I am not terribly anonymous, which is frightening, but I have decided to provide as much information as possible since I found many well done MDApps helpful. Yes I applied to a lot of schools, being from California scares me. Please ignore any typos, I am not perfect.
Graduated in June, 2012 and in a gap year
3 years epidemiology research, not published* 3 years free clinic volunteering, large leadership role* 3 years small group tutoring 2 years designed and taught 1-unit course 1 year resident advisor* 1 year volunteering at science center 3 years public health club 6 months theme park employment Some hospital volunteering & shadowing
After the application cycle settles down I may put some of my activity descriptions on here since I feel like this is probably the most important part of your application.
Disclaimer: Don't take anything as fact, this is all my opinion. I am just an applicant so I don't have any inside knowledge, but I think my experiences can still be valuable.
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 06/04/2012
Undergraduate college: State School
Undergraduate Area of study: Biological/Life Sciences
May 15 - Holding one acceptance 17 - UCSF acceptance from waitlist
I tried to be as honest as possible. No school is perfect so I tried to present my entire perception of the school based off the interview day. If you disagree with something I have said, please let me know in the discussion section. Please remember this is just one person's perspective, I encourage you to do a lot of research before applying to/not applying to any school. Schools are listed in order of interview attendance.
At first I wasn't sure if I was interviewing at UChicago or Hogwarts School of Medicine. The campus architecture is pretty impressive, though Pritzker specifically does not have the famous gothic architecture that UChicago is known for. I loved that Pritzker was connected to the undergraduate campus and I thought it was neat that Pritzker students can take a class or two across campus. The interviews were very conversational and I am glad this was my first interview. During my faculty interview we spent a lot of time talking about Dr. Who, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and other random things - I'm surprised to say I had fun interviewing here. My faculty interviewer also emphasized that they take medical education very seriously("educators of educators") and that students have a lot of support. On the tour we did not get to see much of the old hospital but the new hospital opening in 2013 looked impressive. Pritzker's immense opportunities in community health also impressed me and even though there is no MPH at UChicago, I think there were plenty of public health focused research going on. The cost of attendance is certainly scary but I think I will worry about that if I get accepted. Hoping for good news! <3
Pittsburgh is obviously a titan in medicine. 29 hospitals!? Geez. Right of the bat I realized that the Oakland area of Pittsburgh was pretty neat. It was basically an entire mini-city filled with only students and health care professionals. I liked the urban environment and the proximity to downtown Pittsburgh. I spent 2 days exploring Pittsburgh with a friend and liked what I saw(and ate…). I like that the medical school is on campus with undergrads and attached to the hospital. The research opportunities in infectious disease, ID epidemiology, public health are impressive and they obviously match my interests well. I had mixed interactions with the students I met though. My tour guide was awesome but some other students turned me off of the school. The only answer they could come with to "Why Pittsburgh?" was "I didn't get into a better school." Not comforting. I enjoyed my faculty interview, it wasn't off the wall like UChicago but it was very informative(I like how they match you up based on interests). He provided me a lot of insight into what Pittsburgh is like(he did most of the talking..haha) and I definitely came away feeling like I could be comfortable here. Oh, and, we had a chance to participate in a mock PBL session which unexpectedly turned out to be very fun and informative.
To be honest, I did not expect to love this school as much as I did. At the end of the day, though, I knew this was a special place. The curriculum is by far my favorite, and I am not sure any of my future interviews will be able to compare. It is 1.5 years, block scheduling, p/f, and involves a decent amount of team based learning(I realized that I like small group learning a lot sometime after Pittsburgh). They also seemed to really emphasize clinical skills right off the bat - incorporating this immediately into the 1st year curriculum. The new medical education building is stunning and gorgeous, and they designed an entire auditorium for team based learning that seemed really intriguing. The Associate Dean of Admissions(who is also one of the student affairs dean) was awesome and I got the impression that faculty care a lot about their students. Lunch was awesome, enough said. Simulation center was the nicest I have seen yet. Charlottesville also had a nice comfortable feel to it and is somewhat close to my brother. MD/MPH program available and strong research in global health and infectious diseases(some of my interests). Compared to other schools I interviewed at, the hospital and clinical facilities seem somewhat meager(probably something to do with having an academic medical center in the middle of nowhere :P). Also rotations around the state seems kind of dubious but some of the students seemed to consider a plus so I am not sure what I think yet. Oh yeah, and the thing that impressed me the most about UVa was the students. They seemed happy, comfortable and truly awesome.
