Why Ross?

In May, I will begin my medical education at Ross University School of Medicine, located in the Commonwealth of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), the “nature island” of the Caribbean. As I mentioned in my previous post, Ross is an off-shore med school. Hmmm…what’s an off-shore school? Why aren’t I going to an on-shore school?

First, some background info. I began the medical school application process last summer. I took the MCAT, wrote a brilliant personal statement, solicited and received letters of recommendation and sent my AMCAS application to 11 schools. At Thanksgiving, having received only a rejection and a wait-list notice, I sent my application materials to 4 more schools. After Christmas, I’d received a couple more rejections, another wait-list notice and ::gasp:: an interview invite! It was for SUNY Upstate, one of the schools in my top 5 (primarily because it was in NY, my home state). In my head, I’d been rehearsing how I’d nonchalantly tell everyone that it was no big deal that I’d been rejected by 15 schools so I was delighted and relieved to receive a real sign of interest. After all, once you’re at the interview stage, you’re practically in, right?

One morning in January, I was reading over the shoulder of a fellow commuter on the T when I noticed a splashy ad of a silhouetted palm tree at sunset in the Boston Metro. “Forget about this,” the text read. “At Ross University School of Medicine, you’ll be too busy studying to enjoy our sun-drenched Caribbean island.” How provocative! Even more so was the heading, “Start medical school this May!” Apparently, an information session was being held at MIT the weekend before my SUNY Upstate interview. I was so intrigued that I discreetly snatched up a Metro that someone’d left on a seat and ripped out the page. As soon as I got to work, I went to the Ross U website and signed up for the info session. Although it almost sounded too good to be true, I figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out.

A word about off-shore med schools: prior to seeing that ad and visiting the website, I’d only heard about Ross once; a study-buddy at HES once mentioned that his sister was at “Ross, an off-shore school.” “Why’d she choose to go there,” I’d asked.

“‘Cause she didn’t get in anywhere else.”

So that’s the association I had with off-shore schools. They were med schools one went to if one didn’t get in anywhere else. There’s a bit of a stigma attached to off-shore schools. The average GPA and/or MCAT score of people who are admitted is typically lower than the national average (however, this can also be said of osteopathic med schools and med schools at HBUCs…). Off-shore schools are for-profit institutions and thus, have a reputation of granting an M.D. to anyone who can pay the tuition. Attrition rates are higher and there are only two schools whose students are eligible to be licensed in all 50 states upon graduation (Ross is one). So yeah, off-shore schools get a bad rap.

Fast-forward to the information session. Things were almost too sweet – 4 semesters of intense study on an island with an average temperature of 80°, affiliations with teaching hospitals all over the country, plenty of spots in NY hospitals for the 80 weeks of clinical rotations, excellent USMLE pass rates and yes! there were still spots in the May ’08 entering class. After the Q&A, I was still a bit skeptical but when I got home, I started getting my application materials together again. I churned out another essay, got my transcripts forwarded and submitted my Ross application the day before my interview at Upstate.

SUNY Upstate is a great medical school. The facilities are impressive, the students are friendly and kind and the people in the admissions office are really nice. Syracuse, however, is not cool. It is miserable in Syracuse. I flew in on a tiny, wobbly plane in the middle of a snowstorm. In the 24 hours before my interview, I came down with the worst cold I’d had in years and on the flight, I felt so ill I wasn’t even afraid that the winds throttling our mini-aircraft would toss us from the sky. Tylenol Chest Congestion got me through the next day and I thought my interviews went well but on the plane back to Boston, I couldn’t help thinking about how nice it would be to spend February on an island in the Caribbean…

A couple of weeks after I’d sent my application to Ross, I got a call inviting me to their New Jersey office for an interview. I’d done a bit more research – talked with students, lurked on message boards and forums, perused their FAQ database. I found that my stats (MCAT, undergrad GPA) were better than the average entering student so I was pretty confident about my chances.  The Ross interview was  actually more like an interrogation than the interviews at Upstate but I’d come prepared with some pointed questions of my own. My interviewer, the Vice President of Enrollment, shared a bit about his background with me; he’d spent most of his career in higher education and as an educator, he was adamant that Ross select students who could perform, not just the ones with deep pockets. Also of note was that while Ross is for-profit, curriculum is controlled by the faculty and academic administrators, not businessmen and shareholders. It was actually a pretty engaging interview (at one point I declared “I’ve never been mediocre!”, which…) and I left it feeling even more confident. I’d hear their decision by next week.

So…I waited. Nothing from Upstate. Nothing wasn’t bad actually – for Upstate applicants, the worst thing is a letter: they mail rejections. But still no phone call, no email. A couple days later, I got the call from Ross – I was in.

So finally, here’s the answer to my initial question. Why Ross? Well…because I’m impatient. I could wait to see if I come off those wait-lists. Or, I could wait until the ’09 application cycle begins and reapply to all the schools that rejected me. But why do that, when there’s a school that wants me now? Am I settling? It’s an established, accredited school with an excellent reputation and thousands of successful graduates that I can start in May. Why wait?

So in May, it begins. Wish me luck 😉

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One Comment on “Why Ross?”

  1. S Says:

    Hello. I am also starting at Ross this May. Hopefully it will be a great experience.

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