2014 MCAT: No writing score. My MCAT Study Plan + Tips AMCAS Submitted: June 2nd, 2015 AMCAS Verified: June 4th, 2015
Activities: 1. Research Assistant, Psych Lab (3 years, no summers): 2nd author publication 2. Research Assistant, Hospital Emergency Department (1.5 years, no summers): assisted in Pt enrollment, data collection, data analysis, shadowed residents and attendings while waiting to enroll patients, 3rd author manuscript in progress 3. Resident Assistant, for both freshman and upperclassmen (2 years, no summers): won RA of the Year, duties included policy enforcement, value-based programming, crisis response, peer counseling, etc 4. Student Worker/Peer Health Educator, Student Wellness Resource Room (2 years, no summers): administrative duties, peer counseling on issues related to sexual health and mindfulness 5. Volunteer (2 years, no summers)>: lunch packing and distribution to the homeless & working poor. as well as miscellaneous service programs for my hall 6. Owner/Designer, Online Business (3 years, on and off): started off as a hobby, then launched an Etsy shop because I didn't want a "typical" part time job in college; will most likely commit to this full time during my gap year and transition from Etsy to my own website 6. Shadowing (~200-300 hrs, including some of the time spent during my clinical research shifts): EM, FM, pediatrics, OB/GYN, psychiatry (indirectly via ED consults) 7. Grab bag of awards, scholarships, research fellowships 8. Medical Scribe: Gap year job 30 hours/week 9. Volunteer at Medical Non-Profit: Gap year volunteering 10 hours/week
Super excited for this admissions cycle! MDApps was super useful for me when I was looking up schools, and I'd love to give back by sharing my journey!
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 05/31/2015
Undergraduate college: University of Southern California
Undergraduate Area of study: Psychology/Social Sciences
Total MCAT SCORE: 523
MCAT Section Scores:
Overall GPA: 3.98
Science GPA: 3.98
Summary of Application Experience
7/2: Received my first batch of secondaries today! WUSL, UMich, UChicago, Duke, Columbia, URochester. I pre-wrote all of my essays based on last year's prompts. While this caused me to break out for the entire month of June due to all the stress, I am soooo glad I did. I received secondaries from 6 schools today, and out of the 15 prompts assigned/available, I already had 13 ready. It made submitting them that much easier!
7/3 Secondary received and submitted to Baylor! Still waiting for payments/fee waivers and LORs to kick in for all my other schools. Columbia marked complete.
7/4: Rochester marked complete. Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
7/6: Hopkins and USC Keck secondaries received and submitted. Pretty much halfway done now! YUSSSS.
7/7: NYU secondary received and submitted. UCLA "primary received" notification.
7/8: Vandy secondary received and submitted! SUPER STOKED.
7/9: Mayo LOR request received! I'm so happy and grateful!! Can't wait for the rest of the cycle!
7/12: Case secondary received and submitted! The CCLCM tracks broke my heart a little ahaha, since I wasn't expecting the UT prompts to be included. Thank goodness the SDN community informed me of it last night! Although it probably would have been more cost-effective, I still decided not to apply to the UP; CCLCM's mission and set up just seemed to click with me more. It's a reach, but here's to hoping!
7/13: HMS secondary received and submitted! Getting an II here would be an absolute dream.
7/14: UCLA secondary received and submitted! Keeping my fingers crossed for this on! Mayo LORs received; app now complete! Baylor "has been reviewed" status seen today!
7/15: UC Davis "primary received" email. UCI secondary received and submitted! Pritzker II *screaming*
7/16: UCSD received AHHH *dances*. There was a glitch in the photo uploading section, so I'm not able to submit, unfortunately. ALSO, UCI INTERVIEW INVITE? WUT. The turnaround is crazy!
7/20: UCSF secondary received and submitted! Keeping my fingers crossed! It seemed like UMichMedMondays were not a thing this week...what a tease, haha.
7/28: Keck II! My alma mater loves me!
7/30: Baylor status changed from "has been reviewed" to "is being reviewed!" Hopefully, rumor holds true and I'll hear some good news soon!
8/3: UCSD INTERVIEW INVITE. SCREAMING.
8/10: HOPKINS INTERVIEW INVITE. IS THIS REAL LIFE.
8:/11: Vandy II! Over the moon!
8/14: Mayo II AHHHHHHHHHH
8/27: CCLCM II!! Unreal!
8/28: Decided to bite the bullet and submitted an app to Stanford. Relatively late, considering how I timed the rest of my application -______- but what the hell. It's $37, and I'll have no regrets.
09/01: Columbia II! Beyond excited! Unfortunately, when I checked the portal, all the available September dates resulted in conflict -___- I emailed the admissions committee and was allowed to delay my interview until the first week of October. Frantically writing an ITA email to NYU and Rochester in hopes of garnering more interviews for that week and saving me a couple expensive flights!
09/02: USCF and HMS INTERVIEW INVITE. WHAT IS HAPPENING. I found out during my layover on my way to Baltimore. Needless to say, a lot of screaming happened in Dallas.
09/16: WashU II! Estatic!
09/18: Duke II AHHHHHHH BEYOND STOKED. I really thought I was passed over or that they didn't like something in my secondary essays, but super surprised and thrilled to have this chance to visit! Unfortunately, they also use the MMI, so I guess it's just one interview style that I'll have to get used to... -_______-
10/20: Mayo hold email. I'll take it. I've been incredibly lucky just to have a chance to visit!
10/27: Withdrew from UC Davis, USC, and URochester at this point. Still waiting for my Pritzker email, haha!
10/30: Waitlisted at UCI. Am not upset at all, to be honest.
11/4: Waitlisted at UCSD! It feels weird to be so relieved about this decision, but considering how I never felt at home at UCSD, I'm sure it's for the best. Best of luck to those waiting to hear back!
11/5: Finally received my Pritzker letter! Still very much in love with this school.
11/20: R-r-rejected from UCLA! Oh well, can't say I'm not bummed, but honestly still riding the Pritzker high.
12/01: Boooooooo, Stanford, you heartbreaker. Not surprised though: my "late" app and less-than-steller essays don't paint me as the best applicant, haha. At least now my folks can stop nagging me about applying there!
12/08: Awwwwwww, Hopkins, why don't you love me? Placed on the alternate list, and am completely honored for the chance to visit. Keeping my fingers crossed for this one!
12/17: Aw, NYU rejection.
12/18: UCSF waitlist! I'm keeping my hopes up for this one!
01/15: Awwww, officially alternate-listed at Mayo. Not a huge surprised, and honestly, I don't know if I'm willing to stay on it. I have until March 1st to decide, so I guess I'll wait to hear back from other schools first? Also, Pritzker emailed me about sending in financial aid forms, but I still haven't received my tax documents... =___= On the flipside, with 2016 well underway, I'm itching (and dreading) to hear back from some of my dream schools. I'm not expecting anything, since the interviewees I've met are so stellar and competitive. I'm really just happy to have had the chance to visit, haha!
02/10: Received my second NYC-based telemarketing call this month. With Columbia supposedly releasing admissions decisions soon, I think I'll have my first heart attack before February is over...
02/11: AHHHHHHHHHHHHH COLUMBIA ACCEPTED. Third time's the charm; I received a phone call from my interviewer this morning!
02/23: Vandy waitlist. :( I'm not devastated, since I'm still riding on my Columbia high, but I was a bit sad because I remember being so happy at my Vandy interview. I guess this was for the best.
02/27: CCLCM alternate list. To be honest, I'm not even mad. CCLCM is a fantastic institution with a unique model, and I'm so incredibly proud and honored to have even made it this far! I'll keep my name on the alternate list for now, but we'll see how things go!
02/29: DUKE ACCEPTANCE OMG. Honestly, truly unexpected. I'm not an outwardly social person, so even though I loved my interview day experience and all that Duke has to offer, an acceptance didn't even cross my mind because it was an MMI interview. Beyond thrilled, and I don't know how I could possibly decide among Pritzker, Columbia, and DukeMed. To be honest, at this point, I might even let financial aid decide for me, which is something I told myself i wouldn't do, but I just really do love all of my options.
03/02 Aww, HMS rejected. Ah well, at least I can say I've tried!
03/09 RECEIVED A CALL FROM LEILA SAYING I RECEIVED A $200K MERIT SCHOLARSHIP. *ugly crying*
03/14 Pritzker FinAid letter arrived in the mail today! Apparently, Pritzker's aid methodology is COA - EFC - merit $$$ = need. Pritzker does not use the scholarship to reduce the loans first, as some other schools do. Regardless, this is still my cheapest option! Super happy and grateful.
03/15 Duke FinAid offer received via email today! I received ~$34K in need-based grants for next year, which was more generous than expected. Duke is still more expensive than Pritzker, and one thing that concerns me is the fact that need based aid requires that I reapply for financial aid every year (it was difficult enough to obtain parental information for one year...). Duke is one of the few schools that would combine merit scholarships with need-based grants (reducing loans first), so I'm keeping my fingers crossed haha. That said, I don't expect anything, especially since I didn't expect to get in! The chance to attend is more than an honor already.
Also, my folks and I had the talk today. They are still praying really, REALLY hard from a UCSF acceptance off the waitlist, and am already asking my hypotheticals on if I would choose Pritzker over California. Until I actually receive an acceptance offer, I don't think I can fully consider this scenario the way I should...
4/29: After painfully drafting withdrawal emails to both Duke and Columbia (...especially to Columbia), I am thrilled to say that I'm matriciulating at Pritzker!!
5/10: Received a call from Ms. Mazza while driving my mom to work this morning. De-waitlisted at Hopkins?! askjf;alsjf;al Just...what....life does not feel real right now.
5/16: Painfully withdrew from Pritzker today. To by shock (but total delight), Hopkins was extremely generous with financial aid, and estimates show that the difference would be <$10K over for years, taking the finances out of my decision. I spent most of the week debating between Pritzker's community/love/support with Hopkins's opportunities. After consulting a few friends and fellow applicants who had the chance to attend SLW at both institutions, I decided to take a leap of faith, and will be heading to the East Coast coming July/August! ---
COSTS NOTE: FAP recipient
Primary (19 schools) $148. Secondaries (Baylor $50) $50 Black Nordstrom (Halogen) pantsuit (Jacket + Pants) $145 Thank you, Anniversary sale! Navy JCPenney (Hollywould) junior pantsuit + tailoring (Jacket + Pants) $58 + $15 = $73 Used two $10 off coupons while items were on sale. Black LifeStride pumps (image) $4 Thrifted at Goodwill Black flats (image) $25 at TJ Maxx Black (Kenneth Cole) Tote (image) $30 at TJ Maxx Pritzker Flight + Shuttle $447 + $57 = $504This is what happens when you have an engineer father who's picky about his airplanes... Hopkins Flight + Shuttle + Uber $384 + $23 + $22 = $429 Vanderbilt Flight + Uber $392 + $25 = $417 My wallet has started crying Mayo Flight $331 Cleveland Flight $385 UCSF Flight $79 My Southwest Rewards came to use! I was able to get the ticket there for free with my points Columbia Flight $163 one way flight NYC to Boston bus $13 HMS Flight $183 Managed to find a cheaper flight the following day. Thank goodness for a 24 cancellation policy WashU Flight + MetroRail $324 + $6 = $330 Duke Flight + Uber + Food $450 + $49 + $35 = $534 Pritzker SLW Flight+Bus+Uber $548 + $2.50 + $13 = $563.50 TOTAL: $4406
University of California, Davis
Combined PhD/MSTP: No
Secondary Completed: No
Interview Invite: No
Interview Attended: No
Summary of Experience:
Withdrew upon Pritzker acceptance.
Summary of Experience:
Boooooooo, Stanford, you heartbreaker. Not surprised though: my "late" app and less-than-steller essays don't paint me as the best applicant, haha. At least now my folks can stop nagging me about applying there!
Summary of Experience:
9/2: INTERVIEW INVITE *high pitched scream* Best possible news on my layover in Dallas! The admissions committee was very responsive when I asked for to postpone my trip to a later week. It saved me on a good $400-$600!
10/8: To be honest, I still can't quite believe that I'm writing this. HMS is every premed's absolute dream, and I sent in my app expecting nothing, but thinking, "Why the hell not?" The opportunity to visit has been nothing short of surreal, even though the interview experience itself didn't blow me away.
I took the BoltBus from NYC to Boston and was pleasantly surprised with the experience. The seats are larger, with more leg room, WiFi, and outlets. I was able to enjoy the scenery (Boston and New York are absolutely beautiful during this time of year), and the ride costs only a 3rd as much as a plane ticket. Score!
