Blue as the sky, sunburnt and lonely, sipping tea in the bar by the roadside..
Application cycles: 06/18/2012
Demographics: Male, 29, East Asian
Home state: Alabama
Last Active: 08/07/2018
Welcome to my MDApps! At any point, if you have a question or want details please PM me on SDN.
Submitted 6/19/12, Verified 7/26/12 and received most secondaries the 2-3 weeks after and had turnaround time of 4 days to just over a week. I am a traditional student - Asian background (very much ORM) and I took the MCAT twice - 30, followed by a 35 and details about my degree are as above.
For those curious about the improvement, here is my post from the 30+ MCAT Study Habits Thread:
For those looking for my application details, scroll down past the study habits post.
1) Individual & Composites Take 1: PS: 12 VR: 7 BS: 11 W: S Composite: 30S (Sept. 10, 2011) Take 2: PS: 14 VR: 9 BS: 12 W: T Composite: 35T (Jan. 28, 2012)
2) Study Method Take 1: I started SN2ed's schedule about 2 weeks late, so I was playing catch up the entire time. Most days I would spend 6-8 hours studying. My schedule would be: Read/take notes on the chapter, then time myself doing the first 1/3 passages directly after. I would then do my Verbal practice for the day (usually 3 or 4 passages), then take a lunch break. Following that, I then read/took notes for the second chapter (if I decided to do a second, which I usually did). That was followed by timed passages. The next day, the very first thing I would do is review passages from the last day. I would go through and make sure I understood the explanations, and if I got one wrong, I wouldn't look at the explanation until I figured out what I did wrong. If I couldn't figure out, then I would check the explanation once - then go back and try and solve it again. I did this until I was sure that I could catch my mistake next time.
The second time around, I had exhausted TBR, so I went with the EK book set that I had bought in addition to TBR. Each day, I read 1 or 2 chapters and did the practice passages in the EK book for them. I also pumped my reading schedule a LOT - the Economist, the Atlantic, Malcolm Gladwell essays, etc. This was over winter break in conjunction with research, so I just brushed up on the topics and memorized equations again and the like.
In January, I did nothing but practice, practice and more practice. I bought a TPRH Science Workbook which was nothing but well over 600 pages of PS and BS passages and problems. Each day, I would do 1 or 2 subjects' worth of passages - this averaged out to about five to six passages per day. My test was Saturday at 1PM, so I took the TBR practice tests on Saturdays at 1PM. I also fit one on free Tuesdays/Thursdays, whichever one I had could spare the time for. All in all, this worked out pretty well and I was able to complete 2 practice tests a week and 1 the week of my test, exhausting all of the TBR tests right up until the real thing.
3) Study Materials Take 1: SN2ed's plan: TBR and EK Bio with the 1001 questions, and EK 101. Take 2: I used EK the second time around to review and summarize the concepts for the first month. Having exhausted TBR and EK 101 for VR, I bought a used TPRH Verbal Workbook and TPRH Science Workbook and just did practice, practice, practice. I also bought the first five TBR CBTs and exhausted those as well. All in all, the second attempt, I spent about 2 months studying.
In terms of test order, I went 5 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 3 - 4 - 11
For TBR tests, they do not give you a precise breakdown of score, only a range. Based on their scale, I would say my scores ranged around 32 to 34.
5) Undergraduate Major Molecular Genetics and French double major. Take 1 was over the summer after my sophomore year and Take 2 was during winter break/January.
6) Tips? DON'T GET DISCOURAGED! And when you practice, time yourself consistently and more rigorously than the actual test. That way, you can have even MORE time on the test and not panic when you realize you're going at a slower pace. When I started out, I averaged 7-9 minutes per passage. As I got closer to both tests, I shaved that time down to 4-6 minutes per passage. This includes reading AND answering all questions. Not to mention, when I started - I was being absolutely slaughtered by TBR Physics and Biology. I routinely got 3 or 2 out of 7 right. As time went on, I adjusted, adapted and ended up routinely getting 5 or 6 out of 7!
