Harvard Medical: A look at the admissions process

Harvard Medical: A look at the admissions process

August 27, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Good afternoon. Admissions. How may I help you? So the full title of this office is the
Office of the Committee on Admissions, and it’s actually the committee that makes the admissions decisions, and these are
all faculty and students. We receive about six thousand
applications each year. We invited 933 of those people
to come to campus and interview, and among them 219 received offers. So I’m often asked, “What is the
perfect Harvard Medical School student?” “What are you really looking for?” And the answer is, it’s not really any one thing. We’re looking for future leaders in American and International medicine, and how one defines leadership is really up to them. You might have one person has
done just tons and tons of research, they might have publications, sometimes we have people who have PHD’s, and you might have somebody else who’s
done no research it all — they’ve done all the prerequisites. They’re very
academically ready but they focus more on perhaps community
work. We’re looking for a very diverse class. A diverse class not just in terms of
geography and ethnicity and gender, but we’re also looking for a diverse
class in terms of passion. Sometimes people just have the sort of amazing life stories, and that might be the sort of extra piece that they’re bringing besides the fact that they are academically prepared to be here. For other folks, they might have a much
more standard sort of background. If everyone in the orchestra
played the cello we wouldn’t have been orchestra, and we very much want to have
an orchestra, because that creates a much better learning experience. And if you think about it that’s kind of appropriate, because the world of medicine
has lots of different careers — it’s not
just one thing that doctors do, there’s lots of different things that they do, so we need to bring in a pool of talent that can go out into this profession
that, you know, fills those different niches. Harvard Medical School’s medical school
curriculum has two flavors. The majority of the
students are part of our traditional medical school curriculum. We also have the Health
Sciences and Technology program, which is a joint program with the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. The HST-MD program receives
approximately 1200 applications. Of those applications, approximately
170 applicants will be invited to interview with the HST-MD program. Of that number, 30 students are selected to be members
of the class. My favorite part of the job is interview day. I remember my interview
day, and I remember driving onto Avenue Louis Pasteur and seeing the
Quadrangle that the and block and saying to myself, “Wow.” So much goes into the logistics of
interview day, not just coordinating the space, the media, the catering, but, you know, months but
before that. Recruiting interviewers… Every group seems to have its own little personality. Sometimes you walk in and it’s a very lively
group and they laugh at all your jokes, and then other times they’re very
serious and nervous and your trying to put them at ease. Throughout the season I communicate
with a lot of different applicants about various issues or questions they
have, so it’s nice when they actually come and I know who they are. The applicants are here, and they’re wonderful. They’re traveling from all over the country. They all show up in their black suits. They’re very excited and very nervous to be here. We could fill the class
several times over with people who have great numbers who may or may not be good doctors, and
so this is why we do interviews. It’s an expensive process, it’s a complicated
process, but we do them because we really need to know how people can interact
with with patients, and you really need to
meet people in person to do that. I came to Harvard Medical School initially in 1965. I never thought I’d come to Harvard because, as with so many
of our students, Harvard is a reach for everyone. It is a real joy to interact with such people and to see the enthusiasm of our faculty working together with students
to identify these promising people.