The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine has earned many #1 positions in various DO school rankings over the years. According to the American Medical Association, among all the medical schools in the US, WCSOM is the #1 school in providing primary care physicians to rural and remote areas in the US. It is also the school that produces the most osteopathic doctors practicing in West Virginia and Appalachia. The school is public and non-profit and has a unique mission to serve the medical needs of the people of West Virginia and neighboring states.
This article will detail what else sets WVSOM apart, how to get in, and tips on making your DO school application stand out from others.
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“The mission of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) is to educate students from diverse backgrounds as lifelong learners in osteopathic medicine and complementary health related programs; to support and develop graduate medical education training; to advance scientific knowledge through academic, clinical and basic science research; and to promote patient centered, evidence-based medicine. WVSOM is dedicated to serve, first and foremost, the state of West Virginia and the health care needs of its residents, emphasizing primary care in rural areas.”
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This school, like a few other DO schools, prioritizes rural health and bringing high-quality medical care to underserved areas, not only in the US, but around the world. The number of clerkships, both national and global, underlines this effort. If you want to practice medicine in underserved communities or other far-flung locales, then this might be the school for you.
Average Overall Acceptance Rate: 25%
Average In-State Acceptance Rate: 5.7%
Average Out-of-State Acceptance Rate: 19%
Recommended Science GPA Score for Applicants: 3.2
Recommended MCAT Score for Applicants: 495
The school does not accept international students who are not naturalized US citizens or hold permanent residency in the US. Temporary residents and non-US citizens are not admitted into the school for any reason, so WVSOM is not among the Canadian friendly US medical schools.
Out-of-state applicants are encouraged to apply if they meet the necessary criteria. One of the school’s stated acceptance factors is the “motivation to serve in rural communities in the primary care fields,” although it is not a requirement that incoming students must commit to, only an unofficial preference.
MCAT and GPA
Average Science GPA Score: 3.53
Average MCAT Score: 504
Average Score for MCAT Biology Questions: 125
Minimum GPA Score: 3.2
Minium Science GPA Score: 3.25
Minimum MCAT Score: 495
The school has a selection process typical of many osteopathic schools that considers:
- Academic achievement
- Embracing the philosophy of osteopathic medicine
- Interest in serving medically underserved rural communities
- Experience in a health care delivery or clinical setting
There are no other external selection factors, but if in your medical school personal statement or when answering the tell me about yourself interview question you show enthusiasm for practicing in rural areas, it is something the admissions committee will consider, along with every other element of your application.
While the school suggests a minimum medical school GPA requirement, it cautions students that meeting the minimum GPA or MCAT score requirement does not guarantee they will be invited for an interview or admitted to the school.
Coursework and Undergrad
The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine does not require that students complete a full bachelor’s degree before applying, only that they have completed at least 90 credits at an accredited university or college in the US or Canada. One accommodation that the school makes for non-traditional medical school applicants is that it accepts coursework completed online (including lab hours) instead of just in-person courses.
Another major advantage the school gives to non-traditional students is that all the coursework must have at least a C grade to be considered competitive. It will also accept pass/fail grades for coursework completed during the pandemic, but only during this time period.
The school’s acceptance data shows that only 8% of incoming, first year students held a graduate degree. A majority (86%) of first year students held science-related degrees before attending WVSOM, while only 14% had non-science degrees, which is not a good sign if you are thinking about how to get into medical school without a science background.
As for student preference, the school also does not mention specifically whether it shows a preference to students based on geographical location or degrees held, although it does have an unofficial GPA and MCAT requirement. But it does state that a high GPA or MCAT is not the only factor considered when they review applications, so you should still apply if you are unsure how to get into medical school with a low GPA.
Prerequisites and Recommended Courses
The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine has a list of prerequisite and recommended courses for all applicants.
The list of prerequisite classes include:
- English – 6 semester hours
- Behavioral Sciences – 6 semester hours
- Biology / Zoology – 6 semester hours (mandatory 2 hours of lab work)
- Chemistry (Organic and Inorganic) – 12 semester hours
- Biochemistry – 3 semester hours
- Physics - 6 semester hours
- Labs – 4 hours in any combination of biology, chemistry, or physics
The list of recommended courses includes:
- Cell Biology
- Medical Microbiology
- Modern Genetics
AACOMAS Work and Experiences
The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine utilizes the AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) to receive, file, and review all incoming medical school applications. AACOMAS is the osteopathic school equivalent of AMCAS and has its own application requirements, similar to the AMCAS work and activities section, where applicants briefly describe their professional history.
