Major: Chemistry Location: West Coast (not Yukon) I'm a traditional applicant, applying after my junior year of college. I do have a somewhat unconventional educational background, and have a unique perspective & extracurriculars outside of medicine as a result. Many of my secondary essays focus on this, as my primary / PS gloss over it. Here's to hoping that it intrigues at least a school or two! :)
RESEARCH: ** Summer Research Assistant Academic Year Research Assistant 1st author poster, 2nd author presentation, 3rd author poster. 2nd author paper to be submitted soon! Summer & Year Long Independent Research, funded via scholarship
EMPLOYMENT: Tour Guide ** Injury Prevention Program Graphic Design Intern Pre-Health Intern
TEACHING & TUTORING: Group Organic Chemistry Tutor Private General Chemistry Tutor Private Upper Level Psychology Tutor Lab TA for Introductory Biology Lab TA for Organic Chem Neuroscience teacher
NON-CLINICAL VOLUNTEERING: Swim instructor aide Chemistry Club President
ARTISTIC: Published poet in several national literary magazines Editorial Board Member of campus literary magazine
AWARDS: Organic Chemistry Student of Year Pre-Medical Scholarship American Chemical Society Scholarship Research Scholarship Teaching Scholarship
I think that my activities and entire application, really, can be summed up by my very strong passions for communication and education. I also have a lot of clinical and research experiences, but almost everything I've done ties back into communication and education, and how those ventures will make me a strong physician and teacher.
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 06/02/2014
Undergraduate college: Hogwarts
Undergraduate Area of study: Biological/Life Sciences
Total MCAT SCORE: 514
MCAT Section Scores:
Overall GPA: 3.96
Science GPA: 3.93
Summary of Application Experience
Note: No actual writing score on MCAT
6/3/14: Submitted primary 30 minutes after AMCAS opened!
7/11/14: Whew! Over half of my secondaries submitted!! Something to note is that I have submitted every single one of my secondaries within 48 hours of getting it. I think there were only 4 or so that took me longer than 24 hours. I'm making a note of this because I forgot to keep track on here of when each secondary was received... So if you're curious as to when they were sent out or when I got them, just look at my "complete" date and subtract a day or two and that's when I got it! I'm also using "complete" to mean that I've submitted the secondary, not necessarily that the school marked me as complete (cause a lot of them take a week or two to download my letters from AMCAS, so it shows as incomplete until then).
Later on 7/11/14.... OH MY GOSH I GOT MY FIRST INTERVIEW INVITE!!! I am sososo completely excited. This was really unexpected, and makes me much more optimistic for the rest of the cycle! :)
7/17/14: Got my second interview invite to University of Rochester! I'm really surprised and pleased and excited! :)
7/28/14: Third interview invite to Penn State!! Woohoo!
Later on 7/28/14.... NYU INTERVIEW INVITE. IS THIS REAL LIFE?
8/7/14: So so so excited to get an interview invite to Brown!! I almost applied to their BS/MD program when I was in high school, but didn't complete the application for some reason. Brown has always been a really exciting school to me, so I'm stoked for the chance to interview!!
8/18/14: Interview invite from Albany! Breaking a bit of a dry spell! I am excited to add another NY school to my list :)
8/25/14: Mayo interview invite omg omg omg omg omg omg I cannot even believe it I am so ecstatic AAHH. Literally crying. This has been my top choice for so many years, and the chance to visit is mindblowingly amazing.
8/27/14: MCW interview invite! Seems like a great, friendly school. Plus! Conveniently next door to Minnesota! Midwest, here I come :)
Later on 8/27/14.... Interview invite from University of Iowa!!! Really stoked about this school!!
8/28/14: II to University of Vermont!!! This week has been an explosion of good news!! I honestly am floored to have gotten 10 interviews in July and August. I never, never, never expected this. Goes to show how unpredictable this process is!
8/29/14: Attended my first interview (GW), got an II from NYMC, got placed on hold at CCLCM, and got first rejection (Georgetown). Crazy day!!! Interview impression below :)
9/5/14: Attended my second interview -- University of Rochester! Also got an II from VCU :) some things happened today to throw me for a loop and really get me thinking about what is important to me. I want to be a doctor, I want to get a good education, I want to love my classmates, I want to adore my school, I want to feel at home where I end up. Pedigree and name brands don't promise these intangibles. It's so important to not obsess over school name and reputation when fit and direction are much more important. Impressing random people with your educational background is not the end goal here. Name doesn't matter unless you let it. Be openminded, and don't let US News and World Report tell you what would make you happy. Things to keep in mind through this crazy roller coaster of a process :)
9/19/14: Lots of stuff has happened, oops. Attended three more interviews and got an II to OHSU in the interim between updates!
10/11/14: I have attended a bunch of interviews in the past month since my update. Sorry about that! Also, just got IIs to both Case and CCLCM (College and University tracks). Whaaaat?!?! I got the email and was fully expecting a rejection!
10/14/14: Interview invite from UCLA..... I am floored and SO excited!!!
10/15/14: TWO ACCEPTANCES!!! First to GW and second to MCW!!!!!!!! I can't even believe it.... I'M GOING TO BE A DOCTOR!!!!!!!!!!!!
2/16/15: Whew! Long time, no update! But now that my cycle is basically over (how crazy is that?!), I thought that I would sum everything up. I am so incredibly grateful and amazed at how this whole process has turned out for me, since I very very honestly went into this cycle expecting/hoping for maybe 5 interviews total, and 1 or 2 acceptances if I was lucky. That is not what happened, and I am so glad that I had encouragement from others (you know who you are!) to aim high and believe in myself. If I hadn't, and had just let my insecurities about my cycle dictate where I applied and how I felt about my application, I would be in a very different position today.
So! This is all listed on my MDApps, but in an accessible list format... 6 pre-interview rejections 17 interview invites 14 interviews attended 3 post-interview waitlists 8 acceptances
After all of my interviews were over, my top two schools were UCLA and CCLCM, more or less tied (many many factors involved). As of right now, I am holding three acceptances: UCLA, Case Western, and OHSU. I am also staying on the high-hold waitlist at CCLCM for the time being. I have withdrawn from everywhere else. So that's where I'm at! Feel free to PM me on here or on SDN if you have any questions about my cycle -- I would be happy to help! :)
4/20/15: Matriculating at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and I couldn't be more thrilled :) PM me if you have any questions about my cycle or decision!
Combined PhD/MSTP: No
Secondary Completed: No
Interview Invite: No
Interview Attended: No
Summary of Experience:
Assumed rejection 12/4/2014 since I never received a secondary. Guess Vandy and I were not meant to be!
Summary of Experience:
Received secondary, but decided not to complete it. This school seems great, but I have 6 invites already and am starting to worry about missing school for every cross-country trip.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 6/27; rejected 12/12.
Sad about this one, since Cornell was one of my top choices going into this cycle, but I'm just satisfied to have a decision one way or another. Hope to see you for residency or fellowship, Sloan Kettering!
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/2; rejected 1/7.
Even though this was one of my biggest reach schools, this is the only rejection thus far that has really stung. I desperately wanted the chance to visit Duke, but alas, they did not desperately want to meet me. Oh well! I'm content with the great places I have interviewed at and been accepted to already.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/8; rejected 11/21.
I am sure this school is wonderful, but it was not the right fit for me due to the non-traditional emphasis and rural location. They realized this sooner than I did, but I'm not too sad about the decision.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/11; rejected 1/7.
To be honest, I don't think I would have fit in here nor loved to attend... But I desperately wanted more California options since I love the state so much! And Children's Hospital Los Angeles is wonderful. In retrospect, those are poor reasons for applying. Not too sad about this rejection, all told. Maybe see you for residency, USC/CHLA!
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/23; withdrew 1/7 after Case acceptance.
It would have been nice to go to school in Colorado, since it's closer to home than many places I applied to, but I don't think I fit their usual demographic of non-traditional, in-state matriculants. Ah well -- I wish CU all the best!
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/9; II 8/29; withdrew 10/15 after MCW and GW acceptances.
I'm sure that this is a lovely school, but I have made two trips from the PNW to New York this cycle and am not eager to hop on another cross-country flight for a school I'm not sure I would attend over my current options. Hoping that someone else gets my interview slot!
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/14; withdrew 12/27 after Case acceptance; II 1/14?, withdrew (again) 1/16 after UCLA acceptance.
Withdrawal 2: Can't justify flying to Virginia for this interview after getting great news from one of my very top choices.
Post-II Update: I withdrew last month, but was offered an interview invite today? Pretty confused about this one. Will need to give them a call, I think...
Withdrawal 1: I was really excited about this school when I first applied due to its small class size and focus on producing physician thought-leaders, but they didn't seem too interested in me and I don't think I would attend over my current options.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/27; LOR Request: 7/8; II 8/25; IA 9/22; placed on hold 10/16; withdrew 1/24 after UCLA acceptance.
This was by far the hardest withdrawal I've had to make. I really fell in love with Mayo when I interviewed, but I have since realised that it isn't the right fit for me. UCLA is closer to home, has better weather, has more integrated research opportunities... After thinking long and hard about it, I knew it was time to let Mayo go.
Impression: I was expecting great things going into Mayo, but oh my gosh. This school and medical center still positively blew my mind. I am just honoured that I had the chance to visit. I’m going to do my best to describe it as well as I can, but I honestly am not sure that my descriptions will able to do justice to the splendor of the Mayo Clinic. Here goes my attempt though!
First, I’ll start off by describing Rochester, as I arrived in town two days prior to my interview, giving me time to spend the weekend with a host and get a feel for the area. I personally thought Rochester had a cute downtown with what looks like quite a bit to do. I’m not a partier or bar-goer, so the lack of traditional night life doesn’t bother me one bit. There seemed to be plenty of cool shops, tasty restaurants, and even a comedy club! After hearing negative hype about Rochester on SDN, I was pleasantly surprised. Additionally, the city seems really driveable. I hate driving in scary narrow downtown-y streets, so this is important to me if I am planning on bringing my car with me to school. The street width is obviously not about to be a deciding factor or anything, but it’s good to make note of all the same. Additionally, Rochester is about 75 minutes from Minneapolis, and the drive was an easy straight shot down the freeway (I flew into the Twin Cities and took a shuttle to Rochester, so I made that commute twice). Overall, I liked the area and don’t view it as a negative against Mayo at all.
