If you’re currently applying to medical school, you’ll likely soon start to receive secondary applications, congratulations on making it this far. Please pay particularly close attention to your first couple of secondary applications, you’ll be able to use the husk but not the heart of essays you’ve already written from other institutions. Also, during the beginning of this period, it’s easy to rush things out the door and wish you hadn’t afterwards. So, before we start I’ll remind you to proof read for typos and word transpositions (this will happen if your word processor auto corrects). Also, most importantly, make sure to never make the mistake of confusing one school’s content for another on an essay. To help avoid these mistakes use your friend Control + F to find your mistakes quicker, then print out the real secondary. Take a high lighter and lots of coffee, and make sure you don’t misidentify a school and caught most grammar and typos issues. On your computer I suggest that you make a folder called AMCAS Secondary Entries, make sub folders for each school and place their secondary essays there. Inside the main folder, AMCAS Secondary Entries, keep an Excel sheet to keep track of what types of essays you’ve written already and the character length — this will help you to make a strategy later when you’re exhausted and can’t imagine writing yet another secondary.
How to handle the “Why this area?” question
There is probably a plethora of reasons you want to go there, most of them are hopefully genuine. From your genuine reasons, pluck from them the reasons that best align with the mission and strengths of the program and their surrounding area. Also, you can tailor this entry by doing background information on the school and who they intend to serve — if you’re admitted, these are the people you will be serving. When you see similarities between those you will serve it’s a good thing. Note, this cuts across class, race and gender. What you’re trying to do in this entry is convince them that if you’re admitted you’ll be happy about your choice, and you gave it some thought. While it’s true that from the applicants’ perspective any medical school is good as long as they are accepted, The reciprocal: all accepted are good for the medical school, that is not necessarily true. In other words, a school will not invite you for an interview if they feel you haven’t really given it thought of why you want to be there — and that’ll either be obvious in this entry or during the interview if invited. Here’s one of mine:
A mentor once taught me that insensitivity makes arrogance ugly; and empathy is what makes humility beautiful. If accepted, my new mentors will forever craft my philosophy as a future humble physician. For this reason, I chose Meow-Mix Medicine School (MMMS) because the school’s core values of excellence, collegiality, and integrity. I believe becoming a medical scholar, in a new community, will prepare me for a successful career as a physician and advocate for the underserved.
MMMS integrates science theory and medical practice early; this is reflective in the school choosing to concurrently teach the basic sciences and the principles of medicine. MMMS hones medical student’s clinical problem solving skills by integrating the basic sciences patient care through small groups. My own experience in electrophysiology lab, and leading small lab discussions on preeminent research and physiology, taught me that often the best way to learn was to correlate theory with application via experience and in-depth discussion with mentors and peers. MMMS learning style encourages collaborations between training physicians; I believe this learning environment will foster excellence in the student body, as delivering stellar health care is a team effort.
MMMS keeps its medical scholars connected with the local community by providing comprehensive healthcare to vulnerable subjects by providing free health screenings to the local Kitten community at the Meow-Mix Area Health Education Center. A family shouldn’t have to choose between food and proper medical treatment. Additionally, I find it encouraging that MMMS has strong patient advocacy for underserved populations through organizations such as the Meow-Mix Meow for Health Program.I believe MMMS has a strong emphasis on patient beneficence without discrimination. MMMS commitment to the community, research, and education will prepare me for a life of service as a physician.
This the longer version (recall that you’ll different schools have different character count requirements), and experience with writing a bunch of these will allow for your to better tailor your entries. I found all of the information by data-mining (stalking) the medical school: checking their Tweets, blogs, Facebook entries, Youtube. Even if a school is huge, the department medical school PR “concept team” is usually rather small and intimate, so sometimes being the only person who watched that “wonky” video with 200 views puts you ahead of the pack. Of course I looked at their website and MSAR, but that’s sort of a basic requirement nowadays. By the time I wrote the “Why Here” essay I knew so much information about each school and area that it actually made the decision of where to matriculate to an arduous one because I taught myself to love each program I interviewed.