As for Boston itself...I loved it. Not as crowded as New York, it has a modest grandeur that I just don't find on the west coast. Buildings are large and expansive, with shops and cabs lining the streets. I arrived at the Boston South Station and took an Uber to my host, who lived in HMS's dormitory-styled housing. Vanderbilt Hall, with its rustic exterior, central outdoor tennis court, and lavishly decorated common rooms, is breathtaking. With the exception of its smaller rooms, the building (much like the rest of HMS) exudes wealth, power, and privilege. I was originally worried that I wouldn't fit in this sort of social environment, but all of the MS1s at the pizza dinner were extremely humble and down-to-earth. They absolutely loved their experiences thus far, and have only had good things to say. About 80% of the MS1 class stays in Vandy, where rent is about $800/mo (very affordable compared to the rest of Boston), with community bathrooms and kitchens on each floor.
Throughout the pizza dinner, the students spoke about the Pathways curriculum, their clinical experiences, and the 5 Societies. Each class at HMS comprises of 135 Pathways students (split into 4 societies) and 30 HST students (who all belong in the 5th society). Pathways, which was the track I applied to, recently underwent a massive curriculum change that resulted in a 1-year "flipped classroom" preclinical, with clerkships during M2, and differentiation during M3 and M4. It's very similar to Vanderbilts, which interests me, but while Vandy offers a hybrid of lectures and PBLs, HMS utilizes a flipped classroom technique. That is, students are provided with video modules and daily assigned reading (which take most 6-8 hours to prep and complete), and are expected to attend "tutorials" the following day in order to apply that foundational knowledge towards specific cases. Attendance becomes mandatory with this style of learning (which is eerily similar to CCLCM's format), and students are constantly engaged within their societies. I personally love it, although students do lament that it leaves them with very little time to pursue extracurricular commitments during M1. Grading is strictly P/F during preclinicals, without internal ranking nor AOA. "It pisses residency directors off a bit," a student joked. "They literally can't tell where we standing in the class, and with the Big H, are kind of forced to give our applications the benefit of the doubt." Additionally, throughout this preclinical year, students are also assigned to one of HMS's 17 affiliated hospitals, including the famous Massachusetts General Hospital. "As MS1s, we literally have done nothing to deserve being at MGH, yet every Wednesday, some of us actually get to go and see patients there. It's insane," a student raved. Honestly, this level of exposure sounds nothing short of incredible, and knowing that I would have the opportunity to see patients weekly starting my first week in med school is just...goodness.
Interview Day itself started at 8:15am with orientation in Gordon Hall, the crown jewel of the HMS campus. As I approached the building, I was reminded of just how small I was (it is massive), and just how surreal it was to actually be there. The marble complex, with its Neoclassical decor, brightly lit interiors, and lavish ambience, left all the interviewees intimidated, haha. After receiving our packets and a welcoming conversation from the dean, we all learned quickly at how unstructured the interview day was. My first impression was that it was "so Harvard" and pretentious to not really care about its applicants, but after hearing the students talk during the optional tour and lunch panel, I learned that it wasn't the case. HMS, unlike most schools, is incredibly spread out, and thus struggles to make interview day cohesive and "pretty." On this flip side, the breadth of opportunities proves to be invaluable for the medical students; as another phrased it, "the sheer amount of faculty, research, and interdisciplinary leadership going on here is unparalleled by any other institution in the country, and probably the world." HMS stresses that it doesn't want students who merely want to pursue private practice; rather, it wants to train leaders in academic medicine, public policy, global health, etc.
During the lunch panel, the students stressed that we take our time in deciding schools. While they admit that the name will open "a shit ton of" doors, each of them emphasized that those chose Harvard due the the fit they felt during Second Look. The endless support, top-notch yet genuine peers, and expectations to do something beyond medicine brought them here. Additionally, while HMS's unit lone is a bit higher than its peers at $33K/year, students stress that it is often generous with the EFC. "Just...look at it carefully," a student warned. I'll be taking these words to heart!
My interviews were...fine. The first one, with a faculty member, was a bit intense, as he asked very targeted questions about my personal statement, activities, and interests. He then followed this with hypotheticals about health policy, which definitely was not my strong suit, and overall I enjoyed the conversation. I don't think (or hope?!) that any of my responses hurt me, but I'm aware that none of my answers were particularly impressive. It also felt strange when he switched topics out of the blue, occasionally cutting me off to do so. -___- That said, I absolutely loved by second interview, and I think I was able to connect well with the student interviewer. Again, I don't have any high hopes in particularly, but just having the interview experience is a true come true!
3/2: Boooooo, you heartbreaker. Honestly not upset nor disappointed. I'm already so happy with my options, and HMS is a long shot for anyone. Oh well!
Summary of Experience:
8/11: II! Over the moon! Absolutely stoked to have the honor to visit Music City, USA!
9/14: Goodness, help me, I shouldn't be falling in love with so many schools. To put it simply, I applied to Vanderbilt because I was interested in their Curriculum 2.0 (a 1 year preclinical, which was essentially unheard of in other schools) and the university's emphasis on wellness. I left interview day absolutely enthralled with all that Vandy and Nashville had to offer.
After flying into BNA airport at 5:30pm, I was tired and dazed from the 6 hour flight. I used an Uber to get from the airport to my host's apartment, and got a first hand taste of the famous Southern Hospitality. My Uber drove spent a lot of time welcoming me to Nashville, praising the city's growth and culture, along with Vanderbilt's resources and facilities. As I rode through town, I found my city and neighborhoods to be charming in that old-city style kind of way. There were clusters of store and shops, but they weren't as crowded as ones in Baltimore or Hyde Park. Housing was very...Southern, yet spacious. I was lucky to visit when they weather was "atypical and ideal," but the bright sun and cool breeze had me super pleasantly surprised.
I arrived at my host's space, and we talked for a little bit before I left to attend an informal dinner that the MS1s had set up. Nashville, I was told repeatedly, was super affordable in comparison to bustling cities like LA, Chicago, or NYC. "The money that you use to live in like...a box, near Columbia, could easily get you a 1 bedroom apartment here," one of the MS1s enthused. Indeed, my host and her roommate hair a 2 story townhouse, 2 bed/1.5 bath, for about $800 a month, and she lives about 5 minutes from campus. MS1s, who tend to cluster a bit further on 24th and Fairfax, easily share a space for $500-$650/month each. The farther away from campus, the cheaper and larger the space. Since Vandy has its own medical complex and is close to a particular set of shops and stores, cars aren't necessary (though always convenient), and my MS4 host doesn't have one.
Dinner was a nice, casual affair, and I was enjoyed how collegiate it all felt. It was the kind of relaxed, down to earth, genuinely fun (and funny) environment that I only felt at Pritzker, and I think that's a very good sign! Jackson's Bar and BIstro served all day brunch and Souther cuisine, and throughout the dinner the MS1s would not stop raving about how much they loved the school, C2.0, and their class. Like Pritzker, UCI (?), and Hopkins, Vandy sorts their class of 88 students into 4 colleges, where the student learn about ethical dilemmas and get close mentorship as well as career advising. Also, Vandy also promotes the big/little system within the colleges, creating a close and strong network of peer-on-peer mentorship and families. To me, this support system sounds astounding, and it really illustrates how student-centered Vanderbilt is. The whole night just made me that much more excited for interview day!
The next morning, my host walked me to the admissions office just in time for their small breakfast: bundt cake (?) and coffee. As a sweet tooth, I was pleased (heehee). While the applicants were all talking and introducing ourselves, the Director of Admissions came out and spoke to all of each individually, asking about our stay, whether we've been to Nashville, etc. It was really one of the warmest welcomes from a medical school by far. I think everyone was really surprised by how genuinely nice people are here.
After breakfast, we listened to a brief presentation from the Co-Director of Admissions about Vandy, Nashvillle, and their culture. It's interesting to here how much Vandy has changed over the years (the Co-Director was a VUSM alumna), and I grew more and more interested about Curriculum 2.0. Following the short welcome, which emphasized C2.0, Nashville, the Colleges, and Wellness at Vandy, we all split apart to attend our interviews. Vanderbilt has 2 interviews: 1 closed file for 30 minutes, and 1 open file for 45 minutes-1 hour. Both are with faculty, who after the interview, write up a description/impression of the applicant for the admissions committee.
I think (I hope?) my interviews went alright. I was told the night before that the short behavioral interview may get stressful, since the point is to bombard me with one question after another, but I didn't find myself being too stressed at all. I was veyr fortunate, actually, that I was able to pull from my RA experience almost exclusively to answer questions. It was actually pretty fun, especially since my interviewer had been an RA in her undergraduate years as well. She did have a list of 8-9 questions that she had to answer, and jotted notes of my responses throughout, which I didn't mind.
As for my long interview...I don't know what to make of it really. I mean, I think it went well, since we were able to engage in conversation, but I was really only asked 3-4 questions that didn't really pertain to my application (i.e. How do you handle stress? My answer: I eat a lot of junk/sweet food or talk it out.) and the rest of the time was spent talking about Vanderbilt history and Nashville's social climate. I wasn't sure if he wanted to know me as a applicant, or wanted to see if I would fit into the culture of Nashville. Nevertheless, I genuinely enjoyed our conversation, and I really grateful to hear of how progressive Nashville seems to be, even in the South, and how it's gradually opening itself to conversation and dialogue about gentrification, poverty, and health disparities. Hopefully, my interviewer was able to grasp my sense of excitement?! I was a bit thrown back when he asked me what other schools I applied to, "out of curiosity," and I answered pretty broadly ("I applied everywhere: CA, Northeast, the South"). I then spent the next few minutes trying to reassure him that while my parents would love for me to stay in California, I don't hold as a deep a love, and am definitely open to living and exploring another part of the US, as long a the enviroment is progressive, open to discussion about diversity and social issues. I'll take it as a good sign when he said, "I think you'll fit in well here in Nashville then." Whelp, we'll see how this pans out, haha!
After both of my interviews, I was able to explore the school for about 15 minutes before we all gathered back in the admissions office for a presentation about Curriculum 2.0. And let me just say that I am sold. Curriculum 2.0 boasts a 1-year preclinical, allowings MS2s to do their core clerkships for a year (for P/F!!) before taking Step 1. This not only helps them score better on the board (which has gotten increasingly clinical-heavy), but also frees up years MS3 and MS4 for the Immersion Phase. In short: a truly personalized educational experience. Research is mandatory for 3 months, but want to extend it to a year? Go ahead. Want to do away rotations, even internationally? Sure! A dual degree? Awesome. Want to explore a specialty further in order to maximize your residency application? Excellent. Grading is all competency based, and the Immersion years are graded as H/HP/P/F, which is fine, since you should be doing well in the courses you want to take anyway, right? Honestly, this seems like such an amazing system. Throughout the 4 years, students also meet up with a portfolio coach who guides them through the various medical competencies and helps them prime their application for residency. To me, that level of mentorship is astounding, and it made me fall in love with Vandy that much more.
I think it was also during this moment when I had a very strong realization about my cycle and medicine: I want, above all else, to attend a school that truly supports its students. I can become a doctor at any school, but I want a school that thinks about its students, about how it can support the students' professional and personal goals, and a school that treats us like we matter. Brand names may or may not offer that. Cost may or may not reflect that. And location certainly has not play in this. I thank Vandy because it's taught me to really think beyond what I know about the school and really hone in on its culture, curriculum, and care.
Following the C2.0 lecture, we all gathered in the student lounge for lunch, where our tour guides and student table hosts talked about their experiences and favorite things about Vanderbilt. We had a tour of the medical campus shortly afterwards, and I was really happy to see that Vandy host a bunch of medical centers sprawled around the admissions building. Everything is walking distance, and the med students get to see a wide range of patients, from the very wealthy to the local poor. Vandy Hospital is a Level 1 trauma center in the region, so a lot of Pts end up flying in for care. To me, that's awesome, knowing that I would be seeing more than just "standard" cases.
Once everyone was done with their tours, we all gathered for a tour of the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment (CELA, aka the SimLab). It was the first time I was able to explore a SimLab in depth, and while the manniquines kind of freak me out (joy...), I appreciated the experience. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to a series of short presentations and panels: a student panel in which the students all raved about the school, a presentation on Vandy's committment to diversity, and a closing remarks presentation. It was during this time that we received "the essentials:" what happens next. As stated earlier, the interviewers will write a report of the applicant to be sent to the admissions committee. The admissions committee will meet as soon as October to beginning discussing interviewed candidates, and decisions are made in either mid-December or mid-Februrary (regardless of when you interview). There will also be a meeting with the Dean regarding financial aid, but for now, any merit scholarship offers will be made with acceptance. Scholarship offers are determined by a separate committee, using the pool of accepted students. Last year, about 50% of accepted applicants received a 75% scholarship, and this year 6 full tuition scholarship offers (WHUT) will also be made...that is, if the Deans gives his blessing haha!
All in all, I'm completely in love with what Vanderbilt has to offer: the support, the collegiate feel, the curriclum and flexibility. I'll keep my fingers crossed for an answer in mid-December. Honestly, an acceptance here would be a dream come true!