Second, let me talk about the students, since I met a lot of them prior to my interview day. The student who hosted me was so nice and informative, and answered all of my questions happily. The day before I flew in, all of the M1s finished their first block, and thus were beginning selectives the Monday of my interview. More on selectives a bit later. My host took me to meet some of her friends, and they were all just as sweet and helpful and friendly as my host was. I really felt like everyone I met was someone I could easily become friends with – they seemed to be a good fit with my personality and interests, which honestly isn’t too easy to find. I have struggled to fit in with peers for a large portion of my life for one reason or another, so discovering a school full of great people who aren’t necessarily similar to me but complement me well is truly remarkable. Huge brownie points for Mayo right off the bat in that regard!
This goes along with my discussion about the students. The night before the interview, my host invited me to an interest group meeting held at a physician’s house. This doctor invited over every student interested in his specialty, along with several of his residents, to eat hamburgers and roast marshmallows while networking and socializing. I don’t know how common this is at other schools, but it was AMAZING. The physician was so nice and friendly, and all of the residents and students seemed like great people. They were all really nice to me, and I learned a lot from hearing them talk about their medical experiences. All of the residents and the physician himself emphasized to the students (primarily M1s) that they could shadow at any time that they wanted to, and that they would be happy to set up longitudinal opportunities or allow them to watch interesting cases or be on call with them. They were very eager to offer all kinds of experiences to the students, even those who had just started medical school a few months prior. This truly demonstrated to me how much the medical students are valued at Mayo, and how much the faculty and the residents care about medical student success. And it also showcased how readily available opportunities are at Mayo! My student host said that she has shadowed around 5 different specialties and met with many more physicians for coffee just in her first few months, because doctors are so happy to work with you here. The faculty at Mayo are truly passionate about education and mentorship, and so experiences and opportunities are so readily available. All of the students that I talked to said that every single physician that they’ve emailed has responded with enthusiasm and willingness to meet and allow shadowing and/or research projects. That’s incredible. I want to go to a school with a support system that is that extensive. I consider myself a go-getter, and someone who likes to reach out and take advantage of whatever opportunities are available to me. I think that Mayo would be a great fit for me in that regard, and that I would get a seriously full and rich educational experience by attending this school and utilizing all of these abundant resources.
This segues pretty well into the curriculum and selectives, which I mentioned earlier. So my host had shadowed a lot during the school year because classes are over every day at noon, and they only have afternoon activities ~2 days a week. That leaves three free afternoons a week, which is often filled with studying but can also be used for shadowing and volunteering and meeting with physicians/faculty. My host said that the vast majority of M1s had shadowed at least one doctor by the time of their first exam, which was the day before I flew in. Talk about early clinical experience! And that’s not including the early patient involvement already implemented within the curriculum. The shadowing is all independent, so you can do it as much or as little as you’d like. I’m personally very interested in multiple specialties, so I would absolutely love the opportunity to shadow several doctors really early on so that I can start ruling in and ruling out possible specialties of interest.
The coolest thing about the curriculum, though, comes at the end of each block. So after the final test, students are given either 1 or 2 weeks before their next block begins. This is called a selective. Students can either pick from pre-planned selectives or propose their own idea for what enrichment activity that they can do during that week or weeks off. Some examples are phlebotomy, where students learn to draw blood and spend the week drawing blood for the outpatient lab; specialty shadowing, where they pick a specialty and then conduct histories and/or physical exams on the patients in that specialty; community outreach, where they do medical volunteering of some kind; theatre improv training, where the student learns how to do improvisation in order to improve patient interaction skills; and many more. The possibilities are seriously endless. The only rules are that this activity has to take 20 hours a week and be tangentially related to medicine. Oh, and also, you can travel wherever you want to for selectives! A lot of people go to other countries and spend a week volunteering in a hospital to learn about foreign healthcare. Some students go back home and shadow doctors from their hometowns. Others go learn about health policy in DC. So cool! All of the students LOVED having selectives, as it gave them a break between blocks before having to dive into studying, and it allowed them to pursue a medical field or skill that they are interested in. As my host said it, it’s a great way to allow students to remember why they’re in medical school and want to be doctors. I don’t know of any other school with a curriculum similar to this, and I absolutely love this model. I work really well with an incentive on the line, and selectives seem like a great incentivizer. My only problem would be wanting to do more selectives than there’s time for! I think they said there were 30 weeks off in the first two years; 18 of those weeks must be used as selectives while 12 are used for vacation.
Other points about the curriculum: it’s P/F the first two years. The first year is subject based (histology, anatomy, etc) whereas the second year is organ system based (pulmonary, neurology, etc). If you would like to, you can spend any of your 3rd and 4th year rotations, or even the whole year(s), at the Mayo campuses in Scottsdale or Jacksonville – if you choose to do that, Mayo will subsidize your housing and supply you with a rental car, which is pretty cool! I don’t know if I would want to leave the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, simply because it’s so amazing, but I can see how the opportunity to do rotations in warmer states might be a plus during the winter months ;)
Moving on to the facilities. I am honestly not sure how to describe the scale and grandeur of the Mayo Clinic facilities. They are above and beyond what I expected, as pictures and words simply don't do them justice. Imagine standing in the middle of downtown in some city, surrounded by tall buildings... And then you realize that all of these buildings house medical clinics and research labs. It's amazing. In the center of Rochester is just this vast expanse of Mayo infrastructure -- like a hospital district or something. It's so incredible to me, speaking from the point of view of someone obviously incredibly invested in healthcare. The outsides of many buildings are beautifully panelled with glass, with metallic highlights. The insides, though, are what truly took my breath away. Inside the Mayo and Gonda buildings in particular, marble spans the walls and floor with large pillars and grand displays of sculpture throughout the atrium. The Gonda building has amazing blown glass hanging from the ceiling, and there is a piano almost constantly being played. The lobby seriously looked like it belonged in a beautiful hotel (much more beautiful than any hotel I've ever been to!). But it wasn't just the lobby and atrium that were beautiful... the hallways and floors we visited were also gorgeous.
Sidenote: I knew going in that Mayo was going to be architecturally breathtaking, and I was a bit worried that I thought the ornate decor would seem "over the top". Quite on the contrary, however, I feel that the aesthetics of the building add to the feel that Mayo patients are truly getting exemplary care. Though it may be superficial, I think it's a universal phenomenon that people enjoy being in beautiful buildings as opposed to dilapidated ones. If a scared, sick patient flew from across the country or world for treatment at the Mayo Clinic, I think that they would immediately be put at ease by seeing the gorgeous clinic, and feel more confident that the care they came to receive was going to be equally as brilliant as the physical appearance of the building. I'm not quite sure the best way to articulate that thought, but hopefully my point comes across at least somewhat...
Ok, back to description. So all of the Mayo buildings are seamlessly connected underground by "pedestrian subways". All right, so I was in New York just a few weeks prior to Mayo, so when I heard the word "subway", you can bet that I was imagining the dirty, loud, cramped, grunge of the NY metro system. I was absolutely SHOCKED when we entered the Mayo system and saw the same wide hallways with beautiful art along the wall. If not for the lack of windows, you'd honestly have no idea that we were underground. I kid you not, along the walls in one of the subways, there was WHITE HOUSE CHINA. Like, plates and cups USED BY PRESIDENTS. So suffice to say that the Mayo subways are amazing and such a great way to ensure that patients don't have to go out into the cold while they are visiting the clinic in the winter. The temperature in the subways is 72 year round -- perfect. Apparently even some of the local apartments are connected to the clinic via subway... Those buildings are more expensive, naturally, but that still must be incredible to not have to go outside when going to class or rotations or work or whatnot! If I end up at Mayo (knock on wood!!!!!!!), I'd definitely look into that as an option.
Mayo does not have a children's hospital. As someone with a pretty strong interest in a pediatric subspecialty, I was a bit worried that that would be a turnoff for me. However, one look at the peds floor completely eradicated all of my concerns. The pediatric floor cost 15 million dollars, said our tour guide, and it shows. It's such a beautiful place that is obviously designed to make kids feel as comfortable as possible. The Mayo philosophy is about making everything easier for the patients, so all pediatric patients come to this floor and then physicians go to their room to see them instead of requiring the patient and family to traipse all over the medical center in order to visit a variety of physician offices/clinics. I really like this model, and think that it would promote interdisciplinary care. The floor itself is designed to look like the biomes of Minnesota -- the area we were in had sculpted leaves along the ceiling and forest themed images dancing along the walls. And get this -- Mayo has a contract with the Minneapolis zoo in which the zoo animals are all livestreamed so that the kids can watch whatever animals they want to in real time. Let me repeat.... MAYO LIVE STREAMS THE ZOO FOR PEDIATRIC PATIENTS. Wow. That's really an example of Mayo thinking outside the box to put the patients first. They repeat that motto very often, and I totally understand why -- it is the reason behind everything that is done at the Mayo Clinic. Very, very, very impressive.
After leaving the pediatric floor, the tour guide said, "You know how Google and other forward thinking companies like that have a 'think tank' where employees are encouraged to do crazy, random, fun things in order to be innovative and get their creative juices flowing? Mayo has one too!" Um..... awesome. It's called the Center for Innovation, I believe, and it seemed like such a fun and amazing place. It was colourful with toys and games and puzzles scattered about. The goal is to have this facility where employees and students can think creatively in order to come up with new ideas to improve healthcare. Several students were working in there, and they proudly exclaimed that their selective this week was an internship in the Center for Innovation. What that entails exactly, I'm not sure, but it was so cool!
I don't remember the chronology of the tour, so this may be all over the place, but at some point we went to the building with the sim center and the anatomy lab. We couldn't go into either, unfortunately, but we learned that students use the sim center extensively starting year 1. Most of my schools have shown off the sim center but said that only residents or MAYBE 3rd/4th years get to use it. Mayo integrates the sim center very early on, which I think is awesome. The tour guide also showed us a room with a variety of surgical instrumentation, and said that the room was available to all students so they could learn how to use the surgical cameras or laparoscopy tools prior to their surgery rotations. You could even do an independent study selective in which you log 20 hours of practice using these instruments or tying knots on sutures in order to brush up on surgical skills. I am not sure if I am interested in surgery, but this sounds like a pretty cool plus if you want to have a head start on 3rd year surgery clerkships!
We didn't see this on the tour, but a few students and I used our "Explore Mayo Clinic" free time to head to the gym and check it out. The gym is free to students the first two years, and then costs a modest amount of money for the second two years. But get this -- the price of membership in 3rd and 4th years is reduced based on how often you went to the gym during the first two years! Incentivizing exercise! I thought that was pretty neat. Okay so I am not the biggest workout junkie ever (that's a huge understatement but whatever hahaha), but seriously, this gym made me want to exercise like 3 times per day. It's huge and beautiful, which seems to be a theme at Mayo! There are floors full of cardio and weight equipment, a full length lap pool, an aquatherapy pool, a spin classroom, and several other studio classrooms. There are free drop-in yoga, Zumba, spin, rope, hip-hop, etc classes going on all day every day in the building. Seriously, students can just decide to go, show up, and participate in a great class with a certified instructor. That's crazy. Additionally, the gym offers free 15 minute hydromassages whenever you want. Feeling stressed for your next test? Go get a massage! Had a bad day in clinic? Go get a massage! Wow. Mayo obviously places a huge emphasis on student wellness, which I think is great. One of my main goals is to get a lot healthier before medical school, and Mayo seems like a great place for me to maintain that level of fitness and health throughout my education.