As mentioned above, the school has no explicit student preference, save for those applicants who clearly demonstrate a desire to practice in rural West Virginia or a similar rural setting.
Personal Statement/Application Essays
AACOMAS personal statement examples are a good place to start if you want to submit a stellar personal statement with your application. One oft-repeated tip BeMo founder and CEO, Dr. Behrouz Moemeni, gives to aspiring medical school applicants who need to write a personal statement is to always start early. You can find this tip and many others in Dr. Moemeni’s best-selling, 14 Rules for Admissions Screening in Higher Ed: An Antidote to Bias. Starting early, especially on your personal statement, signifies many positive qualities about you that admissions officers always look for, such as attention to detail, organizational skills, and of course, writing skills.
A medical school personal statement is aimed at getting your answers to questions like “why do you want to become a doctor?” and giving you space to describe important events in your life, which is similar to one section of the AMCAS application service called the AMCAS Most Meaningful Experiences section. There are no explicit content requirements to your personal statement, but the service does limit every statement to 5,300 characters since you must submit the letter and the rest of your application online.
Personal Statement Example
My aunt Victoria passed away from ALS many years ago but I think about her every day, her smile, her voice, the way her hand felt in mine. Victoria was my mother’s younger sister but they were complete opposites. They were also the closest to each other out of the six siblings in their family – the only girls too.
My mother was the oldest and that meant she was like a second mother to her younger siblings, and it showed. They deferred to her and sought her counsel. She was patient and supportive of them, but also scolded them lovingly when it was needed. My aunt was the reckless, carefree, rebellious one, and I think I took after her more than I did my mother.
When Victoria was diagnosed with ALS, it hit all of us hard. She took the news in stride, though, blaming her fanatic love of the New York Yankees for her illness. 'Being a Red Sox fan,’ she said, ‘would’ve been a worse fate.’ Despite her defiance, the illness developed quickly, and she was soon in a wheelchair.
With her prior consent, we moved her out of her apartment, and she came to stay at our house, where all my family members took turns caring for her and spending time with her. Ironically enough, this tragedy seemed to strengthen the bonds between my extended family members. It was a small consolation to have everyone under the same roof, even though it was for an awful reason.
I was about to enter university around the time that Victoria came to live with us, but I had not given much thought to choosing a major. My grandfather had founded an import/export business when he first came to this country, and it had become a successful, nationwide business. I thought that I would join the family business after getting a communications or marketing degree and wasn’t much interested in anything else.
But the worse Victoria got, the more passionate I became about caring for her. We had nurses and home health assistants come to the house to support and step in for us when we needed, and one of them, Jackie Maldonado, was an inspiration to us and Aunt Victoria’s favorite. Jackie was a nurse who had also trained in osteopathic medicine, so she not only helped Victoria with her medication and other treatments, but was also able to perform many manual manipulations to ease Victoria’s aching joints and muscles.
Victoria also liked to use medicinal marijuana and Jackie encouraged it (I did not partake, nor have I ever). When Jackie related that she had gone to an osteopathic school that offered a degree in medical cannabinoid therapeutics, I was surprised, given the uneven acceptance of medicinal marijuana around the country. When I researched the topic further, I found that many other osteopathic schools were starting to offer similar, interdisciplinary degree programs. Students learn about the human endocannabinoid system and how cannabis derivatives interact with almost every important system of the body while also learning about local, state, and federal regulations concerning medical marijuana.
But, like with any therapy, there were side effects to the marijuana. Sometimes it made Victoria anxious and hyperaware of her condition, making it hard for her to think about anything else. We tried different delivery methods and dosages of THC to find the right combination with varying degrees of success. When I asked Jackie about what I should do, she said that cannabinoid therapeutics are still being developed and there is not enough research on how cannabis can help in ways other the traditional methods, like increasing appetite, relieving insomnia, and providing pain relief.
It was then that the path opened to me. I saw my future in osteopathic medicine and undertaking this research to create, develop and hopefully patent cannabis medications that minimize THC’s side effects, while increasing its medicinal potential. My family’s business was in good hands – my brother ended up taking over – and I enrolled as a biology major.
My biology courses soon turned into biochemistry courses, which then evolved to include pharmacology courses like Pharmaceutics & Biophysical Chemistry and Molecular Toxicology & Neuroscience Group. But since so much of cannabis research is tied to the commercial aspect of cannabis, I also took classes dealing with the business side of pharmacology, such as Drug Design and Development.
