Taking Back Medical School Acceptances

If you’ve read any of my blog at all you probably know by now that I’m a medical student. Applying to medical school is a long, exhausting process. I know because, well, I did it twice.

In Texas we have a little bit of a different system than other states. You apply starting in June-ish and interview throughout the Fall semester of the year before you want to start school. Most people do this during Fall of the senior year of college, hoping to begin medical school the July/August after graduation.

Acceptance offers to Texas medical schools* go out in 3 waves:

  1. “Pre-Match” – Acceptances offered from November 1 – December 31
  2. “The Match” – A process that involves ranking every school you interviewed at from favorite to least favorite. The idea is that this enhances the number of students who get to go to their top choice school. At midnight on Feb. 1 you log onto TMDSAS and find out if which, if any, school accepted you. If you have a “pre-match” offer to a school, but “match” to a school you ranked higher you automatically forfeit your pre-match offer and are enrolled in the higher ranked school’s class. 
  3. “Waitlists” – Usually accept a few people in random waves from about March 1 up until the first day of each school’s orientation.
So, this past Monday was “match day” for the students applying to Texas med school classes of 2015. Many of these students are college seniors and hoping to go straight to med school after graduation. 
My “Match Day” Announcement from 2009

Texas A&M College of Medicine (a school I like and respect a lot, it’s also the med school of my undergrad alma mater) is a really great medical school. Unfortunately, this year they really screwed up. And I mean big time. 
Somehow, over the course of pre-match and match offers, they managed to overfill their class by EIGHTY seats. They are now forcing 80 of their students to defer (put off beginning school) their acceptance for a year. 

There are students who ranked A&M higher in the match than another school they already had an acceptance to, got “matched” to A&M (thus automatically forfeiting the previous acceptance) and immediately received an email stating that 80 people were going to be chosen to defer. So, while they are not truly taking those back since these students will eventually get to attend medical school, they left them with the impression they were accepted to attend this coming fall and are now going back on that.

This is appalling on so many levels. Presumably, the admissions at A&M knew they were already overfilled – so, why did they not notify students before match rankings were due to allow those with other offers to keep their acceptance at a different school? And why did they go ahead and accept more people in the match? And why, in their follow-up email to their new students, did they not own up to their mistake, apologize and tell them they were working out a solution instead of threatening a lottery-choice for who would defer?

Now, I know this sounds like not so big of a deal to those of you who haven’t been through this process, but consider these points:
  1. In this year of forced deferral some students will have undergrad loan payments that come due – many who have degrees in things you cannot easily get a job with right out of college (Psychology, Biomedical Science, etc.)…especially with the job market like it is right now. 
  2. These students will be searching for a job for one year. They know they will be quitting in June of next year. What are the chances of being hired under those conditions in this economy with a degree like “Biochemistry?” 
  3. This takes away an entire year of earning potential. Med school will be the same length no matter when they begin and so will residency. So, what they are taking from these students is an entire year of future earning potential. For many of them that will be the equivalent of losing a six-figure paycheck. 

In my opinion TMDSAS (the application service) should be limiting schools on how many offers they can send out in the pre-match period. No school should be allowed to offer more spots than they actually have just because they assume that some people will decline. This is poor practice and sets admissions committees up to be in a position like A&M is now in.

What would do you think A&M should do? How should they choose who has to defer and do these students deserve some kind of stipend? How much makes up for a mistake like this? How do they redeem themselves after this kind of mistake?

*When I say “Texas Medical Schools” I am including 8 of the 9 actual TX medical schools (UT Southwesters, UNT-HSC Texas College Of Osteopathic Medicine, UT Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas A&M HSC College of Medicine, Texas Tech HSC School of Medicine, UT Health Science Center in Houston, UT HSC in San Antonio and Texas Tech HSC Paul L. Foster School of Medicine). I have purposely excluded Baylor College of Medicine – they do not participate in the Texas match because they are way to proper for those sorts of things. Or they’re a private school so they don’t have to. Whatever.