out of state status; that is done completely by us at screening.

Linda Abraham: I asked you earlier if not having clinical experience is a deal breaker at SUNY Upstate and you said yes. Is not having research experience fateful to one’s application at SUNY Upstate?

Jennifer Welch: I would say that it is not a deal breaker but it is becoming more and more important. Last year, when the Dean charged the admissions committee, he indicated that he would really like to see more and more students with research experience. And so I think we are moving in that direction. Do we require it? No. But if a student is interested in it, they should absolutely pursue it. But there are some students that don’t want to do research, and we understand that as well. So it’s not going to make or break the application at this point. I can’t say that it is going to continue like this forever. But that is certainly something that is recommended.

Linda Abraham: So for the class entering in 2012, that is how it is?

Jennifer Welch: Yes, I would recommend it.

Linda Abraham: Is there any kind of research that is valued more than other kinds of research?

Jennifer Welch: No. I think that whatever a student is interested in is fine, and they should be able to articulate what their research is. Again, it goes back to – if you are doing it and you enjoy it, that’s great. If you don’t enjoy it, I don’t want to you to do it just to put it on your resume or your application, and for me to ask about it and then you not being able to articulate what it was or what you did or anything like that, because that will just be seen very negatively. So no particular area, but just that students should be able to articulate what they’ve done.

Linda Abraham: How can applicants compensate for low grades and then for a low MCAT, or can they?

Jennifer Welch: Well, for low grades, I think that certainly graduate level coursework can be incredibly beneficial. MCAT is another story. It’s very hard to compensate for a low MCAT. And at this point we are averaging our MCATs together.

Linda Abraham: Really? You don’t take the highest?

Jennifer Welch: We do not. And that is specific by medical school. Up until two or three years ago, we had taken the highest overall score. Some medical schools will take the highest of each of the categories; some will take the highest overall. We are actually averaging the total scores together. We’re finding that students have been taking the MCAT like 8 or 9 different times in order to reach that magical 30. They only have the opportunity to take the boards three times, so it’s really imperative try to stay away from taking the MCAT that many times. But it’s also important to know how each of the schools will be looking at them. So we are averaging, and we take them from the last three years. So it really is very hard to make up for a weak MCAT.

Linda Abraham: Do you anticipate a change in that policy?

Jennifer Welch: No. I think everybody is pretty happy with it at this point.

Linda Abraham: What kind of recommenders do you suggest applicants choose?

Jennifer Welch: People that know them well. Just because Dr. so and so fixed your broken leg when you were seven doesn’t mean that he/she knows you know. And I think students sometimes get caught up in who is going to write the letter. I want somebody that knows you incredibly well and can talk to me about what you can offer the field of medicine, how you will be with patients, and how you’ve done academically. We require an academic letter of recommendation as one of the letters, and then the other letter can be either academic or somebody that has been involved with you in whatever different kind of capacity. But for the academic letter, I don’t want to hear that in the Intro to Biology there were 500 kids in my class and so and so was in the top 10% of the class and got an A. And we get those every single year, and those are so not helpful. So we are really looking for letters of recommendation that can attest to your character, your integrity, the kind of person that you are, the kind of doctor that you may be, and the kind of medical student that you are going to be.

We’d prefer a committee letter of recommendation if you happen to be at a school that has a committee letter. I know that a lot of the California schools do not have pre-health committees, so we get faculty letters. But if there is a pre-health committee at the college that students go to, we absolutely want it to come from that group. We will wonder why you didn’t get one from them if your college happens to have one. But really people that know you well. That is really all I can say about it. We get some letters from some pre-health groups and they say – “Well, I’ve never met with this student, but all letters that I’ve received indicate that they will be a good doctor.” If you do have a pre-health committee on campus or a pre-health adviser, make sure that he/she knows who you are and can write a really good letter of recommendation for you because it can really be the make or break.

Linda Abraham: What about the interview? What can a medical school applicant anticipate in an interview at SUNY Upstate, and how would you recommend they prepare for it?

Jennifer Welch: First of all, the interview is a huge part. I would say that particularly at our place, if you get an interview, you are probably 50% more likely to get accepted.

Linda Abraham: You mentioned that you had issued 750 interview invitations. What is the class size? How many offers do you extend?

Jennifer Welch: We’ll have a matriculated class of 160, and we will offer out anywhere between 370 and 400 acceptances.

Linda Abraham: So then at that point, numerically, you really do have right around a 50%.

Jennifer Welch: So it’s really important that you are prepared for the interview. I would absolutely recommend mock interviews. And I would do it with somebody that you don’t know very well. And do it in a suit. Most of us don’t wear suits every day, and you are kind of uncomfortable, at least I know I am, in a suit. Prepare like it’s the real thing. Get some questions off Studentdoctor.net and give them to somebody to ask you. But do it for real and don’t do it with somebody that you are really comfortable with because then it’s really easy to say, “Oh my! Ask me that question again!” instead of being grilled the way a normal interview will be. Our interviews here are not supposed to be stress interviews. They are really geared to getting to know how you are as a student. They are currently blind and they have been for the last year, and I did that intentionally. I felt that a lot of our interviewers were focusing on where applicants went to school and the grades and MCATs that they received, and less on whom they were as people. So we took away all of that information, and now our interviews are just about who you are and getting to know you.

Linda Abraham: Does the interviewer just get a resume?

