- Begin Kaplan MCAT Prep Course aiming for January MCAT test date ($$$)
- End Kaplan MCAT Prep Course - realized it was a waste of time/minimal score improvement (fluctuating around 30), rescheduled MCAT for April
- Begin revised self-studying with EK and TBR prep materials and massively using Kaplan's Qbank
- Submit school committee letter package application ($)
- Realize still not achieving target score comfortably (barely hitting 32 and breaking 10+ in each section), take a month off work to focus on studying
- At the end of the month, still not feeling prepared - push back test to May
- Fly back to campus for committee letter interview ($$$)
- Ask for letters
- Take the MCAT (thought the actual test was easier than practice tests - hopeful) ($$)
- Obtain LORs (had to substitute one out after I couldn't track the PI down after he moved to a different university)
- Begin filling out AMCAS activities and working out drafts of PS albeit very slowly as I still did not know at this point if my MCAT scores would be high enough to apply this cycle (33+)
- Request/send in official transcripts ($)
- Receive MCAT scores (35!!!), rush to finalize drafts of PS and activities, and circulate app to close friends and mentors for edits
- 6/29: Submit AMCAS ($$$)
- handful of secondaries start coming in (see above)
- begin secondary submissions ($$)
- begin pre-writing others
- 8/10: AMCAS Verified (due to the opening delay this cycle, many apps were verified later and later into the cycle)
- large waves of secondaries coming in after AMCAS verification ($$$)
- 8/12: Sent off hard copy of verified AMCAS to school
- continue pre-writing
- 9/4: school FINALLY uploads letters to AMCAS
- 9/5: AMCAS FINALLY completed
- apps FINALLY getting complete
- finish secondaries ($$)
October 2013 - January 2014
interview trail ($$$$)
Financial aid forms (FAFSA, CCS PROFILE, NeedAccess, etc.)
Informational interviews with current students, alumni, etc.
COST OF APPLICATION
MCAT Prep: Kaplan course $2100 + Extra materials (EK Bio 1001 + Verb Passages ) $80 = $2180
MCAT: Registration $360 + rescheduling $100 + change location $90 = 550
Primary: 32 schools $1245 + add 1 school later $35
Secondaries: 32 schools $2259
Wardrobe Update: 3 piece suit + purse + shoes + winter gear = $1000
- UCD: hotel $86 + parking $12 + food $20 = $118
- UCSD: VirginAm flight $177 + food $50 = $227
- UCSF: $0 (literally walked down the street)
- East coast trip (Vandy + NYU + Cornell + Yale + Sinai + Hopkins): $1868
Southwest SJC-BNA-EWR flight $401
JetBlue JFK-SJC $280 + dest change EWR - BWI $25 = $305
USAirways BWI-SFO $565
Transportation (Subway+Taxi/Airport Shuttles+Train+Buses) $250
Student host gifts $90
- USC: $150 drove down and stayed with a friend in Pasadena
- CWRU+CCLCM: United miles + $80 award booking fee + $244
- UCLA: VirginAm flight $108
University of California - Davis
Interview date: 9/16/13
Extremely fast turnaround (~2 weeks) after secondary submission/completion. Drove up to hotel in Dixon the previous night after work - purposely did not ask for a host as I knew I would be too nervous to interact with anyone. Felt lots of pressure as I felt it was within my reach given my numbers and had no idea how to prepare for the MMI. Got to the office 10 minutes late after figuring out parking and rushing over. Started off with a semi-dry powerpoint overview of the campus and curriculum. Brief pep talk of the MMI format and process. Group splits into two - first half interviews, second half does Meet the Dean/Campus tour. Slotted into first half and proceed through MMI. Gets easier as you go through the stations and they have complimentary water, mints, tissues etc. They do not give you paper and pen and don't let you take notes in your 2 minute prep time. No rest station either. Fairly enjoyable, but did abysmally in two stations. Lunch powerpoint presentation by M1s about student housing, student groups/comm service, diversity, etc. Lots of med students to talk to 2-3 for every interviewee. Meet with the Dean in a group. He rapid questions/grills each person about their background/interests to tailor the group conversation. Ours turned into an interesting discussion about global health and what practice of medicine really means. Highlight of the day. Picked up by M4 students for campus tour. Sweltering heat 85+ in suits and heels not fun. Walk across to see the hospital (emergency, peds, view of Sacramento, etc.). Walk to see the anatomy lab (nothing too hi-tech, in a separate isolated building, no windows). Walk back to original starting place to see the student lounge/wellness space. Ends with application process timeline and survey. Quick turnaround with acceptances (2 weeks). Phone call with acceptance. Total glee. First interview, first acceptance off to a very good start.