2/23: Vandy waitlist. :( I'm not devastated, since I'm still riding on my Columbia high, but I was a bit sad because I remember being so happy at my Vandy interview. I guess this was for the best.
Summary of Experience:
8/14: INTERVIEW INVITE. WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.
9/21: Oh man, if you had told me that I would have the privilege to interview at the most selective medical school in the nation, I would have scoffed and called you naive. MMS is a true gem in the sea of medical schools, hiding behind its Top 20 US News Ranking (when its resources could easily place it as a Top 5) and its location in Rochester, Minnesota. I attended my interview expecting to be blown away by the campus and disappointed by the location, but oh my goodness, I absolutely loved both.
Rochester, as many will tell you, is "in the middle of nowhere." With a population of only 100,000 people or so, 30,000 of whom are employed by Mayo Clinic and MMS, its easy to see how claustrophobic this town might be. While this might detract students are wish for a larger social scene during their college experience, I actually find myself not minding it at all. I rarely went in college anyway, and Minneapolis is about an hour and a half away if I happen to want something more than the daily routine. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by how similar Rochester is to the various small suburbs I had lived as a kid in Washington. I definitely felt nostalgic when I was there, haha! And really, Rochester isn't missing anything necessary to daily living; there are shops, dinners, a Costco (which is really all I cared about HAHA), parks, lakes...the list goes on. You definitely should have a car here, but it's not "necessary to surivive." Most students either living within walking distance of Mayo or take the shuttle (since there is not campus parking), so the car is really used to go grocery shopping to head out of town for a weekend trip. Personally, if I'm given the opportunity to consider Mayo, I would actually list Rochester as a positive rather than a negative.
My hosts were extremely nice and genuinely happy about their experience at Mayo, which is incredible. They raved about the small class size, selective options, and how they're really learning "from the best of the best" here. Thoughts about Rochester seemed to be split 50/50, but I think that really depends a lot on your own undergraduate experience and how you expect medical school to be. My hosts found that they appreciated Rochester's peaceful calm, since "you go to med school to learn and study" and with their 2 most difficult blocks being taught at the beginning of the first year, it makes sense. "There are some days when I wondered what it would be like if I had chosen to go to medical school in NYC. Then I realized that I would be super distracted all the time," she jokes.
Dinner was a lively affair, since a good portion of hosts brought their interviewees together at the Forager Brewery. Pizza was delicious, and everyone made a genuine effort to really get to know us and praise their experience at Mayo. The class size seems to be a huge seller, allowing one to really get to know their professors, while providing one with plentiful opportunities for patient contact and research. To me, this is amazing. As I've said in my other school reviews, I really look for a strong suport system in a school. While I consider myself to be a go-getter who takes initiative when something interests me, I want the other party to be receptive and supportive of that. Moreover, the flexibility of the selectives between blocks allows students to really direct and customize their education. "It's really perfect. Just don't date anyone in your class," they joked. "The rest of us will find out in like...3 hours." Following dinner, we all drove over to Snagdoodle, a whimsical homemade ice cream shop, where I was able to meet more students. Seeing them all bond so closely and comfortably with one another made me really excited about the idea of attending Mayo!
The next morning, my host drove us to one of the shuttle lots where MS1s and MS2s are allowed to park. Mayo's primary model is "The needs of the patient come first," and everything it does reflects that. The parking lots, for example, are reserved exclusively for patients, their families, and attending physicians. Hospital employees, on the other hand, are assigned a shuttle lot based on how often they've worked at Mayo; the lot that MS1s are assigned would require a Mayo staff member 12 years of employment!
Interview Day officially started at 8am with coffe, snacks, and an introduction to MMS. Dr. Romanski is a quiet woman, who puts a lot of thoughts into her words. She gave us a brief history of Mayo and its founding, which helped explain the school's philosphy of training physician leaders and physician scientests, as well as its location in Rochester. After Dr. Romanski's brief introduction, Ms. Perez came in to briefly go through the admissions process and curriculum.
Let's start with the admissions process: there are 2 partially blinded interviews, in which the interviewer knows your personal statement and activitis, but not your stats. (Mayo is famous for looking at so much more than your numbers.) Following your interviews, each of your interviewer write a report of their impressions of you, as well as rank you from 1-5, with 5 being the highest score. Now, what my host told me the night before was that your application already has a score on it, which may have been used to decide who receives an interview invitation. Your scores are then added up to a total of 15, and the adcoms meet every Wednesday (or every other Wednesday?) to discuss the interviewed applicants. Since they prefer both of your interviewers to be presents and advocate for you, your application may not be discussed right away. Once you are "ranked," you will receive an email informing you that you've reached the final step; you will not know what your rank is. Starting on 10/15, appointments (acceptances) will be given out on a rolling basis, with the bulk of them being offered in January. Only after all acceptance are given out does Mayo decide who goes on the waitlist and who gets rejected, again using these rankings as a metric. Mayo is extremely receptive to letters of intent and updates, since it pulls as much as half of its class off the waitlist. I was surprised to hear that the average admitted Mayo student holds 6-8 acceptances, which accounts for its high turnover. Personally, I also hope this means good things will happen this cycle! ;)
Next, the curriculum: unfortunately, the admissions staff didn't spend much time going over this. As illustrated in the handout we were given, Mayo's curriculum is organized in blocks spanning 4-8 weeks. Between each block, students are given 1-2 weeks, sometimes as along as 6-8 at the end of 2nd year, to essentially do whatever they want. As long as the activity is remotely related to medicine and takes up 20 hours/week, then you can do anything from shadowing specialists to research to community service. Furthermore, the world is yours! Want to go home and shadow a physician in your hometown? Sure! Want to visit another country and do global health research? Awesome! There is a 3 month reseach requirement, but students are allows to spread that out as much as they please. Classes are usually in the morning (MS1s) with 3 afternoons free, or in the afternoon (MS2s) with 3 mornings free. It's a unique mix, I think. One thing I would've wanted to learn more about was the clinical opportunities available during rotations, but I guess I'll look into that further if I happen to get an acceptance.
There was a brief talk about financial aid, which recently transitioned to being need-based rather than something that every student received. Mayo still boasts about its generosity, with the average debt being only around $60K including undergraduate debt. Ms. Perez mentioned that there may be 1-2 merit scholarships offered depending on their budget, but that's just incredibly rare.
After this introduction, I had my first interview with a faculty member. He was super nice and seemed genuinely happy to meet interviewees, and I found our interview to be one of the most conversational by far. I hope this brings good news! I didn't receive any behavioral type questions, but I do think my student interviewer made up for that haha! She interviewed me in the afternoon, after the tour and lunch. It was a pleasant interview, but I did notice that she focused more on behavioral questions and trying to see what makes me tick as a person and who I am beyond medicine. It wasn't as relaxed, but definitely was thought provoking rather than stressful.
Between my interviews was the tour, and OH GOSH. THE TOUR. THE FACIILITIES. Hands down, Mayo has the most gorgeous facilities I've ever seen. Everything is centered around the patient, from the decor made at eye-level for the pediatrc patients, to the brightly and airy lobby, to the piano and volunteer singers. Everything is made for the comfort of the patient, and there is even a Center for Innovation (aka Mayo's Google) where people come together and try to find ways to improve patient care and comfort. Just. Simply. Amazing. Moreover, all the building are connected by subway and skyways, which allows you to talk around during the worst of winter without a coat. Even the gym is connected, which is free your first year and heavily subsidized starting your second year with lower rates the more you use it. What an incentive, haha!
Lunch with the students was a lively affair, and the conversations were really similar to the ones I had with the MS1s the night before. I was really happy to hear that even though Mayo is very patient centered, there is ample opportunity to get involved with research. Nothing is out of reach, and that's amazing to me.
Overall, I am blown away by what Mayo has to offer. It's very much one of my top choices, and I would be absolutely thrilled to receive an acceptance here
10/20: Awwww placed on hold. I'm definitely excited that it's not an outright rejection, and feel so lucky to have been considered. Here's hoping that I'll get good news in the next few months!
1/15: Officially placed on the waitlist. Welp, guess that's it. Mayo is such an incredible institution and I'm so thankful for the chance to visit. I have until March 1st to decide whether to stay on the Alternate List, but at this point, I'm not sure if I'm really excited to live in Rochester. I guess I'll think it over for a bit.
4/12: Received a "personalized" email from Dean Bostwick stating that Mayo is still heavily considering my application and encouraging me to stay on the waitlist. Rumor has it that those who receive such an email are among the first to be pulled off...!!
Summary of Experience:
8/27: CCLCM Interview Invite! Thrilled!
9/28: Phew. I waited a few days after my interview specifically because I felt that I really needed to marinate on my interview experience. I feel that CCLCM, perhaps out of all the schools I selected, has one of the most unique curriculums and expectations. In short, if you're not pursuing a prolific career in academic medicine (with a large portion of your time doing research), then this isn't the program for you. The interview day was long and a bit...intense, and I felt that I learned a lot. I will say that there are many similarities between CCLCM and Mayo, and will probably be making multiple comparisons throughout this post.
Allow me to start with Cleveland. As I rode the RTA to Tower City, I was awe-struck by the my view of the city. The closest I can describe it is a mini NYC surrounded by a small forest. Cleveland, I soon learned, is not the most cultured city, and the area immediately surrounding CCLCM and Case Western could definitely be better, but when I compare it to LA, Hyde Park, and Baltimore, it isn't bad at all. Moreover, the cost of living is extremely low here; my hosts share a 3 bed/1.5 bath and pay $400/mo each. There are stories of 4 upperclassmen who managed to rent a Victorian mansion, hire a maid, and still pay $700/mo each. That's amazing. You do need a car in Cleveland though, not only due to the lack of student housing, but because CCLCM students have expected to attend regular clinical sites beginning in year 1, which may be as far as an hour away. To be honest, I think I still prefer Rochester to Cleveland, but I do admit that the latter can be much more exciting.
Interview Day started at 7:15am with an optional breakfast, which came in the form of a prepaid voucher. CCLCM hosts very small interview groups (on my day, there were only 4 of us!), and the fellow interviewees and I grabbed a bit to eat before heading back for a formal welcome. We started by watching a few clips on Why CCLCM and the Empathy Series, which made me really really excited about the school. Anyone who knows me knows how much I learning from others and listening to their stories, so to hear that there's a school which focuses so much on this is amazing to me. It definitely gave CCLCM major brownie points. Like Mayo, CCLCM is extremely patient focused, and the motto decorating its hospitals is "Patients first." To hear this from a research giant made my eyes glaze over, haha!
Dr. Franco soon joined us, and she quickly demonstrated her knowledge of our applications. She spoke about the innovative curriculum, which comprises soley; there are no tests, grades, or AOA. As someone who prefers a hybride curriculum, I was initially doubtful of a curriculum that only involves cases; after all, cases aren't going to encompass the general knowledge or range of symptoms of every disease. After learning more about PBL here, however, my fears were assuaged; at CCLCM, the cases do not have learning objectives. The students themselves are the ones who decide what they want to learn and get out of a case; then, after coming up with 8 learning objectives, the students then take the responsibility to research the topic so that they can teach it to others. It's extremely collaborative and engaging, which I think I'll enjoy a lot. I'm pretty quiet and introverted, so this set-up seems a bit intimidating, but as my student interviewer told me, it can be an incredibly valuable experience professionally. Life after school doesn't consist of tests; it consists of seeing a problem, knowing what sources to study, and presenting your ideas to an audience; CCLCM's curriculum prepares you remarkably well for that.
After receiving a short tour of the PBL rooms, student lounge, and library, we all gather back in the admissions conference room for a mock PBL of our own! I actually found myself enjoying this session a lot, and it was really nice to experience first hand how engaging this format can be, and how it organically stimulates learning. Even when my fellow interviewees and I had disagreements, everything felt really conversational and I'm sure we all had a lot of fun! I don't know how we were judged during this session, but I'm hopeing everything went well?
From there, we took a tour of the famous Cleveland Clinic, visited the anatomy lab, and had lunch with current students. Like Mayo, the Cleveland Clinic is just...gorgeous, though in a slightly different way. While Mayo Clinic made me feel like I was walking through several luxery hotel lobbies, the Cleveland Clinic made me feel like I was stepping foot in the world's grandest modern art museums. As an art history alumna, I was esctatic! There's this nice balance between classical and sleek, and it definitely shows that the hospital was built with the patients' comfort in mind. In addition to the hospital, CCLCM boasts an incredibly unique anatomy curriculum. Unlike most schools (or any school I've visited actually), CCLCM uses "fresh" cadaveurs for anatomy, which means that there is no embalming or formaldehyde. At the same time, medical students here don't do dissections, but rather prosections (everything is already dissected and pinned). I'm not sure if I would trade this convenience for a chance to really immerse myself in the experience, but there is a summer program where MS2s TA for the summer PA anatomy labs, which would allow MS2s to dissect (and teach!). Lunch was a lively affair, and the the students stressed how much they loved the small class (of only 32!! HOLY COW), the research year (which can be done after M2 or M3), and the early clinical exposure. "Frankly, you're treated like an MS4 when you're an MS2. I didn't really appreciate this until I did rotations at Stanford and UCLA, when I was working with MS3s whose only 'clinical experience' was a glorified shadowing gig," said an MS5, who's now applying for ortho residency. The clinical exposure sounds incredible!
