The results of a recent Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions survey indicate that medical school applicants may be less affected by the current economic climate than their peers applying to law and business school. These students may also be the most reserved group in the online sphere.
The survey found that medical school applicants are both the least likely to decline admissions due to financial reasons compared to law and business school applicants and the least likely to send friend requests to admissions officers on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions surveyed 131 U.S. medical schools by phone between July and August 2009 and received 82 responses. Survey questions were chosen based on what would be most relevant to students. This year, the economy and social networking sites were two of the biggest issues.
Despite the tough economic climate and medical school costs often of $40,000 and above, only 20 percent of medical school admissions officers reported that more applicants declined admissions for financial reasons in 2009 compared to 2008. This compares to 28 percent of applicants to MBA programs who would decline admission and 39 percent of law school applicants.
“It is interesting that even though medical school is more of a time commitment than other types of graduate school, med[ical] students are less affected by financial difficulties,” said Jeff Koetje, director of pre-health programs for Kaplan. “This may be because many students have dreamt about being a doctor since they were a child.”
Another reason medical students are willing to pay the price, could be educational preparation for medical school is a lengthy process.
“I think it is a longer term decision,” said Mark Kashtan, a 2009 graduate of UC Berkeley and recent applicant to the UC Davis School of Medicine. “There are a good three years of prerequisites involved, whereas people with a variety of majors can apply to law or business school.”
The role of social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace is becoming a larger topic of discussion in the medical school admissions process. While 48 percent of law school admissions officers and 50 percent of business school admissions officers reported having received a friend request on Facebook or Myspace from an applicant, only 30 percent of medical school admissions officers did.
“Maybe this is because there is more of an inherent social aspect to being a lawyer or businessperson,” Kashtan said. “Law or business students have been involved in a more discussion-based educational environment and are possibly more outgoing or innovative people. Medical schools seem to rely more on people’s resumes.”
There is some controversy over whether communication via social networking sites between admissions officers and applicants should be allowed.
“Social networking is a relatively uncharted territory in the admissions world,” Koetje said. “It’s a possible tool, but admissions officers are still deciding if it is appropriate to use or even helpful.”
The Kaplan survey found that 13 percent of admissions officers reported having visited a student’s social networking site to help evaluate that applicant. Fifteen percent of schools surveyed maintain a policy prohibiting admissions officers from visiting students’ pages.
“Our school of medicine doesn’t have a policy regarding this issue,” said Ed Dagang, director of admissions and outreach for the UC Davis School of Medicine. “We try to consider an application based on the student’s merits. But that doesn’t prevent officers from looking on people’s pages.”
Koetje suggested students research an admission officer’s page before friend requesting them. If the officer’s page includes discussions about admissions information and does not seem to be private, it may be acceptable to send a friend request.
“The danger is that once a friend request is accepted, the student becomes an open book,” Koetje said. “You don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons.”
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.