Note: there’s a good chance that I changed the name of the university for mutual privacy, or the proper nouns I used really exist — equally likely =D
Why do you have a whistle on your key-chain?”, said the random stranger at Starbucks.
“For self-defense in case I’m shanked in prison”, I replied while sipping my latte.
Previously, I may have mentioned that I volunteered with inmates at a correctional facility for academic advising and tutoring. As I was a premed at the time, this may come as a surprise as it did to the inmates I served. They had a hard time wrapping their minds around why “they” were included in my schedule at that time: I was also working as a tutor (premed stuff) and a low income tutor for free (this was supposed to be paid actually haha) K-8th grade, taught for various elementary school science enrichment camps, and volunteered a few hours a week teaching science/math to long term inpatients in pediatric oncology — I took a gap year after graduation and the MCAT, so I had a lot of time to see my community. After explaining my background to them, I even noted the strangeness of how it all sounded compared to my cohort who were usually there interest in working within the corrections system.
As a tutor, I usually the best way to start a tutoring session is to give some background about ourselves, including my own experiences and why I’m tutoring at all — I suppose people enjoy me sharing my vulnerabilities when they too may feel vulnerable. So, I did the same thing with the inmates, I told them about when I almost gave up on school completely.
You see, I was held on suspicion of armed robbery for a bank that I’ve never: seen, been to, or even knew of its existence. You’re probably wondering how this went down. Well, this happened many years ago when I was still at a community college, so right after high school. I had a college fling, and I was on a date at the time. So, as dates do require money, I decided to withdraw additional petty cash. I left my date in the car, leaving my date and my car out of sight by about 200 meters. I’m not even remotely close to the bank yet, and a squad car pulls into the drive way and rushes to cut me off. And then came the repeated questions of why was I in the area, what was I doing, what was my major, who was I with. Every 5-minutes one officer would ask me the same battery of questions, no less an attempt to catch me in a lie. However, I was simply on a date, so it was easy I just told the truth. That went on for about 45-minutes, as I stood at the cop car with my pockets turned inside out, hands on the dash, all while curious passers by stare and are likely proud one less ‘criminal’ is on the streets. Things did get a tad more serious when they decided to detain me, in the back of the police car. Until that time, I had never been in the back of a police car — it’s very uncomfortable.
So, finally, I asked my captors, “So, why exactly am I here?”.
To that they replied, “There was an armed robbery at X bank, in Y city, and you match the description”.
“Well, what’s the description”, I responded, chuckling at my fate all the while.
To that they replied, “Black male, blue jeans and a white or grey t-shirt”.
“Awesome”, was the only thing I could then say.
Well, I knew I was pretty f*****d at that point haha. Fortunately, I was eventually released two hours later, but not before being another police officer, not knowing that I was going to be released soon, yelled “Go get some chicken boy!”. That was my first time being called “boy”, despite the fact that I was pretty sure I was a man. Prior to this experience, I was an honor roll student in high school and placed in the top 5% in my HS class in testing, I had even won a scholarship I was holding onto. But after, I almost dropped out of school completely and started working. I suppose I was just disenchanted with society, where I could play by the rules and still be treated like I did something wrong. At the same time, I started to wonder how many other people got fed up, and fell into a bad cycle themselves.
My second brush with the law was when I was the victim. I was teaching my friend how to drive stick in a parking lot at night, some drunkard through a beer bottle through my driver window hitting me square in the face. Then he proceeded to punch me in the face while I was still strapped into my seat belt from the broken window. In his drunken tirade he was screaming about local cars being stolen, and I suppose he figured it was me? He then ran off, it happened so fast even my friend who was now covered in my blood had no time to react. We called the police, told them what happened and they called the ambulance because I had blood bubbling and frothing from a hole in my cheek. During my questioning, the police dismissed my report of what happened. Instead, they argued that I was likely in a gang and didn’t want to share the details of the brawl. I went to the ER, they stitched up my face and told me I’d best call off work/school because my face is going to well like a bowling ball — it did. I still have a scar that people confuse for a dimple now, good job doctors!
