I'll just be using this to track what the schools thought of me!
QQ Money I've spent on this application process: I get FAP, so it's nothing compared to other people, but I'm paying for everything out of pocket from my minimum wage part-time job T_T
Primaries: $210 (Extra schools I decided to add after the first 14, ended up withdrawing/getting rejected from them anyway)
Interviews: $1100 (Wisconsin and Colorado plane tickets only)
I'll post an application cycle "summary" once everything is done and over with. Either way, for those who are applying and looking at my application, the biggest thing you can probably take away from my experience is to not apply as "top heavy as I did" given my MCAT score. If I had the knowledge that I have now, I would've applied to a couple DO schools just in case, given that my MCAT score was on the border of "just okay to even apply to MD schools."
As a resident of California with a low MCAT score, pretty much every school on my list was mid to top tier, and all were definitely "reach schools" in terms of my LizzyM score alone. I was lucky to get the interviews and acceptances that I did, as my letters of rec and secondary essays may have saved me from an immediate rejection. Don't do what I did and retake the MCAT if you score below a 30, especially if you really want to shoot for staying in CA or on the west coast. The MSAR is a wonderful resource to use so you can apply both broadly and smartly (and not waste money applying to schools that obviously would never give you a shot in the first place - UCSF, etc.)!
My goals going into this application cycle were to get into a med school that has a strong clinical emphasis and fostered an environment I could imagine myself thriving or pursuing a specialized academic track or MD/MPH degree. I did not go into this cycle with the intention of getting into just any med school my stats would grant me a shot at and was prepared to reapply instead of adding to more "low tier" schools to my list, for financial and personal reasons.
University of Wisconsin - School of Medicine and Public Health (Madison)
This school was my very first interview invite and I was really on the fence about initially completing the secondary. Given that the school is known to interview very few OOS applicants (data provided says that of the 4000 who apply, 3000 submit secondaries, and only 180 are offered interviews), I felt like this school was a complete long shot. Their median MCAT score is a 32, and given my 28 and OOS status, I was definitely not expecting much from this school. However, I spent a lot of time writing my optional secondary essay to explain why I was specifically interested in their school, curriculum, and MD/MPH program. A few weeks later, I came to work with an interview invite email and was in complete shock. I re-read the email about 20 times too!
I flew into Madison the morning before my interview to explore the undergrad campus and acquaint myself with the town/area. Other than the extreme humidity, the weather was your typical late summer "tanning weather." From the second I left Dane County Airport and looked out my window, I was completely blown away by how stunning Madison is. A lot of money has definitely gone into making the campus and area as beautiful as it is, so it's no wonder that EVERYONE I met is super proud to be a badger.
The undergraduate campus is right on Lake Mendota, so their memorial union looks out onto the lake. You can literally walk from class to the MU to grab a bite, and jump in for a quick swim. It's totally unreal! The med school also looks new and pristine, albeit a bit smaller than some of the other med schools I've seen. I'm going to avoid talking about how I got off at the wrong bus stop and got caught in a flash monsoon that appeared out of nowhere. "Typical Midwest weather" as they say :P.
As for the actual interview day, we were the first cohort of 30 interviewees, and I was definitely intimidated by the hotshots and all-stars I was sitting with. Most of the people I talked were already holding onto 4+ interview invites to top 20 schools or were students from prestigious ivy leagues. Regardless, I was there because the admissions folk saw something in my application and thought that I was "just as good" as these folks and earned my right to be there too, so I didn't worry too much about it.
My first interview was with an older internal medicine physician from the med center, who I felt like I really kicked it off with. I was worried that he wouldn't really understand where I'm coming from, given that most of my work involves working with underprivileged or disadvantaged southeast asian students and people of color (which is what seems to be more than lacking in Madison relative to California). However, we ended up having a really relaxed conversation and were consistently bouncing responses back and forth without awkward pauses. He nodded and wrote down a lot of the statements I made, and we ended up losing track of time until he checked his watch and realized it had already been 35 minutes. Before he walked me back to the waiting room, he shook my hand and said "I had a very pleasant and positive experience getting to talk to you a little bit today. (He then went on to explain the selection process and how he would write a very positive evaluation on my behalf). I hope we will meet again in the Fall." I was floored and was totally beaming/felt really confident about my odds at this point.