And did I mention DON'T GET DISCOURAGED? As you see, I averaged a 35.6 and got a 30 on the real thing. I was pretty disappointed but I knew that my potential was not a 30. It was at least where my practice was. And upon reflection, I realized just how burnt out and tired I was during the real thing. In addition, I would hazard a guess and say that because I did not know the whole room security procedure, the uncertainty of it all threw me off. With this in mind, I chose to retake - and I'm extremely glad I spent the effort to do so.
So, for those who are unfamiliar with Prometric, here is a typical procedure: 1. You arrive at the testing center. 2. You wait in line to get a Computer Number and locker key. 3. You obtain said Number and key. Take your driver's license/form of ID out of your wallet and PLACE IT IN YOUR POCKET. 4. Place your snack, water, keys, wallet, etc. in the locker. Lock it. 5. At this point, you should have only your locker key and ID on yourself. You will not need anything else. 6. You wait in line as the Testing center staff will begin to sign people into the system. They will scan your license onto their computer and take a picture before the test for their system. 7. They will scan you with a handheld detector for metal, etc. (think airport security) 8. They will also take fingerprints of your index finger, both right and left hand. 9. At some point here, you will receive a scratch work booklet and a good number of pencils. 10. You are ready. They send you in, you sit down at your computer and the test starts. At this point, it is identical to an AAMC test, including format on the PC. 11. Once you're done with a section, you will take your number card with you and exit the room. Once outside, they will flip a binder with registrant names inside to yours truly and you will "sign out" - that is, sign your signature and time you signed out. This is your break time between sections. 12. At this point, you can go to your locker and snack, relax a bit, drink, etc. 13. Keep track of your time. The next part is what threw me off the first time as I did not anticipate it. 14. To re-enter the room, you will have to once again sign in in the registrant binder, as well as the time. 15. They will sweep you again with the detector. 16. You will need to place your fingerprint on their detector - once it matches, you're good to head back in. 17. Rinse and repeat to the next section, and so forth. 18. Once the BS section is done, you will have the opportunity to void your exam or not. There is a five-minute timer to decide. 19. Upon deciding if you want to void or not, you will have to fill out a survey by the AAMC concerning the testing center, quality and whatnot. 20. When the survey is finished, you can leave the room. Take all your scratch paper and pencils and stuff with you. They will print out an officially marked letter from the AAMC confirming that you will follow confidentiality policies, and you get to take this with you as a reminder. 21. Congratulations, you have just finished the MCAT!
This might not be terribly useful for most, but I'm someone who, when studying, wants to get most, if not every small detail down so I'm not surprised or thrown off-kilter.
If I missed anything here, please let me know! I know it's difficult to really get a sense for the rhythm of the actual center, but hopefully this can provide some measure of insight.
In addition, and I know this is a highly variable and hard idea: DO NOT GET HUNG UP ON A PASSAGE! If you encounter one that targets a weak topic of yours, DO NOT WASTE EXTRA TIME ON IT. This also applies to individual questions. There is no sense in averaging under a minute per question only to actually waste five minutes on the real thing. If you must, mark it and move on. Then, with your extra time, come back and use some of it up.
Finally, take your practice tests seriously. Do not look anything up, do not think, "Oh, I can come back and etc...". Treat it as a real test and you'll feel at home come test day. Time yourself strictly to the minute, because if you grow comfortable with extra time, it's going to throw you off considerably during the real thing. Once you take a practice test, it essentially becomes unusable for quite a while, so make the most of the ones you take.
7) How Long? All said, approximately five months. Though this was split into the three summer months and December/January combinations. It's going to be a long process - just know that you're not alone. Also, once you set a schedule and routine and follow it to a T - it will pay dividends much longer down the road. One simply needs to have the patience and will to tough out the extremely rough initial steps.
