Friday, August 5, 2011

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

HPME is one of the most competitive programs out there. It's not hard to see why. Feinberg is a great medical school. And so is Northwestern University. The program has no MCAT requirements. It is an accelerated 7 years program. I know you're all peeing your pants and awestruck at the greatness of this program. Well, good luck at getting in.

The application procedure is a bit different from other programs. You send the HPME request card by December 1st. Northwestern decides whether or not to send you the actual HPME application. If you get the HPME application, you send it back by January 1st. Here is advice from a HPME student.

Northwestern has always been at odds with the program because it deflates their status in the medical school community (we told a top 20 med school ranking with almost 25-30% of our classes coming from undeserving HPME students who would not have gotten into Feinberg with their undergraduate grades/if they took the MCATs). Thus recently, they've been much more strict on who gets in and with what criteria. Furthermore, my class initially had a good deal of kids admitted (easily more than 60 kids, seeing how many accepted the admission); classes above me (I know the current M4 class had 60 kids accept admission, meaning at least 80 students were accepted). As such, as the years go on the number of students accepted have slowly decreased, which is exactly what the university wants: Less HPME kids = More quality kids matriculating from deserving colleges with good statistics and study habits, High scores, Better rankings. When people comment on Feinberg's low rank and matching score, I often consider them highly deflated because of the damage HPME has caused.

In terms of admissions, Northwestern looks VERY highly on research and outstanding hooks. My year, nearly 20% of the class were ISEF, Intel Semifinalist, Westinghouse, etc. Majority of us made it into at least Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, etc. I know of one student a few years younger who was admitted into almost a dozen accelerated premed programs (PLME, USE, Miami, REMS, etc) and came to HPME. Therefore, most students who enter have something going for them. Research is not a guarantee, but if you are applying to a heavy-researching university, expect that it wouldn't hurt to have some experience.

For the process, your grades will pretty much only get you an application. How well you did on the SATs, ACTs, SAT 2s will get you from an information card to an application. From there on, people under a certain cut-off for grades/scores are automatically disqualified from admission (their applications are literally thrown away and not even reconsidered. Some exceptions apply-Read below). Those who show passion in their essays and display a maturity needed for a long-term commitment to medicine receive an interview. If you display a lack of passion or any "flags" (anything that will automatically will remove you from the process) appear, you won't get an interview. I know of a lot of well-deserving high school applicants with phenomenal grades (much better than mine standardized) who did not get an interview because of their personality or aloofness to medicine.

Lastly, the most important-by far-part of the process is your interview. Some school don't have them (PLME, for example) and accept people solely based on scores. I personally feel this gives them a one-dimensionality that doesn't really gauge their success as doctors. The quality of students are thus lacking. If you are interested in applying for an accelerated medical school program, do your research and know what each respective school puts forth as a priority.

During the interview, it is important to show maturity, passion, and intellect. Most of the administrators and interviewers will be your advisers, professors, and deans. You will see them repeatedly in your 7 years in HPME. Therefore, if you do not do well with them now, they fully expect you not to do well with them in the future; thus rejecting your application. Moreover, remember to have class, a sign of maturity. There are stories of lore of how applicants are overheard cursing or not helping someone who had dropped papers on the floor, and are automatically told by a dean who witnessed these events to simply go back home without a single interview. Show that you are someone who can handle the stress of college, can motivate yourself to continue medicine in the future, and also was brought up right.

Remember, once again, that for this process you must impress your interviewers. In the end, there are a set number of admitted students based on stellar grades, activities, and interviews (and/or legacy). For the last few spots, interviewers will argue in your behalf to get you in. If you don't "wow" an interviewer, they simply won't back your application. Don't discount your student interviewer--They have a lot greater say than people expect them too. They know kids in their age range, know how they fake interviews and act, and can recognize kids with potential.

Lastly, few students are usually selected each year based on their passion alone. Kids who may not have amazing research and perfect scores across the board. I've heard of students doing 3000+ hours of community service in a hospital and 1000+ hours working in a lab. Students who started their own community ambulatory service to help with minor medical emergencies. Others who have began their own non-profits (and eventually recruiting other HPME students to make a huge international success). So, for those who are fixated on grades alone, please realize that this is not all there is. For those who feel their grades are lacking but truly have a passion for medicine, apply!

And very good advice on the interview process:

First, do not take the "informal" lunch talk too informally. Many medical school programs will have an "informal" portion in order to evaluate the interviewees. This is when the applicants are unaware of how important the situation is and will let their guard down around non-administrative people. For example, at a different school (REMS when I interviewed), they had a "dance" and anyone being overly social and rambunctious was sent home. Likewise, it is the same for HPME. Your interviewers are M2s who have arguably the hardest year in medical school. Moreover, this is the latter half of the year that means we are studying for 4 hours worth of lectures AND the Step 1 examination. We are not wasting our time simply to have a mediocre lunch paid for by the school: We will be evaluating you, determining your maturity, and to see how well you adjust to new environments/situations. We were once exactly in the same shoes as you (there are no interviewers who were not HPME), so we know how kids act and pretend. One of my interviewees, to say the least, was very professional when I first met h**, but by the end of the meal, relaxed way too much. Yes, we will report these in our write-ups; and no, we will not be arguing in your behalf. Finally, on this topic, we all have a vested interest in the interview. Beyond simply the same alma mater, you (the accept applicants) will be the next face of HPME. As our program undergoes more scrutiny and criticism, we expect nothing less than the best academically, emotionally, and personally.