University of California - San Diego
Interview date: 11/12/13
Flew in the previous night and stayed with a friend in the grad housing on-campus. Barely got enough sleep and left the house an hour early to find the correct location. As predicted got lost on the way and had to ask people how to get to the medical campus (lot of the undergrads had no clue). Got there with some time to spare in which I realized that I had forgotten to review the orientation powerpoint they had emailed. Rapidly rush to watch a few minutes while chomping away on my bagel. Head in to check-in and get ushered into the conference room. Large group of 20+ interviewees. Dean comes in for the Q+A session based off the orientation powerpoint. Gunners overtake the conversation with statistical questions about step 1 scores, residency match percentages etc. 1/3 gets accepted, 1/3 on wait-list, 1/3 rejections from the interview pool, but final class very heavily picked off WL. No status updates or LOIs wanted. Rolling eyes at this point. Group breaks up into two for the MMI. Second group is given free time for the two hours or so. Nothing formal set-up or options on how to best utilize this time. Most candidates group together in the conference room and nervousness abounds - not much to see on the med campus. Bring something to do and separate yourself from the group as it can get pretty suffocating. It clearly showed that it was the school's first time transitioning to the MMI. Poorly coordinated. 8 stations no rest stop. Group reconvenes for lunches outside. Weather was pretty gloomy but still warm in November. 2-3 M1s take on 5-6 students each for lunch. Conversation once again overrun by gunner-like personalities. Sour distaste. Tour of the campus. Hear back with decision by email two weeks later with WL. Not too thrilled, but at least it wasn't a rejection?
University of California - San Francisco
Interview date: 11/19/13
Most comfortable interview thus far. Morning starts off on the top floor of the library with the great view of the city and the GG bridge. Breakfast and coffee provided. Dean holds a very conversational, informal orientation with the small group (9) - no powerpoint or handouts. Extremely thorough, detailed explanation of the admissions process. Pretty high chances of receiving an acceptance from interviews. Reassures everyone that if they made it to UCSF interview table, they will most likely have options by May and will receive a great medical education wherever they end up. Individual schedules/folders distributed with detailed instructions. Interviews scattered around the UCSF campuses - VA, Mt. Zion, Mission Bay etc. - requiring use of shuttle system. 2 morning interviews, 1 morning or 1 afternoon, or 2 afternoon with 2 faculty or faculty/student pair 30min-1hr. CLOSED file interviews. Everyone without a morning interview breaks up to sit-in on M1 small-group sessions. First interview goes pretty smoothly, feeling a little rushed to cover everything from my application. Asked to slow down multiple times while explaining research - nervous jitters. Group reconvenes for lunch in the hospital cafeteria with meal vouchers. Best lunch yet - or at least had the option to opt out of sandwiches. 1 M4 student joins us for lunch. Students have the option of taking M3 clerkships in an integrated fashion (day-to-day schedule varying between any of the core clinical areas) or traditional (segregated blocks). Pathways program (optional 5th year) seems popular among students. Extremely short tour ensues of anatomy lab, lecture space, classrooms/study space, student lounge and gym facilities across the street. Rest of the group breaks for afternoon interviews while some remain in the med student lounge to kill time. M1 students very relaxed, down-to-earth and relatively stress-free. Most students don't go to class and podcast the lectures - start research/extracurriculars in the afternoons. Student-run clinic very big and heavy participation in M1/M2 years. Second interview with M4 student goes extremely well and connect on global health experiences. Top choice and reaaaally hoping for good news in January.
