This past weekend I went to luncheon medical students. I had my provisional one glass of wine, and met a few of my future classmates (4 out of the 165) and an upper class mate. It was interesting to meet them, we have some important things in common, but there’s a lot of good diversity among us — it was a fun group. We all met the dean, she flew from Boston to California just to come to that event. Apparently, she does this every year. I guess, it small sound like a small token of appreciation to some, but to everyone at the party it made us feel welcome. That feat alone would have been enough to convince me that I had the right choice in schools, but meeting BUSM alumni and staff really put things over the top. The environment of the party alludes to a reality where I might both work hard and have fun.
My flight is on July 30th, my school starts on August 4th. I land a few days before my lease starts at my new place, so my new roommate will let me crash with him until the 1st; then we’ll both move into our new place. He’s also an incoming M1, should be a good combination. I have about a 17-20 minute bike ride to the school, or half an hour train ride from a station that takes me 7 minutes to walk to says Google. We’ll leave about 5 minutes walk from this huge body of water:
I’m done packing more or less, now I’m just tossing stuff because I can’t bring it with me — this is a lot harder than packing. I’m leaving almost all of my books, taking pictures of pictures so I can leave them, and both giving and selling off my personal items to friends. It’s a cleansing experience really. I’ve moved around more times than I can count, each time I loss more and more things. At first it gets to you, if you’re nostalgic about things, but eventually you see how much those items never meant to you — memories are typically all you need to cherish, and perhaps is the only real thing in this quantum world.
My white coat ceremony and orientation both start on August 4th, the real courses actually start on August 11th. As I arrive on the 30th, at night, I only have a few days to settle in before school starts up — tough cookies. I’ve already pre-ordered my scrubs from a BUSM club for anatomy lab (keep the money local), I’ll pick them up when I arrive. I received a few emails from upper class mates about some get-together events coming up, I saw beer somewhere in the email so I like where this is going already. We’ve been decided into “schools”, this is common at medical schools — I also went ahead and joined the Facebook group for this school. Facebook is usually a horrible desolate wasteland, but chances are your Facebook medical school group will be pretty awesome — I’ve already learned a lot there from both older and new students. I’ll definitely need to consult with them about winter clothes, because that “pond” I showed you looks like this in the winter( for some reason in the winter time we should all dress Victorian, go figure!):
So, how long exactly does it take for a person to get ready to move from one coast to another?
As I look around my room I see that I’ve packed and prepared absolutely nothing. Instead of packing I’m strategically procrastinating, not making my packing check-list, and instead choosing to: bake cheesecakes, write articles like this one, etc. Surprisingly, I’m not too caught up with the stress with the geographic transplant, somehow flying across the country just hoping you’ll get into medical school makes that one flight to revisit as a student a lot more bearable. In general, here’s my packing plan:
1. Get books to east coast somehow.
Probably, the most stressful part for is figuring out how to move my library of books. There’s several ways to accomplish this goal: toss em, ship em, leave them, or replace them electronically. I weep when books are destroyed, and it’s prohibitively expensive to ship these ‘bricks’. Thus, I decided to either box them up to store or to download digital copy’s of the books I already own. I’ve been rather successful at finding digital copies of my books at either Gutenberg.org or by enough sniffing around the web for PDFs. Though, bear in mind it’s easy to find copies of books when you read old books or stick to science and math — so, fortunately, I’m a boring person so it’s easy to find my books.
Book list that made the cut either with a digital copy or packed along:
1. Calculus Made Easy, Thomas (found digital replacement, but bringing original) — who doesn’t like a novel written on math from 100 years ago? I rather prefer the way math was explained before as opposed to now, so I prefer this book.
2. Age of Propaganda (digital replacement) — it’s a good book on both propaganda and advertisement, it was a mandatory read from an English course and I kept it. When applying to jobs, medical school, or residency it’s a good skill to know how to “sell yourself” and make your self “wanted” (although you’re probably not necessarily needed).
3. Medical Physiology Boron, Boulpaep (digital replacement) — this was the physiology book I had to refer to and present from during lab meetings, so I’m just familiar with the layout. My program will use another medical physiology text, but I will keep mine as well.