Between the flextime quizzes, p/f grading scheme, and block scheduling the curriculum at Michigan is very appealing. Michigan is obviously an impressive institution and the medical school and hospital are right on campus. Plenty of opportunities to pursue research or a duel degree(in pretty much everything) and medical students can apparently audit classes from across campus, which I thought was pretty neat. The students, faculty and staff were probably the most excited I have met on the interview trail so far - they were all happy to be at Michigan and have no problem expressing their love for the school(usually by shouting "Go Blue!"). The school pride was slightly nauseating at times but I think it speaks volumes about the place(if people didn't enjoy being there I can't imagine them having so much pride). The students and staff did spend a lot of time comparing themselves to "big name" schools, which was funny since I thought Michigan was a big name school. To an extent it almost felt like they were uncomfortable with their awesomeness and had to constantly compare themselves to other schools(which I thought was completely unnecessary, let the school speak for the itself because it is clearly awesome!). Ann Arbor is really the quintessential college town and I loved the plethora of restaurants and the ability to walk around. Ultimately I got the impression I would be very happy here as a medical student and I look forward to their decision on Oct. 15th.
The local school, my alma mater and my current employer. I had an odd feeling going into this interview because I was already comfortable here. The students I interacted with were fantastic(but I knew this already since I have worked with many of them) and I thought the student panels were super informative. I loved my faculty interview - the interviewer was incredibly easy to talk to. The curriculum is not perfect since it is H/P/F 2nd year but the use of iPads is intriguing. The iPads have all the books they use their first two years and their white coats are even made to fit iPads(lol). The new MedEd building is also a nice plus. One big downside is that the hospital is in Orange(not Irvine) meaning that it is 30-40 minutes away in traffic(its actually not THAT far but traffic in the area is horrible). Most students move away from Irvine in their 3rd/4th year because of this. Overall I think I would be comfortable and happy here and that is what is important. I am kind of looking to get out of Southern California, but not 100% sure about that. If I was going to stay in SoCal, I would probably want to be at Irvine. Go Anteaters!
Baylor has a lot of great things going for it. The 1.5 yr curriculum, high avg step scores(239!?) and the Texas Medical Center are just a few of the draws. Also this school is cheaper than my state school(!!). Baylor matches my interests well since they are strong in pediatrics and very strong in infectious disease research(New school of tropical medicine with Peter Hotez!? Say whaaat?). In the end though I felt like I did not "fit" this school which was very disappointing because of how much I liked it before my interview. The biggest concern for me going into the interview was Houston; I knew very little about the city and was unsure if I wanted to live in Texas. My goal is to find a medical school where I will be comfortable, and I don't think Baylor is that place from me. I would not discourage anyone else from applying though, this place is definitely impressive.
In the End (Withdrew): I was really turned off by my first interviewer and did not get a good feel in Houston. My first interviewer asked me to describe my biggest concern about Baylor and I told him I was unsure about living in Houston/Texas(completely honest answer). Apparently that offended him because he went on to tell me(very condescendingly) that most people would love the chance to live in Houston. I just wanted to know more.....He also asked me why I liked Baylor and then dismissed all my reasons, so I decided I must not like Baylor. Almost left after my first interview. My second interviewer was nice, but at end of the day I just didn't fall in love with Baylor. I am sure Baylor is a fantastic place, but it is not the place for me.
