Your Medical and Dental School Application Plan

January 31, 2013

It’s the end of January, which means if you plan to go to medical or dental school in August 2014, you need to start the process now.  You’re thinking to yourself, “What?  Most schools don’t have application deadlines until October, or even November.  Why are we talking about applications now?”  That’s a great question, and a simple one to answer: Getting into medical or dental school takes time and planning.

To keep from being overwhelmed or from missing an important deadline (when is your MCAT or DAT test date?) you need to create a schedule, complete with a calendar of important dates and deadlines.  OITE has put together a basic schedule that you can use to create your own, more detailed one.  The first step in creating your schedule is to go to the OITE Online Resources page and download the “Medical School Application Schedule for Admission in August 2014.” While you are on the OITE Online Resources page, take a look at the other resources OITE offers to help you with the application process.

Now that you have the OITE schedule, contact your undergraduate institution’s pre-professional advising office. Pre-professional advising offices offer a wide variety of services to assist you in getting your application together, and ensuring it is as professional as possible.  Contact your office, and let them know you are applying this year, and make sure you incorporate any of their deadlines into your schedule.

Your next step is visiting the American Medical College Application Service, or AMCAS, website.  AMCAS is a non-profit application service provided by the American Association of Medical Colleges.  You create an account, complete an online application, and select which medical schools you want to receive a copy of your application.  You create one single application and AMCAS provides that application to each school.  For those of you interested in Dental school, the American Dental Education Association has a similar service called the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).

Most US medical and dental schools only accept applications through AMCAS or AADSAS. Visit the AMCAS or the AADSAS website to learn about the process.  Enter into your schedule deadlines for when you plan to complete the different parts of the application.  After you complete and submit your application it can take up to 6 weeks of processing before it can be sent to your schools.  You should plan to have all your application materials ready for submission to AMCAS or AADSAS in early June. That way, if your top choice school has an early application deadline, you will not miss it.

Finally, take advantage of the seminars and other resources OITE offers.  The Application Schedule for Admission in August 2014 includes the dates of workshops on writing personal statements and filling out applications.  You can also arrange an appointment with the OITE’s pre-professional advisor.

Don’t procrastinate and try to cram the entire application process into a single month.  Instead, build a calendar of deadlines and milestones that break up the application process into small, achievable steps.

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Resumes are about Results

January 23, 2013

You are reading through a job description, which starts with the following: “We are seeking an accomplished researcher to lead our transgenic mouse program.”  You think this job is perfect for you!  Your research project uses a transgenic mouse model, and for the past two years you’ve been Chair of your institute’s student led Career Symposium.  You include in your resume the research you did in transgenic mouse lines, add a one-line bullet “Chair: Career Symposium Committee,” and send it in with your cover letter.  Done.  Now you just have to wait for them to call you!

When employers advertise an open position, they are trying to find someone that can produce results and match their needs.  While you were correct to add your committee experience to your resume, simply listing it is not enough.  Your resume needs to describe, in words, the results of your work as leader, and how you achieved them.  So how do you do that?  Start by simply writing, on a piece of paper, what you did as the committee chair. Use active phrases that describe what you did and what you accomplished.  Here are some examples:

  • Met weekly with other committee members to identify topics of interest and produced 9 seminars during a 12-month period
  • Led meetings, set agendas, and ensured task completion
  • Led a team of 15 committee members and distributed people to 3 teams based on skills and expertise
  • Contacted potential speakers, providing details about your committee and the goals of the Career Symposium series
  • Coordinated travel arrangements for speakers, created itinerary, and confirmed travel & hotel arrangements
  • Managed finances to ensure the series stays on budget by tracking costs for receptions, honorariums, travel expenses, and processed reimbursements
  • Marketed seminars to NIH community, using email, websites and other social media and achieved average attendance of 150 people per seminar

Now you have a detailed description of your leadership and the results of your work on the committee.  The next step is to read through the job description again, paying attention to where there are examples of the requirements or duties of the position.  As you re-read the description, you see the following sentence:  “Successful applicants will be able to lead a small group, create timelines, communicate priorities, and manage staff to ensure deadlines are met.”  The final step is to condense the list above into two or three short, active, bullet points that describe how your experience leading the committee matches what they want. (Editor’s note: Give it a try by writing your version of the bullet points in the comment section of this blog).  This speaks directly to how you meet the position’s requirements, and is much more informative than listing “Chair: Career Symposium Committee.”

