Brief Profile: FYI: If you want to contact me, do it through SDN because I don't get notifications on mdapps that I have messages in my inbox.
worrying about my chances --> applying to lots of schools --> being broke --> lots of secondaries --> staying broke --> slow at completing secondaries
My interview thoughts/overall school impressions are listed towards the bottom of the page in the order I interviewed. I tend to ramble--you have been warned!
I had a slight discrepancy in my stats and ECs. My strength was in research and I had a decent enough MCAT for some of the research-intensive schools, but my GPAs were a tad low for them. I was also light on volunteerism and clinical experience (most started right before my AMCAS submission), which made me really worried. I decided to apply anyways rather than delay a year to beef up my ECs, hoping that the quality of my limited clinical experiences mattered more than the quantity. But since my app had some obvious weaknesses (and my WAMC thread unanimously thought I should wait a year), I ended up applying to a lot of schools as a compromise. After prioritizing the first 30 schools I submitted, I applied to the rest of the schools on my wish list, including a bunch of dream schools.
Note: I started withdrawing pre-interview from a lot of schools after my first few acceptances.
AR = Application Received Acknowledgement | SR = Secondary Request | SS = Secondary Submitted | SC = Secondary Marked Complete | II = Interview Invite | RR = Rejection Received | IA: Interview Attended | WL: Wait list | W: Withdrew | A: Accepted! |
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 06/19/2012
Undergraduate college: small private school
Undergraduate Area of study: Physical Sciences
Total MCAT SCORE: 519
MCAT Section Scores:
Overall GPA: 3.50
Science GPA: 3.50
Summary of Application Experience
AMCAS submitted 6/20 AMCAS verified 7/17
I was never pre-med (always thought I would go the PhD route) and didn't fully commit to medicine until about a year before applying. Applying to medical school is a long and draining process. Since my route was a bit different, hopefully my app helps some of the nontrads out there who feel lost. I certainly did at times. Feel free to message me with questions.
Generally, I have basic science research in bio, chem, and engineering (pubs, posters, presentations, the whole shebang), a career in pharmaceuticals, a good deal of paid tutoring, and lots of part-time jobs during undergrad (worked all 4 years). I'm only going to highlight the volunteering/clinical stuff because that's my weak spot:
- 4 years undergrad tour guide - 2 years summer orientation sponsor/leader for incoming freshmen - hospice (started May) - community clinic (started June) - community and county ER (started June) - tutoring homeless children (started August, not in AMCAS) - shadowed pediatrician and family physician (started about a year before app) - shadowed emergency physician (started July, not in AMCAS)
My volunteering opportunities didn't come into fruition until pretty late. I debated between submitting my AMCAS later with more substantial hours or submitting early with almost negligible hours. I settled for delaying about two weeks so that I could list my ER volunteering that started in June, but was still close to the front of the AMCAS line. Although I didn't have a lot of clinical hours reported on my AMCAS, I racked them up pretty quickly right after submission (I was not getting a lot of sleep. I just worked full-time, wrote essays, and volunteered ALL day EVERY day for months.) Since I know people tend to focus on numbers (quality > quantity imo), I had about ~50 hours shadowing and only ~30 hours clinical volunteering in my primary, but I had enough exposure to write about in my secondaries, and plenty to talk about by the time interviews rolled around. At my first interview in September, I already had 200+ clinical volunteering hours. Did the lack of clinical hours in my primary and obvious lack of longevity hurt my application with some schools? Probably. But I ultimately decided that the slightest chance of an acceptance for the entering class of 2013 was worth the risk of a reapplication. No regrets.
Do it right, do it once. Practice practice practice. The week before my exam date I got up every day at the time I would for the real deal, ate breakfast, took a practice AAMC exam at my scheduled time, ate lunch, reviewed my practice exam, slept. It's probably a bit much to do this every day the week before the MCAT, but I had a time crunch and it worked for me.
MCAT Timeline: 2011 5/20: Registered for 8/18 date. 7/18: Realized I didn't have enough time to study and cancelled exam. 11/18: Oops, I missed the release dates for spring. Signed up for 1/27 IN HAWAII. (because ALL the seats in california, nevada, utah, AND arizona were already filled. wtf?!). 11/24: Used the Thanksgiving break to help me quit coffee. Figured I didn't want the coffee jitters/crash on my exam date. 2012 1/20: Flew out to Hawaii and moved in with my best friend for a week. 1/23-1/26: Took a practice AAMC exam everyday. 1/26: Checked out the testing site. 1/27: Started the MCAT an hour after my scheduled time because of "technical difficulties." Felt miserable afterwards because I ran out of time for an entire problem in my best subject in PS (which hasn't happened to me since the first practice exam I took before studying). Blindly marked letters for my last 7 questions with 5 seconds left. Didn't like my BS because it was so ochem heavy. Verbal was always unpredictable for me. Happy with my essays. 2/28/12: 6 am-noon: Can't focus at work because MCAT scores haven't been released yet. 12:30: Received MCAT score. Still can't focus at work.
I've been spoiled by having incredible professors and they've all been my mentor in one form or another. I haven't spoken to some of them in years, but they all remembered me and were very excited to write a letter for me (keep in mind that I went to an incredibly small school. If there's one thing I want to contribute to the public vs private school debate: I'm pretty damn sure even at my 20 year reunion, my profs would still remember me). I kept them updated periodically throughout the cycle and I think they appreciated that.
I didn't have a committee letter, so I made sure to have at least one prof from chem, bio, physics, humanities (Jefferson req), and one from each PI (Harvard req even though I ended up not applying). I also had a great letter from my boss. My default 3 letters included: boss, physics prof (he knew me the best personally, even though physics was my worst subject), and humanities for the non-science flavor. I mixed and matched my LORs based on a school's req and mission. I sent anywhere from 2 letters (Rush) to 7 letters (Pittsburgh) to schools. I didn't use my clinical letters because I didn't think they would be as strong as my academic/research/work letters.