As I type this, I realize that I am leaving out so many important places and curriculum aspects and fascinating things that I learned. There is just way too much to type in this review! If you have a specific question about something that I didn't mention or only talked about briefly, feel free to message me on SDN or post a comment here. I know a lot of people (including myself pre-visit) are incredibly curious about what causes others to rave so much about Mayo... Hopefully I was able to impart a little bit of that throughout this impression, but again, I'm happy to discuss more specifics if that is something you're interested in.
Pros: selectives, student body that I really felt that I clicked with, beautiful Mayo Clinic facilities, P/F grading, wealth of resources and opportunities, supportive faculty, gut "fit", small class size, ability to individualize education
Cons: Uh.... I'd have to buy a new coat? For me, that's honestly the only negative and I wouldn't even call it that. I'm completely ok with the idea of a cold winter.
(Here are some things that don't bother me but I do understand why other people might not love them: mandatory attendance, small class size, small city of Rochester, no sports teams to cheer for, no undergrad campus, minimal night life options, can't just blend in with the sea of other med students)
Overall: The whole time that I was at Mayo, I seriously wandered around with my mouth agape and my eyes glazed with amazement and awe and humility. This place is truly incredible, and it is without a doubt a fantastic place to get a medical education. I'm just so anxious and excited and hopeful and terrified to hear back from them. I am not expecting an acceptance, but I will keep wishing and hoping and waiting.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/16; II 8/27; IA 10/10; withdrew 1/23 after UCLA acceptance.
I was placed into the final pool at Iowa, but decided not to stay in it because I'm tired of the waiting game and likely wouldn't choose Iowa over my other acceptances. I really did like Iowa a lot, but it wasn't meant to be I guess!
Impression: I had never been to Iowa prior to my visit, but I knew that I loved the Midwest. The friendliness of the people, diversity of the seasons, and of course the great med schools just draw me in! Iowa and Iowa City furthered my affinity for this region. Iowa City is really a cute little city, with tons of nice restaurants and cafes (a friend picked me up from the airport and we went to a Thai restaurant for dinner and a cafe to have bubble tea for dessert -- both places were charming and delicious!!). Although I like big cities a lot, I don't think I would feel stifled or unhappy if I were to live in Iowa City.
The next day, I was extremely impressed as soon as I set foot on the University of Iowa campus, and the Medical Education Research Facility (MERF) in particular. The grounds are sprawling and green and full of beautiful buildings, and MERF is new and beautiful. The architecture is really cool too -- there are some really interesting shapes within the structure, and there is a lot of glass and light. When you're inside the building, this makes a big difference!! If I'm going to be spending the majority of two years inside the same facility, it's important to be able to see the light of day! Within the building, natural light streams in from all the windows, and the open skyways and staircases perpetuate this feeling of openness. I really loved this building -- it's definitely at or near the top of the list as far as medical school buildings are concerned.
But of course, even the best building isn't very useful if the program it houses is not quality as well. Luckily, University of Iowa is a top-notch institution. I got the strong impression that there are tons of great research opportunities, and that a lot of students take advantage of these labs. Research is not a required part of the curriculum, so it's pretty incredible that so many students still continue to pursue scholarly projects. Additionally, University of Iowa has a close relationship with the Iowa Writers' Workshop, which is of particular excitement to me. For those who aren't familiar with the IWW, it's basically an absolutely phenomenal writing institution that is a dream for a writing nerd like me! University of Iowa College of Medicine is really interested in the exploring the intersection between creative writing and medicine, so they host an international conference (the Examined Life Conference) with seminars and speakers discussing these ideas. Additionally, the College of Medicine publishes a literary magazine that I would absolutely love to get involved in! Basically, University of Iowa very uniquely fills the exact sort of strange niche that my application occupies -- a passion for both humanities and basic science. I feel that I would have ample opportunity to explore both of these interests if I went to medical school here, and that the administration and existing infrastructure of the school would really encourage and support that endeavour. I think that's pretty special, and it's really exciting to me.
The curriculum here just got changed this past year, so the current M1s are the first class going through it. However, unlike some other schools I've visited with newly renovated curricula, this one seems pretty thorough and without the uncertainty I've observed in past visits. There are still kinks, of course, but the students said that the administration and faculty seek feedback and input constantly, and that they are extremely receptive to commentary. Thus, I feel confident that the curriculum would be totally ready to go next year if I were to be a member of next year's entering class. The new curriculum is 1.5 year pre-clinical, 2.5 year clinical. The pre-clinical time is spent about half in lecture, half in CBL. The interviewees actually got to participate in a mock CBL session during the interview day, led by a current student and resident, and it was really fun and collaborative. As someone who has been in small discussion based classes all my life, and also as someone with quite a bit of prior healthcare experience, the CBL format seems great. It really fits my learning style, and I think a combination of lecture and CBL would be a fantastic way to learn. The students said that about half the classes are P/F while the other half are H/NH/P/F. All of them reassured us that this system doesn't foster competition and that the class is still extremely collaborative, which was nice to hear. There did not seem to be any talk of the classes switching to P/F anytime soon, which differs from other graded schools that I've visited. Something of note is that 80% is needed to pass. Still, the students said that people rarely fail courses. Standardized patient interactions begin first semester, as does a regularly scheduled clinic preceptorship. Basically, students are assigned to a provider for the entire semester or year, and they regularly shadow them in clinic. They all said it was a really positive experience.
Some other important aspects of the educational experience here: there is an elective Distinction Track program, in which students can pursue extra courses or training or experiences in one of the distinction programs. The options are Service, Research, Medical Education, Humanities, and Global Health I believe. There are also things called Learning Communities -- students are divided randomly into four groups, each one having its own common area and kitchenette. A lot of the current students said that these are nice ways to build friendships and that it's helpful to have a "home base" to store your food or backpack while you're in MERF.
Another awesome thing is that there is a new Children's Hospital being built! It should be done in 2015 or 2016, so just in time for us to do clinical rotations. It looks like it'll be a great facility. This is a definite perk for me, as I have a strong interest in pediatrics.
Pros: Research opportunities, creative writing opportunities, medical education opportunities, CBL, cheap COL, free bus system in Iowa City (really!), friendly students and faculty, 1.5 year preclinical
Cons: Lack of diversity (when the associate dean was asked about diversity of patient population, he said point-blank, "Iowa is an extremely white state."), big sports culture, grades
Overall: I thought I would like this school, but I was really positively impressed and ended up loving it! It fits my diverse interests so perfectly, and in a way that no other institution really does. It's pretty competitive for OOS students to get accepted here, but I would absolutely love to hear good news! I think I'd be really happy and fulfilled by my education at University of Iowa.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/23; II 8/19; IA 10/6; withdrew 10/15/14 after GW and MCW acceptances.
Although the students were friendly and staff extremely helpful, I did not get the sense that this school had the right "fit" for me. It has a lot of great primary care opportunities, but I didn't get the sense that it would provide me with the best possible training for the career in academic medicine that I hope to one day have. Therefore, in order to let another interviewee get accepted instead of me, I have withdrawn my application! Hopefully there are no hard feelings on AMC's end!
Impression: I’ll preface this by saying that I have lived on the West Coast for my entire life, and I have never witnessed the beauty of Northeastern fall foliage. Needless to say, I was incredibly stoked for my late September/early-mid October school visits in order to observe some of the fall colours! Much to my relief and childlike excitement, I saw blazes of vermillion and goldenrod within the trees as our plane descended into upstate New York. During the 15-minute shuttle ride to my hotel near the medical center, I marveled at the gorgeous pigments lining the streets. The foliage really makes the town so picturesque and festive, and I am so glad I was able to see it!
Aside from the leaves, the town itself was pretty cute (one fellow interviewee described it as “charming”; another called it “quaint”). There are lots of old buildings and beautiful houses. Being as I come from such a relatively young region, it always amazes me to visit the Northeast and realize just how much history has taken place here. But I digress! I didn’t get to see much of downtown Albany, but the shops and residential areas we passed looked friendly. During the interview day, Albany was described by our tour guide as “having all of the urban problems without the funding of a big city to solve them”, which is an interesting perspective. There are certainly underserved populations present in Albany, which is why the presence of a large medical center is so important. The nearest other urban area is 2.5 hours away, so there is quite a wide region that uses Albany Medical Center as its primary source of healthcare.
The outside of the medical facility at Albany is beautiful. Lots of brick, tall pillars, grandioise structures… I had a great view from my hotel room, which got me excited about the upcoming interview day! However, the inside of the facility looks completely different than the outside suggests it might. In fact, there are three or four different interior decorum themes throughout the medical center and attached medical school. This indicates to me that there has been a lot of expansion upon these facilities at different times, which I think is a positive attribute – change and forward progress are good things! Warning to future interviewees though – the inside of the building is quite a labyrinth, so make sure to get there early in order to find the lecture hall meeting space on time! I’m sure that it would become easier to navigate the medical center after having been there for a while, but it’s a big campus with a lot of hallways, and I’m sort of directionally challenged. Regardless, we ended up at the right place when we were supposed to arrive, and were greeted by a lovely breakfast. I don’t actually eat breakfast, but if you do, keep in mind that bagels and fruit and the like are provided!
The curriculum presentation, tour, and MMI were pretty standard so I’ll just give a brief rundown of the basics. The curriculum is 2 pre-clinical years divided into organ blocks, with no patient exposure until the 3rd year (no preceptorships, standardized patients, sim center experiences, weekly clinic shadowing, etc.). The pre-clinical years are entirely lecture based, with no small groups or PBL. The lectures are recorded and non-mandatory, however. The grading for the first two years is Excellent Honors (P), Honors (P), Good (P), and Fail. There are a few unique outreach opportunities, such as partnering medical students with pregnant high school students to help them get pre-natal care and provide tutoring and support so that they stay in school both during the pregnancy and after the baby is born. There is a required service component within the curriculum, of 40 hours total over all four years, and it sounds like students fulfill this in a number of ways, most of which involve educational outreach of some kind. This appeals to me, as I am very interested in education. Some students are involved with research, but the tour guide said that it was very much the minority. One tour guide emphasized that the physicians at Albany Medical Center enjoy working with students and allow students to shadow them.