4. Communities of Discourse: The Rhetoric of Disciples, Schmidt, V. Kopple (soft cover)– tackles rhetoric from various angles. This is a great book if you want to find your favorite writer to emulate. This is another book I received in class that I couldn’t part with after purchasing.
5. The Feynman Lectures on Physics , Feynman, Leighton, Sands (digital) — this book covers everything from physics, to quantum physics using vector calculus. I recently picked up volume I, but returned it after realizing I should just wait till I settle in to get all III volumes. I’ve now read all of volume I and have made it through most of II, and have dabbled into III. I won’t be wining in bets with Hawkings any time soon though.
6. Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes, Hille (found digital copy, but probably bringing hardcover anyways) — this was the field and research that helped me get into medical school. But, really it’s more symbolic than anything, it was a mandatory read assigned to my by my old PI. It reminds me of those days.
7. The Human Brain Coloring Book, Diamond, Scheibel, Elson (soft cover copy only) — so, I bought this book during Neuroscience for undergrad but never actually colored in it. But, I did read the information, that’s actually all I needed at that time as I would draw out the brain structure. This time however, I’ll use it for anatomy in medical school as this coloring book series is popular.
I have another 60+ books (all science related), but the rest of them will get left behind in Sharpie marked boxes at my parents house. I made it a point to keep my undergraduate books, occasionally I like to read through them to see how far I’ve come or how much I’ve forgotten (something to justify all that money I spent on my education).
Clothes to pack
This is the easiest part. I live in California, we have four seasons: hot, really hot, kinda hot, and not that hot today. In Boston there will be spring, summer, autumn and winter. Therefore, my clothes from California are likely only useful for between a 1/3 or 1/2 of the year at best. So, most of my clothes can be left behind. The bulk of my clothes will be donated, undergarments with questionable structural deficits (holed-up knickers) will be tossed. I only need to worry about enough clothes to last a month or two, the rest has to be purchased while I’m out there (winter wear etc). I’m very sentimental with my blankets and my towels (I never got over the blanket phase?), so I’m bringing some items I’m already familiar with for comfort.
The laptop obviously goes, not because it’s a good laptop, but just because of the data and programs on it — as you may imagine I’ll also be bringing my portable hard-drive (Library of Alexandria) as well. I’ll also be bringing my set of speakers (non passive speakers), and my favorite guitar.
That’s actually just about it. I like starting from scratch, it doesn’t bother me to move around. Californians move around the state a lot, it’s rare for us to grow up in one neighborhood or one domicile, we’re known to even move around during elementary school — not that kids want to. So, I’m accustomed to losing everything and starting over from scratch, it’s practically “spring cleaning” for me.
Hm, it seems that be writing this article I’ve accomplished one of my goals, writing a check-list. I procrastinated my way into success.
Time is winding down, and I’m getting ready to leave California for Boston. Recently, I’ve been fielding the question of “If I’m ready to leave?”, and this question is usually mated with, “Are you ready to start medical school?”. To answer both questions succinctly, “no, with qualifications”.
Am I ready for medical school?
I actually have no idea (haha). I assume medical school will be challenging, it’s infamous for it. And to be honest, I really have no idea if I’m ready for the material or the pace. However, medical school is tough for everyone, so I’m not afraid of the imminent doom — I look forward to feeling stupid because it means there’s still room for me to grow. Also, I plan to follow the advice of whatever I hear from my upper classmates during orientation; I like to learn from others’ mistakes. Anyways, here’s an idea of what my first two weeks will look like:
– White coat ceremony is on August 4th. I’ll only be in Boston a few days before school starts, so it should be “fun”. However, as long as I have a soft place to sleep and a pillow I’ll survive for a few weeks.
– Then orientation, including a tour of Boston during the first week. I will try to use this time to meet with new classmates, and socialize while we still can. I think a big part of this will be developing relationships. I actually have a tendency to study by myself, it’s a bad habit. I think I do better with others, especially when I both self-study (I want to be useful to those I study with) and study with others to get more out of the experience.