Interview date: 12/09/13
First stop on my two-week east coast interview leg. Fly in the night before. Convenient gray line shuttle system from the airport to nearby hotels for ~$15 roundtrip. Picked up by host from nearby hotel and have dinner with another host/hostee pair. Apparently the current M1 class has more males this year - hence the shortage of female student hosts. The new condensed 1 yr preclinical year doesn't seem to faze the students, but they are zipping through the organ systems both normal and abnormal pathophys with anatomy sprinkled all throughout. Classes typically end by the afternoon with most afternoons taken up by clinical experiences/preceptorships. 2-3 afternoons off in which most students use to study and catch-up on material. Day starts off with usual powerpoint overview by the Dean. Lots of sells on Nashville. Group breaks for interviews. Interviews scheduled for the morning back-to-back. One long OPEN file (30min-1hr), one short CLOSED file (30min) - list of interview questions, both with established senior faculty. Start with long interview. Interviewer didn't seem like he had read my file and was struggling to find questions. Short questioning period and had to ask a lot of questions to sustain conversation. Short interview went more smoothly with questions about past experiences and hypotheticals - seemed more like a character/personality eval. Short break after interviews. Group reconvenes for curriculum talk by Dr. Zic. Very detailed explanations of each year's schedule and reasoning behind each course/component. Major strength is students get more time to do sub-I's and electives earlier. Amped up clinical. Another bonus is students take Step 1 after a full year of rotations. Lots of freedom in putting together 3rd and 4th years with lots of rest break/vacation times in between. Lunch with M1s and tour of campus. The 1 yr preclinical is a strong selling point.
New York University
Interview date: 12/11/13
Mad chaos getting into New York. Woke up to find out that my flight out of Nashville was canceled due to the weather in NYC so scrambled to the airport to get on the earlier flight. Layover in Chicago and more weather delays. Was extremely tempted to reschedule NYU and stay in Chicago for the night, but did not qualify for a change flight and needed to buy a new ticket. Sucked it up and flew into Newark and took the NJ transit into the city. After an entire day of dealing with cancellations and delays, I just wanted to get to my hosts place in one piece. Arrived in the thick of rush hour commuter traffic at Penn station and was practically trampled over with all my luggage. Overwhelmed with the city at this point. Thank goodness for the late AM start. After a brief ppt presentation overview of NYU, M1 and M4 students join us for lunch with a student life ppt presentation and Q+A. Group breaks into two for MMI. Start with a tour of the facilities. NYU was severely hit by Sandy so a lot of the buildings were still undergoing repair but reassured that everything would be back up and running for the fall. Big selling point is Bellevue. Absolutely drop-dead gorgeous hospital design by I.M. Pei. Within walking distance from the dorms. Vilchek's apartments are slightly bigger than Greenberg with student rec areas. Rushed straight into MMI after tour and most students were still catching their breath/dashing to the bathroom to freshen up. Minus one really strange confusing station, pretty standard MMI with 9 stations and 1 rest. Selling points are Bellevue and the 3yr MD program, but a little doubtful if I could survive the hustle bustle of the area.
Interview date: 12/13/13
Back-to-back interview from NYU and just caught a taxi up the street to Weill in the morning. Start off with morning interviews with established senior faculty. OPEN file interview with standard questions, nothing too stressful or out of the blue. Had a great discussion with the Dean about higher education and minorities in medicine. Everyone got a different interview schedule, so the entire group did not get together until the late morning. Short walk to see standardized patient rooms and brief Q+A with Dean about curriculum. 3-4 med students joined us for lunch Q+A, no formal presentation. Student led tour of the facilities and dorms. Rooms are exceptionally small with shared bathrooms, no kitchen. Selling points are the Tri-I research affiliations with Rockefeller and Sloan-Kettering. Also nice to be further up north than NYU away from the hustle and bustle.