Yes, first I rob banks without showing up to them, and I’m also unwittingly in a gang. This was another blow to my outlook on life.
When I was still in elementary school my mother told me that it was very important that I comply with the police, and it didn’t really matter if I did anything wrong or not because the end result was never good for us. It pains me to say that she was right. Though, I never told my mom this story, I don’t think she’d take it well. The only reason I was released that day was because my date didn’t match the getaway driver’s description. If not by chance, I might of been in prison or at least in court to fight something I had never done. So, convicted or not, guilty or not. I just want to see a person, and I wanted to learn how to see people and not their pasts; therefore the prison experience with the inmates was a great time for me. Besides, whether or not you like it, those people will eventually be released back to your community. Thus, we can either help to rehabilitate them or lot them rot in crime college, I chose the former.
When I tell them my story, they usually reciprocate with their own stories about when they were teens. Suddenly, you have a room of buff tattooed men in different gangs/races, who usually don’t speak to each other, having a heart to heart about their feelings. The trick was, as it was for me, to turn those negative feelings into positive action and break the mold others set for you.
I’m sure I was asked,”So, what type of doctor do you want to be?”, in several hundred forms. When I was a premed, I didn’t openly declare it, so I was pelted by this query too frequently early on. I sort of did premedical classes on the side, not really thinking much would come of it, besides the physiology minor that had overlapping courses. It was really much later, when I started studying for the MCAT that I started to be asked this question. During the MCAT, I found it easier to concentrate when I wasn’t at home, so I studied almost exclusively at Starbucks — I’m a proud gold member. There’s a consequence to being the MCAT Starbucks hobo, you engage in a lot of random conversations and you get asked the dreaded “What type of doc?” question. It may surprise you that a lot of people, both premed and medical students, may struggle with this question — neither the less it’s true.
To illustrate my point, at BUSM I met an attending physician who started off with the intent of going into family medicine, but they are now a trauma surgeon at the busiest trauma center in the region. So, I know I’ll probably waver in my choice, so I’m not that interested in pinning down what I’ll specialize in yet. There are over 120 specialties and sub-specialties, so I’d like some time to mull over my choices more during my M3 time. During that time, I’ll be during rotations so for now I’d rather focus on just making sure I’m competent during M1 and M2 — with a strong foundation anything else is possible.
What I think I’ll do…maybe…
Though, it’s not like I’m going into the process completely blind, I do have a vague idea of what I’d like to do; though, both choices are pretty far apart. I’m interested in cardiovascular medicine (preventative and/or possibly invasive). There’s two reasons for this: 1) my research during college involved me interpreting and crunching numbers from an oscilloscope on muscle tissue and heart is just a specialized type of muscle tissue, and 2) I like many others have seen cardiovascular disease take loved ones away (and a lot of it is rather preventable). During the course of my research project we had to work more with molecular biology, and although I studied a different signaling cascade, I became interested in cellular signaling disruptions and it’s relation to cancer. Later, I volunteered in a children’s oncology ward where I taught science and math to inpatients to help them keep up with school. For totally different reasons I was a constant inpatient growing up as well. Spending time with these kids was probably one of the highlights of my life for a variety of reasons.
Specialty according to survey
Well, I did take one of those specialty finding surveys last year while I was interviewing for fun. You can find a few medical specialty surveys out there if you Google around for them. There’s also one sponsored by the AAMC, but you need a “careers in medicine” upgraded account to access it (free for medical students, cash membership for others). Anyways, here were my survey from results said (several months back):
Surprisingly, cardiovascular medicine didn’t show up in my top 10, but medical oncology and radiation oncology came up as my #1 and #5 respectively in this survey. I really have no idea what I’ll do to be honest, but I’ll definitely will keep medical oncology research opportunities in mind. Though OB/GYN part shocked me, I’m not even sure what to do with babies when they’re near me — I tend to hold them lack a sack of musky potatoes. Hematology wasn’t that big of a surprise either, but plastic surgery in general was. I used to have to do micro dissections of a mouse palm, pulling two muscle groups out without significantly damaging the muscle fibers. If you were sloppy, and “manhandled” the muscle fibers the whole surgery was a waste of time, as was the whole experiment day. I both loved and hated this type of task, I suppose it’s not that far off from surgery. I liked the physical part of the task. But, what made it annoyingly tedious was that you had to pin muscle groups down with pins, handled by tweezers, and do the whole procedure with tiny tools using a dissection microscope. That means that all of my movement was always backwards and upside down. I suppose in human surgery I’ll be able to see straight, that might be a lot cooler. So, I’ll keep surgery in mind as well.