– Human anatomy! The rite of passage for all medical students. I’ve seen cadavers before, but first time seeing them finely dismembered, faces peeled back, brains removed, lungs and innards tied into baggies, was during my medical school interview trail. Though this experience will help me brace for anatomy, I’m 100% me doing the dissections with my group will be another mental ball game.
– During week three I have my first test. I should mention, there’s a major exam about a month after school starts. I’ll see how I feel during that pace, either way I’ll need to figure out a way to handle it. My plan is just to start studying from day one.
– Overall, things get real very fast. =)
Am I ready to leave?
I haven’t actually packed anything, my flight is on July 30th, I don’t really intend to bring all that much with me. Like many Californians, within the state I’ve relocated many times (5x before college, 4x, +1 homeless spell in college). As a consequence, I’ve learned to live an ascetic lifestyle, I tend to forgo being to overly attached to items. So, it’s really just a matter of physically hauling myself to Boston, and saying all the goodbyes that is more work.
However, I am ready to leave in the sense that I’m ready to start the next phase of my life. It’s hard to believe that my biggest problems now is making sure I rock the first two years so reviewing for boards won’t be as brutal — wish me luck on that!
If you’ve already saw my Q & A with accepted, then your not missing anything by rolling to another article. I’m posting my interview directly here to make it easier for my readers. While I didn’t pay for admissions advising, knowing what I know now I can totally understand why people decide to do it. A little information goes a long way, trust me.
Anyways, here’s my interview from a few weeks back!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite non-school book?
D: I grew up in Southern California, and like a typical Californian I’ve moved around a lot, but I’ve mostly stayed in Los Angeles County. I’m one of fourteen, second to youngest, I come from a large family of mixed lineage. Also, I didn’t grow up with most of my brothers and sisters as I was born out of wedlock. I attended California Polytechnic University of Pomona where I obtained my bachelors of science in Exercise Physiology and a minor in Human Physiology. My favorite non school related reads are just about anything from Bertrand Russell; my favorite book by him at the moment is “The Problems of Philosophy.” Overall, I prefer reading famous essays or opinions as I find them to be more entertaining — I’m not really into fictional reading.
Accepted: Congrats on your med school admit! Where did you get accepted and when do you start?
D: Thank you! I was accepted into four programs: Cooper Rowan, East Virginia Medical School, Oakland Beaumont, and Loyola Stritch. I am awaiting a response from Boston University early next month. While I’m overjoyed to gain acceptances, no one really prepares you for one of the hardest parts: selecting where you will develop into a physician and live for the next probable decade.
When I was compiling my school list I only applied to programs I could envision myself fitting in, while this was great when I got accepted, it was terrible when it came time to choose. At the time I was choosing programs it was important to me that the program I felt focused on service and collegiality. I’m still awaiting to hear back from my top pick; I’d probably go there if accepted.
I wanted to select a program that could make me the best patient advocate and supply me with the most worldly experience. I have previous research experience, so I also wanted to go to an institution where clinical research was strongly encouraged.
Finally, I wanted to relocate and try something new, so I’m pretty certain that I will find myself living near the eastern seaboard around this time next year.
Accepted: In your blog, you describe yourself as a nontraditional premed applicant. Can you elaborate on that please?
D: When I finished high school I was accepted into a university, but I was discouraged from attending by my parents who wanted me to attend a community college as I didn’t qualify for financial aid. So my tuition came out of my pocket I got a job and hit the labor force for several years while sampling courses. Eventually, I decided to focus on school again and transferred to the university I was originally accepted into out of high school ironically.
I had an exciting opportunity to do electrophysiology research, where I studied ion channels. The research and the scholarships I received had me focused on PhD programs. I didn’t want to limit my options, so I also took the premed requirements concurrently. But, I never thought I’d apply for MD programs, until one day I just felt pretty useless when a family member and friend passed away a month apart. After that I withdrew my applications for graduate school and took the MCAT squeezed in some volunteering and hit the AMCAS applications hard. It all worked out in the end with the acceptances, but it really felt like a huge gamble at the time.