Interview date: 12/16/13
Spent the weekend in Boston with college friends before heading to New Haven by bus. Felt a lot more rejuvenated having a break from interviews, but still very exhausted at this point. First years get single rooms with communal bathrooms and kitchen mixed in with other graduate students in nursing, public health, etc. Feels extremely reminiscent of college but still an upgrade from Weill Cornell's dorms. Had safety concerns about New Haven, but apparently as long as you're on-campus and more alert near the campus boundaries you're okay. The admissions office was located in the same building just downstairs which was extremely handy. Pretty large group of 8-10 students. Dean gives brief run down/itinerary of the day and gives information about each interviewee's interviewers. Lots of senior faculty, no med student interviewers. Group splits for morning interviews, while others remain in the office and have Q+A with Dean. OPEN file interviews which I found to be pretty intense/stressful with grilling about my academic history, weaknesses/strengths, etc. Group reconvenes for finaid session. Faculty joins for lunch to discuss research opportunities. Really interesting history and refreshing change from medical student lunch mingling at other places. 5th year med student swaps places with faculty to discuss the popular 5th year, Yale system, etc. Approx 70% take another year off to do research, get another degree, etc. Tour of facilities etc. Selling point is the Yale system of no grades, no class ranking, exams that are sparse and optional. Lots and lots of flexibility in schedule to pursue other interests.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai
Interview date: 12/18/13
Was originally supposed to stay in New Haven for another night, but reports of snow pushed me to go up to NYC earlier. Thankfully host was understanding and allowed me to stay another night. Took Amtrak up to NYC and took the Metro in to Upper East Side. MAJOR PLUS that Sinai is actually within walking distance to a metro stop compared to NYU and Weill Cornell. Student apartments are AMAZING. Absolutely luxurious compared to other NY schools. Mixed with upperclassmen. Third years had just finished their rotations for the year, so were having a blast and relaxing. Really outgoing bunch and very chill atmosphere. Breakfast is offered in the morning (pastries, bagels, coffee, juices, etc). Every Ivy is represented but not a pretentious group whatsoever, smallish group of 8. Faculty starts off the morning with life in the day of physician story about Sinai's Visiting Doctors program where physicians make home visits. Great way to set the tone for the day. Interviews start soon after. Students drop in to keep us company/answer questions in between interviews. Very conversational, brief OPEN file interviews 15min-30min scheduled back-to-back with the other students. Host warned me about the short interviews the night before so don't feel pressured to fill in the entire time with questions. Finaid session follows. Lunch with students. Student led tour split into preclinical and clinical. Very much in love with the school at this point. Selling point is the down-to-earth, compassionate, global health driven faculty/students.
TIPS & ADVICE
- problems, problems, problems. nail in review with quizzes, practice tests, flashcards anything to make it stick. more quizzing less reading.
- learn to read fast. Kaplan teaches passage mapping which was a complete was of time for me. ending up skimming very fast to retain a general gist of what it was about to answer question
- don't be afraid reschedule/delay if needed. was very gungho about not retaking it so pushed it off several times until I felt ready/given up.
- draft PS early. get a lot of eyes to look at it. preferably people in the field (current med students, residents, professors etc.). generally the statements are going to sound very cliche - its inevitable but make sure its still a narrative with a story and theme not just a laundry list/rehash of your activities list.
- submit everything early. cannot be emphasized enough. order transcripts as early as April/May to make sure it gets in. have your activities list punched in, formatted, proofed ready to go. server crashes/delays typical during the first few days it opens.
- prewrite secondaries. look up prompts from previous years - most don't tend to deviate. get the core questions polished and ready so you can recycle as needed.
- school list. have a good sense of where you stand/decent shot at with your numbers. have a good chunk of safeties.
- spent a small fortune/energy perfecting my wardrobe all which was frankly a waste of time. bought heels which were quickly thrown into the back of my closet after my first interview after seeing other girls wear flats. ladies - its ok no one looks at your feet. tours are a huge pain esp if they're extended and thorough criss-crossing several buildings up and down stairs, etc. be comfy. went through some more scavenging to find a purse big enough but not bulky enough to fit all the papers/folders/packets they give us during the day. Tote bags are the way to go - also doesn't matter what color, shape, size etc. I like to keep water, snacks, misc items crammed into my purse for emergencies but later just ended up leaving those in the admission office for tours.
- bring snacks. its like the MCAT testing day all over again. you want to be well hydrated and sugared up to do well during your interviews esp if they're later in the day after you've had lunch, tours etc. likewise take any break available.