And finally, the interviews. My host was right: they can be pretty intense. CCLCM conducts three interviews: one with a student (in my case, an MS5) and two faculty (usually an MD and a PhD). My student interviewer focused a lot on CCLCM's curriculum, and a lot of his questions centralized on my learning style, how I would cope with the transition from As to no tests/grades, and how I work in groups. Fairly conversational, but there was an intensity that wasn't really present at other schools. My MD faculty interviewer was completely different, and there were definitely moments when I felt that I may have given up reigns of the interview and allowed him to steer the conversation. We talked about topics that seemed to come from left field and barely relevant to my application, but are good topics for an engaging conversation. Halfway through, there was even an impromptu role-play scenario followed by immediate feedback. It was really fun, but I left that interview having absolutely no idea how I did. My last interview, a PhD faculty member, was perhaps the most rigid. She had a list of questions or points she wanted to cover, and pretty much stuck to it. (That said, I think I threw off her timing by rambling...whoops.) It was interesting, but I didn't feel the urge to run out the room like I did with a few of UCSD's MMI stations, so I'm guessing that's a good sign?
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by my experience at CCLCM. As someone interested in academic medicine, I think I say that an education here would leave me the most prepared, as students here are published 3-4 times with minimal effort, and a few are published 20+ times during their 5-year tenure (HOLY COW). Most of all, tuition is FREE. It's honestly one of the best medical educaiton models out there, and if I'm lucky enough to be one of the 16 students who hear good news in December, I can see CCLCM as a serious contender. That said, the most-interview acceptance rate is about 1/5, so I won't be holding my breath!
Mid-Jan: placed on post-interview hold. To be honest, I'm thrilled to not be rejected haha! Being on hold means I am still considered for the next (and final) batch of acceptances, #17-#32. I am more than happy to wait!
2/27: CCLCM alternate list. To be honest, I'm not even mad. CCLCM is a fantastic institution with a unique model, and I'm so incredibly proud and honored to have even made it this far! I'll keep my name on the alternate list for now, but we'll see how things go!
Summary of Experience:
7/16: A lot of stupid staring at my inbox, followed by a high pitched scream. What a day!
8/31: Let me start by saying that it felt really strange to live with a host when I lived 10-15 minutes away from campus. I wanted the student perspective on things, and to be honest, I don't regret my decision. It just felt weird.
I stayed with an MS2 in our apartment which is about 5-10 minutes from campus. Newport Beach, for those of you who don't know, is definitely one of the more affluential areas of Orange County. My host and her roommate share a 2 bed, 2 bath apartment for $1000/month each, which sounds outrageous for some and not for others. (I went to USC for a few years, so I know my opinion is skewed, heehee). She talked to me a bit about the school and its curriculum, and her most memorable words were that all medical schools "are the same." She seemed to genuinely enjoy UCI, but didn't see genuinely excited about that, if that makes sense. I don't know if I should attribute that to UCI's culture of the fact that her MS1 glory "this is so exciting!" days are over. Hmm...
Regardless, we left the house to attend an informal UCI pre-interview pizza dinner with other applicants and potential interviewers. I was really shocked when I arrived because I saw the table with 50+ people. Holy cow! Compared to Pritzker and USC Keck, which interviewed noly 12 at a time, UCI definitely has large interview days (an MS2 said they didn't want to do interviews 3days a week, ha!) with up to 40 applicants per visit. Talk about a logistical nightmare, haha! The medical students who stopped by to chat (and have free food) were nice and helpful, which I think we all appreciated.
Starting with breakfast at 8AM the next morning, all the interviewed gathered to check in and grab our folders with lanyards and drawstring bags. UCI has definitely given the nicest materials by far, haha! Makes my poor college soul happy. Unfortunately, because of class schedule changes, the MS2s were not able to host a student panel for interviewees (they had a sleep study lecture to attend), and the Dean of Admissions gave her welcome and intro the group while we were eating. A few notes: Acceptances are given out around Halloween; if you are waitlisted and/or hang up on the Dean twice (lulz), you will receive a status change. The waitlist will not be revisited until spring around April 30th. If you want to send an update/letter of intent, do so in early to mid-April There is "extensive" movement on the waitlist after April 30th. The Dean assures us that this is the case for all school since students generally hold more than one acceptance, but I definitely know that some schools exhibit very little waitlist movement. I'm not sure if the extensive waitlist movement is a good or bad sign for UCI, to be honest. Following the Admissions talk was a small building tour. UCI is unique in that its medical campus is inhabited by mostly MS1s and MS2s, where they get their preclincal eduction. During their rotations, on the other hand, students need to travel to the UCI Medical Center in Orange, and this separation between the two often results in students moving after their second year. It's a bit inconvenient, but the underserved population in Orange makes it a really good place to be involved with health disparities and improving medical care. Additionally, because of this, the medical campus at UCI is essentially...one building. There's admissions and financial aid on the first floor, the simulation center and study cubicals on the second, and lecture halls and the student lounge on the third.
After the tour, we all went back to gather and listen to presentations on the medical curriculum and financial aid. UCI, as students and faculty have raved, has undergone a pretty dramatic transformation over the past few years. The MS1s for example, instead of taking a subject exam every week, now take longer, combined exams (i.e. anatomy, histology, physiology) every 3-4 weeks. While this does include more studying and longer tests, students say that it will prepare them better for the USMLE, which provides "combined" knowledge questions. Additionally, UCI is famously known for teaching students how to use ultrasound for pretty much..everything. This seems to be the unique selling point for UCI's medical school, since they boast that few, if any, other medical schools allow medical students to use and be proficient at ultrasound by their rotation year. In fact, ultrasound is so popular with the students that amost 50% of them do summer research trips abroad where they teach local health professionals how to use ultrasound as preventive/diagnostic measures. I think it's awesome that the school focuses on something that's clearly a skill to be shared and valued! In addition to all of this, UCI has recently started a longitudinal clinical course, which takes up 10 weeks of MS1 and 20 weeks of MS2. Basically, this programs assigns you to a clinic to work on either Wednesday morning or afternoon. You won't have class on Wednesdays, which would allow you to devote your time fully to the patient care and clinical experiences, which should (hopefully) reinforce your motivations for medicine. Unfortunately, a huge downside for me was the H/P/F grading during MS2. I know that the "honors" designation shouldn't make a huge difference, but I am really afraid that it would foster the level of competition that I really want to get away from in medical school I'll definitely have to reconsider this issue if I'm lucky enough to get an acceptance! As for financial aid...well, the short of it is that even if we declare ourselves as independent on the FAFSA, UCI (and most schools, apparently) require our parents' info if we want to be eligible for institutional aid (grants, scholarships, etc). I was a bit disappointed, since I know that my parents make enough that adding their info would be useless. ):
Once we were done with the presentations, we lined up to try on our white coats for sizing before walking downstairs to the simulation room for the "structured interview." The structured interview was definitely interesting! UCI's trying to decide if they want to change to an MMI format, and having 1 "MI" station allowed them to test the field. We all went in groups of 8 to the simulation floor and stood in front of the doorways of individual rooms. There was a prompt on the door and we were allowed 2 minutes to read the prompt before stepping into the room. The station is 8 minutes long; 4 minutes for us to address/answer the prompt and 4 minutes for the interviewer to ask questions. I soon realized, however, that these questions don't necessarily have to be "follow-up" qusetions; in fact, I was asked 3 hypothetical "grab bag" questions that had nothing to do with my response. Talk about unexpected, haha! It was fun though; if nothing else, I forced me to keep an open mind for the rest of the day!
After the structured interview, we all gathered for lunch, which consisted of various sandwiches, salad, and cookies/brownies with lemonade or water. It was a very light, delicious, and satisfying lunch. While eating, some interviewers decided to mingle with u before lining up to be paired with each applicant. To my luck and surprise, my interviewer happened to sit right across from me last night! It was really nice becasue I had already asked her a bunch of questions last night, and we got to know each other informally, which made the interview today much more conversational. In fact, after going through 3 standards interview questions, we pretty much spent the majority of our interview talking about our favorite TV shows, haha! She told me a lot about UCI's global opportunities which sound incredibly interesting to me, as well as all the dual degree opportunities. She, more than anything, I think made me more interested in attending UCI.
After my student interview, I hung around the front of the medical building with a few other interviewees until the shuttle came. At UCI, because they have so many students on each interview day, split the faculty interviews between on-campus and at the hospital, which is located in Orange, about 20-40 minutes away. Unfortunately for our group, the shuttle arrived half and hour late, which caused me to be late to my faculty interview. /Sigh.
As for the faculty interview...HAHAHA that was definitely a stress interview. Either that, or I easily cow under pressure -________-lll The faculty interviewer definitely took "open file" to heart and now only had it in front of him, but had apparently went through it with a fine-toothed comb. He circled very specific words and phrases that I used and asked me to elaborate on them. (i.e."You used 'social justice' and 'advocacy' in this prmopt; what does advocacy mean to you?") I was grilled for about 15-20 minutes on my research alone, since he wanted to know everything down to the last detail, and also asked for potential applications/future studies based on the results. Thank goodness I reviewed my publication, or I would have been sweating bullets! I Following that, I was asked several questions about my RA and community experiences in detail and how they affect my perception of the world, followed by my interest in UCI. THe "Why UCI" question was honestly difficult, because I largely chose to apply because 1. it was close to home, 2. it was in California, and 3. my parents wanted me to. Lastly, I think his most difficult question was "What do you want the admissions committee to know about you?" to which I froze before nervously answering, "I don't know; I'm sorry." I really didn't like that question -______-lll In the end though, I think I was most uncomfortable about a question he had asked earlier on, about why I didn't choose to pursue an NP or PA career instead since I was female and would need to think about lifestyle. Just...wut. It was a very stressful hour...
After the interview, I hopped back on the bus towards the medical school campus, where I picked up my luggage and went home. UCI's interview day was the most...interesting by far, haha! If nothing else, the faculty interview will prepare me for the tougher interviews on the east coast.
10/30: Waitlisted. Ha! Honestly not upset at this; I didn't have strong ties to UCI, and was not in awe with any aspect of it. (That said, my parents' hearts are broken...) Glad to know the decision has been essentially made for me!
Summary of Experience:
8/3: Interview Invite!! Beyond stoked!
9/17: Well, I have to say that I did not expect to have my wish granted so quickly: unfortunately, I found myself feeling no love for UCSD. While I do love the weather, P/F curriculum (in comparison to say, UCI's H/P/F second year) and integrated electives, I didn't feel a...pull, if that makes sense. The students there seem really happy, and extremely chill and relaxed (in fact, if I didn't know that I was interviewing at a med school, I would've assumed they are all undergrads). Even so, I found myself not really clicking with the student body, though it might be because they all just got back and are still in "summer mode," so they didn't really take the initiative in welcoming us or sharing their experiences. I'll try to write about this experience as thoroughly as possible, so here goes!
After budgeting 3 hours of commute time, just in case of potential morning traffic, I found myself dropped off at the UCSD campus about 1.5 hours before the admission center opens. After walking around campus for a bit, I huddled inside the lobby of the medical library for about 30 minutes avoid the morning chill. At around 7:15am, I walked over to the MET building and was able to meet a few other interviewees. Club Med, the school cafeteria, opened at 7:30am, and we all went in for a healthy dose of caffeine to get through the day. At 7:45am, the admissions office opened and we all started lining up to check in and pick up our folders before gathering in the conference room.
UCSD hosts 32 students per interview day, who are then split into 2 groups of 16 for the MMIs. Each MMI section has 8 stations, and 2 sections happen at once in 2 different halls. After we all oriented ourselves, Dr. Kelly came in and briefly welcomed us to UCSD and asked if we had any questions for her. About 2 weeks before the interview date, interviewees were emailed a link to a private Youtube video which talks about life at UCSD, its affiliated hospitals, curriculum, and student-run clinic. The purpose of the Q&A then is to answer any student questions, which is a bit more engaging.