Well, if you’re like me and have no idea what you’ll specialize in, don’t feel alone! I have a hard time even deciding what I’ll eat for lunch.
So, here’s the good news everyone: I got into medical school — and my tuition is covered at Boston University via scholarship/loan.
Here’s the bad news everyone: my projected cost of living ($17,000 per year) was not covered (AHHHH!). I needed a cosigner, tried with my parents and it turns out it won’t go through (they took on another loan, not by me, and that person defaulted). So, now I’m in a pretty big pinch — as in I’m not sure how I will pay or rent or acquire calories — but I know I’ll be in medical school!
What’s my next move?
I won’t lie, my first reaction was to mentally assume the “fetal position”. After working hard to get into medical school, I never really imagined that being poor would end up being a liability — I suppose falsely correlated working hard with reward — I’m prone to this misconception. As a co-worker at the office of research said, “That must of felt like a punch in the gut”, truer words have never been said.
I appreciative that qualified for one scholarship. But, this month I’ll be devoting time to reaching out to more scholarships to hopefully make ends meet. I looked into military medicine scholarships, but I’m also not comfortable with the matching terms (they chose your residency/specialty more or less), and com’n me (Bob Marley MD) in the military?
Try for more loans?
This will be difficult, as I don’t exactly have a close knit family, so I don’t really have alternative options for cosigner. So, that’s likely not going to work out like it stereo-typically “should”. I can’t really go back and fix the past, but if I ever have kids I’ll remember the education money trap they may fight against (though, I’ll make sure my kids never experience it).
*Are you wealthy prince/princess willing to fund my medschool journey? =)*
Well, that’s my only option here. My tuition is covered, and I have a few thousand in the bank so I can pay for rent for a few months at least. After that it’s pretty much up in the air. I considered getting a job while in medical school, but I’m a little afraid that it’ll detract from my education — and I’ve pretty much always had a side job, I was looking forward to just “studying”. However, as I’m left with dwindling options it looks like I may be working during medschool at some point.
I’ve been approached about selling my blog (I didn’t know people bought blogs), but I’ve dismissed that as an option — this is blog is rather therapeutic for me. I’m also against monetizing my blog with ads, but I am debating setting up a Paypal donate button or those who’d like to help keep me clothed and feed in Boston in the future.
I don’t believe that karma exist for scientific reasons alone. However, I have to admit it favors me to not believe in karma, because if I did I’d really start to wonder atrocity I’ve committed in the universe (or past life) that now needs righting. Neither the less, I’ll continue to do what I do best, move on into the unknown.
Anyways, don’t expect any hiccups of my blog, nor don’t expect me to try to gauge you into paying for my content now. I assume, you are like me, broke (po’ folk). Let’s mutually wish each other luck.
Note to self:
If there is a next life, remember to be born in a better position. But for now, I’m stuck in this one and have to make due with the tools I have at my disposal. No regrets.
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As you may already know I do help people with the personal statements from time to time. I am used to receiving pretty critical feedback, I think this was the nature of my previous lab work. I remember when I gave my principal investigator my first writing sample. When he returned it I was certain he had for some mysterious reason changed all the font to red. Well, turned out he thought one part was pretty good, my name and the title. Assuaging my battered ego, who tried to relate to me by explaining the time he felt eviscerated by reviewers. Take some time off without looking at the review, let the emotions die down, and approach it again once I’m able to distance myself from the piece was his advice to me. He was right. Now, I love to see critiques, because it means I have room for improvement.
