I\'m a carpenter, freelance author, master gardener, artist, and father. I picked 3 parts of the country near to family, and then chose to apply to the best school in each of these 3 places. Luckily all 3 places were very solid with happy, interesting, and friendly students. I was also fortunate to bang out all the interviews in one week.
Initially I only planned to apply to the University of Colorado since the deal I had with my family was that I would attend there if I got accepted and felt that it was a decent school, but people counseled me to apply to more than one place since the admissions process can be unpredictable.
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 05/31/2010
Undergraduate college: Goshen College (you\'ve probably never heard of this small liberal arts school)
Total MCAT SCORE: 520
MCAT Section Scores:
Overall GPA: 4.00
Science GPA: 4.00
Summary of Application Experience
I felt that each place was a good fit for me: in terms of program strength JHU > UVA > CU but for location CU > UVA >> JHU. Comparing these schools to each other is probably a bit unfair since I liked them all. It\'s a bit like trying to pick a favorite child: they\'re all unique and great. You can\'t tell how a school will feel from the MSAR, and I felt fortunate that all of these 3 picks turned out to be good for me. The only major difference I picked up on was that the two east coast schools were much more formal (in terms of communications) than CU. Personally I\'m an informal person, at home with my hands in the dirt or swinging a hammer and relating to people in a direct and casual way.
It was a total coincidence that each school had a brand new medical education building and lots of construction or renovation going on in the medical or research facilities. I know it\'s not about the buildings, but it was still nice to see open, airy learning spaces with lots of natural lighting.
I highly recommend staying with student hosts and attending any optional student functions if the opportunity arises. At Hopkins my host (a 3rd year student) spent a whole afternoon and evening with me touring me around the town and talking about the school. I also attended the greeters meeting there, and that was a good way to interact with other students. At UVA my host (a 2nd year) took me to a picnic that was attended by 20-30 other students and their families, then later gave me a tour of the campus and town. I didn\'t stay with a host at CU because I live in Denver, but the admissions office has offered to put me in touch with some 3rd and 4th year students so I can get their perspective.
What I\'ve come to realize is that life happens not only at med school, but to a large degree outside the school. I currently live in a quiet, safe neighborhood a short commute from the CUSOM. I\'ve got a vineyard, orchard and backyard play area to relax with my family and friends in. There is a large park 2 blocks away, numerous bike paths pass nearby, and 3 supermarkets (including a rather impressive Whole Foods) are within walking distance. My mother-in-law lives a few blocks away (great for child care), and our family\'s friends (and social support system) are all here in Denver. I could study elsewhere, and I might have chosen to do so when I was single, but now that I have a family and community ties, it makes sense to stay in Denver. I feel pretty lucky to have put down my roots here--the climate, culture, and community are great, oh, and the med school\'s not bad either.
Application expenses to date:
MCAT prep and test fee: around $300 AMCAS: around $225 Secondaries: $260 Interview attire: about $400 Plane tickets, travel, food, etc.: about $400 Total: roughly $1600 Getting an acceptance: priceless, well not really, but I\'m pretty darn happy.
If you\'re applying, good luck!
Attended Interview, Rejected
Johns Hopkins University
Applying for combined PhD/MSTP? No
Secondary Completed: Yes
Interview Invite: Yes
Interview Attended: 09/16/2010
Summary of Experience:
Bottom line: terrific school, terrible location, great admissions process.
This was my first interview. Before I interviewed I wanted to see what a top-tier school was like even though I had reservations about Baltimore. Alumni and neighbors who had lived in Baltimore had nothing good to say about the city and told me that they couldn\'t see me moving my family there, but I had to see it firsthand. My student host gave me a great tour of Baltimore the day before my interview, and I realized that I would be crazy to move there. This freed me up to be pretty relaxed on the interview day. I\'m glad my first interview happened at a place I wasn\'t prepared to attend--it gave me a chance to practice the experience.