About UCSD's curriculum: redesigned in 2010, UCSD offers a 2 year (or is it 1.5? it wasn't specified in the handout) true P/F preclinical curriculum, which is supplemented with a longitudinal clinical foundations course and electives. UCSD boasts an integrated curriculum through its elective courses, which allow students to customize their education; in fact, students are required to complete 15 elective units by the end of MS2, which is easily done by taking one 3 unit course per quarter. In the clinical foundations course, students take a longitudinal ambulatory clerkship (usually with a PCP) to strengthen their clinical skills while gathering weekly in their academic communities to patient cases. At the end of 2nd year, student receive 2 weeks of organized systems review and 6 additional weeks of protected Step 1 study time. During 3rd year, student rotate through their core clerkships, which can be done at any of UCSD's network of affilated hospitals, and are time for 2 2-week clinical selectives (one of which must be surgery-related). These clinical selectives allow the MS3s to test drive and explore specialties such as derm, ortho, or radiology before they apply to residency. The fourth year, in turn, is almost completely elective, so long as students complete their Independent Study Project (worth 2-3 months of full time involvement or longer part time involvement).
While not as flexible as say, Vandy's curriculum (which I am wholly in love with), I do appreciate UCSD's attempts to provide opportunities for students to really control their education. We received a list of electives in our folders today, I already found myself interested in about 10 of them, haha! Additionally, courses are taught through a mix of traditional lectures (which are recorded) and PBL, which I really like. I'm someone who is both a visual learner and one who enjoys studying with others, so I like aspects of both teaching methods. A hybrid program, like UCSD's is likely to be ideal to me, although the 2 year preclinical seems a bit long in comparison to the 1.5 curriculums at other schools.
In addition to the brief overview of UCSD's curriculum, there was a heavy emphasis on the Student-Run Free Clinic Project, which actually blossomed from a ISP years ago. The clinic is fully functional and comprehensive, and has grown to include subspecialties, legal counseling, social work, and dentistry. Like Vandy's Shade Clinic, students here receive a lot of clinical experience as they work directly with attending physicians to examine the patient, form a diagnosis, and create a treatment plan. As with any free clinic, there are inefficiencies, but UCSD tries to control that on the students' end by require that they take a free clinic elective course (for credit) before they can start working in the clinic. I found the gesture super thoughtful! Unfortunately, since clinics are done the evening before interview days, I wasn't able to tour the free clinic myself. I wish UCSD had integrated the tour with the rest of its day; for something that's such a big part of the school (they spoke about it more than they did about their curriculum!), I would expect that they make the time for it.
After the Q&A, the first MMI group (myself included) were escorted to Professional Development Center to begin our interviews. Due to the Confidentiality Agreement that I had signed, I am not allowed to discussed any details of the prompts, but I will say that my opinions of MMIs had not really changed: they can be stressful, require you to think on your feet, and don't really allow you to gain control of the conversation. I've had stations where I really enjoyed talking to my interviewer, and I've stations where my interviewer was completely stone-faced and nonresponsive to anything I said. Oh, and 8 minutes is a long time to just fidget awkwardly if you have nothing to say. I assume that my answers were be evaluated after everyone rotates through the station, and that our performance will be summarized by a cumulative score or something, but how UCSD will work with these scores, I honestly don't know. (e.g. Is there a straight numberical cut off for acceptance? Is it by percentile in each interview cohort?) Overall, I wished interviews would be a mix of traditional and MMI, such as having 8 interviews each asking a tradiational interview question or something. Regardless, the ordeal took 1.5 hours, and after the interviews, I felt a rush of adrenaline which left me wide awake, haha!
While waiting for the other MMI group to start, a couple interviewees and I grabbed snacks and chatted outside. We all marveled the beautiful weather and recounted our experiences at the different MMI stations. We soon delved into weather we wanted to stay in California, and I definitely felt like an odd duck when I expressed that I wouldn't mind attending a school out of state (in fact, of the schools I interviewed, my favorite ones are out of state). As I've told anyone who asks, I love California, I do, but I don't want the only things keeping me here to be in-state tuition and weather. There's fit, or curriculum, or this desire to explore living in a different place. At the end of the day though, I hope that I'll have enough options to even consider these factors. It's too soon to think about it now!
At around noon, we all gathered for lunch in the conference room and chatted with the MS2 students. Unlike the students at other schools, the med students here were more...laid back? They answered our questions, but made no effort to sway us to come to UCSD, if that made sense. Even my tour guide didn't seem to make an effort in showing us around; she didn't have a lot to talk about UCSD, and spent most of her time asking if we had questions instead. (To be fair, we didn't have many questions, since we were all still reflecting on our MMI experience!) We did manage to peek into the lecture halls, which are gorgeous, as well as one of the academic community student lounges. Like many other schools, UCSD sorts its class of 125 into 6 academic communities, which are organized by color and led by a faculty mentor ("like a PCP!" Dr. Kelly said this morning). This helps make UCSD feel smaller for its students, though I did notice that there wasn't a strong bond among student within a community. The way our tour guide described it made it seem like the mentality was, "We're sorted. Cool." In addition to communities, there is a family "big/little" system, must like a Greek system, which I appreciate.
Following the tour, we gathered for about 15 minutes of closing remarks. We will likely hear decisions on October 15th/16th by emails, and can be accepted, waitlisted, or rejected (WHAT). No updates unless requested. At this point in the game, stats "essentially don't matter" and applicants are judged almost exclusively on the MMI, activities, and letters of rec.
In other words, BYE BYE UCSD (seeing how I left 3/8 stations feelings horrible). I'll be pleasantly surprised if I receive good news in October, but I won't hold my breath.
11/4: Waitlisted at UCSD! It feels weird to be so relieved about this decision, but considering how I never felt at home at UCSD, I'm sure it's for the best. Best of luck to those waiting to hear back!
Summary of Experience:
9/2: II received 20 minutes after HMS II. *SCREAMING* It was nothing short of a surreal day.
9/24: Allow me to start by saying that UCSF has always been a dream school. While Harvard and Hopkins both epitomize medicine (and I've blushed more times than I can count when I mumble that they're my "#1 choice"), UCSF has always had an air of mysical UC magic. Exceptional research and clinical opportunities, in-state tuition, and glorious San Francisco. With pressure from both my childhood dreams and the parentals, I was worried that UCSF would fail to deliver. Thank goodness I was wrong!
San Francisco is, in short, a great place to be young. While Los Angeles likes to sprawl, San Francisco lacks the landspace and cannot afford to do so. Being surrounded by water on 3 sides means that the sky is (literally) the limit. Architecture is towering, and coupled with the city's infamous hills, SF exudes an ambience that balances NYC crowding and the NorCal hipster vibe. With everything so clustered together, walking becomes convenient and a great way to integrate exercise into the daily routine; in fact, only half of the UCSF students have cars. For places that are a bit out of reach, the Bay Area boasts an impressively efficient bus/shuttle/train system (mind you, I lived in LA. Any resembling cohesive public transport is impressive).
UCSF, unlike the other medical school I've visited, really integrates itself with the local community. Situated pretty much in the middle of the peninsula, it is only about 15-20 minutes from...anything. With Parnassus Ave dividing the middle of campus and cars bustling in and out, there were moments when I felt like I was in the medical school area rather than the medical school, if that makes sense. It's a very unique situation, and I don't know how I feel about that yet.
The night before my interview, I hung out and got dinner with a friend as well as my host. As we ate, they both raved about their experiences as UCSF. (My friend very explicitly told me to go there, haha!) Moreover, they were very candid about the cost of living (a nightmare), the social opportunities available in the city, and the climate. My host lives in a 3 bed/2bath spacious apartment about 20 minutes away from campus by foot, and she and her roommates pay $1100-$1300/month (each person's rent varies). UCSF does offer a few subsidized options, but those are snatched up quick; they mentioned a view $900/month (with roommates, of course) options in Mission Bay, which is 25 minutes away by shuttle. Landowners in San Francisco favor med students, as they are known to be "quiet and responsible;" even so, accepted students should start the hunt in March! Food, like rent, is pricy. I balked at seeing $11 pho, but I guess that's one of the things that come with living in the city...
On actual interview day, we were given a light breakfast of coffee, yogurt, and bagels. After a short introduction, Dr. Wofsy, the Associate Dean of Admissions, gave a very inspiring speech that left all of us glassy-eyed. He spoke of UCSF's admissions philosophy, their exceptional research and clinical opportunities opportunities, financial aid, and improved curriculum. Dr. Wofsy was very transparent about what happens after the interview, and I think all us of were very appreciative of it.
Unlike most of the schools I visited, UCSF places very little weight on the interview itself. "That lets us know what you were like today. Your application speaks to years of work and effort," he assures us. There are 2 blind interviews, which may span from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the interviewer. After the interview, the interviewers log in onto a portal and write about their experiences and impressions of the applicant; such descriptions are usually about 3/4 of a page long. Only after the interviewer submits the report does s/he get access to the applicant's file. Upon seeing the file, the interview has an opportunity to add an addendum to the report; most do not. Then, the interviewer is done; they do not attend the adcom meetings, and they have no further sway in the decision making process. A team of about 20 individuals look at all the files and make a decision: accept, waitlist, reject. Each applicant is considered independently: would you want this person in your class, and do you think this person has the potential to make an influence? Decisions are released around mid-December to January. Financial aid is need-based, and is not awarded until March.
As for the curriculum, it is...interesting. After hearing aspects from the Dean and the students, I did get the feeling the administration was hiding something (or perhaps just working on it?) Called Bridges, the improved curriculum hopes to intregrate more clinical experiences in the first two years, and to integrate more basic sciences in the later two years. Additionally, there is an Inquiry aspect of the curriculum in which students do a project for 30 weeks (as stated in the pamphlet we were given) in an area of interest. Furthermore, there will be a greater mix of flipped classroom modules, PBL, and traditional lectures. One thing that Dr. Wofsy didn't mention at all were the boards, and the students agreed that this was their biggest critic of the curriculum. There is about 6 weeks allocated for students to study for Step 1, but UCSF as a whole likes to pretend the boards don't exist. "It's a bit frustrating because this means they don't teach to the test, and their averages, while certainly above average, aren't as high as they could me." My student interviewer, who is an MS2 and has particularly strong concerns, feels a bit frustrated because she knows that UCSF can get away with their philosophy because they enroll such high-scoring students to begin with. That said, she told me that starting with the Class of 2020, students will take Step 1 after year 3, which took me completely by surprised. I would've expected to hear more about this?!
From there, we sat in on an M2 problem-based patient case, had lunch with MS3 and MS4 students, and toured the Parnassus campus. I was quickly reminded that UCSF, despite its prestige, location, and opportunities, is still a public school. The buildings for a mix of new and told, blocky and modern, and the hallways eerily remind me of high school. That said, UCSF has been working hard on rennovations, including the gorgeous new anatomy lab (look at that view). It's definitely not a deal breaker for me, but it is something to note, especially when these restricted budgets may affect medical education. My first interview, an assistant professor, actually lamented how he and his collegues work in cubicles rather than actual offices, since there is not enough funding for them. One thing that I was a bit concerned about was the patient population in San Francisco; with it being such an expensive place, I was worried that the patients are largely upper middle class patrons who wouldn't be receptive to medical students. In actuality, San Francisco has one of the greatest rates of healthcare disparities, with growing gentrification and a rising population of underserved individuals. As someone who is really interested in working with underserved populations, I was really happy to hear this!
Unfortunately, I had to leave halfway through the tour in order to catch a shuttle that will take me to Mission Bay, where my first interview was. Applicants will be interviewing at 4 possible locations: Mission Bay, SF General Hospital (where the bulk of them went), Mt Zion, and the Pernassus campus. I would say that as a whole, both of my interviews were very conversational, and I really enjoyed talking to both of them. We spoke a lot about my application (or what I listed in my introduction), my thoughts on medicine, and my interests. It really felt like we were just getting to know each other, and didn't feel like an evaluation at all. I have high hopes!
Overall, UCSF met my expectations, and is definitely by top in-state pick. Its location can't be beat, I do think that the opportunities make the standard of living worth it. Would I pick it over a top private school out of state? I honestly don't know. I'm well aware that my parents are placing of all their bets on this one, but if I miraculously receive better aid elsewhere, it will be a touch decision. I guess I'll have to wait till January 2016 to find out!
12/18: But...but...!! While I would love for a miracle to hope, I'll treat this as a rejection for now. See you for residency interviews, UCSF!
Summary of Experience:
9/16: AHHH II! Beyond excited!
10/14: Ah, WashU. Everytime I tell my family and friends that I'm interviewing there, I get asked where in Washington it is. (It's funnier because I actually spent a few years in Washington, and seriously considered applying to UW until I saw the out of region restriction.) To be honest, while I did enjoy my experience in St Louis, I wasn't exactly "wow'd" by it. I think it was partly due to my anxiety over 10/15 (pleaselovemyPritzkerpleasepleaseplease), and partly due to the fact that only the first year of preclinicals is P/F. (Also, I think I was getting burned out from interviewing, which is not a problem I though I'd have.)