During the last two years of my undergrad, my family decided to start a foundation dedicated to researching and, hopefully, curing ALS one day. It felt like the right thing to do for our family, since we lost someone special to us and there has not been much progress in finding a cure. I organized a few of fundraisers – marathons, charity auctions, black-tie events - and I used our business connections to solicit sponsorships and other long-term commitments from several companies.
Secondary Essay Prompts
Medical school secondary essays prompts are what medical schools use to explore other aspects of a candidate's personality as it relates to osteopathy and being a physician. The prompts are supposed to get students to think critically and creatively about and answer honestly about the various scenarios the prompts illustrate. The essays are not the same length as other types of documentation like personal statements. Answers are intended to be kept short and are normally limited to a few hundred characters.
- Why do you want to be an osteopathic physician? (500 characters)
- What advantage do you see in attending WVSOM over other medical schools? (500 characters)
- Describe an ethically challenging situation you have been in, and how you responded (500 characters)
- What do you feel it will take for you to succeed in medical school? (500 characters)
- Describe a situation in work, volunteer activities, or organizations where you demonstrated your ability to work well with others. (500 characters)
- What experiences (living, working, or visiting) have you had in rural areas? (500 characters)
The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine is as strict about its medical school recommendation letters as any other institution that requires AACOMAS letter of recommendation examples. The school requires all students to submit at least two recommendation letters, but they must be from either:
- A science professor who taught you
- A letter from a pre-med committee member from any of your previous schools
- An osteopathic physician (recommended)
Letters from relatives are not accepted. Neither are letters from anyone other than the referees mentioned here, so you cannot submit letters from former employers or anyone non-academic or non-medicine related. The school has a few formatting rules, as well, like requiring all faculty letters to be written on paper with an official letterhead and an original signature. The letters can be submitted either via the online AACOMAS portal, Interfolio, or mailed hard copies.
The school holds interviews for applicants who have submitted both the primary and secondary application and have met the criteria to be invited to an interview. The school does not use the MMI model. Instead, it has an open file interview, where you sit before a three-person interview panel (two faculty members and the director of admissions) for a thirty-minute interview.
There are no other interviews required by the school, and students are required to pay a small fee when they are invited to the interview. Residents of West Virginia have to pay $40, while out-of-state applicants must pay $80.
Acceptance and Waitlist Information
After interviews are held, the school reviews all applicants again but does not give a set schedule for when it sends out acceptances. Students are given a certain amount of time to accept the offer based on when it is extended by the school.
- If you are accepted before November 15, you have until December 14 to accept the offer.
- If you are accepted between November 15 and January 14, you will have 30 days from receipt of your acceptance.
- If you are accepted between January 15 and May 14, you will have 14 days to accept the offer from when you receive it.
- If you are accepted after May 15, you may be asked to accept the offer immediately and pay a deposit to hold your place in the class.
“Accepting” an offer from the medical school requires submitting registration paperwork and paying deposit fees ($500 for WV residents, $2000 for non-residents). There is a second deposit required later that is $500 for WV residents, but $1000 for non-residents. All deposit fees count toward your tuition.
Students who are neither accepted nor rejected will be placed on an alternates list, which means they may be granted admission if another candidate drops out or is dismissed for any other reason, like not accepting the offer on time or not paying the deposit.The school recommends contacting the Admissions office directly if you want to find out more about why your application was rejected.
Wondering how long it takes to become a doctor?
Primary application deadline: February 15
Supplemental application deadline: March 15
The opening date of all AACOMAS school applications is May 5th of the year previous to the deadlines given above, so you have ample time to ask for letters of recommendation or even improve your MCAT score if you have enough time.
If you are wondering, “when should I take the MCAT?”, you should review MCAT test dates to make sure you have enough time; you will need between 3 and 6 months to prepare properly for the test.
