Wow. Here\'s the chance to talk about my experience. Let me answer some FAQs....
Whoa. Substandard GPA-what happened?
Truth. I applied with a low GPA, and was told by many that I wouldn\'t get into an allopathic school, both in person and on SDN. I was clueless for the majority of my first two years-in fact, I was actually thinking of pharmacy school and wanted a volunteer position in pharmacy and I ended up in the PACU (recovery unit) in the hospital. After that, I fell in love with the patient experience, and decided that medicine was the way I wanted to go. Anyway, once junior year struck, and I had some perspective of WHY I wanted to go into medicine, my grades improved. I started from a 2.9 in freshman year, to a 3.51 (as you can see) graduating. Knowing medicine means to me helped me stay motivated and focused through the latter academic years. I think having the GPA that I do helped me appreciate that I didn\'t need to be so grade-focused. It is, what it is. At that point, I realized that I could make my extracirriculars the best they could, and to show how after you study in medical school, there is a real \"working\" component with being a physician, and I wanted to prove that ultimately, I am competant in that area. Low GPAs aren\'t impossible to overcome, especially if treated early. But this means you have to focus and bring other parts of your application up to speed.
When is the best time to apply?
Honestly, I would apply ASAP. This means being complete, with MCAT and everything. For me, my GPA was clearly my redflag, as it is on the lower end of the spectrum. I personally think you don\'t want to jeopardize any opportunities at any school right from the get-go because you apply late. Some schools, especially those in the east coast, won\'t interview \"later\" applicants. What time frame that exactly is, I don\'t know. But what I do know is being early can give you a shot at an interview even with a red flag on your app.
How did you make the most out of volunteering? Isn\'t it just watching and restocking stuff?
To give perspective, I started out as a volunteer in the ER, and got hired as an MA after being there a couple years, and my training was done in-house because we\'re a teaching institution. Sweet gig, nonetheless. I think we work harder simply because we\'re not the traditionally trained MAs coming out of the vocational schools, which isn\'t bad. Being an MA, I am very grateful for the restocking work that volunteers do, and the cleaning of beds and whatnot. It makes my job easier 10X and nothing makes me happier than when they are around. That being said, for medical school, I feel most volunteers miss the target lots. The ED is a great place to be part of the peanut gallery and observe people in their most vulnerable state: naked, hurt, and emotionally distressed. You get to see resuscitations and whatnot...it\'s wild stuff. But, I think there are opportunities to interact with patients. That took me the furthest, because it gave me perspective for my personal statement, and it was a way to \"show, not tell,\" nurses that I actually cared about patients more than just a \"medical tourism\" perspective. There are countless stories I\'ve heard in our ED, and it really gave me the opportunity to hone in my clinical skills and my presentation to to patients. I think people are so caught up in trying to do things, such as even draw blood, pull out IV lines, whatever...that they forget that its these things that make medicine BORING. It\'s the people that make it interesting. So I\'d recommend thinking about how you interact with nurses, as well as patients. Forget the physicians-they won\'t help you out especially if you\'re in an academic setting where they have to teach M4s and residents. Remember, nursing LORs can be very powerful as well. Don\'t ever underestimate that. It\'ll give you a human aspect to your application.
How did you plan your admissions cycle?
So I took a gap-year. Now it feels that the gap-year is the norm, and applying right outof college is the nontrad...lol. Nonetheless, when I was graduating in the summer of 2010, I realized that I still needed to take the MCAT and apply. Bad idea to do it in 2010. Because then I\'d have to ace it with very little prep time, and apply and get everything else (secondaries, essays, LORs) all in. I took my time, got a job, and just focused on killing the MCAT. First MCAT was a 24, but then I bumped it that summer to a 35. Yay-11 pt increase! I have a thread on SDN (Rags to Riches) if you want to see my MCAT strategy. In the meantime, I worked, worked, and worked, while followed-up with my letter writers to have their letters done by May 2011. Yes, it\'s early, but I shot for an earlier time, and expected them actually done at June/July. Personal statements TAKE FOREVER. Therefore, start working on them early. I think I wrote about 30 drafts of them...in the car, in the plane, when I just have a random pearl of thought that i need to put on paper, etc. But get your ideas on paper, and see where it takes you. By June 2011, I felt pretty ready-I had my MCAT, my LORs, Personal statement, and I was using SDN to see what the secondary essays were, to get a jumpstart. I applied, and got secondaries back early, and it was just a matter of finishing them all ASAP. Good times. So really, the moral of the story is to get everything prepared, and take whatever time is necessary to get all your ducks in line. Then when you apply, given that applications are a crapshoot (yes, sometimes people who are \"qualified do NOT get in, and people who are unqualified DO get in...\"), you aren\'t sitting yourself behind the eight ball every time. Take it seriously folks. It\'s a pain to have to rewrite your PS, redo LORs, and whatnot because you decide you AREN\'T SURE IF YOU\'RE READY. THAT\'S THE FIRST THING YOU WANT TO DO: DETERMINE IF YOU THINK YOU WILL BE READY, AND BE REALISTIC.
Who did you ask for your letters? (grade?)
-Professor in physical chemistry-thermo (4.0) I was also a tutor for her subsequent classes so that helped connect with her.
-Professor in biology (4.0) Took a medical physiology course with him, and frequently kept in contact with questions I had that were clincally based, or things I saw at the bedside in the ED.
-Professor of medical history (3.4, 3.9) Took some medical history courses, improved my grades tremendously with some perserverance. He was my advisor for my ethics club I founded.
-ED attending-Had a common background in ED ethics, took a graduate med school course on ED ethics.
-Director of the tutoring center I taught at
-PI that I did research for in college.
What did you do that helped your app the most?
Frankly, my application isn\'t that far off from many of the others that I\'ve seen that get into great programs...I mean, I did the research, clinical, volunteering song&dance, but I feel that what helped my application stand out, was my reflection of my activities. I talked extensively about how my work experience gave me perspective in the field of healthcare, and what type of commitment I am making by going to medical school. I talked about how things like tutoring, which could be seen as irrelevant, is actually a very relevant experience if you wanted to become a physician. I tried to think outside of the box, to see what ELSE i could learn from the experience, instead of just putting junk on the resume. If you just fluff your resume without any sensible reflection, you\'re going to tank your application.