This year, we received a record 9,006 applications. We only have 216 seats. Committee members have the unenviable task of winnowing down the applicant pool, assessing drive, determination and dreams, and assembling the first-year class.
We see great grades and MCAT scores, of course, but the academic record doesn’t tell the whole story. So we look at each applicant holistically. That means the committee did more than 900 interviews.
They discover applicants who have unique experiences that enrich the learning environment for the whole class. At an average age of 24.5, the incoming students bring to medical school a variety of work experiences as well as public health service and medical missions around the world.
When I arrived in 2005, we had 4,877 applicants for 184 seats. Since then, across the nation, we’ve seen an increase in the number of students applying to medical school. By 2014, the national applicant pool had grown by 32 percent. In that same time span, applications to our own medical school increased by nearly double that.
Why does our growth far outpace the nation’s?
I’d say it’s our innovation. We’ve got a state-of-the-art building and one of largest simulation spaces in the country. Even deans and facilities staff from other medical schools visit campus to check it out.
Despite the increasingly competitive Match process that we told you about in the debut issue of the medical school’s 12th & Marshall magazine, we place most of our students into the specialties they want. All over the country. Matching to great residency programs. You can see where this year’s graduating class is headed.
And now this year’s USMLE Step 1 scores are starting to arrive. Our new curriculum gets students through their pre-clinical studies quicker than ever, so they take the licensing exam earlier than ever. (A story in the spring issue of 12th & Marshall will tell you more about that.) With 93 percent of the scores in hand, we’re seeing results that are 12-13 points higher than previous classes.
That’s important not only because it means those students can move into clinical training. Those scores are what residency program directors will look at in a couple of years to decide who they’ll consider for their programs. With scores above the national average, our students will be in a position to follow their dreams into the specialties they love.
Medical school applicants look at outcomes like these. It’s one of the reasons we have applicants from all over the country.
Unfortunately, it looks like the job of our admissions committee is getting even more difficult.
Jerome F. Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D.
Dean, VCU School of Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System