11/19 Reflections & Advice.
• Timeline: I did all my secondaries throughout August. Typically heard back between 1-1.5 months. Exceptions: USC responded in like 4 days. Stony Brook responded in 2 months.
If I could do my secondaries over again, I would apply for my lower choice schools first, then my top choice. So that I could get interviews in that order, since almost everyone is more nervous for their first interviews.
I would also prepare secondaries earlier and get feedback WHILE I am getting feedback on my primary. This is hard, but yeah nearly all the schools keep their essays the same from year to year.
• Time Investment: Incredible amount of time spent on secondaries. I was fortunate to be able to take off from work for about a month and just sat at home writing secondaries. I started my primary AMCAS essay in February and submitted in June, while taking classes and working part time. Got multiple friends, 2 doctors, a professor to give feedback on my primary - and just friends on my secondaries. For me, a non-traditional applicant, I feel that this paid off. My resume alone is confusing and not amazingly impressive, but my narrative is compelling because I am very driven and motivated by experiences in my life that I had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to convey.
I spent about a month studying for MCAT, and decided to take it after my last aamc practice scores were around 35, 36. I also spent a lot of time getting recommendation letters, sending them my personal statement and resume and following up.
• $$ Investment: I am fortunate enough to afford all the application fees. If you are too, or you qualify for fee waiver, apply to as many as possible that you might be remotely interested in! I think it is worth it. If you are in that middle position, it's tougher if you need to limit the number of schools to apply to. Just don't limit yourself solely based on rank or gpa range, because it's not necessarily predictable like that. Important factors for me are location, focus on primary care and addressing health disparities, potential faculty mentors, and pass/fail or just a really collaborative community (visit if you can).
• Resume-padding: I didn't do this. For better or for worse. I have a ton of amcas activities because I got involved in a lot of things because I was curious about them. I didn't accomplish great things in everything I participated in- most of it was for my own learning and personal growth. I feel that things seem to be turning out okay for me, but you might have different aims.
• Interviews: I got very different interviewers and I think that makes a difference. Worry about the things you CAN control. Overall, all my interviewers wanted to just have conversations, not awkward silences. So ask a lot of questions, even if you think of them on the spot. Ask about your interviewer and their work and lives. Sometimes the interviewer may not be prepared and won't know what to talk about. Take the pressure off of them. They can be nervous too. Take the conversation where it's most natural.
• Self-care: Very important. This whole process makes you want to compare yourself to everyone on student doc, everyone you know who has gotten into or gotten rejected from medical school. You can't compare, everyone's got their own story and aims. But I know you want to figure out how med schools think of us. So it's inevitable. Don't let this drive you nuts. Find ways to remember what you do care about and what makes you awesome outside of your application, whether that's journaling or continuing certain activities or spending time with supportive loved ones.