Tuition and Debt
In-State Tuition Fees: $22,472
Out-of-State Tuition Fees: $53,710
In-State Annual Fees (lab, computer access, student services): $1,200
Out-of-State Annual Fees: $1,200
Average Yearly Cost-of-Living Expenses: $23,770
Average Student Debt of Graduating Students: $241,000
First year WVSOM students have four main options available to help defer the cost of medical school:
- Federal or private loans
- Work/study programs
- Service commitment programs
The free Federal Student Aid (FSA) application is available to all prospective students who need financial assistance. You can apply using the school’s specific code when applying to see eligibility requirements, and what types of loans are available. Typically, the federal government offers two types of loans:
- Unsubsidized student loans (not based on financial need)
- Subsidized student loans (based on financial need and do not accrue interest during certain periods)
Graduate students can also get loans via the Graduate/Professional PLUS program that lets student browse offers from private lenders. They can check the fixed and variable interest rates to determine which loan is most affordable for them. There are various scholarship opportunities available to qualifying students as well, with individual eligibility requirements and separate application processes. Two of the institutional scholarships incoming students can apply for include the:
1. Fredric W. Smith Memorial Scholarship
- Must be a West Virginia resident
- Entering their second year of medical school
- Make a commitment to practice family medicine after graduation
- Remain in the top upper two/thirds of their class grade-wise
2. Family Practice Scholarship
- Must be a West Virginia resident
- Entering their second year of medical school
- Make a commitment to practice family medicine after graduation
- Remain in the top upper two/thirds of their class grade-wise
There are also many private scholarships available to students in the osteopathic medical community. The full list and eligibility requirements are here, and you can apply to any, provided you meet the stated criteria. The amounts range in each case, and every selection decision is based on a variety of factors, such as financial need, geographic location, and a service commitment like signing a contract to practice in a specific location or area.
The school has also started a full tuition waiver program students can apply to. These waivers are only available to West Virginia residents and include academic eligibility criteria, such as:
- Having a science GPA of 3.7 or higher
- Having an MCAT score of 60% or higher
Students must contact the Admissions office directly to inquire about other application elements and ask for the appropriate application forms.
Residency Match Rates
The WVSOM has a very high match rate for its graduates, with almost 99% of its students matching with a residency program in West Virginia, the surrounding states, or somewhere else in the US. Almost 60% of WVSOM graduates got into their first choice for their preferred program, regardless of whether it was one of the most competitive or and least competitive residencies.
In a recent year, a majority of graduates entered the primary care fields, as follows:
- Internal medicine (42)
- Emergency medicine (27)
- Family medicine (38)
Review of Available Programs
1. Pre-Osteopathic Program
This program is for undergraduate students who want to enter osteopathic school and are guaranteed admission into the WVSOM if they meet the eligibility criteria. Students must be enrolled in one of the 13 affiliate undergraduate schools of the WVSOM and also have:
- A science GPA of 3.4 or higher (must be maintained)
- Completed 8 hours of Biology course with labs
- Completed 8 hours of a General Chemistry course with labs
Students must also apply for the PO program when they are sophomores. When they enter their senior year, students must also take the MCAT and score 500 or higher. The other medical school requirements they must meet to enter the school include learning how to ask to shadow a doctor, as the school requires 25+ hours of shadowing with a DO physician. It is rare that schools tell you how many shadowing hours for medical school are required, but this program is one of the few that make explicit mention of it.
You must also complete 25 hours of volunteer or health care experience and submit two letters of recommendation from either a DO or MD physician, or a pre-med advisor or someone similar like a former science instructor.
2. Rural Health Initiative
The WVSOM’s mission has always been to advocate for rural medicine and funnel doctors into underserved areas. But the Rural Health Initiative focuses more on the needs of rural residents of West Virginia and Appalachia by making students take more credit hours and clinical rotations in primarily rural settings around the state.
The more intensive rural rotation requirement also gives students more access to doctors and health care providers with years of experience working in these unique places. Students must submit the appropriate application form along with:
- A medical student CV
- A personal statement answering the question, “Why are you interested in Rural Primary Care in WV?”
- A letter of recommendation
Successful applicants receive a scholarship tied to academic performance and have all their travel and accommodation expenses covered by the program while they are performing their rotations in their fourth year.
Detailed Academic Curriculum of the DO Program
As stated previously, the WVSOM is a leader in training and graduating osteopathic, primary care doctors to help meet the need for skilled, qualified doctors in rural areas. As such, the academic curriculum and focus of the four-year osteopathic program is aimed at helping students familiarize themselves with the unique aspects of rural medicine.
Years 1 and 2
The program is divided into two years. The first year is when new students are taught the fundamentals of osteopathic medicine while also taking foundational science courses. The first two years follow a Patient Presentation Curriculum that sees students interact with live patient models after they are taught the basics of all the systems of the body. Patient problems grow in complexity in subsequent years, and students apply core concepts of osteopathic medicine in both clinical and lab settings.