Located in St Louis, Missouri, WUSM prides itself in being a research powerhouse in a growing city. The cost of living is really low (easily $400-500/month with utilities), and there are always free things to do. Moreover, the hospital system attracts both "bread and butter" as well as "zebra" cases, allowing students to expose themselves to a wide range of medical problems. After arriving at the airport, I took the MetroRail to campus, and was amused to learn that the metro system in St Louis is essentially a straight line. And I thought public transport in LA was bad, haha! One of the stops is directly in front of the medical complex, which is super convenient.
I stayed the night in Olin Hall, the dormitory-styled university housing. It was really nice for WUSM to providing lodging for applicants, and the university trieds to keep 10 rooms vacant every year for the interview cycle. That said, once I stepped foot into Olin Hall, I...kinda understood why. While the rooms in Olin didn't necessarily lack anything, they definitely are a bit worn (current students joked that they are a step down from undergrad) and don't provide the nicest amenities. A little over half of the freshman class stay in Olin due to its convenience (it is connected to all the other buildings on campus, so one never has to step outside), but most move out starting their second semester. With St Louis's low cost of living, I'm not surprised. Regardless, I enjoyed my stay, and appreciated the pizza party that the MS1s hosted the night before! They were super nice and stayed to talk to us about things, even though we arrived in the middle of their exam week (whoops).
While talking with the students, I was a bit surprised (and bummed) to hear that WUSM's preclinicals curriculum is only P/F during the first year, before it changes to the H/HP/P/F system. All the students and faculty were adamant that there's not change in "culture" from M1 to M2 and that everyone remains collaborative, but I don't know...I wouldn't reject WUSM for this reason, as the research and clinical opportuniteis here are incredible, but it is something that would make me reconsider.
I do have to say though: WUSM provides amazing food. Breakfast included hot items (for once!), yogurt, coffee, and juice. I was a full and happy camper by the time we all trekked down to the admissions office. We all received our schedules for the day and had our pictures taken (I'm really curious as to why hahaha) before gathering in the conference room. There, Dean Rattz gave a quick presentation on WUSM, its curriculum, and life in St Louis. It wasn't very comprehensive, but it did give me enough pointers to research further if I'm lucky enough to receive an acceptance here.
WUSM conducts one open-file interview with a member of the admissions committee. Over the past few years, however, the committee seems to have been experimenting with the closed file interview. Out of our group of 10, only one student was scheduled to do an open-file as well as a shorter closed-file interview. My interview was...to be honest, a bit awkward. It was not nearly as conversational as the ones at other schools, unfortunately, so I don't know how I did. My interviewer only asked me a question or two about my activities, yet didn't really give me time to elaborate on them; it honestly felt as though he had already formed an opinion from my application and didn't really care to get to know me. -__________- Considering how WUSM's merit scholarships are heavily influenced by the interview experiences, I don't think I'll get much luck here ughhhhhhhhhhh. We did spend some time talking about his medical experiences and the social climate of St Louis, and he took me on a short tour, so I hope his pre-formed opinion of me was a positive one? Fingers crossed!
I had about an hour to explore after my interview, and a couple applicants and I sat in on a lecture. WUSM's curriculum features a mix of traditional lectures and PBL, which I enjoy. The lecture was actually pretty interesting, as it guided students through the steps of "diagnosing" a particular set of diseases. Soon, it was time to lunch with MS3s, MS4s, and clinical faculty. None of the individuals involved are on the admissions committee, so it's really nice to hear honest opinions! None of the students seemed to mind the transition to H/HP/P/F during MS2, and they actually find that they enjoy it more because everything is clinically based. The MS4s took us on a tour of campus, and all the facilities are beautiful. *swoons* Not Mayo caliber, but definitely very pleasing to the eye. We At the end of the day, we received a brief financial aid session followed by a wrap up (with cookies!) with Dean Rattz.
Overall, I enjoyed my day at WUSM. I wasn't in love with it, but I can definitely see myself learning there. The opportunities and support are top-notch, and I think there are a lot of things to do in St Louis. Decisions are rolling starting in late November, so we'll see!
3/31: Aaaaaaaaand, that's a wrap! Waitlisted from WashU. I decided to withdraw because I knew I wouldn't attend WashU over my options even if I were pulled off the list in the summer.
Summary of Experience:
7/28: AHHHHHH SUPER EXCITED. I absolutely love Keck's emphasis on academic medicine and community involvement, and am thrilled for a chance to check out the Health Science Campus for the first time! It would be a dream to have a chance to be a double Trojan! ;)
8/28: I have to say, after experiencing the strong gusts of Chicago, LA's dry heat wave was really something else. My dad and I drove up at 6am to beat the morning rush hour, and I arrived on Keck's campus with about an hour to spare. That said, I learned the hard way that I am geographically illiterate and spent about half an hour walking around trying to find the admissions office -_______-. Keck, I realized, did not have the undergraduate campus's smooth flat pavements; rather, its buildings are situated on hills.
But hey, I remember to switch into flats this time!
After checking in at 8am, I spoke with a few other interviewees before we were all ushered into for an introduction from the Dean of Admissions, Dr. Arias. Keck splits its interview day into 2 sessions: an 8am and 9am sessions. Both sessions are essentially identical, with the earlier group getting 2 separate interview slots (one at 9am and one at 1pm) wherease the later group gets 2 back-to-back interviews (1pm and 2pm). Both groups share the same tour and lunch break.
Dr. Arias and her welcome are nothing short of refreshing. She told us that just by attending the interview, we are "80% there" and that the purpose of the interview is to validate the "soft qualities" that she thinks she saw when reading her application. Beyond stats, Keck wants individuals with strong communication skills, integrity, and compassion. The strengths of the medical school, she says, are built around these qualities: a research powerhouse, a private institution focused on serving the public (i.e. the poor), extensive clinical experiences that are almost unmatched. The list goes on. There wasn't a curriculum nor financial aid overview, which I found a bit odd, but I figured that I can always look more into that if I actually get accepted.
I had my faculty interview right after the welcome, and to be honest, I'm not sure how to feel about it. We were told not to talk about our application, because the interviews are closed file and should be used to judge our conversational skills and interpersonal qualities. That said, the only questions my interview asked were ones pertaining to my applicaiton -______- (i.e. What are you involved in? Tell me more about your research/RA life/etc.) Moreover, while she smiled at the beginning and reassured me that she was my advocate, she had a very blank expression when she took notes of what I talked about. And she took very copious notes...We'll see how that goes haha! I always trip up on the "Tell me about yourself" question, and I hope I don't sound like I'm rambling or "rehearsed" (though I promise I didn't prepare enough to rehearse that answer, haha!)
After the first group finished interviews and the second group received their welcome, everyone came in to hear Dr. Arias's words of wisdom: No updates, pre- or post-interview. "I already hold interview applicants in the highest possible regard; what you add now can't be that important in my perception of your personal qualities." No thank you letters. "We're thanking you for being here!" No letters of intent UNLESS it is 4/30 and you have already been accepted elsewhere but still prefer to go to Keck. Don't send a LOI if you don't have an acceptance at the end of the cycle. Don't make the LOI in 4/30 an update letter (even if you're published in Cell). If you can't tell by now, Dr. Arias is like the grandmother everyone wishes they had. I love her!
Following the "Words of Wisdom" was the campus tour and oh my goodness, it was hot. I groaned every time we stepped outside and my black suit certainly didn't help matters! We did get to see the cadavers and LAC+USC Medical Center, which is beyond awesome though. Throughout the tour, the guide, and MS2, talked about the curriculum and its strengths. Gross anatomy, for example, lasts over a year (with 90% of it being done first year), as students meet only once or week or so to learn about a specific system and its corresponding lab. This is unlike some schools, they say, where anatomy is only 6-8 weeks long, so students meet 3-4 times a week and just cram everything in. "You don't remember it that way," they said. Also, instead of taking multiple mini-tests (like at Pritzker), Keck students take a comprehensive exam twice a year to "re-inforce long term memory." Moreover, before every block exam, students get a full week off just to study for the exam. Furthermore, Keck students take a course called "Introduction to Clinical Medicine" which allows for longitudinal engagement with patients and allows MS1s to get involved clinically from Day 1 so by MS3, they are ready to go. While MS4s don't have the skills of an intern, they pride themselves in having clinical skills way above thea average MS4.
Furthermore, if you want interesting cases, LAC+USC patients just cannot be beat. Being among the poorest of the poor and around a Level 1 Trauma center, they allow medical students with incredible opportunities to learn about patient care, history taking, and communication.
Following the tour was lunch, which was a nice sandwich, chips, and the famous Keck cookies. (Yum!) The tour guides stuck around for lunch to answer any questions and engage in conversation with the interviewees, which we all appreciated. The curriculum is indeed P/F, which more tiers during the clinical years (HH/H/HP, etc) with no curve. (They think...) Good to know!
I had my student interviewer right afterwards, and I liked this interview a lot better than the first one. Even though we did end up talking about aspects of my application (activities, interests, etc), I did feel that it was much more conversational and...natural? I felt a genuine connection with the student interviewer (MS2) and definitely did not feel as nervous. We ended up oing 10-15 minutes over, which was fine, and I hope if anything that it's a good sign he lost track of time. :)
Overall, I enjoyed the interview experience! I didn't leave it bumbling with excitement as I did with Pritzker, but I do hope for an acceptance come October 15th! (Even though Dr. Arias said decisions are essentially made in 2-3 weeks...sigh).
10/15: Awwwwwww USC, why do you hurt me so? Waitlisted...was actually a bit surprised, since out of all the schools I interviewed at, I would've expected USC to be the one to accept me. Oh well, I'm not devestated. Looking back, I've come to accept that Keck has never been my #1 choice, so I guess this is all for the best. Still deciding if I want to stay on the waitlist, but for now, see you later, 'SC!
10/22: Decided to withdraw after realizing that I wouldn't attend USC over Pritzker
Summary of Experience:MATRICULATING and could not be happier!
8/10: HYAAAAAH WHAT IS THIS. Hopkins is letting me visit?! aksfwfjalkj
I was originally assigned an interview date that conflicted with another interview, but JHU was kind enough to let me re-schedule. Thank goodness!
9/3: If you had told me 4 years ago that I would have the opportunity to interview at JHU SOM, I would have called you crazy. But what can I say? It's been a surreal app cycle so far, and the past few days have been unreal. Hopkins has always been one of my top choices, and despite my poor experience with the humidity, I left just as much in love with the school as I always have been.
After arriving in Baltimore at 5PM, I was instantly struck by the east coast's famous humid summer air. Even after sitting in an air conditioned shuttle for 2 hours, my 10 minute walk to my host's apartment left me drench and worried about how well I would cope in a suit. (The answer was barely.) During the ride, I noticed that Baltimore is not all that different from LA and Chicago; it was a city of neighborhoods, spanning from the very nice to the very gentrified. I began to see what some people mean when they say that safety and comfort changes from block to block.
My host and several other students prefer to live in neighborhoods south of Hopkins: Fells Point, Patterson Park, Patterson Place, etc. A few MS1s like to live in the 929 Building, located just 2 blocks from the med school campus; the building reminds me of the luxery style housing found near USC's campus. The price range is higher (with parking, it ~$1000/month per person for a 4 bed/2 bath), but with it comes amenities and utilities. My host and her roommates live a few blocks down (about a 10 minute walk) in the traditional Baltimore rowhouses. To be honest, it reminds me eerily of the architecture style in Vietnam: 3 stories, a narrow staircase, and emphasis in depth over width. The width of the ground floor is not much larger than that a small living room. That said, the house had 2nd and 3rd floors comprised entirely of the bedrooms, 2 on each floor, each with its own bath and closet. The rooms themselves were actually super spacious, much bigger than my own in SoCal. It took me some time to get used to the architecture and style of the home, but now I can definitely appreciate its charm.
Talking with my host made me really excited about all the support that Hopkins offers its students. Like Pritzker (and I believe UCI?), Hopkins sorts its students into 4 Hogwartsian houses, with 30 students in each house. (The class size is 120.) Of that, each house is further subdivided into 6 molecules (groups of 5 students), where each molecule is assigned a faculty mentor. The molecules of each class that share the same mentor group together to form a macromolecule. (These lil science puns made me die.) Each week during the Clinical Foundations of Medicine (aka Doctoring 101) course, the molecules gather with the mentor to work through the lesson and practice clinical skills on one another. My host (along with the 4th years of the admissions committee) were talking about how they bonded most closely with their molecule members and shared the funniest (if not, most awkward) inside jokes. To me, this level of support is amazing, and really indicates that despite its medium-large class size, Hopkins really makes a concerted effort to make sure the students don't fall through the cracks.
After having dinner that my host graciously made, I walked over to the Armstrong Medical Education Building to partake in the Greeters' Program. Before every interview date, MS2s and MS1s host this informal social for the prospective students to share their questions without judgment. I arrived about a half hour late due to dinner and...getting lost HAHA. -_____-lll All of the students were extremely nice and welcoming, and I was astounded by how down-to-earth and genuine they are. I really clicked with one MS1 in particularly about the social justice and activism opportunities available at Hopkins and Baltimore in general, since "this is a place that would really benefit for open discussion and dialogue." Just...finding other students who are so thoughtful was incredible to me, and really assuaged my fears that Hopkins med students are all numbers and hyper-competitive. Surprisingly enough, the MS1s had their first exam (anatomy) the following morning, so I had no idea why they chose to stay for the program, haha! Talk about dedication (or procrastination).