Pros: diverse patient populations, P/F grading (sort of), block style pre-clinical curriculum, responsive community physicians who are eager to let students shadow
Cons: no patient exposure until 3rd year, rural location, not many opportunities in research or medical education or humanities
Overall: I didn’t get the chance to talk to many students during my visit, so I would like to go back and ask a few more questions and get a better sense for student life at Albany. I have no doubt that this school produces great physicians, but I’d really want to attend Second Look to see if I could see myself here.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/18; hold 8/29; II 10/11; IA 11/13; "high hold" 1/17; alternate list offer 3/10.
Honestly, I'm proud of myself for making it to the "high hold" list, since I thought I was for sure headed for the rejection pile. I guess we will see what happens as the months unfold!
Impression: As I walked the mile from Case Western to Cleveland Clinic, I kept looking at my phone for signs that I was nearing my destination. However, as soon as I was a block away, I realized that my GPS was completely unnecessary – the grandeur and expanse of the Clinic were evident, and my jaw dropped. The Clinic has its own zip code, since there are 20-40 medical and/or research buildings in the area. It’s a pretty spectacular site to be in a little medical city – I felt the same way when I was in Rochester surrounded by Mayo buildings.
In a lot of ways, Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic are highly comparable. The massive medical complexes, the beauty of the buildings, the patient-centered modality, the commitment to patient education via extensive online resources, the salaried physicians (as opposed to the typical fee-for-service model), the referral nature of the clinics with patients travelling internationally for complex medical procedures and evaluations… From my perspective, it seems as though these clinics are the ultimate beacons of health and healing. Even the medical schools themselves are quite similar – much more so than any other schools I’ve visited, mostly due to the small class size and all the implications this has on curriculum, learning style, and school culture. However, I tried to stay impartial while at CCLCM without comparing it to Mayo, so I will write the remainder of my review with as few contrasts between the institutions as possible – though at the end I will summarize how I felt about the two schools, mostly for my own sake!
The actual medical school is located on a floor of the Lerner Research Institute, which is great since research labs and clinics and the hospital itself surround it. I really think that I prefer this setup, with the school connected to or within the medical complex rather than dissociated from it. It gives a sense of integration and I think forces medical education to be put into perspective. Anyway, the floor and building containing the school are very pretty, and I felt a sense of warmth and friendliness due to the colours and furnishings (if that makes any sense at all). The CCLCM facility looked much less like a traditional medical school than most, which I think is largely due to the lack of a lecture hall – or any room that seats more than 10 people.
CCLCM is a highly unique program in many ways. First and foremost, the total class size is 32, but all of the learning takes place in groups of 8. There is absolutely no possibility for students to sit in the back of the room and not participate – active learning and group engagement are necessary.
Second, there are NO LECTURES. There are ~6 hours of PBL per week in addition to a few hours of “seminar”, which is sort of like lecture but really it’s students sitting around a table with a professor (MD or PhD) and discussing material. There are also a few hours of humanities per week (endearingly termed “touchy feely Tuesday”) in which medical information is connected to patients, psychology, sociology, ethics, art, etc. An important note about the curriculum is that every afternoon and the entirety of every Thursday are free time for independent study, research, shadowing, volunteering, or whatever else the students choose to do. A note about shadowing is that there are tons of opportunities. A student who had lunch with us said that, in the first month of class, the chief of cardiothoracic surgery gave a seminar talk and offered to let students shadow him. He said that he took this physician up on the offer, and then spent several afternoons in the OR with a world leader in the field of CT surgery. Amazing, amazing, amazing.
Third, there are NO TESTS (except for Step 1 and Step 2, obviously) and NO GRADES. Not even P/F… No grades, at all, in any of the four years. Instead, each student has an portfolio with extensive written evaluations by professors and peers regarding performance in seminar and PBL and the wards.
Fourth, research is very much integrated into the entire program, which is 5 years in length. The summer before M1 is spent conducting bench research, the summer between M1 and M2 is spent conducting clinical research, and either the 3rd of 4th year (you can choose) is spent entirely doing a research project of your choosing. Dean Franco said that, if you are actively avoiding publication, you’ll probably graduate with 1-3 pubs by the end of your 5 years. She named a few students who spent all of their free time in the first two years being super productive in the lab, and graduated with ~20 publications. Wow. The opportunities to get involved with amazing, cutting-edge research are endless, and the faculty seem to all be really interested in getting students involved with their projects.
Fifth, and this one doesn’t make much of a difference to me but I thought it was worthy of discussing, anatomy here is done in a different way than most schools. Anatomy is conducted on fresh cadavers – no formaldehyde, no embalming – and is continued throughout the first two years. However, medical students do not perform the dissections during lab – surgical residents perform the dissections prior to lab, so students visualize the prosections. But if you are really interested in dissecting, not to fear! In the summers, a local PA program comes to CCLCM to learn anatomy, and medical students are given the opportunity to dissect cadavers and serve as TAs for the lab.
All of the faculty and students that I met during my day here were extremely nice, and the tour through the medical school and research center and hospitals was wonderful. The facilities here are truly top-notch, and I felt so lucky to be walking through the halls of the Cleveland Clinic. All of the unique quirks about the program seem truly ideal for me, which is both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because I couldn’t imagine a medical school that fits me and my career goals and learning style any better… Terrifying because the post-interview acceptance rate is 20% and I don’t think I’m a stellar candidate at all due to my relatively low MCAT score and lack of publications. But! I guess that’s for them to decide.
Pros: Small class size, research emphasis, no lectures, no grades, free tuition, Cleveland Clinic, humanities opportunities (i.e. Stethos, the medical humanities journal), shadowing galore, ability to rotate not only at the Clinic but also UH and Rainbow Babies and Metro (CWRU and public hospitals in Cleveland), diversity of the city…. I can’t list all the pros. There are honestly way too many.
Cons: Honestly nothing. At all.
Overall: I thought this sounded like a cool program when I applied, but I didn’t know a whole lot about it nor would I have considered it a top choice. When I got the interview invite, I began looking more into the school and fell deeply in love with everything CCLCM has to offer. My visit confirmed my infatuation, and cemented CCLCM as a top choice school. This was a huge surprise to me, but I guess this is a good lesson in the importance of keeping an open mind – you never know what might surprise you. Again, I’m not expecting good news in December, but if I did get an acceptance call, I would be ABSOLUTELY ELATED. They said we'd hear before Christmas... Looks like it'll either be a very happy or somewhat disappointing holiday season.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/1; II 7/28; IA 9/8; waitlisted 2/3; withdrew 2/3 after UCLA acceptance.
This was the first school that really wowed me, but sadly they did not feel the same way about me. Luckily, I fell more in love with UCLA along the interview trail and they reciprocate my affections :) Happily withdrawing from NYU, pretty much cementing my next four years in sunny LA!
Impression: First, let me begin by describing NYC. I took the train from Rochester to NY (I didn't quite process the fact that this ride was 7.5 hours...) it was mind-numbingly long, though an interesting experience. The seats reclined more than they do on planes, I had free wifi, there was an outlet next to my seat, and it was all-in-all quite comfortable despite the fact that it was a looong day of travel. When I arrived in Penn Station, I was utterly shocked. It's basically like an airport with a ton of terminals and underground tunnels and people moving really quickly. It was overwhelming, and I started to worry that the entirety of NYC was epitomized by this Penn Station experience. Luckily, my worries were unfounded, and I started to fall in love with NYC after emerging from underground.
I spent a day and a half exploring prior to my NYU interview, and that was awesome. It was really fun and solidified my interest in living in a city. There was so much diversity, so many things to do, so many beautiful buildings, so much good food. It was a great weekend and I'm really glad I arrived in NYC early so that I had the time to wander around the city.
Ok!! Now on to the actual interview day. I arrived at NYU about 40 minutes early, so went to a tea cafe in Tisch Hospital and tried to relax. This was to be my first MMI experience, and I was quite anxious about what it would be like! It both put me at ease and amped up my excitement to see just how beautiful Tisch is. It's a lovely building with a nice courtyard, and I saw patients and med students and healthcare professionals alike milling about outside. I didn't get to see any of the patient care areas, but the lobby and hallways and exterior of the building were all gorgeous, and it thrills me that I had the chance to interview at this school!
At long last, it was time to enter the admissions office. The office is right across the street from the Tisch Emergency Department, so it was a quick walk. The office was very nice, and they gave us NYU Langone bags! I love free stuff, as I've mentioned before, so this gave NYU instant brownie points ;)
The other interviewees were very nice, though I didn't get the chance to interact with all of them. It was interesting, as this was the first interview where the applicants openly asked each other what other interviews they had been on and which schools they were visiting in the coming weeks. I'm not sure if that was because now we are in midish September, so interview season has started at most places, or because NYU is a prestigious school and it's almost guaranteed that the students interviewing here are also getting attention from other institutions. Either way, it was an interesting phenomenon. Something else of note is that a huge number of students came from really well-known and top-ranked undergrads. This wasn't true of everyone (including yours truly!) but it was certainly more of a factor here than I think it has been at my other interviews.
We started off the day by hearing a presentation from a Dean about the school, the C21 curriculum, research opportunities, and the 3 year MD pathway. She really emphasised that NYU is unique in its flexibility, as it offers many different paths that can be very customizable. Examples of this include selectives, the research project requirement, the ability to do extra research and earn an MD with Honours, large number of dual degree options, and of course that 3 year pathway again. She said that they are going to start allowing students to apply for this path post-matriculation, during the first two years of school. This is great, as I have a good idea of what I want to do but I don't have the background or enough experience to fully commit yet. I would love to explore this option in the future, though. Overall, I think that the NYU curriculum and options are fantastic, and there are so many ways to get involved with things that you are interested in despite the lack of a formal track program. You can become a student ambassador and coordinate interview days/applicant visits/MMIs, you can become a delegate in the educational initiative program, you can again get honours from conducting research, you can focus on global health or health disparities projects, and more. NYU has a vast network of resources, and all of the students and faculty that we met with said that the school is very interested in supporting your interests and allowing you to pursue educational opportunities that you are passionate about. I really like this philosophy.
Another message about the faculty that stuck was how responsive they are. We were provided with several examples of students petitioning to change or add or remove something from their education, and the faculty listened immediately. The administration seems to really care about the students and what would make them happy, and they are willing to tweak the curriculum or plans in order to be more accommodating. I think this is so important, and I would love to go to a school with that kind of collaboration and mutual respect between the faculty and students.
After the Dean's presentation, we had a quick presentation from the program coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion. This was a really interesting talk, as it really made me aware of the fact that NYC is a very very diverse city, and that training here would be a great way to become more culturally sensitive and aware. I think that those qualities are essential in being a good physician and really, a good person, so I feel that the city's diversity and the diversity of NYU's patient population (especially the patients treated at Bellevue) are very positive attributes.