You can learn much more about career options in industry, and how to build your resume and cover letter to be competitive for these positions at theIndustry Careers Overview” seminar on January 24th, in Building 50 Room 1227 (also videocast at videocast.nih.gov).  Click here to register.


Academic Searches: Handling Dual Career Hires

January 15, 2013

Editor’s note: While we originally titled this the Two-body Problem, we changed it to Dual Career Hires to reflect that our partners are not “problems.”

It is interview season for academic faculty positions.  When visiting campus, one goal is determining if the institution is a good fit – both personally and professionally.  This might include considering the career needs of a spouse or partner.  In today’s tough economic times, some people fear that mentioning the career of a spouse or partner before an offer is made might remove them from the pool of competitive applicants. However, institutions want to know sooner rather than later if they need to consider accommodations or provide job assistance for a second person.  It is against federal law for an employer to ask any applicant about his or her marital or family status or to use such information in making a hiring decision. So no one can legally ask you whether your spouse will need a job too.  If you have been invited for a campus interview, though, chances are the topic will come up casually during meals or other social conversations.

Keep in mind that your potential new employer is not required to offer your spouse or partner a job, so asking for one is the wrong approach.  You can, however, state his or her career interests, and that both of you would appreciate learning more about local opportunities.  Universities are realizing that addressing the needs of dual-career couples is in their best interest.  In the corporate world, unfortunately, the career needs of a spouse or partner are usually not considered at all.  Many universities have formed higher education recruitment consortiums (or HERCs).  This allows applicants and institutions to use a formal network to help find both academic and non-academic openings in the local area.  Even if the institution does not have formal services available, it is still in the department’s best interest to help.  I once compiled a list of local marketing firms and passed it along to my department’s faculty search finalist, so her husband could look for job openings.

Sometimes the university can extend an offer to a spouse or partner.  Often this requires negotiations between the Deans of different divisions or centers in the institution, and those require time.   It may also require your spouse or partner to submit a research statement or do an interview, either by phone or on campus.  The sooner the institution knows of your needs, the sooner it can start to address them.

Academic interviewing can be stressful, but take a deep breath!  The OITE has a series of videos to help you prepare.  The series includes overview of the job interview, preparing a job talk, and evaluating positions and negotiating job offers.


Career Resolution for 2013: Becoming Skilled & Competent

January 7, 2013

For 2012 we focused on your Career Calendar:  A month-by-month plan to making your career a priority.  For 2013, we will shift gears.  Instead of focusing on a future career, we will focus on the skills you use now as a way to improve your current job performance.  There are  four groups of skills that we think all trainees need to have for success in their careers.  Throughout the year, we will provide advice and point out resources that will help you become competent in these skills.

Communication:  We communicate with people everyday:  Writing papers, sending emails, giving presentations, or discussing ideas in meetings.  In almost every job, the ability to share thoughts and ideas clearly with others is a necessary competency.

Career Readiness & Exploration: Starting your career search requires a strong set of skills:  From preparing for job interviews and writing cover letters, to networking and using social media for finding jobs or opportunities for collaborations.

Leadership and Management:  Any position that requires managing people requires effective teamwork skills.  Are you the president of your student group, or supervising others in your lab?  Then you need leadership skills.  Not only do we need strong people management skills, but you also need project management skills, such as being able to set realistic milestones for your research or thesis, and then hitting those deadlines.

Teaching and Mentoring:  Teaching and mentoring skills help us share knowledge with others, and go beyond the classroom setting.  More experienced employees often share knowledge and information with newer ones, which helps the entire team or organization be more effective.

Of course, there is one last skill set that trainees need, and that would be research skills and knowledge of your specific field.  This includes having detailed knowledge of your research area, how to conduct specific experiments, and being able to apply testable, scientific hypothesis to questions in your field.  While the we cannot provide specific advice for all the different types and fields of research tacking place in NIH labs, we do think it is important that you evaluate your own skills and take advantage of resources and opportunities that allow you to develop your research competencies this year too.