I emailed every writer with an update about my life first (told them what I've done since they last spoke with me, that I was switching gears and applying to medical school, etc). After they replied, I asked if they would write me a LOR. When they agreed, I sent them another email with instructions for Interfolio and attachments: draft of my PS, transcripts, CV, a list of which classes I had them for and my grades, if I tutored for them or not, and a personal anecdote. They had my MCAT score, but I didn't think to let them know the percentile to provide context.
Note: I know that several of them wrote about grade deflation at my undergrad (a couple of interviewers commented about it and asked me if it was true).
Letter Writer Timeline: 3/2: Sent my "life" update email. Emailed back and forth with my letter writers, gave them a call, met up for dinner, etc. 4/20: Sent an email asking if they could write me an "enthusiastic" LOR. 5/20: Emailed with instructions for Interfolio and attachments. Requested letters to be uploaded to Interfolio by 6/20. Attached my draft PS (~4 pages and 10,000 characters). 5/24: Realized last minute I totally left out one school and one transcript. Sent new transcript to all letter writers. 6/8: Sent updated PS (content almost completely changed, close to my final draft at 1.5 pages and under the character limit). 6/25: Sent reminders to those who hadn't uploaded their letter yet. Sent thank you emails to those who uploaded as soon as I got the confirmation from Interfolio. 7/5: Sent all LORs from Interfolio to AMCAS. 7/6: Letters received by AMCAS. 8/13: Updated all my letter writers about my first few interviews (and the fact that I was still working on about half of my secondaries). 10/31: Updated all my letter writers about my first acceptance. 12/6: Sent everyone a holiday email and updated them on current acceptances. 5/14: Let my letter writers know which school I will be attending.
My theory is that at each step of the cycle, adcoms are looking for different things. In the primaries, they're looking for proven academic success and well-roundedness in your ECs with leadership, research, volunteering, and clinical exposure (read: they want to make sure you can handle the rigors of medical school and that you know what you're getting yourself into). This is where quantity matters for checklist purposes. In the secondaries, they're looking for reflection, growth, and diversity (read: they're looking for fit). This is where quality matters over quantity. By the time you reach the interviews, they're looking for confidence, personality, maturity, and an accurate representation of what they liked on paper. I think each step has to be approached differently because they're looking for different things, but you're still repeating the same message and presenting the same theme about yourself. So do you need the numbers and hours to pass the first screen? Probably. Are numbers and hours alone enough to get you through to the interview stage? Probably not.
I'm in the camp that "the PS doesn't really matter that much." Do you need to have an adequate one? Yes. Do you need to blow the reader away? No. Just make sure your personal statement is easy to read, honest, and answers WHY MEDICINE. Most personal statements do the job just fine. Very few impress readers. Generally the ones that try too hard to impress end up as one of the few personal statements that do a really bad job at it and actually hurt the applicant. Don't be that person.
The personal statement should explain why you want to be a physician. That's it. It shouldn't be an essay form of your resume. Don't focus on the traits that would make you a good doctor. Don't use it to showcase how you've volunteered here, or shadowed there, or grew up with this childhood. If you can mention some of your ECs while you explain why you want to be a physician--great. If you can hint at some of the qualities that would make you a good physician while explaining why you want to be in medicine--great. If you can put your childhood into the context of why you want to be a physician--great! But don't do any of those things in place of explaining "Why Medicine?" That should be the focus. Everything else is supplementary.
That doesn't mean that you can just write theoretically about the field of medicine though. Try not to generalize. Instead, use your anecdotes as evidence for your arguments. If you say you want to be a physician because you 1) love science and 2) want to help people. Fine, but elaborate. Why do you love science? How do you know you love science? You have to provide anecdotes as evidence of that. How do you know that helping people will be fulfilling for you? How do you know doctors help people? Yes, I know, it sounds ridiculous like "of course doctors help people!" Just assume that the readers know nothing and tell them what you think medicine is, based on what you have seen, and why you believe that's what you want in life. Reflect on your experiences and be as introspective as you can.
For me, I ultimately approached interviews as a way for the schools to get to know me as a person, not even necessarily as a good potential doctor. I focused on just being me, presenting myself accurately and professionally, and trusting that the schools would then be able to see if I had the right personality and fit for them. When I thought of interviews in that sense, there was less pressure because there's no right or wrong way to be you. I don't like the advice of "you have to sell yourself" because it immediately puts you in the negative mindset that you either have "value" or you don't. When I approached interviews with an 'omg-i-must-convince-them-i'll-be-the-best-doctor-ever-and-I-must-answer-everything-perfectly...' well it was just too much overthinking. Feeling like there's only one "right" answer makes you over-prepare and over-rehearse. Generally, it also sounds a little disingenuous. I've interviewed people for jobs and it's always obvious when they do that. I'd rather you tell me about your thought processes behind the things you've done so that I can gauge your character, rather than listen to you sell your resume to me. You'd be surprised at how hard it is to 1) self-reflect and 2) be able to articulate it well. As an interviewer, I don't want to judge your character based on a rehearsed self-pitch. Let your actions speak for themselves. Let the interviewer infer that you're compassionate, smart, ethical, a team-player, a leader, etc.
Having said all of that, and even though I know what I look for as an interviewer (side note: interviewers almost always want you to do well, and WANT to like you), it's hard not to be nervous about your first few interviews. I didn't approach my first interview quite the right way, and probably tried a little too hard and prepared too much. I used SDN's interview feedback page, and prepped all these answers to the questions, rehearsed the "why medicine?" spiel--and in the end I think I didn't do as well because I wasn't being me (result: upper third waitlist). I was being the "proper" me with the "right" answers to the questions. I let loose a little bit more in my second interview and only briefly glanced at the SDN interview feedback questions. I mostly just reviewed my notes on the school and my essays (result: accepted). By the time my third interview rolled around, I was a LOT more comfortable at interviewing. More comfortable in my suit (seriously, are there really people who are comfortable in suits or is it just the SoCal beach girl in me that finds it suffocating?), more comfortable with directing the conversation to things I wanted to talk about, and more comfortable with just "winging it" without looking at the interview questions and prepping answers.