Next we had lunch with four current students -- two fourth years and two second years. They were all really nice, friendly, and knowledgeable. They talked about how they crushed Step 1 now that they are taking it after a year of clinical rotations (which is awesome to hear!), and answered some good questions about student life. I have a strong humanities background, and I was interested in hearing about the optional humanities seminars. They all had very positive experiences with these classes, and I would be really excited to take courses such as Art and Anatomy or Cook Healthy, Eat Fresh or Literature and Addiction. I love that NYU offers these seminars to its students, and it makes me feel even more like I would fit in here.
Regarding the MMI, I signed a nondisclosure agreement, so I won't get into specifics at all, but I can say that this was overall a thought-provoking and fun experience. The NYU website says it's hard to prepare for this sort of thing, and I would agree. I think the best way to get ready is to practice communicating an idea verbally in concise and clear language. Brevity is key, since the time flies by. I have no idea how I did on the MMI, but I hope I did okay! It was a good experience.
Next stop was the tour!! This was given by a current second year, and she was also really nice and knew a lot about the school. We walked through Tisch and saw the anatomy lab, a brand new study space, and passed by a lecture hall. Something of note is that a lot of the NYU facilities were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. They are in the end stages of rebuilding everything that was lost, and they anticipated that it'll be complete by the time we arrive, as many of the rooms and areas are already done being reconstructed. Another thing to note is that NYU is opening a new medical center building that includes a children's hospital in 2016 or 2017 -- just in time for the class of 2019 to rotate through it! That was really exciting to me, since I am very interested in peds. They are also planning on opening a medical science building in 2015. Both of these buildings are going to be right next to Tisch, so we saw a bit of construction there.
After touring the medical school section of Tisch, we headed to Bellevue, which is BEAUTIFUL. The lobby preserved the original brick face of the hospital, and it is so nice. The students and faculty emphasised that Bellevue is the most compelling reason to attend NYU, as it has an incredible amount of history and significance behind it, and offers great quality care. We learned that if the President is injured in NYC, Bellevue is his designated Emergency Department! Hopefully he won't get hurt, of course, but that says a lot that he chose Bellevue over some of the other amazing hospitals in the NYC area. We walked through the Bellevue ED and also went upstairs to see the simulation center (I think it was in Bellevue as opposed to Tisch.... Well, it's in one or the other!). This is a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility with a lot of mannequins and standardized patient rooms. They are integrating the use of the sim center into the curriculum more and more each year, so they said we can expect to use it 100+ hours while in school. I definitely view this (and the frequency of standardized patient interactions) as huge positives. I really get the impression that NYU trains its students to be excellent clinicians by giving them lots of clinical exposure and the opportunities for hands-on learning early on in the curriculum. Even though it is a research powerhouse, NYU finds training clinicians to be of the utmost importance, and that sentiment really resonates with me.
The tour concluded with a visit to Vilcek, which is one of the two NYU dorms. The building is nice, and the apartments (while appearing somewhat dormish) are pretty roomy and most importantly, cheap! Everyone is guaranteed housing here, and the tour guide said that 90% of students live in the dorms because they are extremely close, they have a good community, and they are really inexpensive (especially for Manhattan!). I view this as a big plus, as I'm looking for a school with great camaraderie, and saving money is always excellent. There is a lounge space and a small gym in Vilcek, but the medical student explained that there is a free shuttle to the NYU undergrad campus (Washington Square Park area) every 20 minutes or so, which enables med students to use the NYU undergrad gyms and libraries for free. I like that the undergrad and med school are not on the same campus, and I also appreciate that there is an easy way to get from one to the other to make use of these facilities!
We went back to the admissions office and then departed for the day. I bonded really well with a few fellow interviewees, and all of the med students seemed extremely friendly and nice. It was a great day, and I left feeling thoroughly impressed and excited for December!!
Pros: flexible education, P/F!!!!!, 1.5 year pre-clinical, possible 3 year MD, ample research opportunities, ability to get involved with education, new facilities with more on the way, friendly student body, amazing hospitals (one private, one public, one government all within a 5 minute walk from each other), great clinical training, excellent board prep, sim center, patient and population diversity, living in Manhattan
Cons: No current children's hospital (but one will exist by the time I start rotations so this really isn't a very good con), no medical education track (but there are opportunities to learn about education)..... um I really can't think of anything else.
Conclusion: I absolutely wholeheartedly loved NYU. I would be BEYOND thrilled to get an acceptance from here, because I think that I would get an amazing education and have a fantastic time living in NYC. My stats are quite a bit below their average (MCAT score, anyway) so I'm not holding my breath, but I'm definitely crossing my fingers and toes that they take a chance on me. I would be so, so, so very happy to attend this school.
Summary of Experience:
Complete 7/2; II 8/7; IA 9/26; waitlisted 10/17; withdrew 1/23 after UCLA acceptance.
I LOVED Brown, but they didn't love me back. I decided that moping around and waiting for them to change their mind wasn't productive, and thus I am letting Brown go. I'm so grateful to have had a chance to interview, though! This is a truly lovely school.
Really disappointed about this waitlist. I loved Brown a lot and thought I was a great fit for the school. I guess I'll write letters of interest in order to convince them of that further!
Impression: I had high expectations/hopes for Brown coming in, and I really do feel like they were exceeded. Providence seems like a really cool town, and Brown would be an amazing place to get a medical education.
My interview day started off on a really surprising and pleasant note: when I walked up to the admissions staff and introduced myself, they knew exactly who I was. Seriously, I said, "Hello! I'm Sunflower!" and they replied, "Oh, great!! How was your flight from [state]? I hope your professors at [school] are okay with you missing class today!" I was extremely shocked, as this has never happened to me at any of my interview days before. It made me feel immediately valued, as they obviously did not invite me by mistake -- they cared about my application enough to not only read it and click "interview invite" (or however the system works...) but they memorized details of my application. A few minutes later, the director of admissions came up to me and said, "I was so excited to meet you and talk to you about your poetry! I looked up your poetry online and found one of your published poems in a literary journal archive! I read it -- I should have printed it out, but I have it saved on my computer." I'm not sure if any other admissions staff have actually done extensive legwork trying to find my poems before (those archives can be tricky to navigate....), but the fact that she put in that effort to find and support my art is incredible to me. I was very impressed!!
We all sat down and the director of admissions proceeded to give us a great presentation about how Brown is unique, about the curriculum, and about the scholarly concentrations. She said something pretty surprising -- she said that all of us had teaching experience on our applications, and that that wasn't a coincidence. Brown really looks for applicants who want to be physicians as well as educators in the future. This lines up great with my own interests, as I am very passionate about teaching and absolutely want to pursue medical education in conjunction with patient care in my career. It sounds like there are a lot of opportunities at Brown for students to get involved with teaching -- as tutors, TAs, and more. For example, every third year student begins clerkships with a class that introduces them to procedures and clinical care. This course is taught by 4th years, imparting the knowledge that they felt was important for them to know when going into their clerkships. How cool is that?! I love mentoring and advising, so that opportunity sounds like a great combination of teaching and mentorship.
In addition to teaching, a common theme throughout the day was Brown's commitment to arts and the humanities. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which is a very prestigious art conservatory, is right down the street from Brown. There are a lot of opportunities for Brown students to collaborate with RISD students regarding art education, and for integration of art into medicine. For example, there are pre-clinical humanities electives, some of which focus on visual art or design and medicine, and the class is half filled with Brown med students and half filled with RISD students. During lunch, a student came up to me and said, "Are you Sunflower? The admissions committee asked me to come to lunch and meet you so we can talk about poetry! I write too!" Again, I thought this was so thoughtful and impressive of the admissions committee. And I really enjoyed talking to him! He said that he often hosts spoken word readings that are well attended by students, and that he has done a lot of collaboration with RISD. He said that he was also given funding to do a summer research project with a component of reflective poetry. That's really my area of interest within writing now, so that's so cool that Brown supports that type of thing and will actually provide funding for a reflective poetry project! Additionally, my student interviewer also had a strong art background, like me, so we talked a lot about the abilities to combine humanities and medicine while studying at Brown. It sounds like Brown would absolutely train me to be the type of physician I want to be -- academically-oriented with a passion for (and training in) art and humanities.
Onto the tour and such itself! The Brown medical school building is beautiful. Lots of natural light, comfortable study spaces, good ventilation. The anatomy lab hardly smelled of formaldehyde at all, which is impressive! The best part of the tour was the roof patio, which provides an amazing view of Providence. It was so pleasant outside, and the tour guide said that Brown provides funding for students to have a classwide champagne toast on the roof after some tests/blocks. Awesome! The student body is 120 students this year (increasing to 144 next year since 24 students will participate in the MD/ScM dual degree program), and there are "communities" within each year to provide a smaller group of students. Each community has its own anatomy lab, common area with kitchen and lockers, etc. Our student tour guide said that these communities don't have much functional purpose other than that, but I personally think it'd be nice to have a smaller group of people to get to know/rely on. He said that the entire class is extremely collaborative though, and that everyone works together incredibly well with no competition. Go P/F! Lectures are not mandatory, and anywhere from 1/2-1/3 of students attend lecture on any given day. The rest either watch the recorded lectures, or simply read the detailed notes that a student group puts together for every lecture. Knowing me, I'm more likely to be the one creating the detailed notes than skipping lecture and using them to study, so mandatory vs non-mandatory attendance doesn't matter a whole lot to me. I plan to always attend class. But I can see how that would be a definite perk if you learn better while watching lectures in pajamas in bed!
The medical school building is slightly separated from the medical center, though it's a short drive. One of my interviews was in the main hospital, so I got to go over there and visit. The hospital seemed a bit older and slightly run-down, but definitely not dilapidated or overly depressing inside. I only was in one part of the building, so it might be really nice in another location. I think we get full hospital tours on Second Look day, so that would be good to see the hospital in more depth.
Something that I learned during the interview day was that there around 40-60 PLME (8 year track) students in every class. The students who are admitted through the standard AMCAS route are almost exclusively non-traditional. Yikes -- I'm not!! But I met 4 or 5 standard route admission students who were coming straight from college, so I suppose it's not impossible. I really appreciate the idea of a diverse class full of different ages and perspectives -- I just don't want to be ruled out as a candidate due to my age! But I feel like if they interviewed me, they aren't too concerned about how old I am, so I won't worry about it too much. Still, it was crazy that I was the only current college student interviewing that day. Just something to keep in my mind if you are formulating your school list... They seem to have a strong bias towards non-traditionals due to the presence of PLME students making up a cohort of 21-22 year olds already.