Before visiting Mayo I was very unsure about the place. By the end of my interview day, however, Mayo had impressed me to say the least. As soon as I arrived in Rochester I was amazed and perplexed since the town really exists around(and in support of) the clinic and associated hospitals. All the buildings were gorgeous, from the tiny medical school building to the gigantic Mayo building. One of my biggest concerns was the small class size. I didn't understand how you could have diverse student body with so few students. Yeah, this definitely is not an issue at Mayo. It was very apparent they take pride in really shaping and molding a class of 50 unique individuals with different talents, experiences, and backgrounds. All the students were so impressive(hence why I am not hopeful for an acceptance, I am just a normal guy! :[) and friendly. As a matter of fact, EVERYONE at Mayo was incredibly warm and welcoming. Everyone I talked to seemed to enjoy living in Rochester and I daresay I kind of liked what I saw of the town. Despite 2 years of basic science, I really liked the curriculum including the selectives(awesome!?) and loads of small group work. They seemed to emphasize and enjoy team based learning and learning from peers unlike some schools that had the "We do PBL because we have to" attitude. Research is obviously aplenty and they really emphasized how many resources there were to students in whatever you wanted to do. My 2nd interviewer spent a great deal of time talking about the population health/biostats/epi research being done at Mayo, which was awesome. The tour was a whirlwind of amazing-ness. The entire place was beautiful, from the lobby, to the 10 million(exageration? or not?) pieces of artwork everywhere, to the kid-friendly designed pediatrics floor that almost made me drool. The tour also showed me that they take their mission of putting the patient first extremely seriously. This is the first time I was in a hospital that felt comfortable and warm. After interviewing at a few places, I have realized that most American schools will make you fantastic physician so my goal is to find a school where I will be comfortable and happy. I think Mayo is a place I could be comfortable and happy. Now....to wait. *crossing-fingers*
After getting lost in the rain I finally arrived at the admissions office 15 minutes early and yet I was still the last person to show up - apparently getting to Penn early is serious business. The day began with a presentation that sold me on their 1.5 year curriculum despite the fact that it is H/P/F after the first semester. They take step 1 after their clinical year and apparently their average is around 245! [insert expletive here]! Penn emphasized that they want students to pursue their interests outside of medicine and tailor their medical education to their goals(they seemed awfully comfortable with telling us that they are totally ok with medical students who never want to practice medicine). After the presentation they passed out disposable aprons and led us to the anatomy lab where we spent 45 minutes with first years. I had very mixed opinions of this. On one hand seeing cadavers was an emotional/traumatic experience that I did not expect(to their credit they gave us another cadaver-less option but no one took them up on their offer). On the other hand I got to spend 45 minutes talking to current students, which was amazingly fantastic. Oh and my suit smelled like formaldehyde for the rest of the day which I am sure pleased the person sitting next to me on the 5 hour flight home. After the cadaver lab we embarked on a tour through the medical school and the legendary Children's Hospital. Penn is nice but not terribly gorgeous(we didn't go into the new shiny buildings - one of which was designed by Rafael Vinoly…at this point I think he is the only person that designs new medical buildings...). We also had the chance to spend 30 minutes in the simulation lab where I watched fellow applicants try to save a mannequin controlled by other applicants(can you say hilarious?). The interviews were super conversational and relaxed even though I didn't really hit it off with my student interviewer(he was a great guy, I just don't think we were going to be best friends). They seemed to expect thank you notes and even give you a way to directly send them through your status page. Overall very impressed and excited for the result….in March...
For a school that exists in Car-ifornia, parking sure was complicated. The curriculum is great(2 year, P/F block scheduling) but nothing to write home about. The new medical education building is GORGEOUS and beyond awesome but the tour was highly ineffective at showcasing this. I cheated a little because I had been to UCSD-SOM a few months earlier when they were showcasing the new building to a bunch of politicians(part of a health policy class). On that trip I got to play with a da vinci robot, drool over the simulation technology and watch medical students practice patient interaction in a state of the art center. On this trip they led us down to the basement(where all the cool stuff is) and then stood us at the door and said - "EVERYTHING INSIDE IS COOL, OK BACK UPSTAIRS!" To be fair medical students probably don't regularly use most of the stuff there - but still! They also forgot to(or choose not to) show us the new lecture hall which was probably one of the most impressive/gorgeous lecture halls I have ever seen. I guess the other applicants will just have to take my word for it. The school had a California laid-back feel and the students were very stereotypical Californians(if that makes any sense, it wasn't good or bad, it just was). Both the interviews were fairly conversational and they mostly focused on asking questions about my activities. They have an impressive student run free clinic that they were definitely proud of(rightfully so). The hospitals are a little spread out - some are incredibly close and others are 20-30 minutes away. I think La Jolla would be a great place to spend the next four years of my life despite the fact that the students kept emphasizing how sterile La Jolla is. After spending 4 years in Irvine I don't think I would consider La Jolla sterile. Should find out soon….SCARED!