I mean, you know you best. Why do you have to prepare to talk about yourself? If the interviewer did want your opinion on something that you're unfamiliar with, you can always ask for more information on the topic before you disclose your opinion. I only have one post-interview rejection the entire cycle--and I believe that was more of an issue with proper fit at the school rather than poor interview skills. Be yourself. Don't over-prepare and over-rehearse. Be confident, warm, personable, honest, and smile. All the little things that typically worries interviewees, like the slight stumble, or occasional ramble, or awkward pause in your answer--none of that really matters if you can speak well about your experiences, your values, and your story. Remember, the interviewer generally wants to like you, so embrace that step up.
These are the apps I found the most useful and referred to while applying. They span from the underdog to superstar applicant, straight from undergrad to the very nontraditional. Some have posted application materials (LORs, ECs, PS), some have general advice, some have school impressions, some have even more links. Have fun.
http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=23893 (jesse120) - very transparent and lots of useful links, posted PS http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=16486 (oxygen206) - one of my favorite posted PS, also she read multiple edits of my PS and was extremely helpful (thanks so much !) http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=23645 (MT Headed) - nontrad with posted PS and unique ECs http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=6325 (alwaysaangel) - very detailed timeline, infamous LOI that gave her an interview AFTER receiving a rejection from the school. Ultimately accepted to said school. http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=9582 (noshie) - the ultimate story of perseverance, three time applicant, 5 time MCAT taker, LOI examples http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=21906 (mauberley) - nontrad with less clinical experience than typical, helpful by PMs too (thanks mauberley !) http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=22671 (Ismet) - good breakdown of interviews http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=23718 (flodhi1) - great general advice http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=5579 (LingoLaine) - nontrad with posted PS http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=19291 (NickNaylor) - lots of details, activity descriptions, info on schools http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=20784 (paul411) - example activity descriptions, essays including PS, and LOR
The following apps were people who had similar stats/story to me so I used their app cycle to help me pick my schools: http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=21865 (Nymphicus/Flash Heal) http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=22420 - ton of schools, detailed dates http://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=8159 http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=18550 http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=22785 - example PS http://mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=22882 (sharpie) - detailed dates
Interview thoughts: Very nice midwestern feel to the school and city. Everybody was friendly and welcoming, and faculty and administration seemed supportive.
10/13: Not surprised I was wait listed. Don't expect to hear back from them until about May. This is going to be a LONG year.
3/27: In hindsight, this was probably my worst interview performance. It was my first one, I was nervous, and they're very "traditional" in their interviews. It's set up more like a Q & A session with very little opportunity for you to direct the conversation to other things. This was my least favorite interview because of the format and I think it made me keep my guard up. Also, because it was my first interview, I was a bit wide-eyed and bushy tailed. I didn't ask the right questions and mostly left with just a sense of "well everyone seemed happy and friendly," but there was no compelling reason for me to fall in love with the school.
Interview thoughts: Very impressed by the facilities and faculty support. I loved the VIC curriculum and think that's something that would really complement my learning style. The students look happy and the school seems very non-traditional friendly. My student host was fantastic. I could see myself doing well and being really happy here.
Oh, and my interviewer asked about my driving record =T. I apparently get a ticket about once every two years or so, sigh. I'd like to make excuses about bad luck and being a Californian that drives a lot more than the average person (seriously, I spend about 15 hours a week driving) but there's nothing I can really say to defend myself. She said she didn't think it would affect the committee's decision about me, hopefully they don't see my speeding tickets as a pattern of reckless behavior or something =T.
10/22: Not too surprised I was wait listed since they seem to do that with all applicants first. I do take a little comfort in knowing that nobody on SDN reported an acceptance yet either.
10/25: ACCEPTED. Oh man, I'm going to be a doctor!! UVM is an awesome school with a great atmosphere and I know I would be happy here. Plus, it's such a relief to know that no matter what happens between now and next summer for this cycle, I'll be attending medical school!
8/15: Holy crap ! I never thought I had a shot here. So honored just to get an interview !
Interview thoughts: Pitt is as awesome in person as I thought it would be. I was so nervous for this because Pitt is one of my big reach schools and one of my top choices. But my student hosts and the tour guides immediately put me at ease. Of course, receiving my first acceptance while on my way to Pitt took a lot of my stress away too (really, I found out about 5 minutes before take off on my layover--I didn't even get to call my mom !). The whole day was awesome and I thought both student and faculty interviews went well. The student was friendly and let me take charge of the conversation and direct it to where I wanted it to go.
The faculty interview was pretty laid back and we had a lot in common. She was very straightforward about what she had to write up about me and the questions she needed answered, so we just went through them together and she wrote down my anecdotes. It wasn't how I expected an interview to go, but I loved her bluntness and honesty. I actually wish all interviewers were like this in that they ask directly what they need to know about me for their evaluation. It's better to have a "the admissions committee wants creative people, so tell me why you think you are" than the typical "tell me about your research" or "tell me about your volunteering at a community clinic," but then they're secretly looking for how my answer shows that I've been creative in how I approached those activities. I know applicants typically aren't the best judges, but of all the interviews I've attended so far, I felt most confident coming out of the ones at Pitt (or maybe it's just that 3 is the magical number of interviews you need to have before you start feeling comfortable with them... or maybe it's that having an acceptance makes subsequent interviews easier). I know that at Pitt I can do ANYTHING I want really, and that's kind of amazing. I'd be ecstatic to receive an acceptance here. January can't come soon enough!
1/31: Waitlisted. I'm disappointed because I had psyched myself up leading to decision day, thinking that if Pittsburgh accepted me I'd likely lean towards UPMC. Now with the waitlist... I just don't know if I can handle staying on a waitlist until May and not know where I'll end up (especially if I have to move and all that jazz) when I already have current options. UGH. Why couldn't you have made this easier Pittsburgh. >=(
8/29: I knew CCLCM was a long shot but I'm really a bit crushed by the hold status. Felt like the program would have been a great fit for me.
9/14: OMG! I can't believe I got an interview here after being put on hold! My student hosts responded immediately to email and seem so friendly and enthusiastic. I can't wait to learn more about the program and meet everyone !