During the interview day the warmness of the students, faculty, and other applicants (and even the security guard at the admissions building) really impressed me so that by the end of the day I felt sad because I knew I wasn\'t going to live in Baltimore. I was surprised by how young and sheltered the first year students at the greeters meeting seemed, while the maturity and poise of the upper level students really impressed me. After the interview I was so won over that I started thinking of all sorts of ways to swing a move to Baltimore. Ultimately getting an acceptance here would only be for my ego, and I think I didn\'t interview very well.
Some impressive things were their strong research ethics (they were the strictest of the 3 schools in terms of letting profs interact with drug and device companies), amazing research opportunities, structured mentoring program, sense of collaboration, and encouragement of students to pursue their interests (sponsoring an MPH, spending a year doing research, local community service, deferring matriculation to do socially-meaningful work, etc.) The overall feeling I got of the students was that although they\'re talented and brilliant in many areas, you wouldn\'t necessarily know it because they are also gifted with strong interpersonal skills and come across as hospitable, down-to-earth, socially-minded people. JHU seems to do an intentional job of grooming students for residency applications and interviews, and they match into some impressive places.
Update: getting rejected, while disappointing, also makes it a ton easier to pick a school since the other two options are places where my wife and I would like to live. I\'ve lived in some rough places, but now that I have kids, stuff like picking up used needles on the sidewalk (something my JHU host did while we were walking around) is more of a problem--they were colorful and my son would have tried to play with them. I\'d rather not have divert my attention to dealing with urban hassles like petty crime, hectic traffic, fixing a car that had gotten broken into, etc. JHU was perceptive to reject me because I think I knew deep down that I wouldn\'t be moving to B\'more--maybe this came through in the interviews too.
Summary of Experience:
Bottom line: awesome school and location.
My second interview. The UVA students reminded me a lot of the upper-level ones at Hopkins in terms of their friendliness, diversity and maturity. The whole interview day was amazing (including the great financial aid meeting), and I felt lucky that so far, I had interviewed at 2 places that I could really be happy at.
The UVA admissions office impressed me with their super prompt communication, ease and flexibility in scheduling an interview, and timely status update after the interview.
Charlottesville seemed to offer a great mix of cultural attractions, rich history, ease of getting around, and outdoorsy opportunities. The only thing I disagreed with was that someone from the school mentioned that Snowshoe ski resort in WVA (for students interested in decent skiing) gets Colorado-quality snow. I know Charlottesville is great for many reasons, but proximity to excellent skiing was a bit of a stretch.
Unique to UVA was the annual mass health clinic held in a rural part of VA. Students and all sorts of medical providers mobilize to provide free care for several days to people without medical access. UVA also lets students do a year of research if they like. Their students seem to do well matching into big name programs. This is my second acceptance now and the decision will be a very difficult one.
Update: I withdrew to stay in CO, but UVA may have a stronger, though more expensive program. Subjecting my family to the disruption of a move wasn\'t worth it, but withdrawing felt bittersweet.
Summary of Experience:
Bottom line: awesome location, impressive facilities, and a relaxed culture.
My third interview. There is a lot of construction going on, and in 5 years or so this will be a major biomedical research complex. Of my 3 interviews, this one was the lest impressive because I really value meeting upper level students, and that didn\'t happen. That doesn\'t mean it was bad--this is more of a reflection that JHU and UVA had really awesome interview days. The lower level students I met felt happy though a bit more stressed than those at UVA and JHU, but maybe this was because I interviewed right before a big anatomy test.
The admissions office seemed a bit less responsive initially (last winter (2010) when I called with a question, I was given the impression that I shouldn\'t even attempt to apply here), but on the interview day everyone was really nice and post acceptance the communication has been great.
As for location, Denver has a nice mix of relaxed culture, sunny weather, and tons of amazing outdoor opportunities. I\'m excited to have an acceptance here (my first one).
Update: my interviewers sent me congratulatory emails for getting accepted and the admissions office has done a great job of making me feel welcome. They also put me in touch with an upper level student who was able to answer all my questions. An on-campus childcare facility (Fitzsimmons Early Learning Center) is slated to open in the May 2011, so that\'s a huge plus for someone like myself who has a child. They\'re open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm, which is pretty flexible for a child care center. I\'m excited to attend CU and not deal with the hassle of moving.