The entire campus is pretty impressive. Stanford looks like what you would expect a snobby east coast school to look like if it got up and moved to California(less snobby, more palm trees). The medical school buildings were the most beautiful medical school buildings of any school. The student lounge was dazzling. The medical students have their own entire floor(that no one else can access) with a sleeping room, balcony, gym(including showers) and study space. The hospital is pretty ugly but they are building a new 2 billion dollar medical center(designed by…guess who!?…yes Rafael Vinoly). The medical students seem to have quite a bit more class than most places, but this wasn't completely clear. They do have Wednesday's entirely off and their classes are recorded so you can pursue outside interests. The administration seemed to emphasize flexibility and tailoring each student's education to match their passions. Apparently almost 70% of their class takes takes a year off to do research or some other endeavor. Like every school, the financial situation was somewhat frightening. Unlike most schools though, they seemed to expect parents to contribute to the cost of medical school. Medical students can make significant money serving as teaching assistants for medical school classes(and less commonly undergraduate classes) and research assistants. Before my interview I was quite scared of the MMI and thought it was gimmicky. Dean Garcia spent some time explaining why Stanford does MMI and he alleviated any concerns I had. It was very apparent they put A LOT of thought into MMI. Surprisingly I loved the MMI and I sort of wish more schools did the MMI. That is all I am going to say about that since I signed a NDA. Now to wait until late November :D!
I started off my "Vanderbilt Experience" by getting kicked out of the library after my host swiped me in with his ID. Of course since this was Vanderbilt they kicked me out in a nice, warm and comforting manner(and then let me back in). Everyone I met, from the faculty to the students, seemed to love being at Vanderbilt. My host emphasized that the students are well supported and this was evident throughout my interview day. Students are divided into 4 colleges(that had crests with animals on them - resulting in lots of Harry Potter jokes) where they get structured mentorship from faculty members. The Dean of Student Affairs(Dr. Rogers?) seemed like an amazing guy so it is no wonder the students are so happy. Normally I wouldn't want to be a guinea pig for a new curriculum but after my interview day I have complete faith that Vanderbilt will not leave its students out to dry. It is evident that they have put a lot of thought into the new curriculum and apparently they have been slowly implementing aspects over the past few years. Basically it is a 1 year pre-clinical curriculum and then 2nd year is the core clinical curriculum. After year 2 you take Step 1 and then they emphasized that you had flexibility to shape your education as you see fit with research or "immersion courses"(clinical electives w/ some class time is what they sound like). I had two faculty interviews(one "long" and open file and one "short" and closed file). My long interview was extremely conversational and even though my interviewer was new to Vanderbilt he had a ton of insight into the school. I was terrified for my short interview since I had heard some rumors about the difficult questions they ask. As it turned out there was no reason to be nervous. Yes my interviewer asked more difficult questions(Tell me about a time when you failed…) but the interview was still very conversational and relaxed. I think I would be happy here, extremely happy even and that is what is important.