Interview thoughts: Wow, I was completely blown away by Cleveland Clinic. Their curriculum is by far the most innovative one I've come across and I think prepares you for the real world as a doctor. There's this sense that as a student at Cleveland Clinic, resources and opportunities are limitless, and the only thing that would hold you back is your own desire. I certainly have worries about adapting to a learning style that is so dependent on peer teaching and your own self-motivation, but I think it could be amazing. My student hosts were down to earth and ecstatic about the program and their classmates. The 5th year students I met seemed so poised and put together...I can only hope to be as prepared as they seem to be 5 years from now! I thought my interviewers really tried to get to know me and I enjoyed our discussions. I know this is a long shot for me, but I can't help but hope I hear some some good news!
Oh and another bonus, my student hosts had THE BEST housing situation I've seen on my interview trail. And it was dirt cheap.
12/28: First rejection post-interview. I'm not gonna lie, it stings a bit. In hindsight, I probably expressed too many worries about the curriculum than I should have on interview day, indicating that I wasn't "ready" for their unique track. Oh well, I trust that they can spot the type of student that would excel in their program and I just didn't fit the bill. :(
9/14: SO SO excited for this! The student hosts were super quick at responding too!
Interview thoughts: I thought their curriculum was a good blend between traditional lectures and PBL. It seems like the right mix of learning styles to keep things fresh. I had never visited a school where all the students seemed so happy and relaxed...I was mostly disbelieving and skeptical about it all. But multiple people inside and outside of the program told me that the students really are that well-adjusted and happy at Case! Also, this was the first interview I had where I really enjoyed my fellow interviewee group as well. Everyone seemed rather social and interesting. The admissions office was great and one of the friendliest I've met. I don't know if my student interview went all that well. I have a long story to "why medicine?" and how I got to where I am now (I am non-traditional, after all), and she kept interrupting and asking me "but WHY medicine?" like 3 times because I wasn't answering it quickly enough. I was trying to tell her my full story and it felt like she just thought I was dancing around the question (I wasn't). Maybe she thought it was too convoluted and long-winded. :( Luckily, my faculty interview was fantastic. It was supposed to be open file, but my interviewer said he doesn't like to read the files beforehand and would rather hear my story from me personally. I actually liked doing it that way and we had a lot in common. I felt like he cared about me even though I was only one applicant out of thousands! And.. he let me get my story out. No interruptions with an impatient "but tell me WHY medicine?" here. I know you're not supposed to read too much into the end of interview comments, but he said he wanted me to "come back in July"... and I really hope that's the case (ahaha pun jokes!).
11/14: ACCEPTED! Ahhhh, I was really nervous about this too because I really thought my student interviewer disliked me, but the school and my faculty interviewer made such a good impression on me! I absolutely loved Case and would be ecstatic to enroll here next summer. I can't wait for second look day to meet potential classmates... and I'm actually looking forward to having real winters!
4/12: Case, Hofstra, and San Diego all had second look on the same weekend. I set up a visit to Hofstra on my own when I visited Downstate. I decided to go with Case's Revisit Weekend because I thought it'd be easier to set up an informal thing with San Diego. Overall, I was a little underwhelmed with Case's Second Look. I had a good time and met really nice potential classmates, but I wasn't really there to do that. I wanted to figure out why I should choose Case, at possibly a higher debt level, than one of my state schools. The whole weekend felt like it was geared towards those who 1) were already decided on Case or those who were 2) traditional pre-med students (lots of social activities planned). All of that was fine, it just wasn't quite what I was hoping for: a more information heavy weekend where I can speak to current students and faculty members and pick their brains. The student panel was overwhelmingly Ohio residents (even mostly local Clevelanders) on the current student side. The questions were dominated by the people who were already set on Case and were asking things about housing, roommates, transportation, weather, etc. None of which were at the top of my list of worries. I really think they could have done a better job planning it. Maybe if they had split the panel in half, with half of the current students addressing questions from those of us choosing between multiple schools and the other half addressing questions from those who have already decided and had different worries. A mediocre revisit weekend doesn't take away from the fact that Case is an incredible school with great opportunities. I was just hoping that they would convince me to go there despite the higher costs and that didn't quite happen. It's going to make my decision that much harder come May 1.
Edit: I forgot I got to participate in a mock PBL session (that's how much the disappointing side of the revisit weekend stuck with me as opposed to the good side). My PBL session was actually really good. It was facilitated by an MS1 who started us off on the right track, but my group in general was just willing to participate and be active in our discussions. We asked serious questions, laughed, joked, made snide remarks--it was just a good time. I can see how PBL at Case can actually be really useful because you are accountable for the material. If you don't do your due diligence, your groupmates can easily tell and call you out on it because discussions are the basis of the PBL session. Also, since it's not like individuals are responsible for one learning objective to teach to the entire group (like at Downstate), everybody has to learn everything about the case that week. You're dependent on your peer for discussion and clarification, but mostly because a different point of view always helps you understand material better. You're NOT dependent on your peer for your actual learning. I've always felt you can comprehend and retain a lot more when you do your own primary research, and that's exactly how Case's PBL is set up.
8/15: Wow. I'm really starting to feel the love from the east coast :)
Interview thoughts: So I actually considered withdrawing from this interview after my acceptance at Vermont because I didn't think I would consider a new school without an established medical reputation over UVM. But I'm really glad I didn't because I was pleasantly surprised by my interview day here. These were probably my favorite faculty interviews I've had thus far. It's not so much that I thought I did better at them than at other schools (I actually stumbled a lot through both interviews and was probably a bit long-winded and repetitive), but I felt that both faculty members were there because they believed in the school and in their role as adcom members to pick the right people for the program. (BTW, second interview I've had with a psychiatrist, and the feeling of being psychoanalyzed really doesn't go away. I even sat on a couch!) Having faculty that truly believed in Hofstra's curriculum and how they're trying to train a new generation of doctors really left a positive impression on me. The students also seemed incredibly happy and proud of their program. I thought their curriculum sounded a lot like Case's program and maybe this mixture of lecture and PBL is more conducive to a happy, collaborative atmosphere than other programs. I think they interview a ton of people for limited spots and would still be wary of the whole new school thing, but I'm certainly intrigued and left with a much better feeling than I had going in. I also didn't mind that Long Island had a bit of a suburban feel. Hofstra is just close enough to NYC that I can get away for the weekend to visit friends, but is far enough away that the city won't get me into trouble. At least not all the time anyways :)
Oh an added plus, their institution loan can be deferred for up to FORTY EIGHT months with no interest accrued. That's unfrickin' believable.