At time of applying: BCPM: 3.54 AO: 3.98 Cumulative: 3.73
Activities (Starred ones are those I marked as most meaningful). Times are according to what I marked at the time of AMCAS submission.
*1. Shadowing - Otolaryngologist, some cancer doctors, also followed some family and internal medicine doctors/med students at the free clinic. Spoke more about the learning about the profession aspect and informing myself. I wanted to show that I knew what I was getting myself into in considering medicine, hence the wide range of specialties (also a product of me taking whatever shadowing opportunities I could get!).
2. Free Clinic Volunteer - Checked patients in/got some basic information from them. This also gave the opportunity to shadow the med students and doctors who worked there as well. ~2 years
3. Research - Worked in a lab summer before Junior year. This continued into senior year, so by the time I applied I had roughly a year of experience here. No pubs, posters or presentations. ~1 year
*4. Social Fraternity - Mentioned assortment of titled responsibilities and expanded on the experience in terms of personal growth/learning. ~3 years
5. Yoga Club/Fitness - Source of stress relief and goals, as described in the application. Mentioned starting off by losing 20 pounds in a summer and jumping off of that into today. ~2 years
6. Habitat for Humanity - Volunteer on the weekends as time allowed. HFH is pretty self-explanatory but it can definitely be more accessible and as rewarding an experience as hospital volunteering/etc, minus the clinical aspect. ~2 years
7. Founding member of an a capella group - Talked about my background in music and applying it differently. Had to quit as I ended up taking on more activities that I wanted to focus on. ~1 year
*8. After-school program tutor/volunteer - Volunteered with underserved kids from the area. Ages ranged from elementary school to high school, so there was a big range in responsibilities. One day, I could be playing board games with them and the next day I'd be tutoring ACT/SAT prep or helping with Biology/Chemistry homework. Very rewarding and enlightening experience. ~2 years
9. Alternative Break Volunteer - Went on three trips (Summer, Winter, Summer). All were Habitat for Humanity so it was another continuation of something I really enjoyed. Groups are also basically randomly compiled so I found it a fun way to meet more people from my school.
10. Hobbies - Listed some of my hobbies.
11. Lab Technician - Had this job summer before Freshman year, worked ~15-20 hours during the academic year and 40+ during the summer/breaks. Ended up leaving summer before Junior year and went into research instead. ~2 years
12. Awards/Honors/etc - Dean's List: 7x - Full Tuition Scholarship - Phi Beta Kappa - Junior Class Honorary - Mortar Board Senior Class Honorary
Letters of Recommendations: 1. My PI from my research lab. 2. A professor from one of my language classes. 3. Upper-level Cell Bio class professor. 4. English writing course professor.
Overall, I would consider it a very cookie-cutter application. Nothing to really stand out, but I suppose the longevity of my activities counted in some aspects. Everything lasted for at least a year, with most things lasting two years. I also spent a good chunk of time writing my activity descriptions so that it reflected more what I learned as opposed to simply describing my duties.
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 06/18/2012
Undergraduate college: Midwest. Majored in science and a language.
Total MCAT SCORE: 472
MCAT Section Scores:
Overall GPA: 3.70
Science GPA: 3.50
Summary of Application Experience
9/24 - Took some time to actually update schools and stuff. No UC love - Davis and UCLA haven't updated since my primary receipt and UCSF responded with a pre-secondary rejection, as well as Pritzker post-secondary. I'll update this some more as time permits - it's not terribly informative activity-wise, and I'll fix that when I can.
9/28 - Brown rejection. Disappointing - I would have loved Providence, but such is life. On to the next one!
9/29 - Vandy rejection. Four rejections in a pretty short amount of time, here is hoping things pick up for the better in October :(
10/5 - Cincinnati II! October is already turning out better than September ;)
10/17 - Two interviews this week - OSU on Monday and Cinci Wednesday (today!). Busy week in the face of four midterms the week before, but I believe they went well. Both schools have similar new curriculums, and I hope that good news is in my cards!
