How to Survive Ross University

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If there’s one thing to be said about a Ross University education, it’s that it produces a special sort of doctor. People who come to Ross and make it through are not the sort of people who will take the road of least resistance. I once heard it said that people who come through Ross are the ones who will take the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator. We’re go-getters. We’re tenacious. We don’t let obstacles deter us. We scoff at naysayers, wherever they may be. Over 700 people graduated with me and as different as we all are, each of us shared one characteristic: we were all willing to do whatever it took to achieve our goal. If I were fighting an illness, I’d certainly want a doctor like that taking care of me.

My experience at Ross taught me a lot about perseverance. Some of the obstacles that I faced were things that every student coming out of an off-shore school will face: lowered expectations, stigmas, competition, less chance of Matching (than on-shore candidates). Some of the challenges were uniquely Ross-related: island adjustment, lack of guidance and scheduling nightmares to name a few. There were moments when I got so discouraged that all I could do was cry and wonder how I was going to make it to residency. Then, after I’d drag my hand across my face to dry the tears, I’d try to come up with ways to overcome, ways to hit that MPS, fill that gap in my schedule and get what I needed to be ready for ERAS. Sometimes I think I was able to become a doctor not because of Ross, but in spite of Ross. However, I don’t want to seem ungrateful. All Rossies know that Ross University touts itself as the medical school that gives the determined student a chance to reach his or her dream, and that is true. Here are some things to keep in mind when chasing your dream feels like a nightmare:

1. Each one teach one.

There are times at Ross when you have to teach yourself. A lecturer may be terrible at public speaking or have handouts not worth the paper they’re printed on and an entire section of something you need to know, not just for a practical but for practical application, has now become your responsibility to master. Early on, you will need to identify which study aids and which study groups are of value. On the island, there’s something called ‘Academic Success’, which is a kind of study section that offers tips and test-taking strategies, but what I found to be most helpful were the TA sessions run by other students. People really helped each other and the material was often covered better and more thoroughly in those sessions than in the actual lectures. Aside from those, it may also behoove you to form smaller study groups and take turns presenting material to your pals. This skill will come in handy for when you have to present during clinicals.

2. Be proactive.

Never think that someone on the other side is taking care of things for you. They’re not. You are one of hundreds of students and unless you have a close, personal relationship with someone in administration, you are not special to anyone but yourself. For that reason, you must make sure that things are happening on your behalf by a) being on top of deadlines and reminding those responsible of them and b) handling as much as you can on your own. At no time is this more critical than during clinicals, when being proactive may mean the difference between making or missing the Match. As you will learn, scheduling is rarely smooth and simple so once you have the opportunity to get your cores on the calendar, try to think ahead and start making calls and sending emails about your electives. Do what you can to have as complete a schedule as you can get (subtracting AICM, that’s 78 weeks – 48 of cores and 30 of electives). Use the list of affiliated hospitals and get in contact with the coordinators, or, if you have connections, set up away rotations as far in advance as you can.

3. Find mentors and make allies.

When I first started out at Ross, there were no formal guidance counselors or mentors. Some clubs had their own informal things but there were certainly no such systems in place for finding a mentor among the faculty. As it happened, there was a professor who, while notorious for her sleep-inducing lectures, was actually an awesome ICM coach and an active faculty advisor for a club in which I participated. Her advice was golden and she was one of the few people who offered her condolences to me when my grandfather passed away during 4th semester. During clinicals, I encountered a number of attendings who gave really good advice about things I’d never heard mentioned from anyone at Ross: how to choose a specialty, which electives to select to get the best exposure, the reality of health care provision in an urban market, the best way to prepare for residency interviews. Ross has a few handouts that they occasionally send out that may touch upon these topics but they don’t compare to the worth of guidance given face to face by someone who wants to see you succeed. If there is a faculty member, an attending or a resident you admire, or even someone you don’t really know who practices in the field into which you wish to go, strike up a conversation with them, or offer to buy them a coffee. The steps you take to forge a relationship could be essential to your success once you’ve graduated from Ross. Forming alliances with other students can also be of great value. Ross students in semesters ahead and even students from other schools you may encounter when you rotate may have solid information about opportunities you can take advantage of to learn more, do more or make yourself a better candidate for residency.

4. Always be polite.

A great deal of your interactions with Ross will take place over the phone with people you may never see. Some of those people are quite nice and seem to be striving their best to help you, even though they’ve got literally hundreds of other people to worry about. Others may give the impression that they couldn’t care less about you, your situation, your ambitions, your hopes or your problems. They may tell you something that is in direct contradiction to something you’ve been told by someone else, or something written in one of the documents on the website. You may reach out to Ross for help and they may delay their assistance for days past the date they said they’d respond. At times like these, you may get frustrated (or enraged) but never fail to be polite. At the end of the day, those people are there to help you (even if their ‘help’ isn’t very helpful at all) and by taking exception to their treatment of you, you may put yourself in a precarious position. If someone you’re dealing with is consistently unhelpful, try to find someone more sympathetic. Just because a certain advisor is assigned to you doesn’t necessarily mean you must always go through him or her. Try your best to maintain your cordiality, even when you want to curse.

5. Never let anyone treat you like being from Ross is a liability.

As I mentioned before, sometimes students from off-shore schools get flack. Because it’s statistically easier to get into an off-shore med school than one in the States, people think that students from these schools are dumber, or lazier or that their education is somehow worth less. It’s not. Ross University students are some of the smartest, hardest working students I have encountered. Sometimes, it’s because we have to be. There were times, especially during the Match process, where I felt that even the administration had lowered expectations of us. I don’t know if that’s true, or whether it’s a function of the fact that they don’t have actual relationships with us as people, just with our scores and our emails. Nevertheless, never let yourself subscribe to this sense of inferiority. Don’t think that just because you’re from Ross that you won’t find success or won’t match. Nothing is guaranteed but don’t mentally defeat yourself before you get started. Once when my grandma was sick in the hospital, I had a chance to talk with one of the vascular surgeons taking care of her. From my questions, he surmised that I was a medical student and asked which school I was from. “Oh, I’m from Ross,” I said in a mopey, Eeyore sort of way, as if I were ashamed to even utter it. “Really,” said the surgeon, with a sly smirk. “So am I.” From that moment, I stopped letting myself buy into the stigma about who students from Ross were and where they could go.

Take heart, Rossies! It’s a long, winding road, like striking path through a jungle instead of gliding along a moving walkway. However, after enduring the island and all that you’ll experience there, you’ll build up strength, stamina and smarts to see yourself through, to clinicals and beyond. Think of Ross as a refinery, one of the many stops along the road to your goal. You may have to go through some fire but you’ll come out sharp, gleaming and ready to take on your next challenge.

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3 Comments on “How to Survive Ross University”

  1. Chris Railey Says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your insight. Good luck!

    Chris Railey
    Senior Director of Communications
    DeVry Medical International

    • evilangelfish Says:

      Wow, I never thought anyone from the powers that be at Ross would actually read this blog. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Marc N. Katz Says:

    Well said and well written. I’m currently entering my second semester at Ross and as many complaints as I have with the University ( and I love complaining), its totally passable. And, as you said, we will be better doctors because of our experiences. Good luck in residency!


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