Second, EXPECT CURVEBALL QUESTIONS. It's easy to predict the core type of questions that all interviewers ask you (who are you, why medicine, strength, weakness, hobbies, etc.), but this is medical school NOT simply college. All the information you say prior to the "trick" questions (1 or 2, at most) has been presented numerous times in your essay and resume. If we really wanted to know your hobbies, it's not hard to look in your file (that is photocopied, date-stamped, and within our hands). Tell us something we don't know that you didn't have the opportunity to cram in the first three E.C.s you listed. We want to see you think quickly, on the spot, and show maturity. If the question is, "What was your biggest failure, and what did you do?" PLEASE stop answering that it was some small test in 9th grade you got a (omg) 95 on and you locked yourself in your closet, crying and playing a sad CD repeatedly.

Lastly, come confident but not cocky. Thinking back to my class, majority of the students were already accepted early action to HYS along with other offers lined up (Duke, Princeton, etc). Moreover, many of the students did their rounds at other interviews and received rave reviews (Rice/Baylor, BU, NEUCOM). This shows you the type of students you will be in competition with. Furthermore, they come knowing that if they do not get into HPME they still have a darn good back up. They are there either because 1) medicine is their passion and are willing to give up full-ride to Yale to get a guaranteed spot to Feinberg or 2) why not (they're not sure, but it's a program and might as well interview, get accepted, and turn it down)? So, come like you mean it and it's the only thing in the world that matters. WHY is medicine your passion? WHY do you want to come HPME? WHAT about Northwestern and FSoM is so enticing you're willing to write your life off for 7-years? Do you ACTUALLY know anything about Feinberg, Northwestern, the program; rather than simply applying to all the good programs/schools and reading our website? An interview is not an impromptu speech. It should be a well-choreographed and well-rehearsed play to blow everyone's mind away. And, if you don't, somebody else will.

Some last points of advice: Come dressed well (Boys suits and tie, girls suits or skirts; if you don't know, ask college kids applying to medical school), Bring copies of your resume/notable awards to present or update files (we want to know/record if you easily pulled 150 on AMC or got 1st place at USABO), Relate and empathize with your student interviewer (We're tired and disheartened with medical school. Plus, we're arguing on your behalf so that you can get in, or lack thereof).

Admission Requirements:
  • Apply by December 1st (HPME request card)
  • 4 units of Mathematics
  • 1 units of Chemistry, 1 unit of Biology, 1 unit of Physics
  • 4 units of English, 2 units of Foreign Language


  1. Hi!

    I was wondering if you could tell me whether I had any chance at all at NU's HPME and if there is anything I can do to strengthen my profile.

    Indian Female from NJ (Junior)
    GPA: 3.9
    SAT: 2240 (plan to retake, hopefully 2300+)
    SAT 2: Biology = 800 (taking Chem and Math 2 in June 2013)
    AP's (Sophmore Year): AP Biology = 5
    AP Psychology = 5
    Current AP's: AP Chemistry and AP Language and Composition

    Science Courses Taken: Biology Honors, Physics Honors, Chemistry Honors, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, Human Anatomy & Physiology (Senior Year: Sports Medicine)

    Varsity Fencer (since sophomore year)
    - Squad captain (since junior year)
    Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from a university in India
    Editor of School Yearbook
    Contestant in Regional Brain Bee (6th place out of 60)

    Biology Teacher's Lab Assistant
    Volunteer EMT (EMT Certified by state of NJ)
    - Part of Cadet Corps Executive Board
    Volunteer Tutor

    Student of Columbia University Science Honors Program (Taken Neuroscience, Biochemical Pathways and Cell Death and Genetics & Biodiversity Conservation)

    - Admitted to the Rockefeller Science Research Program in NYC (working in Neuroendocrine Lab)
    - 2 Internships at Rutgers University in Ecology ~ Summer 2012 (Learned PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, DNA Extraction and Sequencing)
    - Coauthor of article "Measuring the Willlingness to Pay for Restoration of Highly Urbanized Coastal Watershed" in scientific journal, "Ecological Economics"
    - In review process

    1. I think you have a great chance at competitive BS/MD programs. Things should go well for you if you apply widely.

  2. Hi I was hoping you would tell me if I stand a chance for the HPME program

    Egyptian female (moved to the states in 8th grade)
    GPA: UW 4.73/5.00 Weighted: 5.22/5.00
    ACT: 33
    SAT II: Bio:710 and taking Chem, Math 2, and Physics(maybe) in October 2013
    AP taken:
    Sophomore year
    Calculus BC: 3
    World History: 3
    Junior Year
    English Language
    Biology (Scores are not out yet)
    AP courses will take Senior year:
    Chemistry, Physics C, Statistics, French (and am preparing for these classes over the summer)

    Science Courses taken: Honors Biology, honors Chemistry, Honors Physics, AP Biology, Exercise Physiology

    Extracurricular Activities:
    Science Olympiad 3 years (wasn't available in my freshman year school)
    Service Club 3 years (wasn't available in my freshman year school)
    National Honor Society
    French National Honor Society
    French Club

    Captain of Science Olympiad
    LINK, a program in my high school to lead incoming freshman and help them have a smooth transition into high school

    Tutoring middle school students
    Volunteer at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital

    High Honor Roll
    3rd place at Science Olympiad Regionals for Chemistry Lab event

  3. I have my Northwestern HPME interview this week! I am quite nervous. Any tips?

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  5. how competitive would a 3.85 gpa be for northwestern's hpme?