Years 3 and 4
The last two years are when students perform their clinical rotations while also taking required classes in:
- Family medicine (8 weeks)
- Internal medicine (4 weeks)
- Psychiatry (4 weeks)
- Surgery (4 weeks)
Students must also start studying for the COMLEX 1 exam and submit to a board review of their preparedness for the exam. In addition to taking the required courses, students must also brush up on how to prepare for clinical rotations. All osteopathic students must perform 8 weeks of clinical rotations in any of the seven rural regions of West Virginia that comprise the Statewide Campus Sites. Additionally, students are required to perform 4 weeks of rotations in a rural, West Virginia site or an approved rural region in a state bordering West Virginia.
Students must also complete:
- One family medicine rotation in a rural setting
- Third year students must do a CORE rotation with a resident doctor
- One James R. Stookey, DO rotation for osteopathic manipulation treatment in either their third and fourth year
Campus and Faculty
Students who enjoy the peace and tranquility of rural settings will be impressed by the greenery and scenery surrounding the school’s main campus in Lewisburg, West Virginia. The campus has fifteen separate buildings that comprise the bulk of the school’s academic facilities, lecture halls, study centers, libraries, laboratories, and research centers.
Students are often directed to the main building in the center of the campus to deal with administrative affairs. The Admissions department has its own building located nearby and is where prospective students can go to get more information about the campus, the osteopathic program, and other essential issues.
Affiliated Teaching Hospitals
The Statewide Campus Site system comprises seven different geographical locations around West Virginia where third and fourth year students complete their clinical rotations. Each of these regions is home to a different set of affiliated hospitals where students perform their rotations. But the school also has a medical center located on campus, which provides medical care to residents of Lewisburg.
The Robert C. Byrd Clinic is a Level-3 “patient-centered medical home” that offers comprehensive, primary care to residents of Greenbrier County. Students also perform some of their training and learning at the clinic, where they are supervised by any of the 40-member staff, including physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners.
The school’s main research facility is the Center for Rural and Community Health. Its focus is self-evident from its name, but the CRCH provides much more than a venue for research into rural medicine. It is also where students in any year of their studies can participate in supervised research initiatives and perform valuable community service to underserved residents and patients. The Center is associated with the Greenbriar County Health Alliance, which strives to improve health outcomes across the county and surrounding areas by providing patients with education and preventative care. The center also hosts many different professional training seminars where students and other medicine-related professionals can communicate and learn from each other.
Number of Full-Time Faculty in Biomedical Sciences: 23 full-time faculty in tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenured positions with specialties in Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, and Immunology, all holding PhDs save for one MD and a full-time, non-tenured instructor.
Number of Full-Time Faculty in Clinical Sciences: 32 full-time faculty in tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenured positions comprised mostly of DOs and MDs who are board certified in their specialties.
West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine
400 Lee Street North
Lewisburg, WV 24901
Main phone: (800) 356-7836
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (800) 356-7836 or (888)-276-7836
1. Do I need to submit MCAT scores to get in?
Yes, the school requires that all applicants submit MCAT scores no older than three years. You can submit your application without MCAT scores, but the school may ask for them later. A minimum MCAT score of 495 and minimum GPA of 3.2 is required for your application to be considered, but they must be at least 504 and 3.53, respectively, to be competitive.
2. Does the school review applications holistically or traditionally (academics only)?
The school has a holistic approach to reviewing and considering all applications. It provides prospective students a list of extracurriculars and other activities that the admissions committee wants to see on your application, other than only submitting your MCAT scores and GPA
3. Are there any application fees for WVSOM
Yes, in addition to tuition and the cost of attending the school, West Virginia applicants must pay a $40 fee when accepting their interview invitation and time. Non-residents must pay $80. Both are non-refundable. Accepted West Virginia students must also pay a $500 deposit to hold their spot, while non-residents must pay $1000.
4. What kind of interviews does the school have?
The school holds in-person interviews that run 30 minutes and are held with two medical school faculty members and the director of admissions. The interview is open file.
5. When will I know whether I’m accepted into the program?
The school has rolling admissions, but students are generally notified whether they are accepted between two or three weeks after their interview.
6. Does the school have a GPA cut-off?
Yes, for your application to be considered competitive, the school requires that you have a science GPA of 3.25.
7. Can I retake the MCAT if needed?
Yes, you can retake the MCAT to improve your score or to reach the 500 minimum MCAT requirement. The school does accept MCAT scores as old as three years. If you do retake the MCAT or take any other steps to improve your application (if it has been deferred), you must notify the school in writing.
8. What is a pre-professional health committee?
A pre-professional health committee is a group of science faculty members who give advice and provide official letters and other documentation to students who wish to pursue a career in medicine or health care. The WVSOM asks for recommendation letters from a pre-professional health committee or from practicing osteopathic or medical doctors
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