It’s winter in Boston, I hope all is well for everyone. Now, again, at my school applicants are interviewing. It’s a curious sight, I remember making the trip before, peering off into the classroom when I could to get an idea of who these mythical creatures called medical students were. So, it’s strange to be on the other side of the window. Anyways, nostalgia aside, I wanted to share with you an interview with a recently accepted applicant (see below). I believe we met on Twitter, when I was editing and critiquing personal statements in my downtime. I distinctly remember her personal statement, so I’m excited to see her progress from a hopeful applicant to an accepted medical student with a full scholarship.
So, here’s the interview:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? — e.g. major, participation in college, post graduate work or activities, continued and concluded work/projects, notable experiences.
My family is originally from Peru, my father completed medical school in Lima and we immigrated to the United States when my father got a pediatrics residency offer in New York. I grew up and attended school in Texas, where I majored in Biology and minored in Psychology. I was very fortunate to have several mentors along the way who really pushed me towards research and am grateful our paper was accepted a few months before applying to medical school. I worked in two very different labs in undergrad, a summer in an entomology lab and a neuroscience lab my junior and senior year. Although I considered medicine, I originally planned on pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience/Neuropharmacology, so my focus in undergrad was research and teaching (I worked as a Teaching Assistant for Cell Biology lab and Supplemental Instruction Leader for Analytical Chemistry) and did not really have very much clinical volunteering (at least compared to my ‘intense’ pre-med peers).
My main extracurricular was Colleges Against Cancer (CAC), where I helped start Relay For Life at my university. Unfortunately, it seems that people in my life keep struggling with cancer. My first awareness of the disease was when my fifth grade teacher went through breast cancer treatment. In college, I discovered my lab mate was a lymphoma survivor (we co-founded our CAC chapter), my godfather battling colon cancer and losing my first research advisor to pancreatic cancer, and recently losing family members to lymphoma and glioblastoma. Although I have no idea what it says, I believe that my evaluation letter from my American Cancer Society staff partner had significant weight in the strength of my application.
There are people that seem to know they were destined for a career in medicine since they were fetuses. To say I am 100% certain that I should become doctor would be inaccurate, sometimes I still question if I have the desire pursue a career that in practice seems increasingly more centered on costs and paperwork, and less focused on quality and prevention. Seeing my father practice medicine in a private practice setting was off-putting to me, especially as I developed a real knack for teaching early in my undergraduate career. However my somewhat cynical, not idealist view that our current healthcare system is ‘broken’ is one of the many things that fuels me to strive for change. My senior year (after much introspection), I realized that academic medicine was a great way to consolidate helping with others while teaching and decided to apply to medical school. Since I still needed time to study for the MCAT, I decided would take a total of two years off before matriculating in medical school (which thankfully I will next fall!).
Applying to medical school is pretty difficult, besides the prereqs, a lot of steps have to be made correctly on a timely manner. How did you prepare for the applying to medical school, anything in retrospect you would have done differently now that you understand how the process works?
Honestly, I read a lot of blogs and from there searched for books. Hannah’s (@MDPhDtoBe) blog (side note: I met her a few months ago and she is an incredible human) and this one were probably the two I referenced the most. I used two books (one which you have mentioned in your own blog) the Medical School Admissions Guide and Cracking Med School Admissions, both which gave interesting examples of personal statements and suggested timelines. After the MCAT, the two most challenging parts of the application were the Personal Statement and the Activities Section (also, insanely time consuming). Looking back I would have kept better records on my activities because I ended up spending a lot of time tracking down faculty/staff for their contact information and wracking my brain to guesstimate how many hours I spend on all of my activities. Something important that I reflected throughout the interview process was to try not compare yourself with other applicants. It’s difficult when you’re in a room filled with brilliant, driven people, but reminding yourself that you have your own story, that everyone’s journey to medicine is different is good perspective to have because it’s easy to become intimidated and not think you’re good enough. You have made it this far, be proud (never arrogant) of your accomplishments!
Last year I edited your personal statement, how was the experience for you and how did it help?
The personal statement was very challenging for me to write. I probably went through ten drafts of my personal statement before I felt “satisfied”. Mr. @doctororbust kindly agreed to look over my personal statement and gave me great feedback, particularly with the flow of my ideas. Most of the people I asked to edit my personal statement were very familiar with my story and everything I had done throughout undergrad, so having someone who was completely impartial was extremely useful and I am extremely grateful for the direction my personal statement took after you reviewed it! Forever grateful.. this brings up another point, do not be afraid of asking for help. There are kind people in this world who genuinely want you to succeed 🙂
What were some things that surprised you about the application process? — this could be either positive or negative or even just an observation.
Overall, the application process was a journey. Equally beautiful and frustrating. Writing the personal statement was somewhat revelatory and defining. Creating a narrative that portrays you and your passion for this career in 5,300 characters is nothing short of daunting. I think I did not expect the application to take so long. I tried to finish it up as soon as I could. I am surprised to have gotten three out-of-state public university interview offers, so I wouldn’t discourage someone to not apply out of state, however make sure you do your research and write a compelling narrative on why you want to attend a specific school. If you can attend a recruitment fair, take advantage and stay in touch with people. An admissions staff member I met at a recruitment fair arranged for me to meet with a pediatric psychiatrist after my interview because I mentioned this was a strong particular interest of mine. As much as medical schools are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them to see where you will be the best fit and if they are granting you an interview, it is likely they will accomodate you to make you feel welcome. As I mentioned, I strongly considered pursuing a PhD, and debated applying to MSTP (MD/PhD) programs. Ultimately, I decided not to apply since I did not believe my MCAT was very competitive for MTSP programs. However, in my interviews and after talking to a few MSTP minority students, my MCAT score was higher than one (by 3 points) and exactly the same as the other MSTP student. Although I do not believe in holding myself to a “low standard” because I am considered a minority in this country, I do feel a slight sense of curiosity of what would have happened if I had applied to combined programs.
How many schools did you apply to? If you don’t mind disclosing it, can you share what school you decided to attend?
I initially intended to apply to more, but I ended up completing 13 allopathic medical school applications. To date, I’ve had two rejections, five interview invitations and acceptance offers from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the University of Wisconsin- Madison. If I do not get any more interview offers, my last one will be at the University of Illinois-Chicago in February! Since I did also complete an application through TMDSAS, I’ve ranked UT Southwestern and UTHSCSA and will have to wait for ‘match day’ on February 2rd (Texas is special).
For schools that are a part of AAMC, I legally have until April 30th to make my final decision… However, during winter break when I was in Peru, I found a letter from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health saying I have received a full tuition scholarship!!! I am about 99.99% certain I will accept this offer because frankly I loved the students I met, the interviewees (we did a group one with 2 medical students and 3 other applicants), and the city of Madison. I am beyond thrilled to have this incredible opportunity, as I am flawed and far from a perfect applicant (as in I have a C in calculus and several Bs early on in my transcript.. but I worked hard to bring those grades up!).
What will you do as you wait to start?
I am happily continuing to work for a medical non-profit association in Washington, DC and tutor Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Spanish while I wait to start medical school next fall! Taking time off school was the best decision I made to solidify my decision to apply to medical school. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to send me a tweet @brainyloma! Best of luck!
Thank you @brainyloma, please check her Twitter out if you have more questions.