So, that introduction was to parlay into my point of today’s post, which is I’m taking drafts for personal statements. I review/critique legally binding research documents,research protocol applications, and personal statements (for scholarships). So, I’ll try to use that experience, plus my own with my own personal statement I wrote last year. I think in August (when my first year of medschool starts) I’m going to post my own personal statement, as a temporary template. For now, I’m still going through the background check, so I’d prefer if my words didn’t come up as a “originality issue” until after I matriculate in August.
Here’s the deal:
- I will for no charge read and critique your personal statement.
- The dates of submission can start from now 3/19/14 until 4/15/14 (I’ll probably regret this later =) ).
- Because of time commitments, I can all do three rounds of feedback. So, the third round of feedback I send you will be the last, if a third is necessary at all. But, beware, I’m pretty critical, so if you don’t want an actual critique (or you feel you’re not ready) I can be pretty honest, but I try to be nice =).
- How to contact me — just email me at ruedjgtc(at symbol)gmail.com (sorry I don’t want bot spam). Be sure to title the email Personal Statement with First name only. I get a lot of emails each day, so it’ll get lost in the sea if you don’t label it.
- If you follow me on Twitter, then just direct message me and we’ll work something out. If you have gmail, and we can chat there, that’d be optimal because then I can put things into context better. But, don’t feel beholden to that, just email me.
- And on my end, I promise to not share your personal statement, nor break confidentiality. I will delete your personal statement off of my machine no later than 7 days after we finish our last session (so, I’m sorry if you lose your PS, I won’t keep a copy).
- I will also make sure to have it back to you in a timely manner, say no more than 3 business days after I send you a receipt email to confirm I’ve gotten it.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, though if you’re a premed it’s likely the only use for the remembering the date 2/14 is that 1.4 is a pretty good approximation to the square root of 2 — useful in all walks of life.
Word of the Month – FAFSA
For now, it means just as much as it means: half way through February, so I better hurry up and get my taxes done if I want to have priority financial aid processing. I have already submitted my FAFSA, but I need to submit my taxes to correct my estimation. I have abjectly poor, so I don’t have to worry about them finding out about my next egg in Antigua. I suppose my only apprehension is my parent’s taxes, on FAFSA my parent’s taxes aren’t considered because I’m well past independent status legally and financially. However, there is another funding agency that does consider my parent’s income, and well most schools feel your parents will likely contribute to your education. My step is the sole source of income for my parents, luckily for them his income alone makes them well off. Though, let us take a recent example parents try to extrapolate my parents future contribution to my goals of medicine:
Mom: his white coat ceremony is in Boston, in August, we have to buy tickets to go see it.
Step Dad: we can’t afford that.
So, I don’t really expect their assets to be an asset to me, after all I’m below the poverty line and still managed to afford to fly around the United States, they are making six-figures and yet afford to fly out for a few days to Boston – go figure. In my undergrad years, I got caught up in a similar Catch-22: parents earned too much for me to get aid, but I didn’t have money because my parents weren’t willing to contribute in a significant way anyways. In this case, I think once my financial aid package is secure I’ll feel better I’m sure. On a tangential note, hug your parents if they’re bankrolling your premed/medschool dreams — there’s nothing to be ashamed, they worked hard because they believed in you.
I remember when my interviewer called me from Boston Medical to tell me that I was accepted, she said to me “Make sure to go out and celebrate with your family, they’re going to be so happy”. I’m really happy she called me, I’m really happy she was happy for me, because in all honesty those moments on the phone were my only sources of tangible celebration on that day — and all the days to follow it.
I Bought Pants…and Shoes! (non dress up)
To reward myself (and to not let this post end on a dreary note), I bought more clothes for myself. Recently, it occurred to me that I’d vested all my effort into getting into medical school, leaving myself disheveled. In fact, all of my pants (I deem wearable) have a hole in them. Now, there’s aesthetic holes that double the price of garments, and there’s “give that guy some change” holes, and it was moving towards the latter. So, I decided I needed several fine pairs of trousers. I needed to do something to celebrate getting into Boston Medical, right? I look forward to meeting my new family and support network at Boston Medical, maybe they’ll notice my snazzy attire.
Till next time. =)