During the Greeters' Program, the med students explained that anatomy is taught for 8 weeks, and after that students start of the basic sciences before moving onto the Genes to Society program. Classes are usually in the morning (8am-1pm), with recorded lectures. Afternoons are usually free, with the exception of the Clinical Foundations course once a week. Starting February of the first year, student take a Longitudinal Clerkship Program where they are paired with a preceptor, usually in primary care, for a year. This allows them to develop their clinical skills and interact directly with patients. As an aside from this, Hopkin's preclinical curriculum is 1.5 years, and students are given 8 weeks after February to study for Step 1. Additionally, if students want, they can take 1-2 clinical rotations before their Step 1, since this may help them perform better (Boards write very clinically based questions.) Overall, I really like this curriculum! It's graded as P/F, and the clinicals are graded as H/HP/P/F, where grading is also competency based to reduce competition.
After the event, I Uber'ed back and got settled for the night. Hopkins graciously starts its interview day relatively late (terrible for us in suits, but mindful of our jetlag), and I was happy to be able to sleep in for once! It kind of backfired on me in the sense that I missed the opportunity to sit in on a lecture, but I was able to attend the 929 Housing Tour. After attending the tour (and drowning myself in my sweat from the morning walk), I can safely say that the apartments are, indeed, luxery apartments. In Baltimore, as fellow JHU interviewee stated, if you rent a 3 bed/2 bath apartment for more than $800/person, you overpaid (Most students pay $550-$700/month!). It's nice to know that Baltimore housing is super affordable, though I guess it's compensated by the higher food prices. (There is a food desert.)
Following the tour, a few other interviewees and I headed back to the admissions office and met the rest of the group. There were 12 of us, and we all chatted for a bit before Dr. White came and welcomed us. He has a very blunt sense of humor, and we were all both appreciated and intimidated at once HAHA. The Financial Aid coordinate soon arrived, and explained Hopkins' policy for all applicants. At Hopkins, all financial aid is need-based (which makes sense, since all accepted students exemplify merit); becasue of this, even though student can apply as independent on the FAFSA, the parents must apply and submit the CSS PROFILE. The package itself includes a $20K/year base loan, and if there is is need after the "family contribution" and base loan, JHU packages the grants/scholarship package. If the student refuses to provide the CSS PROFILE, then the student is only eligible for loans. Once the financial aid talk was over, Dr. White gave an overview of the curriculum and medical philosophy at Hopkins: to heal the sick and underserved, you must go to them (hence their location in East Baltimore). At the same time, being Hopkins, the hospital also receives patients from all over the world for complex medical cases.
After providing us with the overview, Dr. White directed us across the hall where lunch was served. There, MS2s and guest faculty join to engage in conversation with the interviewees and put us at ease. They aren't on the admissions committee, haha, which made a lot of us much more comfortable. We had a tour of the glorious Johns Hopkins hospital afterwards, and while I wish we spent less time outside (my suit was stifling, and I learned the hard way that the crepe button down I wore reveal sweat quite well), but it was a beautiful tour nonetheless.
Once everyone was done with the tour, we all gathered in the admissions office for interviews. The way interviews at Hopkins works is that there are 2 30-minute open file interviews, one each with a faculty member of the admissions committee and a 4th year student on the admissions committee. While waiting for the admissions committee, the 4th year students chat with the applicants and evaluate them. Hopkins does not hide this; they warned students in the intervite invite email. I found myself to be really nervous about this part the night before, since I'm naturally more introverted and not one to engage in conversation openly, but I still found the atmosphere very relaxing. I think more than anything, the 4th year students just want to make sure that you're not totally socially incompetent (so put away your phones!), but otherwise, they were amicable and very friendly.
I had my faculty interview first, and my interviewer was super nice. It wasn't a totally conversational interview, but it also wasn't a stress test either. My interviewer was looking through parts of my application throughout the interview, and she seemed to pay close attention to the courses taken, activities section, and secondary responses. I was a bit taken back when she commented how one of my responses to a prompt should have been expanded and recycled to answer another prompt, but I don't think she meant any ill will by it. She seemed understanding when I explained that I assumed each responses necessitated a different experience (i.e. 2 experiences for 2 prompts). I wish I had this advise when I was filling out the secondary, haha! I hope this won't count too much against me, but I would like to think that if it were a deal breaker, then I wouldn't have been invited to interview in the first place. We talked a bit on my most and least favorite classes, and I think it gave her some perspective on how I think. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Likewise, my student interview was also really fun and enjoyable. It was much more conversational, and he was upfront that there were some questions he just had to ask as an adcom member. Overall, I left both interviews feeling good, and was told that I "did great" (though I wonder if they were just polite???).
Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Hopkins. I admit to not being as googly-eyed as I was at Pritzker, but I honestly think that weather had a big part to do with this. Once we're in an A/C'd room, however, I was fully in love in the school. I have high hopes for mid-December, and can only hope that financial aid works out if I have the opportunity to attend.
12/08: Awwwwwww, Hopkins, why don't you love me? Placed on the alternate list, and am completely honored for the chance to visit. Keeping my fingers crossed for this one!
5/10: Received a call from Ms. Mazza while driving my mom to work this morning. De-waitlisted at Hopkins?! askjf;alsjf;al Just...what....life does not feel real right now.
5/16 Aaaaaand, we're done! At this point, the only school I would consider leaving Hopkins for is UCSF, and even then, I hesitate. Hopkins has always been an absolute dream, and the fact hat I'm matriculating still hasn't fully sunk in yet. While the idea of giving up Pritzker's scholarship was initially painful, Hopkins proved to be very generous. In the end, the 4-year cost of both schools are comparable, and I decided to take a leap of faith. Time to go apartment hunting all over again!
Summary of Experience:+$200K merit scholarship. Matriculating!
7/15: Interview Invite?! SOOOOO STOKED. Prtizker is an absolute dream school, and I'm beyond thrilled for this chance to visit! I was a bit worried that I was silently put on hold/rejected at first, since there were a couple applicants who were completed after me but received an II before. It goes to show how unpredictable this process can be!
8/25/15: Oh, Pritzker: first one to send me an interview invitation, first one to steal my heart. I arrived on Sunday excited at the prospect of interviewing, and left yesterday beyond thrilled with my experience.
I flew in and arrived at Midway International Airport before taking a Go! Shuttle toward Pritzker where I met my host. For some reason, my Uber estimate was about $40 because the cheapest option was available, so I booked a shuttle which was $25/each way. (I later found out an interviewee who took an Uber for only $16 ughhhhhh -_______-).
It was my first time in Chicago, and I was extremely lucky to experience such gorgeous weather. With sunny blue skies and mighty gusts of wind, it was the perfect combination for me. As the admissions directed noted, Chicago is "a city comprised of neighborhoods" which each block of so exhibiting a very distinct culture and feel. Pritzker is located in Hyde Park near South Chicago, which has a large underserved population and clusters of cultural enclaves. The architecture, to me, was almost...cinematic? Tall, rustic buildings partially covered in ivy, spacious affordable apartments nestled above Mom and Pop shops, authentic restaurants galore.
My host and her roommates stay in a nice, spacious apartment that's only a 15 minute walk from campus. With 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, it only costs them $700/mo each. As someone who resided in Campus Housing in LA for 3 years, that pricing is a dream come true, haha! The students said that housing more north of campus may be more expensive since it would be farther away from the "dangers" of South Side. Before going out to dinner, we all walk around Hyde Park and stopped by 57th St Beach.
Yes, a beach. As a SoCal resident, I did a double-take when I first saw it.
Located along the coast of Lake Michigan, Chicago is home to a large strip of fresh water "beaches." I absolutely loved the feel of it; nice and cozy, without the crowded tourism. Perfect for students and families in a small community.
Interview day began at 8AM with the Multicultural Breakfast, and by the time I had grabbed my pastry, fruit cup, and shiny Pritzker folder, I could already feel the genuinely excited vibes from all interviewees and administrative staff. Everyone seemed truly excited to have us here. It was an amazing feeling. Throughout breakfast, current MS2-4 students dropped by to chat and answer our questions, reassuring us that Pritzker has already taken an expressed interested in us, and that we just have to be ourselves. Let's hope!
After the Multicultural Breakfast, we heard a presentation on Pritzker's curriculum and academic mission. Due to its location and emphasis on Scholarship & Discovery, Pritzker provides an immensely strong curriculum with plentiful opportunities for community outreach and research. There are 5 student-run clinics that allow MS1s to get involved in board positions, and S&D program allows the student to focus on 1 of 5 tracks. 80% of the MS1s stay to do a Summer Research Program, which may be formalized into their S&D project. One thing that Pritzker admin and student raved about was the P/F curriculum for the pre-clinical years, and students only need a 65% to pass. This, they said, really promotes open collaboration and support among all the students, eliminating the competition. Even in the clinical years, which are graded as H/HP/P, no competition is noted since it is competency based curriculum. There is no curve, so if everyone excels in their rotations, then everyone can get Honors or High Pass. There is also a Longitudinal Program that allows an MS to pair up with a mentor in his/her desired specialty. MS1s have reported that they went from mere shadowing at the beginning of the program to completing histories and presenting cases by the end of it! Additionally, during the 4th year, the curricular requires students to take a "sub-internship" in a desired field; essentially, 1 month, the MS4 is the intern. It's an intense month, but prepares the student extremely well for residency. I found myself in love with the concept; frankly, after competing for so long, the idea of open support sounds phenomenal.
Speaking of support, Pritzker's small class size of 88 makes it really easy to provide each student with abundant attention to maximize their success. The students are sorted into 4 Societies (or as my host calls it, Hogwarts Houses), allowing for open mentorship upon the MS1s-MS4s in each house. Furthermore, only 11 students share the same advisor allowing for even more attention. Even with anatomy lab, only 4 students are grouped for each cadaver and are allowed to be immersed in the lab. Some students commented that at other med schools, cadavers are assigned to student groups of 10, and even then, the TAs do most of the dissecting! Having not taken Anatomy myself, I feel that I would learn best by being as immersed in the action as possible
Following the presentation, were my interviews! Pritzker has you interview with a student, a faculty member, and an administrative member. The director of admission explicitly that during the interview, you imagine if you can see the student as a peer, the professor as a mentor, the admin as a person you can address concerns with. I had my student and admin interviews in the morning, and I found them to be very comfortable and conversational. My student interviewer came in jeans and a T-shirt, which threw me off for a bit, but whichever works! The interviews were open file (though the student interviewers don't see your stats and secondaries), and I found myself feeling gradually more comfortable through the day. They really seemed interested in getting to know you as a person; and more importantly, they want you to get to know them--their students, their strengths, their goals in medicine.
After the first batch of interviews is lunch with Chicago's famous deep dish pizza! MS2s-MS4s came in to chat with us and to help themselves to the free food. We learned a lot from them, and they were very nice and reassuring. I'm in love with the school already.
Following the interview was the campus tour. Pritzker, nestled in the greater UofC campus, is able to provide the med students with more resources such as professors, PIs, and study spaces. The medical center is impressive and beautiful, with "tunnels" connecting the buildings to protect the students during the infamous Chicago winter. My favorite view was the Skyline Lobby; just...gorgeous. Me, being an idiot, forgot to switch into my flats, and received three nice blisters as souvenirs -___-
My last interview was after the tour with a professor, and I felt that this one was a bit more formal than the others. I don't think the interviewer read through my file, or maybe he did and wanted to see if I was bullshitting my answers when I wrote it. Regardless, the questions were more standard, though still conversational. I still got the feel that he wanted to know if I was "right" for Pritzker, just as much as I wanted to know if Pritzker was "right" for me (although like I told him, I've been sold since 10AM that morning). Looking back, I hope that I answered his questions and didn't ramble too much, but it's too late to worry now! I also had a mini heart attack at the end when he revealed as being a Chairman of the of admissions sub-committees haha.
Following the interviews was a Closing Remarks presentation where the Director of Financial Aid talked about Pritzker's generous merit aid program. Here's hoping that I hear good news on October 15th! I am absolutely over the moon about this school!
10/15: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH MY HEART. OVER THE MOON with this acceptance!! Pritzker has definitely remained as one of my top choices, so the phone call was simply surreal. While I do admit that I was bit disappointed that I didn't receive a merit offer with the acceptance (it was one of the ways I heard about Pritzker to begin with), I'm beyond thrilled by this opportunity to attend. Just...please...financial aid, be good to me.
11/5: Acceptance letter received! Feel so good!