10/22 - Georgetown rejection. Not really sure why I applied, and I think they got that sense. Insanely high COA and DC, while an interesting place wouldn't be a place I'd especially like to live. Press on!
10/25 - Further status from VCU - two months after being complete. From what I've heard, they already have interview dates well into February, so this may end up being a withdrawal if I get an II and there are no more reasonable II dates.
10/29 - Got the call from Dr. Capers - I'm going to medical school next year! OSU acceptance over the phone, got it around 7:30 right before I walked into a meeting. This feels amazing - everything has come together and I get to take the next step. Awesome.
11/1 - And on the heels of OSU comes Cincinnati! So happy to have another acceptance to consider - deciding where I want to go is going to be an interesting experience. I realize how lucky I am to garner two acceptances already when so many don't even have as many interview invites, so I am so incredibly happy that the cycle is going the way it is. Anything more would be a cherry on top!
11/2 - UNC rejection, mais tant pis, c'est pas grave - nothing can take away from this feeling of getting two acceptances. It's been a good week. *cheer*
11/5 - UC Davis pre-secondary rejection. Was worth a try ;D
12/4 - Albany II! But withdrawing. Good luck to applicants there still vying for a spot! I can't convince myself to really consider Albany as an option - too bad I realized this after paying $110 for their secondary fee. But it happens.
1/13 - My parents let me know about the arrival of Penn State's pre-interview hold letter. I had also previously received an e-mail from them letting me know that they were still looking at my application (sometime in November, IIRC). The letter was dated January 3rd, in case anybody is curious about the timeline.
1/26 - Rejections coming in left and right! Northwestern 1/16 and USC 1/24. WashU has also been reported to be sending out paper rejections, so I'll be anticipating that. At this point, I'm not holding my breath for any more interviews. Still on cloud nine to be where I am and still a bit surreal to realize that I'll be going to medical school next year.
2/1 - Rejected by Penn January 30th and waitlisted by Pitt on the 31st. It was kind of weird to realize how much I wanted to go to Pitt as the decision got closer. On the bright side, I'll get to see if a letter of interest will have any effect (if it even does). Will report back!
3/27 - Updated a bit. Nothing but rejections but at this point I wasn't holding my breath for much more. Some thoughts at this point:
I really applied top-heavy. Like, I definitely was not justified applying where I did based on my numbers - let this be a cautionary tale to those of you with numbers similar to mine. I also didn't have any real groundbreaking ECs, which combined with my middling numbers probably did not make me too competitive. Upon reflection, I wish I had applied to MCW, Wisconsin, and maybe Vermont as well as Drexel, Temple and Jefferson, Iowa and SLU as opposed to the top heavy list I compiled.
And seeing how the cycle has gone on SDN, it seems that applying early is incredibly, incredibly important if only for the sake of preserving your sanity. You get a month to fill out the AMCAS before you even submit it, so make it count! I had that month and didn't make the most of it, something that I greatly regret as I think I could have snagged some more interviews and had more time to decide on more reasonable places to apply if I had my ducks in a row.
All in all, I definitely cannot complain. Two acceptances in the same week, well early in the cycle and both are schools I would be happy to attend. And hoping that my letter of interest to Pitt will be enough to pull that through!
5/9 - Withdrew from Cincinnati. Great school but my gut has other preferences. Best of luck to those on its alternate list!
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
Thanks for stopping by. Hope I can help in some way!
University of California, Davis
Combined PhD/MSTP: No
Secondary Completed: No
Interview Invite: No
Interview Attended: No
Summary of Experience:
OOS with OK stats (by competitive California standards)? No go. But not a problem!
No complete e-mail. Got a call from a private number and lo and behold - Dr. Capers with my acceptance notification. As an undergraduate here, it's awesome to have the chance to stay for four more years. First acceptance and hell of a lot of weight and stress off of my shoulders.
7/3 - So I forgot to update this. After withdrawing from Cinci 5/12, this remains my only acceptance and school at which I'll be matriculating!