Pros: P/F, 19 month preclinical curriculum, strong emphasis on teaching and humanities, good research opportunities, friendly students and faculty, beautiful building, only med school in state, diverse patient population, diverse student body
Cons: tests every three weeks (might be stressful?), I might be too young.... I'm really just fishing for cons. This was a great place with nothing really negative to speak of.
Overall: I was very positively impressed by Brown, which is saying a lot since I came in expecting it to be wonderful! The admissions staff said we would find out if we were "waitlisted or accepted" on October 17 (no rejections???), which is fantastic. I would LOVE good news here, as this would be a truly excellent place to get my education and I would be honoured to attend.
Complete 6/28; on hold 7/5; II 7/11; IA 8/29; accepted via email 10/15; withdrew 1/23 after UCLA acceptance.
This was a great school and I really loved my visit, but I am sure that I would not attend over my current options and didn't want to take a seat away from someone who would matriculate.
First interview invite, first interview, first acceptance!! My heart is so full right now -- I can't believe I'm going to be a doctor!!!!
Impression: The courtyard outside the med school is beautiful, and the hospital (just on the other side of the courtyard), looks very grand and pretty as well. The medical school building has a really nice glass staircase on the side that we didn't actually go up, but it looks really cool. The rest of the building is beige/tan and looks pretty nice as well.
I thought I was early (around 20 minutes before we were told to arrive), but I was actually one of the last interviewees to show up! Everyone was really nice and looked very professional and friendly. There were about 10-15 of us interviewees there. Funny thing was that only me and one other student were still seniors in undergrad. I guess "traditional" is quickly becoming the minority!
The admissions coordinators came and got us, and took us upstairs to a room in the library, where we had a GW Medicine bag waiting for each of us. We also got magazines, admissions handbooks, personalized schedules, contact info, and pens. I love swag, so this made me happy.
Once we were all seated, we had a few presentations: one from the dean about the collaborative atmosphere of the school, one about the new curriculum (1.5 year pre-clinical, new topics such as ethics and public policy, organ system based, and very integrated with latest technology), one about financial aid, and one about student opportunities (such as the Track program). These were all informative and helpful topics to learn more about!
After the presentations, we went on a 45 minute tour of the medical school building. We didn't go anywhere else on the campus and just stayed in the building, which I was a bit bummed about at first, but was ultimately glad about because it gave us the opportunity to see a lot of different rooms and go in-depth into learning opportunities in the building.
On the tour, we saw a big lecture room with comfy looking chairs, a histology lab (all computer based, no microscopes), the student lounge area, and the simulation center. All of the rooms seemed nice and looked comfortable, but the Sim Center was absolutely the highlight of the tour. It just opened its doors in March, so it's really brand new. It's state of the art, with all kinds of rooms and mannequins with amazing technology in order to teach students clinical skills. There is a labor and delivery room, operating rooms, clinic rooms, room to practice scrubbing in... It's awesome. There are also 15 mock clinic rooms for standardized patients, and apparently first year students begin interviewing standardized patients after being at GW for 2 or 3 weeks. Awesome! I was really impressed with the Sim Center, and think it'd be a great way to learn and hone medical skills.
We then headed back down for lunch, which was pretty tasty. I was too nervous to eat much, but I saved it for later and gobbled it down after my interviews were over. Quite a few students came to answer questions, and they all seemed really friendly and knew each other. They all loved GW, which I think is a very good sign.
I then had two interviews -- one faculty and one student. My student interview was first, and it took about 20 minutes instead of the allotted 25-30 minutes. I still think it went well though. She was really nice, and we had some good conversations. My faculty interview went really well too, and I enjoyed hearing about his research and discussing my background with him. All in all, I was really impressed with what GW has to offer, and would be really happy to attend medical school here next fall. I also love DC and the Foggy Bottom area, and I think that this would be a great place to attend school for 4 years.
Okay so overall...
Pros: Great city, beautiful Sim Center, strong clinical skills training, happy and stressfree students, collaboration among classmates (Big Sib program helps with this), diverse patient population, Track program to pursue additional interests
Cons: Pretty far from Children's National (20-30 minutes on Metro), brand new curriculum maybe without bugs worked all the way out yet, not as strong of research training as I maybe would like, really expensive COL
Conclusion: GW is in a great city and offers excellent clinical training, which would surely help me to become an excellent clinician. It doesn't have a big reputation for churning out physician-scientists, so if I'm interested in research, this might not offer the most fruitful opportunities and connections (though I could probably find enough through hard work). I'm relieved to have my first interview day behind me, and I'm thrilled that I had such a good experience at my very first school. I'll probably be able to assess it better once I have a basis for comparison, but at this point, I'd be happy to attend GW and think that I could absolutely fit in and succeed here.
Complete 6/28; II 8/27; IA 9/19; accepted via email 10/15; withdrew 1/23 after UCLA acceptance.
This school was a huge surprise for me, in that it greatly exceeded all of my expectations. But the grading scale was a dealbreaker for me, and I couldn't turn down sunny LA for snowy cold Milwaukee :(
Ahhhh! Loved this school, and am so happy to get an acceptance here!! If they change the grades to P/F, this would be a really tough school to turn down.
Impression: I woke up just as the small plane began dipping down into the cumulus cloud coverage, and I began to see snatches of greenery bursting through the fog. I have always heard that my home state is exceptionally green, and that is why it has to rain so darn much…. But honestly, trees and meadows have thickly populated every state I’ve visited thus far – by no means is my home state the only bearer of lushness in this country. Despite my intense seasonal allergies to pollen and grass and things that grow, it puts me at ease to see so much green, as it makes me think that going off to medical school might not be such a culture shock after all.
Until the winter comes, that is. The bus driver who picked a group of us up from the airport was absolutely hysterical, and made near-constant jokes at how horrible the Wisconsin winters are. He dramatically described several days in which the high temperature was -20 degrees, and talked about waking up to 2 feet of snow that had fallen overnight (on top of the other 3 feet that was already on the ground). I’m sure that I would get sick of it after seeing it fall on a daily basis and having it really inhibit my day-to-day activities… but I can’t quite make myself see the presence of snow as a con yet, just because I’m so excited for the possibility of studying in the library while looking out the window as snow softly spirals all around. However, I objectively realize that the winters here will be quite surprising based on my previous weather experiences, and that I might not feel entirely positively about the extreme climate.
The drive from the airport past downtown Milwaukee to the medical school was fun, mostly due to the zany bus driver. He pointed out several buildings and sports stadiums, outlining the types of things there are to do in Milwaukee. His message was one that was later echoed by virtually all of the students I spoke with at MCW – Milwaukee is a great city for people who like beer and sports. I don't actually care for either, but it seems like there are plenty of things to do in the city regardless. The city itself was sparkling with lights and skyscrapers, though the driver said that if we ever went a block north or east of Marquette University in downtown Milwaukee, we’d likely get shot. Duly noted!
Once we pulled into the MCW campus, which is actually a few minutes away from downtown in a suburb called Wauwatosa, we all began gaping at how large the medical center complex was. Froedtert Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin were immense, and several large biomedical research buildings were scattered around the campus as well. The entire complex was fairly tightly packed, in the fact that all of the buildings were somewhat close together – it was just a big area due to the amount of structures and how large each hospital/research center seemed to be. We were dropped off at another large building, this one housing the medical school itself. The bus driver told us that all of the buildings in the complex are connected via tunnels and walkways to prevent anyone from having to go outside when it’s cold. I’m a fan of that! I’m excited for the snow, but if I could avoid freezing wind while I’m studying or on the wards all day, that’d be preferable.
We walked inside the medical school building, and I was immediately awestruck by how beautiful the facility was. The floors were beautiful stone (marble? granite? I’m not sure… geology isn’t my strong suit either), and there was gorgeous wood along the walls and front desk. I have to say that MCW probably has the nicest medical school building of any school that I’ve visited. It was quite impressive.
The social was fun and casual – it was nice to hear from current students about how much they loved the school and why they chose to attend this institution. I mentioned my previous concerns about Milwaukee and I having different interests to a student or two, and they reassured me that with a class size of 210 (!!!), there will be at least 10 other likeminded individuals who I would click with and be friends with. I’ll admit, I’ve been in small classes my entire life (largest ever was 35), so having lectures with 210 people is a terrifying thought. But the students made a good point – with more people come more opportunities to find friends. I’m really looking for the opportunity to make lifelong and closeknit friendships in medical school, so I’ll have to think more about what class size, class dynamic, etc. would help provide the opportunity for that result. MCW’s large class size just might be a point in their favour, though I was initially very worried that I would hate it.
I got paired up with my host at the social, who was very nice and friendly, so we headed back to his house. It was a really nice place, and he said that rent in Wauwatosa is generally pretty cheap for good apartments/rooms/houses. I liked the sound of that! In the morning, I went with my host to school, and peppered him with all kinds of questions about the school and social life and things to do in Milwaukee. Staying with a host is invaluable, as you get that time and opportunity to have questions answered. I’m really glad that I’ve had such good hosting experiences, too!
We arrived ~two hours before I needed to check in to the admissions office, so my host dropped me off at an M1 physiology lecture for me to sit in on until I had to check in. Once I got in the room, several students said hello or introduced themselves or wished me luck (somehow, it was obvious that I was interviewing… I guess most of their classmates probably don’t wear suits and nervous smiles to lecture!), and one even came over and asked if I wanted to sit with him and his friends for the duration of the lecture. I thought that that was extremely nice, and gave me a really favourable impression of the student body at MCW.
Like everything else, the lecture hall was beautiful. Everyone was using iPads – they are a required aspect of the curriculum, as they come pre-loaded with a bunch of tools and lectures and resources. It looked like the students were utilizing them well, by annotating and highlighting on the PowerPoints throughout the lecture. The hall did intimidate me a bit, just due to how many people were there (remember, I’d never been in a large lecture hall before!), but it seemed like a fine environment for learning material.
After the lecture, I checked in at the admissions office, and met up with a group of people who had taken the shuttle bus with me yesterday. We sat and chatted for a while as other students came in and checked in as well. This was a big group – about 35, I think. It was nice to meet a lot of new people and hear a little bit about their lives and experiences! There were quite a few people from Wisconsin, obviously, but there was also a pretty big West Coast cohort, which pleasantly surprised me. At most of my other interviews, I had been one of the only West Coasters. Since MCW is a private school, perhaps it attracts more students from all over.