12/5: ACCEPTED! Of all the schools I visited, Hofstra is the one that made me change my impression of the school the most post-interview (positively). There are obviously a lot of risks associated with attending a new medical school that doesn't have an established reputation or proven record yet--but there's also something really exciting about being part of the first few graduating classes and being the one to set a reputation for that school. My faculty interviewers here reminded me a lot of my faculty mentors from undergrad--and that's the highest praise I can give any school. I picked my undergrad over a bigger state school with a better national reputation and set in a fantastic city for several reasons--and "the fit" of the faculty and students were at the top of that list. Hofstra... had a very similar feel.
Also got an email from a current student after my acceptance. That says a lot about Hofstra to me, especially because they specifically found someone from California (even in my neighborhood) to reach out to me and answer any concerns I have about the school and the geographic transition.
4/3: I had a GREAT revisit at Hofstra. I couldn't make their official revisit weekend, so I asked to set up a side visit on my own. Joanne really went out of her way to set this up for me. From the student hosts I stayed with, to my own private shuttle to visit and tour the hospitals, to the hanging out with Dr. Molmenti and the surgery department--it was all amazing and I really got the sense of "this is what a new, small, private school can do for you." Best of all though, was the Structure Lab I sat in on (anatomy lab). The way they teach anatomy at Hofstra is AMAZING. I've only taken one anatomy class, but I found the lab portion to be very disorganized and not all that useful in actually teaching anatomy. I was always a bit better at studying diagrams, but the physical dissection helped with visualizing things in 3D and to scale. At Hofstra, the specimens are prosected by professors (though I've been told some classes have dissections too), which I would argue makes class time more efficient since 1) students don't know what they're doing 2) students don't know what they're looking at and are constantly flipping back and forth between cutting and an atlas 3) cutting through skin and fat isn't all that helpful for learning 4) if you screw up isolating an important structure you have to go look at someone else's cadaver which may or may not be just as poor of a dissection. In addition to these pros, Hofstra has the class set up with stations in the lab. The day I visited, there were 4 stations with a faculty member at each station and 2 at the last station. The class is split up into 4 groups of about 7-8 students each (I think they stick together for the entire block) and each start off at a different station then rotate. It was very obvious that the class was incredibly organized so that the faculty do not overlap on their learning objectives and teaching materials at each station. At the first station, we spoke about abnormalities and its physiological effects on the heart and lungs while looking at a cadaver. We also went through some CT scans so we can better understand how a heart is physically oriented when things are abnormal, and then discussed the clinical significance of these abnormalities and how it would present in a patient. Then a gong rings in the class, and the group moves to the next station (like speed dating !) where another faculty member is happily waiting. At station two, the faculty went over pure anatomy structures in great detail. This was more of what I expected from anatomy lab. But everything was so well prosected that we were able to physically feel the differences and intricacies in the heart wall. We also discussed embryology a bit. At the third station, we went over histology slides of normal and abnormal tissue, discussing not just the cells, but also how the cells shown would affect the overall function of the heart in that patient. We also went over the circuit portion of the heart. At the last station, it was a completely different set of histology slides, focusing on the lungs and the differences as you move down the trachea (and why those differences are present). Although faculty members were there, they weren't exactly "teaching." They were asking questions to facilitate discussion and direct the learning, but the students (who all had reading assignments the night before) were the ones that answered the questions and pointed out structures and explained everything to each other. It was a bit like the Socratic Method and it was really effective! I mean, I don't remember most of my anatomy anymore, but still remember some histology stuff, and even though I didn't do the assigned reading I was able to keep up with the material discussed and even understand some of the clinical portions of the discussions. It was just a really, really well done class. Lately I've been having some worries about quitting my job, giving up a paycheck, and returning to the broke college kid mentality. But this class--it made me SO damn excited to go back to school. To me, this was EXACTLY the way anatomy should be taught ! Oh yeah, and the faculty members? Ranged from ER physician, to pathologist, to anatomist. Anatomy was just very integrated, so that it wasn't just pure anatomy, and it was also clinically relevant. It seems like every time I visit Hofstra, I become more and more convinced that it's the right fit for me. Yes, yes, I know... there are still worries associated with a new school in terms of residency competitiveness. If my financial aid award is competitive from Hofstra, I think it'd be incredibly hard to go somewhere else. This school absolutely had the best feel overall for me.
9/26: woohoo ! Really excited for my first MMI experience ! Heard lots of good things about Davis.
Interview Thoughts: The MMI was a lot of fun! It started off a bit shaky and nerve-wracking as you learn the process of it, but it's kind of nice to do this speed dating interview session because you get to start all over with a clean slate at each station! I do wonder how they judge and grade each person at an MMI though. I understand that it's some sort of scoreboard and they probably give you points based on whatever qualities they're looking for--but I can't imagine there being large discrepancies between interviewees at an MMI. What can someone possibly say/do at an MMI that would significantly sway a rater in either extreme to say 'this applicant is the best!' or 'this applicant is a horrible person!'? It seems like they allow for different personalities and "there is no right answer" to an MMI scenario, but then I don't understand how much weight is given to the MMI for an acceptance.