Jennifer Welch: They actually just get an essay that the students write. There are two essay questions that we require now, and that is all that they get. They don’t know where the applicant went to school, where they’re from, what their grades were, or anything like that. So they are geared towards getting to know you.

I’ve been doing college admissions for nineteen years and at the medical school for seventeen. And one of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that students are “on” for their interviews and they’re “on” for their faculty interviews. But sometimes they might interview with a student and they’re not “on” anymore. They think that the student interview doesn’t count as much or they can relax a little bit; they put their feet up on the desk and use a little slang or whatever. But that interview is just as important as a faculty interview. And students also need to remember to not just be “on” during the interview, but to be “on” at any other time.

Linda Abraham: In their interactions with clerical staff.

Jennifer Welch: Huge! If my secretary says that someone was rude or inappropriate to her, they will not get in. If someone is like that with a student host – a student that is hosting them for the night so that they don’t have to pay for the hotel -- if they are rude or inappropriate or disrespectful, they will not get in. I’ve even had it where local hotels have called to just let me know about so and so. They’ll call and say, “Jen, I know that they are interviewing with you, and this is the kind of experience we’ve had with him/her.” And I think that is important because you are putting on that suit and you are becoming this person, but I want to know the real you. So it’s really important that you are “on” at all times.

Linda Abraham: I think it’s even important not only that you are “on”, but that the real you be the kind of person you would want to accept.

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely. Genuine and all of that. I can’t stress that enough. I tell the story often about a young girl who I was interviewing, and this is going back probably seven years ago. I walked in to grab her, and her cell phone rang. And she answered her phone and it was her mother. And she put her index finger up in my face, and she stood there with her index finger in my face the entire time that she talked to her mom on the phone. She ended up hanging up the phone and she was like “Sorry”. And I just kind of chuckled to myself and I said, “Well, so am I.” I said, “I am Jennifer Welch and I’m the Director of Admissions, and I’m going to be interviewing you now.” She didn’t seem so interested at that point in doing that again, but needless to say, she did not get in. It’s all about how you will treat your patients. You can do it to me, and I’m not saying that I’m anybody important, but if you can do that to me and you have no idea who I am, the idea is how will you treat your patients? That’s got to be a very important part of this process.

Linda Abraham: I have to tell you that across the board, whenever I speak to admissions committee members, they all comment on the way applicants not so much treat them, but how they treat everybody else they interact with and how important that is. I’m reminded of the time one of my kids graduated from a certain high school and there was an awards ceremony. One of the parents was giving out awards in memory of her mother. Her mother was a mathematician who got her PhD in mathematics in the 1950s. And obviously at that time, women PhDs in mathematics who were professors and heads of their departments were fairly rare. So one day she was interviewing an applicant for the PhD program, and at the time she was obviously pregnant. And the applicant came in and she happened to be standing in front of the file cabinet putting something away or taking something out. This was the 1950s; they didn’t have computers, they had file cabinets! And she was standing there, and this male applicant to the PhD program said, “I’m here to see Dr. so and so.” And she said, “Okay”. And he said, “Can you get me a cup of coffee please?” And she said, “Sure, I’d be happy to.” And she went and got him a cup of coffee and got a cup of coffee for herself, gave him his cup of coffee and then went around to the other side of the desk and introduced herself, “Hello, I’m Dr. so and so.” The guy was mortified! When I heard about this a few years ago from her daughter who is around my age, with kids in high school and college, we had a really good chuckle. You really have to treat everybody appropriately.

Jennifer Welch: You never know!

Linda Abraham: And hopefully, if you cultivate the idea within yourself that everybody is deserving of respect, regardless of their status, it’s just not an issue.

Jennifer Welch: Absolutely. And that is what we are looking for.

Linda Abraham: That kind of self-respect and respect for others. Do you have any last tips for 2012 applicants to SUNY Upstate in particular, medical school in general?

Jennifer Welch: I think the one thing I would say is to really get those applications in early. It’s absolutely very important to do that. We are happy to talk to students if they need to talk about their application, so I would absolutely welcome that if students need to do that. But really get that application in early. We will start downloading applications towards the middle of July.

Linda Abraham: And then you have your secondaries that you’ll send out?

Jennifer Welch: Yes. Once those are received and uploaded into our system, then some kind of email will go out to students asking them to submit the secondary.

Linda Abraham: And the secondary has two secondary essay questions?

Jennifer Welch: It does not. The essay questions are only for those students selected for interviews. The secondaries are pretty basic; the prerequisites. And actually for 2013, we probably will be changing our prerequisites a little bit, and I think this is probably important to know. We just had our admissions committee retreat last week, and we will be requiring biochemistry and also statistics instead of calculus. So it will be organic I and biochemistry, and statistics instead of calculus.

Linda Abraham: Interesting. May I ask why?

Jennifer Welch: We are moving in that direction because it seems that a lot of undergraduate programs are. Also the biggest thing is that the MCATs are also changing for 2015 and that kind of scenario, and we also think it is incredibly beneficial for students. We think the biochemistry will ultimately help them to be successful in medical school, and then the statistics background is much more advantageous for them to have than knowing the calculus. So it’s for a bunch of different reasons, but helping them to be successful is ultimately why we are moving in that direction.

Linda Abraham: Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Jennifer for joining us today. If you have additional questions for Jennifer or her staff, please email them to admiss@upstate.edu.

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Good luck with your applications!



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