Once a majority of us had checked in, we went downstairs to the room where we were to have our information session. The presentation was informative and friendly, reminding us that MCW has a Discovery Curriculum and that it is graded H/HP/P/LP/F. At the lunch following the information session, a few of us asked the students how they felt about grading. They all seemed to agree that it caused unnecessary stress but wasn’t the end of the world, and that they would like it to be changed to P/F. A few M2s said that they recently filled out a survey about the grading scheme, and that they thought MCW might shift to P/F next year or the year after. Since I’ve been to so many P/F schools and heard so many great things about that system, the presence of grades might be a dealbreaker for me… So I’ll definitely have to keep my eye on MCW and see if they change their grading policy. If they did, MCW would definitely make a huge jump up on my list. Grading aside, though, the students and admissions staff were very nice. Lunch was also delicious, catered by Panera Bread. Mmmm.
My interviews were after lunch, so a group of us nervously filed upstairs and headed to our respective interview rooms. I really liked both of my interviewers, and both said a lot of positive things about Milwaukee and MCW. These were open-file, and so I got a few questions specific to my essays and my experiences, which is always fun in my opinion. I left feeling pretty good about how my interviews went – one of them even said, “You’ll make a great medical student anywhere you go, I just hope you’ll consider coming here!”. I know that her input isn’t going to be the sole deciding factor on whether or not I will be admitted, but I think that her saying that is a positive thing! So we’ll see.
After that, we had a financial aid talk, broke into small groups, and went on tours. We were unable to see the sim center due to an event going on in there, but we were assured that it was nice and they would show us on Second Look day if we were to be accepted. Our tour guide showed us the beautiful library (lots of windows and study spaces!), the nice student lounges, the lecture halls, and the anatomy lab. This was my first time actually inside an anatomy lab with cadavers out and everything. It was a really interesting experience, and this lab was really nice with good ventilation and windows and a lot of room for the students to move around. Our tour guide again emphasized his hope for the transition to P/F grading… Since so many students mentioned something like that transition being in the works, I’m hopeful that it will actually happen!
Once we returned, the admissions director gave a presentation about what to expect next. She said that MCW typically sends out admissions decisions 7 days after the interview, but that we have to wait until October 15th. She promised that by noon CST on October 15th, we would have an email with acceptance, waitlist, or rejection in our inbox. Awesome and terrifying all at once!! It’s really great that they are so transparent with their decisions though.
Of note, I met a few really cool interviewees while I was there, which I think is a good indicator that I would get along with the student body of MCW.
Pros: beautiful facilities, early patient contact, large hospitals, lots of research opportunities, cool pathways
Overall: I really liked this school a lot more than I was expecting to. I was actually quite impressed. I’m very much hoping for an acceptance so that I can attend Second Look and hopefully hear about a switch in grading scheme. I think that I could definitely be happy going here.
Complete 7/2; II 7/17; IA 9/4; accepted via email 10/16; withdrew 1/23 after UCLA acceptance.
This was a tough decision, since I really loved this school and considered it #1 of my acceptances from October until December. But I don't think I would attend over my other options, and I didn't feel right taking a spot from someone else who could have gotten in.
Really genuinely surprised to get accepted here, since I thought my interviews went horribly. But I'm really excited!!! I loved this school, and it would be a fantastic place to get a medical education.
Impression: The medical school building is very nice, and I could tell that even before I walked in. It's not ornate or breathtaking or anything, but it looks comfortable and new and elegantly designed. Directly to your right as you enter the building is the atrium. This is a nice open space with a coffee shop, and it seems to be a central hub. Right off the middle of the atrium is the admissions office! As I sat with my fellow interviewees (all of whom were very nice and friendly!), tons of current students came in to visit with the staff, get free coffee and candy, and gush to us about how much they loved the school. All of the students were extremely friendly and seemed very happy, which was an excellent first impression. I also really liked how central and connected the admissions office seems to be.
After visiting with students and the other interviewees, the admissions staff brought out some binders with pictures, match lists, and info about the city. This was helpful to thumb through during downtime throughout the day. Then the staff took us back to a room, and the dean of admissions talked to us about why Rochester is a special school -- double helix curriculum, integration of art and science, supportive and diverse student body, large emphasis on deaf health.
We had some free time after this. This interview day was largely very unstructured, with interviews sprinkled in at random times for each interviewee. When not at an interview, on the tour, or participating in the group session, we were told to entertain ourselves and sit in on classes or explore the med school or undergrad campuses. This was certainly a different format than my first interview, so that was interesting. I liked the ability to sit in on classes! We all went to a lecture for 20 minutes or so, but it wasn't actually a lecture at all -- all of the students had broken into small groups and made funny videos about the ways to test for fractures. These were very silly, and the whole class was roaring with laughter throughout all of the videos. It was nice to see such rapport and easygoing behaviour from the class as a whole.
I left earlier than some other interviewees for my first interview! It ended up being an hour long, but very informal. The interviewer told me about his path to medicine and several stories from med school / residency / practice. He asked me one or two questions during this time frame, but otherwise he just told me about his medical experiences. He was a very interesting retired physician, and I appreciated learning about his life!
My second interview was much less relaxed and more traditional. My interviewer clearly had a list of rigorous questions prepared, and she asked them all in order without giving me much approval or feedback between answers. For one particularly tough question, I thought for about 20-30 seconds before finally saying that I didn't have an answer. I left having no ides how I did, which makes me nervous. We will see though!
After my interviews, it was time for lunch and a tour. We saw some nice classrooms and the library on the tour, which were good to see. The tour guides were current students who were extensively involved in volunteering and other activities. This gave me a positive impression that students are very active here. Neither were involved in research, but reassured me that there were ample research opportunities. They also elaborated on the fantastic medical education elective pathway here, in which students gain extensive experience tutoring and lecturing. This really excited me, as I am quite passionate about teaching and would love to become a clinician educator in the future. Following the tour was the group ethics discussion. This was pretty laid back and stressfree. The prompt was not too abstract or mind boggling, and we had a good and thorough discussion about it. I think this was just to give us a PBL type experience, since that is a big part of the curriculum. I personally thrive in discussion type environments, so a curriculum split between lecture and PBL is ideal for me. Rochester offers exactly that, which is nice.
Finally, we had a chance to observe a really cool activity occurring in the atrium, called Deaf Strong Hospital. Basically, the school brings in deaf and ASL fluent volunteers to act as healthcare professionals, while all the first year med students (with very minimal ASL knowledge) act like patients who are trying to navigate the healthcare system without the ability to verbally communicate. The city of Rochester had the largest per capita deaf population in the country, so deaf health issues are very important to the school. I thought this exercise was very powerful and well thought out, so I'm glad I had the chance to observe it.
Pros: great school with strong research and education opportunities, synthesis of art and science in the curriculum, friendly student body, nice facilities (including brand new children's hospital), technology integrated curriculum, mix of PBL and lecture, P/F, diversity within city, lots of opportunities to get involved with volunteering
Cons: no recorded lectures, questionable weather, 2 year preclinical (although double helix curriculum does integrate clinical experiences during those years)
Conclusion: I really liked this school and think I could be very happy here. It seems like it would prepare me well to be the type of doctor I want to be (humanistic, compassionate clinician who does research and teaching as well). I would love some good news on October 15th.
Sad to be letting go of my state school, but I knew it wasn't the right fit for me. I hope someone who really identifies with the OHSU mission can get in off the waitlist in my place!
Complete 7/17; II 9/18; IA 10/1; accepted via status change on 11/5.
Pretty surprised and happy to get an acceptance here!! :) Woohoo! Thanks for the in-state love, OHSU!
Impression: I spent a summer working at OHSU and I am generally very familiar with the institution, so it was really fun to see it from a different perspective – as an interviewee, not an employee or volunteer or visitor. Most of my time at OHSU has been spent on the hill, and I had never been in the new medical school building, so that was pretty neat too.
If you’re unfamiliar with the OHSU campus, let me explain. The hospital, most of the research labs, and much of the administration is up on Marquam Hill. The medical school and dental school used to be up there too, in older facilities (aptly described by a current student as “dilapidated”). However, OHSU ran out of room on Marquam Hill, since it’s not the biggest of areas, yet they still wanted to expand their facilities. So about 8 years ago, a new OHSU facility opened on the South Waterfront of Portland, called the Center for Health and Healing. This building houses a café, a gym, and 15 floors of outpatient clinics and outpatient operating rooms. In order to connect Marquam Hill with this building on the South Waterfront, an aerial tram was implemented! This tram goes directly from the OHSU hospital on “the hill” (as everyone refers to it as) to the Waterfront. It’s honestly pretty cool. The tram runs something like from 5:00am-9:30pm on Monday through Friday, with separate tram cars leaving every 5ish minutes. There are also limited hours on Saturdays, and it runs on Sundays during the summer months I believe. Basically, it’s an incredibly convenient way to get between the two OHSU campuses, and only takes a few minutes! Since the Center for Health and Healing was opened, the South Waterfront area has really blossomed. There are some really upscale apartment buildings and some cool restaurants nearby, with plans to develop the area further by adding essentials like a grocery store. The Portland Streetcar also runs by this area very frequently, with a stop directly in front of the Center for Health and Healing. Additionally, a pedestrian/streetcar/bike bridge across the river is being opened next September. This is a really great way to connect the South Waterfront with the new developing area of Southeast Portland. If you’ve heard of OMSI (Oregon Museum for Science and Industry), it’s right across that brand new bridge. That’s pretty neat!
Earlier this summer, the brand new medical and dental school building opened as well! It’s called the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, and it’s a few blocks from the Center for Health and Healing, still along the waterfront. This building is immense and really nice, and contains two Starbucks stores for those of you who run on pumpkin spice lattes ;) I have been admiring the construction of this building for the past several years, so I was very happy to actually tour it and spend some time inside! It’s very silver, metallic, and glassy, with lots of open spaces and walkways and staircases visible from the atrium. I quite like it! It’s designed to be a really collaborative, interdisciplinary space used by medical students, dental students, PA students, researchers, and some PSU undergrads.
Onto the interview day itself. We started off with a curriculum presentation – this is the first year of a brand new curriculum, so the presentation was largely phrased in hypotheticals (i.e. “This is what we hope to accomplish” or “We plan to offer this” or “It is our goal to have students get involved with that”). I get the sense that the curriculum is very much a work in progress. I think it’ll be awesome when it’s smoothed out a bit more, maybe next year or the year after, but right now it just feels very new so it’s hard to get a sense for how it will play out. If I were to be accepted here, I would find it necessary to attend Second Look and ask first year students how they feel everything has grown and changed, because it’s just too early to tell yet.
