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How to Make the Most of a Medical School Visit

Once you have been selected for an interview at a medical school, you will have the opportunity to visit the campus. Though your priority during this visit will naturally be to excel in your interview, it is also important that you gather key information from various individuals so that you can make an informed decision when deciding which medical school to ultimately attend. Below are three tips on how to make the most of a medical school visit:
1. Speak with students about their impressions of the school
The most accurate and genuine insights about what it means to be a medical student at a given school come from the students themselves. Students will be able to explain the state of the facilities, the responsiveness of the faculty, the quality of the clinical experiences, and the details of their school’s curriculum, among many other topics. Before you begin to visit schools, create a list of questions to ask students. Take the time to prepare several questions that are specific to each institution, as this will help you better understand which school suits you best. One of the easiest ways to get in contact with medical students is to reach out to students who graduated from your college or university. You should also try to introduce yourself to several students during your campus visit.
2. Meet with potential mentors
If you have already identified a specific interest in medicine (for instance, cardiology, healthcare policy, or medical education), determine the key faculty members in that area before you visit the school in question. Some schools will ask interviewees to list those faculty members that they would prefer to speak with while they are on campus. Be sure to list the names of individuals who might serve as potential mentors. Even if you do not conduct your formal interview with these individuals, take advantage of the opportunity to meet with researchers, educators, clinicians, and/or administrators that you look up to. You may receive key pieces of career advice, and you will likely benefit from a more honest assessment of that school’s strengths and weaknesses in regard to your specific interests.
3. Evaluate study spaces, lecture halls, and hospitals
The quality and availability of resources reflects a school’s commitment to its medical students. The majority of your time in medical school will be spent in the library and lecture halls during your preclinical years, and in the clinics and hospitals that are affiliated with your medical school during your latter years. It is important to use campus visits as an opportunity to evaluate the physical spaces where you will spend many long days and nights. Also be sure to consider the school’s location and the type of community that its affiliated hospitals serve. Some schools are located in wealthy, suburban areas, and students are exposed to a patient population that is affluent, with ample access to medical care. Other institutions are affiliated with safety net hospitals, which serve patient populations with little access to care. There are also schools with a greater focus on rural medicine – they are often affiliated with healthcare facilities in remote areas of the country.
Take note of what type of clinical medicine you will be exposed to at each school. Though the curricula of most medical schools largely cover the same topics, the variety in patient populations can create drastically different clinical experiences and learning opportunities. Prospective students should seek out schools that will maximize their clinical exposure in fields of medicine that interest them, while also looking for a clinical experience that is broad and strong in all the basic areas of medicine.

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Anubodh “Sunny” Varshney is a professional MCAT tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. He earned his Bachelor of Science from Washington University in St. Louis and attended medical school a... Anubodh “Sunny” Varshney is a professional MCAT tutor with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instr...