The students and admissions staff made a much better impression on me than I expected. I spent a good deal of time with my student hosts, as well as their friends, and these were definitely supportive, down-to-earth, not-gunner-at-all people that I would gladly have beside me for the next four years. Unfortunately, I thought the interview day itself didn't quite sell Davis The Medical School to me--it sold Davis The People if that makes any sense. They spent almost their entire day talking about how they prided themselves on the people who went there, on the "fit" of the students at their school... but very little time on the actual day to day structure, curriculum, clinical training, research opportunities, etc. There was a lunch session where current students gave a brief presentation on the clinical training and the student-run free clinics--but it wasn't nearly as detailed or informative as I would have liked. I was pretty surprised by the students who turned down acceptances at other schools to attend Davis (the ones I heard were Stanford, Cornell, UCLA, and UCSD)--and they all cited the "fit" of the school and people as the number one thing that convinced them (with location being a close second). Not that people and location aren't important, but Davis The School didn't necessarily wow me. If current students chose to attend Davis over what many others would consider "more prestigious" schools, it makes me think that maybe I missed something from the interview day and I would definitely need to revisit Davis again before making any decisions. While I believe "fit" and people are important, I also want to choose a school that won't limit my opportunities afterwards. That is to say, I don't know what specialty I want to go into yet, and if I want to go into a competitive specialty later on, I need to know that the school I choose has the resources to help me succeed in that. I left Davis loving the culture and people, but a bit worried about their strength in clinical training, research opportunities, and faculty mentorship.
11/30: ACCEPTED! Wow, I really didn't expect to hear back from Davis so soon (two weeks post-interview), especially with Thanksgiving after my interview and the rest of the holidays coming up. In fact, I was pretty darn sure they said at the interview to not expect to hear back for about a month and a half. Dr. Sousa spent about 10 minutes on the phone with me, talking about how well he thought I would fit in with the culture at the school and how much in agreement the entire admissions committee was about me. I don't know if he does this with all applicants, or if all schools who give acceptance calls do this--but man I felt loved. ahaha. He also invited me back for a personalized one-on-one revisit day! Why haven't I read about this on SDN anywhere?! I'm looking forward to the revisit and I'm hoping that a lot of my concerns and worries will be addressed then. I can't wait!
1/18: Ok, lots of thoughts about my revisit:
1) It was AMAZING. Maybe it's cuz it was my first one, or maybe because it was so personalized, but it really was great. Everything ended up being figured out pretty last minute (didn't get a confirmation of my revisit until the week of, didn't get a confirmation from the physician I was shadowing until two days before, had to send all these HIPAA and flu vaccination forms the day before in order to get clearance to go into the OR... thank goodness I got my flu shot this year !)--but it really was a great experience. Dr. Sousa asked me to list a couple of specialties I'm interested in and he'd set me up with a faculty member in one of the areas. I ended up shadowing a surgeon and saw like 5 different kinds of surgeries... again... AMAZING. I had never observed a surgery before. 2) I stayed with the same student hosts as my interview day because I <3 them and they're the best. 3) It felt like the surgeon was "pimping" me to the other surgeons in the OR.. that's what medical students call it on rotations right? He would ask me questions related to the surgery in front of them, and seemed pretty happy when my answer was in the right ballpark. He stuck to pretty simple questions that I could figure out with a little bit of common sense and science knowledge. Made me feel pretty darn good ahaha. 4) The surgeons we were shadowing thought it was odd that a pre-med student was observing.. I got the sense that not a lot of people did that? I don't know if that means not a lot of people do a personalized revisit or if it means not a lot of people pick surgeries for their personalized revisit (you totally should given the opportunity). 5) I didn't always get full introductions in the ORs, just to the attending mostly, but it seemed to be a team of the attending, residents and nurses... no medical students? That made me think that Davis would be a great residency program.. but still left me questions with the strength of their clinical training for med students. 6) My student hosts told me to wear business casual for my revisit... so I did--heels, slacks, nice shirt. Problem? I WAS SHADOWING A SURGEON. So.. I changed into scrubs.. and then wore heels with them. ALL DAY. Pro tip: Bring a change of shoes if you're going to shadow a surgeon. 7) My revisit was great because it gave me a better idea of the hospital and their residency program... but unfortunately I didn't get to interact with any MS3s or MS4s for a better idea of their clinical training. 8) I decided to visit the student-run clinic on my revisit since I didn't get to do it on my interview day. I'm glad I did, especially since I was able to compare it to UCSD's clinic. Some quick comparisons are that UCSD's clinic seems more organized with a better inter-professional network. However, UCD's clinic seemed to have more involved students with the patient histories, physicals, and reporting of chief complaints to the physicians who volunteer. We didn't get to see how students interact with patients at the UCSD clinic. I'm not convinced that the students are learning in the best possible way at the UCD clinic though.. because most of them were still learning how to take patient histories and do physicals in class, but were thrown into that right away at the clinic without extra training. It felt like they were floundering a little bit, although they were obviously proud of their clinic and what they were accomplishing. I liked that they had a sort of morning roll call, where everybody working that day introduced themselves (I assume it's because it varies weekly) and their specialty or as MS1 or as PA or in my case "visitor." Then one student presented some information on a particular disease to everyone else. The day I visited an MS1 presented her search on gout. The physicians made some comments after she was done, including typical problems, recommended treatments, etc etc. It was really interesting. Other than watching the crazy hecticness of the Paul Hom clinic, I spoke with a couple of the physicians who were volunteering their time that day. I really enjoyed hanging around the clinic for a couple of hours. 9) The surgeon I shadowed was pretty honest with me. He said if I had choices between schools, I should pick which school I would be happiest at in terms of people and location because the training will be mostly similar--BUT that there should be a price where you draw the line between "what makes you happy" and "what is cheapest." He left it up to me to decide what that cut off price is. It's pretty similar to typical SDN wisdom, but it was nice to hear it from a real, live attending. 10) I also asked him about the whole "regional bias" for residency. His comments were that it's not so much that California residencies prefer med students who went to school in California, it's that California residency directors are more likely to personally know and trust the letter writers from the California schools. If they trust those letters more because they know the writers, they'll view that applicant more favorably and that's how the "regional bias" comes into play. 11) I expressed how I didn't initially think I would want to go into a surgical specialty because I was afraid of the length of training, but that my revisit is making me reconsider. The physician I was shadowing offered to put me in touch with his female surgical residents who had to weigh the length of training with age, family, child-bearing phases, etc etc. It was really thoughtful of him. Again, Davis The People is a great sell...