Accepted: Looking back at the med school application process, what would you say were your three greatest challenges and how would you advise current applicants who are faced with those same (or similar) challenges?
D: I’d say the top three challenges for me were: the MCAT (self studied), secondary essays, and lack of support from some people in my personal network.
My advice for premeds who have to self study is they find a study package that works for them; once I found my study package and stayed with it my practice scores steadily increased. However, self studying isn’t for everyone, there’s no shame in taking a prep course if you can afford it.
For secondaries my only advice is to have research about each school already completed before you receive secondaries. At first there is a drought where you receive no secondaries, then there’s a deluge, so it’s hard to find time to finish everything if you didn’t prepare beforehand. Personally, I paid for the MSAR (you must get the MSAR full edition) and made a spreadsheet about the pros and cons and random details several months before secondaries, so I just referred to my sheets to save me time while writing essays. If you don’t buy the MSAR you’re doing yourself a big disservice.
And about the last point, you’re bound to have some friends and family who can’t understand your sacrifices and may even doubt you while being a premed. I’ve had some flat out tell me I should give up. Always be true to yourself, and make sure to build a good support network of like-minded friends and mentors who understand your lifestyle and the hurdles you’ll certainly face as you chase the medical degree.
Accepted: Can you tell us more about your blog? When did you start blogging? What do you hope to gain from the experience?
D: I just started my blog sometime in October or so this year (2013). It’s a blog that is intended to share my experience as a nontraditional premed, now MD candidate, and into the future as a resident. But when I started the blog the goals weren’t so lofty, initially I was just using it to write some tutorials for a few premeds who asked for advice on Twitter. To my surprise one day my page counter told me other people actually read my blog too, so I decided to try to make it as a resource.
When I was trying to figure out how to apply to medical school I felt pretty lost, so I hoped this site would serve as a foundation for others like me who drift into medicine.
My only hope was that someone would feel my blog was useful and inspire at least one person, fortunately I have received a few messages here and there from premeds who’ve reached out to share their personal experiences with me — it really brightens my day.
D kindly informed us that she’ll be attending Boston University Medical School. Here was our follow up question:
Accepted: Why did you choose BU Medical School? What are you most looking forward to?
D: When you apply to medical school you never really imagine that one of the hardest parts will be selecting from a program if you have more than one acceptance. This is obviously a better problem to have compared to the alternative. However, as premeds I think I was used to being told “what to do” for so long it was a curious feeling to finally get to decide what I “want to do.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding which school will be your home for at least the next four years, or as some schools call it “finding your fit.” The funny thing is when I applied to Boston University (BU) it felt like a long-shot, so when I received an interview I was sure they’d made a mistake and would withdraw my invitation sooner or later – I preemptively snatched up the first interview I could afford.
My first time ever being in Boston was for my interview, I found the campus and the city breathtaking. I was lucky to find a great host, an incredibly busy and knowledgeable M3 currently enrolled at BU. He gave me a treasure trove of information that was useful for my interview, this was my first active demonstration of the collegiality I yearned for in a medical school.
My interviewer and I connected during our session, we actually just about ran out of time during my interview, I even saw myself contacting her later as a possible research mentor after my interview was done. The dean of admissions was also very charismatic and down to earth, and I felt like we weren’t being pressured or rushed into the most important decision of our lives. I still remember the feeling I got when the dean was giving us our farewell speech, it felt as if he were speaking directly to me. I felt this medical program would help me fulfill my primary concerns as a MD candidate: gaining the tools so I can become excellent physician and patient advocate while staying grounded. I suppose, through the course of my interview day I slowly started to imagine myself walking the halls and growing as an individual there.
After returning from my interview I had to wait several months to hear back from Boston, in the meantime I received my share of acceptances and rejections from other programs. By the time the BU decision date was looming I had already been accepted into four schools, however knowing this didn’t assuage my fears of rejection from BU. I soon realized how emotionally invested I was, and how much it meant to me to be accepted because I had found my “fit”. So, when I received a phone call regarding my acceptance I was ecstatic to hear the feeling was mutual.
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