After the first interview, an MS1 showed us around the med school for our tour (which was about 15-20 minutes long) and we had lunch from their dining commons while folks talked to us about the school some more. Afterwards, we were led to our rooms for our group interview with 2 other applicants and 2 current med students. It was somewhat informal and they asked more "personal/get to know you" type of questions (Ex: "What would you do if you couldn't go into medicine?" "If you could change one thing about the application process, what would you change and why?").
At the end of the day, another physician came in to talk to us about how she came to choose medicine, what life is like in Madison, and why we should consider the school. Several other admissions folk also really drove the point home that UWSMPH is a great medical school, and that rankings are relative (even though the school is pretty highly ranked). My overall impression is that the faculty and students really love the area, are happy to be there, and want everyone to do well. I walked away feeling confident that if I had a chance to go here, I would receive a fantastic medical education to prepare me to become the physician that I want to be. I am really gunning for an acceptance here because everything about their academic structure supports my perspective and goals about medicine, especially their incorporation of public health, cultural issues, and social justice topics into their general curriculum.
University of Colorado - Anschutz medical campus in Aurora
My interview at UCD was a few days before Halloween and about 2 weeks since the earliest decisions for UW-M were released. Since I wasn't holding onto an early acceptance at Wisconsin, I gave this interview my best + 100%. Upon landing at Denver International, I could immediately tell that the weather here was much more mild and (overall) pleasant. It was perfect T-shirt/shorts weather when I got to the bus station and headed to downtown Denver. A couple pedestrians saw my suitcase and said "Great weather today, huh? You got back just in time!" or even asked me where I was going. Another woman wished me luck in my upcoming interview before I got picked up by my host.
From what I saw, Denver is the perfect "in between" size of an urban city that I could see myself living in (Chicago, LA, NY are all too big). The area, like Wisconsin, is beautiful, but is about a 20 minute drive away from where the actual medical campus is (Aurora, which is less pretty/safe according to everyone). The city also doesn't have a university run public transportation system, so the city bus is far less reliable and way more complicated than it needs to be. Overall, not too big of an issue, as it'd just be something to adapt to.
As for interview day, I felt more comfortable in Colorado than in Wisconsin, simply because the dynamics of the students were more relaxed and outgoing. Their school is Honors/P/F for all years and the school gives students the opportunity to take their own education into their own hands (exams can be taken anywhere, etc.) The school emphasizes their ethics codes above all, but the amount of trust and "collegial-ness" that went on was a huge plus for the school. I felt like I clicked with all the current MS1/2s who volunteered and hung out with us during the lunch session. Although the interview group was close to 50, I met a handful of folks I would love to be classmates with as well.
We started off our day with our 2 1-on-1 faculty interviews and I was paired with an MS3 who was interested in global health and public health issues for the first one. Since I had just gotten back from my study abroad in Argentina, my hospital and school experiences there were still fresh and relevant to all the questions he asked. We bounced ideas back and forth, laughed, joked, and overall had a pleasant conversation. We ran out of time (had the next faculty interviewer knocking on the door and waiting), but overall was feeling great about the interview when I left the room.
For the second interview, I think I let the positivity of the first interview get to my head. My second interviewer, who I was expecting to hit it off with (a Pediatrician who did research in immunology/viruses and worked at the Children's Hospital) was the complete opposite of my other interview. She was more serious and formal, and being thrown off by the vibe/being uncomfortable completely killed my confidence. I was more nervous throughout this, and the questions very specific to my childhood and recent life (circumstances where my grades dropped, emotional past, etc) came up, which I was not expecting to discuss and did not think I portrayed eloquently enough. I actually ended up tearing up while I was talking (and my voice did quiver a little bit), which probably killed my chances at my school 100%. I could tell the interviewer didn't really like me or think much of me at this point. They say female interviewers grade other women more harshly, so I can imagine that she only saw me getting emotional as a sign of "weakness and lack of preparedness for the emotionally draining medical career ahead". I wasn't too excited about my chances after I left the room.
Other than the interview, the facilities are a little confusing to navigate (ex: Room 321 East Wing and Room 321 West Wing are on the same floor but on opposite sides), but look brand new, well-maintained, and amazing. We got to see the Children's hospital on the tour, and nothing short of "amusement park" comes close to describing how jaw-dropping it is.
Result: Probably waitlisted or rejected