The interview day started pretty early - the sun was not even up! I stayed with a student host and as we drove to Emory I had the chance to drool as we drove past the CDC. The campus is gorgeous including the new marble encased medical building. The admissions director & dean were incredibly friendly and started the day with what seemed to be a comedy routine. Out of all my interviews I was easily the most tired at Emory and I am not sure why - I think by this point I was so over traveling. I was in the afternoon interview group so we spent the morning traveling to and touring Grady hospital in Atlanta. It was a little awkward because the student tour guide was also going to be our interviewer(they design it this way) so I feel like a lot of people were on edge the entire morning. Grady was super impressive and I can imagine it is a ripe environment for medical education. The county hospital feel definitely contrasted with the private hospital feel of Emory University Hospital(which reminded me more of a hotel). When I came back from the hospital I had a one-on-one interview and then a group panel interview(3 interviewers, 3 interviewees). The one-on-one interview was odd because the interviewer only had my personal statement and with me being tired I didn't say much - I think it lasted 15 minutes. The group interview was also just weird. It was cool to hear my fellow interviewees stories but I felt like it was a poor way to get any additional information. Each person was asked 2-3 questions max and with the interviewers only having access to our personal statements - I felt like the interview was very shallow. They mentioned early in the day that they like the group interview because it shows how we will interact with other people but yeah no - the group interview did not elucidate this at all, at least not from my perspective.
In the End (Withdrew): Had really mixed feelings about Emory. It was one of my first choices pre-season but after interviewing I decided it wasn't for me. My short one-on-one interview was odd and the group interview just came off as a very ineffective way to get to know anyone(though I enjoyed hearing the stories from the very passionate/driven applicants I was paired with). I just got a weird feeling which may have been due to me being extremely tired from traveling and starting to get sick but oh well. Since I applied MD/MPH I had the chance to visit the Rollins School of Public Health which was impressive. I left thinking: "Wow I want to study public health here, but not medicine....!"
We started off the day with a beautiful view of Central Park and an introduction by the Dean of Medical Education. He spent the whole introduction telling us a story about one of his patients which I thought was odd at first but by the end I was hooked. I was so tired traveling when I arrived at Mount Sinai that when I walked into my first interview it took me a minute to remember I needed to talk about myself. I really enjoyed meeting students here, including my student interviewer who I really connected with. He told me a lot about their student run free clinic(which is incredibly impressive) and we basically compared experiences in running/operating these kinds of clinics. For a stand alone hospital without an affiliated university, Mount Sinai was very impressive. They have tons of new buildings opening soon dedicated to research and their hospital was gorgeous. Their patient population is very diverse and it seemed like Sinai was doing a lot to support the unmet needs of the surrounding community. Being in NYC is obviously awesome and Sinai makes it easy with subsidized apartments(no dorms!) for their students. Their curriculum has pluses and minuses. You can take tests on your computer from wherever you want over a couple days but the downside is they do have a lot of (non-mandatory) class time.
I was almost late because I stayed with a friend and he told me the walk was only 30 minutes and yet it took us an hour(oops). We began the day by getting our interviewers assigned to us by the director of admissions. He went around telling everyone how nice their interviewers were("They were my son's pediatrician!") until he got to me(the last person). He looked at my file and then went, "Oh Dr. ______(My second interviewer), he is a challenging interview." As we walked out of the room more than one applicant expressed sympathy for me, it was all very ominous. My first interview went well enough. My interviewer was a neurosurgery resident who went to Yale. We had some interesting conversations since, while at Yale, he founded the Haven Free Clinic and most of my experience was in a similar student run free clinic. It wasn't my best interview though, we definitely didn't hit it off. After that we went on a tour and I had a chance to admire all the history at Yale(Room full of Brrrraaaaaaaiiiiinnnnnsss!!). Also the cadaver lab was ridiculous because, unlike EVERY other lab I saw on the interview trail, it did not smell! They were very proud of their non-smelling lab(rightfully so :D). I got dropped off for my second interview on the way back from the tour and was pretty terrified. It didn't help that I had to wait outside his office for 10 grueling minutes. My second interviewer turned out to be a big wig department chair and gosh darn he asked the hardest questions I encountered on the interview trail - BUT HE WAS AWESOME. Yes he asked hard questions, but it was more to spike conversation and explore my thoughts. It was evident that he was not trying to grill me or test my knowledge. He just wanted to chat about my experiences, and how these experiences shaped my perspectives. He also provided valuable insight into being a student at Yale and I appreciated that. All in all I had a good time at Yale, and New Haven wasn't my favorite place in the world but I think it would grow on me.