9/18: Wahoooooo. My first California invite!! Really really excited and happy, I have so many friends in the area and of course the location is great. Not to mention this really softens the blow from the Irvine rejection. This has been an awesome week for me !
Interview Thoughts: So I know this is weird (maybe even blasphemous) coming from a LA native--but I was actually thinking that I'd like to leave Southern California for med school. I just like living in new places and making new friends--and school is a great opportunity to explore someplace new for a couple of years. It's probably why at the start of the cycle I thought I'd be happiest in a big city like New York City or Chicago. In a way, I was hoping I wouldn't fall in love with UCSD. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I don't know anymore), that's extremely difficult. San Diego is, of course, a fantastic location. But the school isn't chopped liver either. So much to love about the school: new P/F, 8-noon curriculum which is supposedly fantastic (their first class with the new curriculum apparently knocked the school's previous Step I averages out of the park), lots of research funding, plenty of faculty mentorship, great clinical training (they have this summer program where you join a navy ship and work in medical clinics doing surgery abroad--how awesome is that?!), an IMPRESSIVE student-run free clinic system (it's more organized and comprehensive than the professional free-clinics I volunteer and shadow at), and students who actively embrace the "SoCal" lifestyle. My first interview kinda went... eh. I felt like I did most of the talking and too much rambling and I didn't get much feedback from the interviewer in terms of carrying on a conversation. I definitely don't think I did as well as I had in my other interviews. My second faculty interview went much better. He started off the conversation by asking me my favorite foods and where he should find them in LA. ahaha as a foodie.. it was INCREDIBLY hard to pick what I liked best! He even wrote down my suggestions and had me spell out the restaurant names! Oh man I hope his opinion of me isn't based on my food tastes... or maybe I should... omg. Both interviews focused a lot on my background and story based off of my "autobiography" in the secondary. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that yet but I've come to accept that my interviews never go the way I expect them to and almost never aligns with SDN's interview feedback page for some reason. I had heard rumors about San Diego students being gunnerish and cutthroat--but it didn't seem like that at all based on my interactions with the students. Bottom line: if UCSD offered me an acceptance, it would be incredibly hard to say no.
12/4: ACCEPTED! Wow. I really don't know what to say. I didn't think my first interview went well. I mean it wasn't disastrous, but I know it didn't go as well as my other interviews. I guess that doesn't matter now since I got in! I still have some hesitations, mostly about the location because I'm itching to leave southern california, and somewhat the students because I've heard rumors from friends who currently attend there--but that doesn't distract from the fact that I'm ECSTATIC about this! I have a feeling a lot of things will depend on financial aid and then the remainder of the schools I have yet to hear back from post-interview (CCLCM and Pittsburgh, I'm looking at you). But at this point, I think it's only fair to start withdrawing from a lot of the other schools I've applied to simply because I can't imagine choosing one of the other ones over San Diego.
Oh and btw, I got like FIVE emails regarding my acceptance--from multiple deans and current students. Talk about feeling loved! I really like the schools that send current students to email you and reach out to answer questions you may have.
4/15: So I've already been killing myself over attending Case's second look instead of San Diego because I feel like I didn't give San Diego a fair shot (and Case didn't change in my mind post-second look weekend). Now I come to find out financial aid won't actually be awarded until well after May 15... so what do I do without that vital piece of information?! Case's May 1 deadline is coming up!! I've been trying to set up a visit to SD on my own but it doesn't seem to be working through the admissions office or the people Brian put me in touch with. I might just have to call up some of my friends who currently attend there... but it feels so different too in comparison to the support I got at Davis and Hofstra for a side visit.
12/11: Kinda thought I was done with interviews! Nonetheless, I'm pretty excited for my first NYC interview.
Interview thoughts: I really like Brooklyn and I didn't think the area was as bad as a lot of people made it out to be (maybe it's because it was daytime or maybe it's because I'm an LA native). I could see myself here... but the facilities and tour didn't wow me like some other schools I've visited. The new curriculum seems to be in the right direction, but that also means the entering class would be the guinea pigs. My faculty interviewer was great and very welcoming--but I got the sense she was the exception. She gave me the impression that most students need to spend a lot of effort to get to know the faculty (which is a big con in my book) and I don't know if research opportunities are readily available. It's too bad the interview day was so short that I didn't get a great sense of why Downstate would be a better choice than any other school outside of location. They pride themselves on their clinical training, but I didn't get a good sense of what makes that training so great. Overall, a little underwhelmed when I was hoping a NYC school would wow me and make decisions easier.
Side note, my fellow interviewees were very nice and friendly--mostly local people.
1/28: Accepted! I had a really good rapport with my interviewer. Again, I wish Downstate could have sold themselves on interview day a little bit more. I know they're having financial troubles and one of their hospitals may close down? I also don't know if I like the idea of being the guinea pig for a brand spanking new curriculum. In state tuition for years 2-4 and NYC are pros though.
4/9: I attended Research Day and Shadow-A-Student day. I was able to sit in on a lecture with MS2s and their small group learning session where they interacted with an actor. On the Shadow-A-Student day, I followed a MS1 to a case-based learning session. The lecture was like any other lecture. The small group session was well run and I liked how they interacted with the actor as a standardized patient. I was a little underwhelmed with the case-based learning session. CBL sounds like a great idea in theory, but I'm starting to see why some med students complain that it's ineffective and it's better to just spend that time learning the material on your own. CBL is dependent on your peers, so if your peers aren't doing a good job covering their portion of the material, or even if they are presenting useful information--it may not be necessarily the same information you'd glean if you had read the material on your own. Personally, if I have to learn information secondhand from someone else, I'd prefer it to come from someone who excels at teaching and lecturing, which may not necessarily be my peers. It makes me worry that CBL/PBL may not be something I'd like as much as I initially thought I would. Overall, although I liked Downstate and thought it'd be a great opportunity to move away, I just can't justify attending Downstate over San Diego or Keck. It just isn't a practical choice and there are no other external factors that would push me in Downstate's direction. It's too bad, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to NYC.