But basically, the overview of the curriculum is that it’s system-based, 18 month pre-clinical, and P/F for the duration of that time. There are no summer breaks – students transition directly from pre-clinical to Step 1 to year three to year four, with no more than perhaps a week of vacation at a time. During the pre-clinical years, there is 8 hours of lecture every day (8-4) with one half day free per week at most. Currently, lectures are recorded and even live-streamed. I know that OHSU has a lot of research opportunities, since I myself did a summer research internship on the hill. In particular, OHSU houses the Knight Cancer Institute, led by Dr. Druker, who developed Gleevec (look it up if you’re unfamiliar – it’s a really big deal!!). I am very interested in oncology, so the ability to get involved with this groundbreaking research and cancer care is really exciting to me!
Pros: Close to home, great location (I <3 Portland), fantastic cancer institute, P/F grading, 18-month pre-clinical curriculum, new and convenient transit options will be available by early 2015
Cons: No real research opportunities for med students, looooong days of lecture every day, brand new/still developing curriculum, primary care focus, might be a bit too comfortable (since I’ve lived in this state my entire life), very big focus on nontraditional students
Overall: OHSU is a great school, and I know that it provides a quality education. Decisions will come out in 4-6 weeks – hoping for some home state love, as it would be undeniably awesome to have an option close to home, close to my support system, and within the city I’ve loved all my life.
Complete 7/18; II 7/28; IA 9/15; accepted via snail mail 11/25; withdrew 12/15.
Although there are a lot of great opportunities at Penn State, I don't think the fit is quite there and I wanted to give someone else the opportunity to be accepted, since I know I wouldn't attend Penn State over my other options. Still very grateful to have visited and been accepted, though!
Impression: After a relatively uneventful flight to Chicago for my layover, I was surprised to see a very small plane waiting to take me and 49 other passengers to Harrisburg. I guess a 50-person plane isn’t tiny, but I had never ridden in a commercial aircraft of that size before. I was actually pretty excited about this adventure, despite the fact that I had to check my carry-on suitcase due to it not fitting in the overhead bins. Throughout the flight, I was plagued by the worry that it would somehow come tumbling out of the aircraft, and I would be left to hurriedly purchase a suit in Harrisburg or Hershey before my upcoming interview. Fortunately, my suitcase and I landed safely in Harrisburg, and no frenzied Ann Taylor visits were made.
My student host graciously picked me up at the airport, and we talked about Penn State and our respective interview experiences on the 15-minute drive to Hershey. I marveled at how green and lush the landscape was, though was a bit taken aback by just how rural these communities are. They are definitely small towns, regardless of the fact that Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania (a fact that, I am ashamed to admit, I did not know until someone mentioned it at my interview day. Oops.) Also, for those who don’t know, the Penn State undergrad is ~2 hours away in State College (I think that’s the name…), so it is quite far removed from the med school. In my opinion, that’s a pro – not because I don’t like undergraduate campuses or large schools, but because I’ve already been through the undergrad experience and am hoping for medical school to have a more professionally focused environment. I’m not a partier or drinker, so I don’t mind being separated from the understandably enthusiastic Friday nights common to undergraduate campuses.
Anyway, we arrived at my host’s apartment (< 1 mile from the med school and hospital) and I actually stood in the doorway gaping about how large it was. After just coming from Manhattan, where space is at a premium, the spacious two-story apartment looked quite luxurious. He said that this was pretty standard living for the Penn State medical students, and that housing was inexpensive and easy to come by. Impressive and good to know! My host then said he had a test the next day, and left for the library. I hoped to walk around Hershey a bit, but quickly discovered that there is nothing within walking distance. So I relaxed and read up on Penn State a bit that night instead, which worked out just fine.
The next morning was a bit chilly, but bright and sunny all the same. The weather and greenery actually reminded me a lot of my home state, which I appreciated! I was excited to arrive at the medical center, which appeared quite large and grandiose up close (I had seen a glimpse of it the day before, but it’s much prettier and bigger when you’re standing in front of it!). The brand new children’s hospital is attached to the main hospital, and the medical school classrooms and offices are in the back of this complex. I liked the overall feeling of connectivity from the buildings – it felt cohesive, and made it seem like the medical students were an integral part of the healthcare experience at Penn State. NYU and Rochester had similar setups, and seeing the layout repeated makes me appreciate it that much more.
I’m so glad that my host was with me as I made my way to the admissions department, because the inside of the building is huge and maze-like. I never could have found the right office on my own! But with his help, I ended up at the admissions department, and the friendly staff checked me in. The interview day here was staggered, with about half of the group interviewing from 8-11 am and the second half interviewing from 2-4 pm. In the middle of the day, both groups convened for the information session, lunch, and tour. I was in the afternoon session, so after I checked in, I sat to wait on the couches outside the admissions office alongside students from the morning session waiting for their second interviews. They reassured me that their first interview had been a really positive experience, which helped put me at ease for the rest of the day. After all of the interviewees, morning and afternoon, finally convened back on the couches, we chatted a bit. Everyone seemed very friendly, though I was surprised to find that I was practically the only student not from Pennsylvania. I think another student was from New York, but that was about it. I was unable to participate in their animated discussions about which suburbs of Philadelphia were the most vibrant, but I did learn a lot about Pennsylvania geography by asking them to describe where they lived within the state!
The information session was next. The presenter said, point-blank, “If you are not interested in humanities and art being a large part of your medical education, this is not the school for you.” I was impressed by Penn State’s immediate conviction to championing the humanities, as I attended an art academy for many years and feel very strongly about the importance of humanities within medicine. The dean then came into the room and spoke to us for a few minutes, urging us to all become doctors for the purpose of becoming voices for the voiceless members of society. It was a moving talk, and I was pleased to hear about Penn State’s commitment to underserved populations. The dean then proceeded to say something else that struck close to home, and served as a very good reminder to me. I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said, “In this process, you may feel like you are selling yourself to all of these schools and desperately hoping that one will decide they love you. But don’t place all of your self worth on what these schools think. There are people in this world who already love you dearly and care about you very much, so please remember that, regardless of what this application cycle holds for you.” I thought that was quite beautiful.
We then filed out the door and headed to lunch with some current students. The food was tasty and the students were all very helpful. They seemed to like Penn State, and said that they appreciated the fact that classes typically ended at noon. Several said that they think they worked harder in undergrad than in med school so far, which was interesting! When I asked how they liked Hershey, the students emphasized how safe they felt walking around town, even at night. As a short statured female, safety is something I have to think about quite a bit, so I did like hearing about this aspect of the town.
After lunch was the tour. This was pretty unusual, since it was given by a 75-year-old lady from volunteer services. She was incredibly sweet and knew a lot about the history of the school, but couldn’t provide a significant amount of insight into the medical school experience, which I was hoping to glean during the tour. Regardless, she showed us the simulation center (which was fairly nice, though probably not quite as sparkly and pristine as the ones at GW or NYU), the library, and the children’s hospital. The children’s hospital does look beautiful, and this is a definite pro for me since I’m interested in pediatrics.
My interviews came right after the tour. These were my first open file interviews, and I was quite interested to see how they would differ. I actually quite liked this format! One of my interviewers even had my entire application in front of her, and had extensively highlighted and underlined sections throughout the entire thing (including my letters of rec). This was nice, because she was able to ask me very focused, directed questions about my activities and experiences. For the sake of anonymity, that's all I'm going to say about my interviews.
Pros: new children’s hospital, P/F, art focus, required research, flexible class times
Cons: the ruralness of Hershey is probably the biggest con for me
Overall: There are some aspects of the school that I objectively love, such as the humanities focus, the patient-centered curriculum, the short class days, the art-filled medical center, but I still have some unanswered questions. If I get accepted (which would be awesome!), I would definitely like to attend second look, as I am sure that I will get a much better sense for fit then.
Complete 7/21; II 8/28; IA 10/19; accepted via email 10/30; withdrew 1/23 after UCLA acceptance.
Great school, fun location, but too expensive OOS to justify. There is no possibility of getting IS tuition, and I wasn't notified of any merit scholarships, so it would be impractical to hang on to this one.
So so so so excited to be accepted here!!!! I loved my visit to Vermont, and this seems like an awesome school.
Interview impression: I arrived in Burlington the day prior to the interview, and had late morning, afternoon, and evening to explore Vermont. A fellow interviewee and I rented a car, and we drove around a bit of the Vermont countryside – it was absolutely stunning due to the fall foliage, and I was just in awe of how many colours populated the hills. So, going into the interview day itself, I already had quite the pleasant view of the state, and I was excited to see if the school would be a good fit as well.
The interview was on a Saturday morning, meaning a lot of the doors were locked, so my friend and I circled the medical education complex a few times before finding a current student to take us to the atrium where we were meeting. So note to future interviewees – give yourselves enough time to get to where you need to go in case this happens to you! A bright side of getting lost and locked out for a few minutes, though, was that we got to see several buildings and get a sense for the campus. The architecture and design of the medical education center is quite beautiful, and I was very impressed with the quality of all of the facilities we saw throughout the entire day.
The atrium where we all met was filled with probably a dozen round tables, all with centerpiece bouquets of flowers (including a sunflower…. I was pleased). There were ~50 interviewees at UVM that day, which is the largest group I’ve had! But we were randomly split into maybe 6 small groups, each with 8 people. Each small group had a sister group, with which we completed a group activity (can’t say much about it other than that it was fun) and listened to the information sessions. Some highlights: early patient exposure, 1.5 year preclinical curriculum, opportunity to rotate at sites in Florida and Maine and Connecticut, H/P/F grading.
We then went on a tour of the medical center and, as I said earlier, the facilities were impressive and beautiful. We didn’t get to see inside the simulation center, but we did briefly enter the hospital, which appeared bright and open and nice. After my tour, we had lunch with current students who all seemed to love UVM, and then we had the MMI.
After all of the activities were over, we had a “debriefing” session back in the original atrium. This was fairly unusual, as they had each table talk about the pros and cons of their experience during the interview day. UVM seems to place a huge emphasis on reflection and debriefing, which is very interesting. My creative writing serves as a way for me to reflect and debrief, so I appreciate the integration of this concept into the curriculum.
Pros: Burlington is cute, 1.5 year pre-clinical curriculum, Vermont is beautiful, early clinical exposure, friendly student body, beautiful facilities
Cons: H/P/F grading, expensive for OOSers, cold in the winters, might get forcibly uprooted and sent to rural Maine or Connecticut for rotations
Overall: I really liked the vibe of this school, and it seems like a state and culture that would fit me well. I am very happy that I got the chance to visit, and good news would be wonderful! I’d definitely be interested to go back for Second Look and make sure that this would be a good place to train me for a career in academic medicine.
Summary of Experience:MATRICULATING. And I couldn't be more ecstatic!!!!!!!
Complete 7/29; II 10/14; IA 11/24; accepted via status change 1/16.
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. I haven't stopped smiling all day. This was one of my very top choice schools and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to attend. I don't think I'll believe it until I get the letter in the mail, though!!