We were instructed to show up in a random room where no one was waiting for us - immediately I thought about all the rumors detailing a super unstructured interview day at Harvard. Turns out the day wasn't as loose as the rumors claim. Eventually someone came to pass out folders which included information that schools normally presented to applicants and even walking tour instructions. One of the first things we did was introduce ourselves, and I thought it was funny that this was the only school that had us say our name, school and…academic interests(instead of an interesting fact like every other school). Surprisingly most(or all?) people on my interview day were from state schools. They explained that the day was not as rigid as most schools because they had to get applicants all over the city for their interviews(makes sense) but luckily for me, both my interviews were on the Longwood campus(scooooree!). My first interviewer was awesome, we had some great conversations about health policy and I wish I could have talked to him for longer! He was pretty intimidating though so I was more nervous than normal(boooo). After my interview was over my interviewer walked me to the second interview while telling me about Boston winters and the overabundance of portraits with elderly white men on the walls of Harvard. I had some time between my interviews and while I was sitting in the lounge one of the students offered to take me to class - so I went. Turned out to be a great opportunity to meet a bunch of super nice students. My second interviewer was a 4th year student who was probably my favorite student interviewer of the season. He knew my application backwards and forwards and he was just a genuinely nice guy. He provided awesome insight into being a student at Harvard. The school certainly isn't perfect(what school is?) but I liked what I saw and most of all, Boston is awesome.
To be honest I have no idea what the UCSF Parnassus campus looks like because the entire place was covered in thick fog. Similar to Harvard we were told to meet in an obscure room where no one was waiting for us(but there was food!). One of the faculty members(Dean Wolfsy was busy) gave us an introduction to UCSF and the admissions process. He asked us for our honest opinion on open vs. closed file interviews(UCSF does closed file) and no one wanted to talk so I (regretfully) gave him a pretty snarky response about why I disliked closed file interviews and preferred open file interviews(thanks sleep deprivation). He also asked who had experienced an MMI and what they thought of it. I was apparently the only person in the group who liked MMIs and so I explained my reasoning. I was just full of rebellion that morning and I am sure it make a great impression on my fellow interviewees( ;D). They said be honest so I was just honest….We had the chance to hang out in the student lounge(more like student closet) and go to class with the first years, which was cool but not very exciting. The tour was neat since we broke up into small groups. The anatomy lab was pretty and had an awesome view(that was mostly obscured by fog). Both my interviews were at Parnassus and I thought they went pretty well, despite being closed file. I had a good time talking to both faculty interviews, they were both people that I think would make great mentors if I was to go to UCSF. UCSF was pretty awesome but it definitely has a different feel than comparable private institutions.
I expected this place to be pretty awesome but did not expect to be blown away. I was mighty impressed. The entire hospital system dwarfs the surrounding community. All applicants had the option of being hosted in their on campus dorms, and we got to attend a pizza dinner with fellow applicants and TONS of medical students. You have to wake up early to check out if you are staying in Olin(7 am check out). They do provide you with a free quality breakfast though, so it was well worth it. When we checked in to the admissions office we all got our own picture IDs. My first interview was a little rusty since I had not interviewed in weeks - I pretty much lacked coherent answers. I stumbled when I started to talk about a research project I worked on 3+ years ago. After my interview I had a chance to go on a tour in a group of three, which was pretty awesome. We explored only a sliver of the giant campus but overall I was very impressed. I was also very frozen in the 30 degree weather, especially when we were standing on the roof of the pediatric hospital. The lunch was very nice(roast beef, brownies, a view of the arch and MS3's) and it was easily the second best lunch I had on the interview trail(this matters right?). My second interview was with the Assistant Dean of Medical Student Research and yet we talked considerably less about my research. This short interview(designed to be short) was actually a lot of fun. The Dean was super awesome and made me want to be a WashU student right there and then. The one downside I see is the preclinical curriculum which is VERY traditional(very little to no PBL, 2 years, not block..etc) but in the end I think that is pretty minor. I almost turned down this interview but I am so glad I didn't!