1/22: I love the LAC hospital, the med students, and it has one of the strongest college alumni base in the nation... but it's so darn close to home. We're talking like... 10 minutes here =T
Interview thoughts: Man, it was really really hard NOT to like USC. My faculty interview went fantastic and the students seem down to earth and friendly. Dr. Arias was also a great person to sell the school. I love that USC embraces the "private school" attitude and makes no qualms about it. They turn it into a pro and a selling point (read: we have funding, we can spoil you like no state school can). One MS3 was telling me about how you can pick regional sites all over the country for your family medicine rotation.. so he picked Hawaii. Oh, and there's a Santa Barbara site where they rent a place for you stay during your entire clerkship. Plus, I can't state enough how much I love the LAC+USC hospital. There is a lot to be said about learning opportunities at a county hospital because patients are actually willing to let you learn--as opposed to more affluent, private hospitals where patients may feel entitled to an attending. I'm a bit uncertain about the commuter school attitude and large class size, but I can't help but wonder what it would be like if I was part of the Trojan Family. Fight on!
Wayne State University
Combined PhD/MSTP: No
Secondary Completed: No
Interview Invite: No
Interview Attended: No
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/26 | RR: 8/7 | Rejected pre-secondary :( It was a pretty nasty letter too I thought.. saying a good deal about not being competitive enough and all of that. It's pretty rough to hear that so early in the cycle. I probably shouldn't have applied to them at all, but I knew they had a tough secondary screen and thought that was worth the shot.
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/25 | RR: 9/9 | Expected this pre-secondary rejection after not hearing from them for over a month. I applied mostly because I knew they had a rigorous secondary screening--so I'm glad they didn't string me along for a secondary fee.
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/18 | SR: 7/19 | W: 10/11 | I just didn't mesh at all with their secondary essays. I could have chugged along and written something, but every time I tried (and try I did. I started maybe 3 different essays and had discussions with like 5 other people about these prompts) it didn't feel authentic and I doubt they would have been convincing. It's too bad really. In addition to their great program, I've always wanted to attend a big sports school. One of my few regrets about going to a small liberal arts college rather than Berkeley or UCLA is that I never got that whole college pride in sports thing. I would have loved being immersed in that at OSU.
Edit: It's 12/17 and I'm still getting emails at least once a month from OSU about needing to complete my secondary before the deadline. I've already withdrawn by email!
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/24 | SR 7/24 | W: 10/11 | I struggled a bit with the decision to withdraw. Ultimately, I'm just burnt out. Their essays, although not really hard, were long and I didn't want to write new ones from scratch. If I was more on top of my game and it wasn't already October, I would have applied to Tucson earlier in the season.
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/18 | SR: 7/18 | SS: 7/18 | SC: 7/19 | RR: 10/24 | I'm not gonna lie, it makes me feel better knowing Tots was rejected from them too :P If you're reading this Tots, I'm not celebrating your rejection, just happy to be in good company!
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/18 | SR: 7/18 | SS: 8/15 | SC: 8/17 | RR: 11/30 | Ah Cornell... I would have loved to have interviewed here, but I always knew I wasn't quite what they were looking for. NY Presbyterian was the main reason I applied, but I'm not sure I would have fit in with the students and culture at Cornell in the end. This rejection was mitigated a bit by my Davis acceptance phone call :D Besides, there's always residency...
Withdrew. They never did call me back to discuss my app and pre-reqs. That's a huge negative in my book.
9/24 Update: Called admissions after I found out they say prerequisites should be completed within the last five years. They said they'll set up an appointment with the Dean of Admissions to call me back regarding my file. Hopefully they're not that stringent and will review on a case by case basis with their course requirements. I mean really, if I have recent letters from a bio, chem, physics, and humanities prof; took some science courses last year; have been working in the SCIENCE FIELD since graduation; and have a recent MCAT... they're going to say I haven't demonstrated a strong preparation in the basic sciences because my last physics class was 8 years ago? I really hope not. That would be EXTREMELY non-traditional friendly.
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/31 | SR: 7/31 | SS: 7/31 | SC: 8/1 | W: 12/12 | I liked NYMC a lot more at the beginning of the cycle--though admittedly mostly because of its proximity to NYC. Only to find out it's really not all that close! Besides, I really like Hofstra and Downstate is in a better location. Don't want the temptation of another NY interview just because I love NYC so much... It's going to be hard enough for me to choose between California and New York already without adding more schools into the mix.
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/18 | SR: 7/18 | SS: 7/27 | SC: 8/01 | W: 1/14 | Finally withdrew. This was the first school I applied to because I was so excited about it. But after all this time, and knowing their interview days are dwindling, even if I get one now I feel like they didn't like me enough to begin with and I'd rather attend a school that wanted me for me.
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/17 | SR: 7/19 | SS: 8/7 | SC: 8/17... and 8/23... and again 8/24 | MAY Status: 10/15 | W: 12/17 |
Withdrew. Would not attend over current choices.
9/20: Finally called to ask about my "status updates" that didn't say anything different from "complete." They said they don't know why I was getting so many emails, but I was still under "comprehensive review."
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/19 | SR: 7/19 | SS: 9/23 | SC: 10/18 | W: 12/12 | I would have LOVED an interview earlier on in my season, but I already have acceptances at some great schools and I know Tulane would be too expensive in comparison. Too bad, I had never been to New Orleans before and would have liked to explore the area. Definitely needed to withdraw to remove the temptation of attending a possible interview.
Summary of Experience:
AR: 7/17 | SR: 7/17 | SS: 9/18 | SC: 10/17 | II: 1/14 | W: 1/25 | Unexpected late interview invite. Withdrawing was a really hard decision. I think I can be really happy at Rush--but I just know it'll be more expensive than my current choices and have less research opportunities. I'm also broke and my boss isn't really happy with all the time I took off for interviewing. In the end, practicality won out. I could have been so happy in Chicago though, sigh.