03/09 RECEIVED A CALL FROM LEILA SAYING I RECEIVED A $200K MERIT SCHOLARSHIP. *ugly crying* Honestly, this feels unreal. Unless Columbia or Duke come up with a comparable financial aid package, Chicago is hard to pass up as I do already love the school.
Summary of Experience:
9/18: II AHHHHHHH beyond surprised and excited! I'm really interested in Duke 1 year preclinical and research year, and would love for a chance to visit. Unfortunately, I don't find MMIs to be my strong point, and Duke uses them so...sigh. It's just an obstacle I'll have to overcome, I suppose.
12/17: Goodness, I haven't written one of these in a while. To be honest, DukeMed really surprised me, and I was surprised to be receive an interview at all. Its secondary application was by far one of the most intensive, and Duke is very proud of that. "We really want to know that we're meeting the right type of students," Dean Armstrong said on Interview Day. While the essays were challenging to write, I really appreciated the rationale behind them. I did feel that Duke wanted to hear about my life experiences and values, and I was beyond excited to receive an interview invitation from them!
I arrived at RDU airport at 5:30pm and took an Uber to my host's place. Apparently, I chose the worst time of day to travel because traffic was packed--and it showed in my Uber fare. Once my host helped me settle in, we drove to The Parlour, an ice cream shop where DukeMed students organized a social for all the interviewees. Even though it was finals week, the DukeMed students were all really relaxed and friendly, asking all of our questions and providing candid opinions on their med school experience.
One of the major things they addressed, of course, was Durham. "Let's get one thing straight: no one goes to Duke to live in Durham. Students choose UCSF to live in SF. Students choose schools in New York or Boston because they want to live there. Students who choose Duke do so because they love Duke." For whatever reason, this statement really struck me, and I think it was something important to focus on. Indeed, compared to San Francisco, New York, and Boston, Durham is not nearly as exciting. A small Southern town, it has enough for people to do and is described as "easy living," but it doesn't offer anything truly spectacular. Some would argue that it is Duke holding it together. To me, Durham is really similar to a lot of smaller suburbs: safe and clean, but not exciting. It provides a quiet comfort that would urge me to make the best of all the opportunities available at DukeMed, and I think I appreciate that.
In addition to its location, the medical students also spoke earnestly about Duke's curriculum. For decades, DukeMed has pioneered a 1-year P/F preclinical curriculum (without any internal rankings), followed by 1 year of rotations. It is this set up that inspired Vanderbilt and Harvard's models. Year 3, or "Year FREEEEEEEEE" as the students like to say, is formally called the Scholarly Concentration Year, in which students spend 12 months doing research or pursue a dual degree. DukeMed truly prides itself on this model, as it allows the students to customize their medical educaiton and maximize their residency application. While students across the nation are doing their rotations as MS3s and figuring out what specialties they want to go into, students at DukeMed have already finished their clerkships and can use the 3rd year to conduct relevant research on their specialty of interest. This is especially important if one wants to go into competitive specialties. Personally, I find this really exciting, and I really appreciate that Duke students can do their 3rd year anywhere--at Duke, at another institution, or even another country! In year 4, students go back to Duke to finish the clinical electives, but again, these are geared towards one's specialty of interest. It's amazing!
Interview Day itself began with a nice breakfast: bagels, pastries, fruit, and coffee. There were 20 interviewees in total, which are split into 2 groups of 10 for the MMI stations. I was in the afternoon group; while I was a bit bummed about this since I hoped to get the MMI out of the way. Dean Armstrong came in at 8:30am and provided us with an introduction of DukeMed's history, its values in the admissions process, and the purpose of the MMI. Honestly, she is definitely one of the most inspiring educational leaders I've had to the honor of listening to on the interview trail. She holds such strong values and expectations of the students at Duke that half the time I sat there thinking, "So how am I sitting here?!"
Following Dear Armstrong's pep talk was a financial presentation. Nothing too different here: Duke looks at the demonstrated need, then provides 60% of that need in grants. What did surprise me was that Duke's merit scholarships take place of loans; a student could therefore attend DukeMed debt free. Of course, I'm shamelessly hoping for it, but I try not to think about it until I hear good news in March.
After the financial aid presentation, a member of the adcom escorted the morning interviewees to the MMI stations while an MS1 came to talk about Duke's growing emphasis on Team Based Learning (TBL), which is a hybrid of a flipped classroom model and case based learning. We did a short (and corny) activity demonstrating this before going on a tour of Duke's facilities. Honestly, thoughout the entire tour, I grew really starry-eyed at everything. I truly could imagine myself being there, and it makes me that much more excited and nervous about decisions.
Following the tour, we all gathered together for lunch with current students. An MS3 came in particular to talk about his 3rd year experience--and honestly, he became in instant legend among us interviewees. Getting involved in neurosurgery and global health research since Year 1, garnering over $150,000 in project grants, matching in NeuroSurg...SO INSPIRATIONAL. I can only hope to be as resourceful as him!
And finally, it was time for the afternoon group to interview. Although I had hoped to be part of the morning group, I ended up being glad that I wasn't. After learning about how amazing DukeMed is and how happy the students are, I feel much more relaxed and optimistic about the MMI. I think I was also less stressed since I have an acceptance in hand. Furthermore, I found Duke's MMI stations to be a lot more fun than UCSD's! It really did feel, as an MS1 described it, liked I was on a gameshow. While I do feel that I could've done better on a few stations, I'm not going to let myself overthink things.
Overall, I am very happy and impressed by DukeMed. I loved all that it had to offer, and truly hope for some good news in March. I guess we can only see!
2/29: DUKE ACCEPTANCE OMG. Honestly, truly unexpected. I'm not an outwardly social person, so even though I loved my interview day experience and all that Duke has to offer, an acceptance didn't even cross my mind because it was an MMI interview. Beyond thrilled, and I don't know how I could possibly decide among Pritzker, Columbia, and DukeMed. To be honest, at this point, I might even let financial aid decide for me, which is something I told myself i wouldn't do, but I just really do love all of my options.
4/28: Alas, I would have loved to attend Duke. Their 1-year preclinical is just a dream, but financially it did not work out as well for me. Additionally, choosing Duke over Pritzker and P&S would essentially require me to bring my car, and I don't want my parents to shell out another $30K for a replacement if they won't have to. I was hoping for a merit award, but am not surprised that I didn't receive on. Duke is an amazing institution, and this was not an easy decision, though I'm sure it was the right one for my situation.
Summary of Experience:
09/01: II! Super stoked! Unfortunately, when I checked the portal, all the available September dates resulted in conflict -___- I emailed the admissions committee and was allowed to delay my interview until the first week of October. Frantically writing an ITA email to NYU and Rochester in hopes of garnering more interviews for that week and saving me a couple expensive flights!
10/6: Good ol' P&S...or as some affectionately call it, the College of Surgeons & Surgeons. The oldest MD-awarding medical school in the country, Columbia boasts a strong clinical curriculum, amazing patient diversity, New York City, and a balanced student body. I was excited to head back to the East Coast and visit the Big Apple.
Located in Washington Heights, Columbia's medical campus is very much integrated with the rest of the community. Local shops and theaters line the streets around Broadway and 185th, and Downtown NYC is a 15 minute subway ride away. After arriving at LaGuardia Airport, I tried navigating NYC's famous public transit system and found it surprisingly efficient. Transportation there essentially works on a grid system, and one can essentially get anywhere if s/he knows the cross streets and budgets enough time. Coming from LA where the Metro is largely inefficient, NYC's subway and bus system is a dream. Columbia P&S, fortunately, lies on one of the Express A train stops, which makes getting to and from the university quick and easy.
I was lucky to stay with a student host, who is an MS2 and stays in the upperclassmen housing called the Towers. Columbia is one of the few medical schools that offer university-owned (read: subsidized) housing for its students, and around 80% of the MS1s living in Bard Hall, which is a dormitory-styled building. Rooms on average are 10'x12' ("So you live in a box," as one of the students joked during my Vanderbilt interview), and cost around $800/month. Compared to NYC's general cost of living, this is a steal. All rooms a singles, and there are same-sex community bathrooms on each floor. The major gripe about Bard Hall is the fact that there is only one kitchen for all 11 floors...so don't expect to cook much here. In fact, the major reason why most MS1s choose to live in Bard is for the chance to living in the Towers during years M2-M4, which are also subsidized to around $1100/month. Not bad for a chance to live in an apartment! All rooms look out to downtown or the Hudson River, and the views are absolutely gorgeous.
Interview Day started with a light breakfast at 8am, and goodness, this was probably one of the few schools where I felt so utterly small and unimportant compared to my fellow applicants haha. Students are assigned to either morning and afternoon interviews, and I was a bit surprised at how unstructured the day was. I had afternoon interviews, which left me with 2 free hours in the morning to do whatever I pleased. After visiting a lecture and milling about, we gathered back in the admissions conference room for a welcome from Dean Nicholas. His conversations were very amusing, relaxing, and helped to reduce the stiff atmosphere...until he started asking each of us specific points of our application. This was when I started to feel so...average compared to my peers ahaha. Oh gosh, some of them are just so incredibly accomplished, doing amazing things outside the classroom. Columbia, perhaps more than most schools, really looks for students who are strongly involved in extracurriculars, and I definitely felt that. Students are involved in all sorts of things, and they have one of the most balanced medical school experiences.
After Dean Nicholas's welcome, we had lunch for a few MS1s, chatted wtih MS4s, and toured the campus and hospital facilities with MS2s. All of the students raved about the school's empahsis on extracurricular involvement and strong clinical experiences. In fact, both of the MS4s (who are going into ENT and ortho...omg) stressed that they developed much stronger clinical experiences during M3 than their peers. They attribute this to Columbia's patient population and slightly inefficient hospital system. "MS3s here are held to a much higher standard, since we are often overbooked. As such, when we do away rotations, the attendings notice that we tend to take initiative on things. I did away rotations at Hopkins and Stanford, and while I was totally comfortable, my peers were not." I'm so glad to hear the strength of the clinical years, and as someone who wants to work with underserved communities, I'm really excited to learn from the diverse patient population at NYC.
While on the tour, the students spoke a bit about Columbia's curriculum. Preclinicals are 1.5 years long, and transition from heavily lecture-based to a hybrid system involving a lot of case-based learning. The class size is 165, which is a bit on the large side, especially if there aren't any societies set up to make the class cozier. That said, the students find that they create these smaller spaces through their clubs; P&S boasts 70+ organizations, which is...a lot for the ~300 MS1/MS2s. Step 1 is taken after the year of clerkships, in the middle of MS3, leaving a bit more time during the later years to explore specialties. Columbia, students rave, is one of the few medical schools that introduce students to all major surgical specialties, and students receive a longitudinal primary care "clerkship" during their preclinical years. All in all, I'm stoked about the opportunities.
In regards to interviews, Columbia surprises me in that they only have one, which is done with a faculty member. Indeed, Dean Nicholas assured us that the interview is just a small portion of the application; during deliberations, the committee focuses much more on our essays/responses, activities, and letters of recommendation. Looking at past numbers though, I wonder how much weight the interview actually holds: Columbia has a slightly low post-interview acceptance rate, interviewing ~1000 applicants. Decisions are made mid-February, with 100 rejections, 200 outright acceptance, and 700 waitlists (omg). Eventually, about 350 acceptances are offered. That said, I found my interview to be very conversational and fun. It felt like we were just talking to getting to know each other, and I felt very comfortable. I can only hope that this means good news, haha!
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience here. New York is an exciting place, and Columbia really encourages its students to make the best of their experiences here. Given the low post-acceptance rate and the sheer "impressive-ness" of my fellow applicants' CVs, I won't be holding my breath for good news. Regardless, it doesn't hurt to be hopeful? ;)
2/11: AHHHHHHHHHHHH OMG ACCEPTED. After received 2 NYC-based telemarketing calls over the past 2 weeks, the acceptance call felt honestly surreal. I didn't even think Columbia would be on radar post-interview. The students there were so incredible, and the opportunities that the school provides align so closely to my interests (e.g. research, underserved diverse populations, shorter preclinicals). Among all the interviews I attended, my cohort at Columbia were definitely some of the most impressive, so I didn't really think I stood a chance. I'm so beyond thankful for this opportunity, and am definitely thinking about attending Second Look!
4/29: Definitely the most difficult withdrawal I've had to make yet. I absolutely loved Columbia: from its location in Washington Heights, to the NYP Hospital, to the diverse patient population, focus on healthcare disparities, exposure to surgical fields...It was always, and still is, a dream institution for me. To know that I'm pulling away because of financial reasons--even if it makes total sense--pains me. I tried waiting it out, hoping to hear of merit awards as the scholarship committee continues to meet. Unfortunately, there was too much uncertainty, as the committee does not have a "deadline" to inform students (it could be today, but it could also be awarded the day before orientation). Although this is probably the best decision, it was a terribly difficult one.