Last evening I attended a strategic planning meeting about the educational mission of our School of Medicine (its at Emory University if you don't know much about me, yet).

The meeting was attended by over 100 faculty members and staff. Collectively, they are all the movers and shakers in the various health professions educational programs at our school. Not just the MD program, but also programs for other learners including physician assistants, residents, anesthesiology assistants, physical therapists, clinical research, etc.  I was asked to attend because I head professional education in pharmacology for the school.

The meeting began with a simple poll question: "Use 6 words or phrases to describe your ideal of our learners after they've left our school?"

Their (our) responses blew me away:

[caption id="attachment_2753" align="aligncenter" width="840"]

What Emory University health profession educators think is important for their learners.[/caption]

What struck me right away, wearing my Gradschoolmatch founder  hat, is that this word cloud might as well describe what we are looking for in the people who apply to our programs.

All of our health profession programs are hyper-competitive. The trick to competing for one of these seats is pretty simple to understand: You have to resonate with our culture. You have to embody the same ideals.

That word cloud is our culture. How well would you fit in it?

Your GPA, your MCAT or your GRE will be what they are. Sure, higher is always better. But they aren't close to being as important as you think. They are not the deciding factors.

The most important element of your application is your ability to express your character through your accomplishments and then how well that character fits our culture. For example, if you applied to one of Emory's medical programs, an interesting story that illustrates your sense of compassion and empathy would probably go pretty far....

Here is the most remarkable thing about this. Every graduate program in every discipline will have its own word cloud for its ideal learner! Stop worrying about scores and start trying to understand the cultures of your target programs and schools.