(This is for my personal use and future reference. If you have any questions, feel free to message me.)
My grades are average and MCAT is below average for most of the schools I've applied to. Because of my lower test score, I applied to 36 schools. I am very grateful to have received the FAP, which paid for a portion of my primaries and all of my secondary fees. I would say the strongest parts of my application is my well-rounded experiences and unique perspective of healthcare and medicine.
Going through this application process, I realized that schools do not solely look at grades or MCAT scores, but they try to find out the personality of each applicant. They enjoyed the little quirks and jokes I made during the interview. They laughed with me, yet also tried to understand the struggles I have faced when I cried. (Yes, I was the cry-baby and teared up in pretty much all my interviews.)
I also realized that medical schools have such unpredictable ways of choosing people to join their incoming class. There are some amazing people I know who didn't get any interviews. Then there are others who don't even know why they applied and get accepted to top tier schools. It's unfortunate, but the admissions office is not perfect and I know it's impossible to find out the true character of a person with a few thousand characters and a 30 minute interview.
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 05/31/2015
Total MCAT SCORE: 509
MCAT Section Scores:
Overall GPA: 3.86
Science GPA: 3.83
Summary of Application Experience
ACTIVITIES - Studied abroad multiple times (non-medical and medical-related) - Shadowed various helathcare providers (pediatricians, ER doctors, OBGYN, surgeons, nurses, radiology technicians, pharmacists, PT, OT, speech and hearing therapists, sports therapists, and veterinarians) in rural, urban, and underserved areas (1200+ hours) - Tutored undergraduate chemistry/biology (300+ hours) - Volunteered in non-medical related activities (50+ hours) - Volunteered in medical-related activities (4000+ hours) - Worked in lab (3000+ hours) - Worked in health-related internship (1200+ hours) - Worked in family restaurant (3000+ hours)
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION - Science faculty (3) - Non-science faculty (2) - Lab PI (1) - Supervisor (1) - Physician I shadowed (1) - Elementary school teacher (1)
I went to a large, public institution; however, I never had a difficult time building relationships with my professors and supervisors. I simply asked them if they were willing to write a letter of recommendation and every single one of them agreed without hesitation. I genuinely cherish and value my relationship with these people and they know it.
I'm close with my recommenders and confident that they have written a very strong LOR for me. They would be able to write about how well I work in a team, my personal strengths and weaknesses, who I am as a person. I am not as close (friend status) with my science professors, but I am confident that their LOR are strong. They would be able to write about my strengths and weaknesses as a student and my academic achievements.
MCAT Let's just say I NEVER want to retake this test ever again. I studied for this test from June - September, spending my entire summer in the library. I was stressed out, unhappy, and wanted it to be over with. I used Examkrackers, Princeton, and Kaplan review books that I got from friends. I also took a short 5 week MCAT course from my University. I was okay with my sciences (particularly chemistry and ochem), but since I was an ESL student, verbal was my weakest subject. I used the AMCAS practice exams a month and half before the real deal and took a practice exam twice a week. I kept flow diagrams and important concepts on my iPad (hormones, equations, reproductive system, chemical rxns) and wrote it on the white board every night. I remember sitting on the top floor of the public library, panicking and contemplating whether if this was going to be worth it or not. I cried the day I found out that I got a 30 because I knew I wouldn't have to retake the exam (even though it was still a lower score than most of the schools I wanted to apply to). I am so grateful that my lab was so understanding and supportive because they covered for me while I was gone all summer studying for this exam.
GRADES My grades are high in comparison to a typical college student, but they are average in the eyes of a pre-med. I never regretted the choices I have made in college and enjoyed all the classes I have taken. I decided to take classes that interested me, which just so happens to get me the best grades as well. Remember, you have to enjoy the class in order to do well in it. And you only have 4 (or 5) years of college. Why not fill them up with everything you actually like?
INTERVIEW I got a list of the most typical medical school interview questions (20) and wrote a detailed response for each one. Before every interview, I briefly review my primary, secondary, and questions for that specific school on the SDN site. The main questions I review the day before the interview include: Why do you want to become a doctor? Why this medical school? Do you have any questions for us?
After answering about 20 questions, I started getting less motivated. I over-prepped my first interview. It got to the point where it hindered rather than helped me. When I have free time and I'm alone in my room, I practice the "why do you want to be a doctor" speech. In the beginning, I was bawling at my response because it was really emotional. But now, I am able to finish the whole speech with only a tear or two. I think the most important thing I've learned through these interviews is BE YOURSELF. I've had four mock interviews and all of them said they felt the genuineness in my response. Most importantly, I naturally integrated examples of my experiences into my responses. Never did I feel like I was selling myself (even though I was), because my interviews felt like a conversation amongst peers and colleagues instead of interviewer/interviewees. In the end of every interview, I ask myself if I was being honest during the interview. That's all it matters. If they rejected me, then they must not have been a true fit for me and I probably wouldn't have been happy spending four years there. If I got accepted because I was being fake, I don't know if I could go there without feeling guilty or stress out about fitting a certain image.
Some tips that helped me during my interviews:
1) The most important thing is to smile and be comfortable. Many of my friends who got rejected from medical schools have told me that they got too nervous and felt uncomfortable during the interview. 2) This one may sound really silly, but rehearse minimally. The only questions you should be rehearsing is "why medicine" and "why this school?" I realized that responses that were too rehearsed sounded a fake and less genuine, so it was harder for me to connect with my interviewers. 3) Make your interviewer(s) fall in love with you. Your first impression may be their last impression, so make sure they remember who you are few weeks down the line when they review your application again. 4) It's okay to cry or make a joke. I shed so many tears during my interview for UW and I told funny stories about my shadowing experiences. In the end, they accepted for who I was and offered me a seat.
TIMELINE (QUICK & DIRTY VERSION) Started writing personal statements, extracurricular activities, and getting letter of recommendations during Fall/Winter 2014. (I started early since I would be unavailable in the Spring/Summer to work on it due to work conflicts.) Personal statement and extracurricular completed by end of March 2015. Started working on secondaries (found former secondary prompts) in February-August 2015. Most of my secondaries were completed by May 2015. Submitted my primary on AMCAS on first day it was opened. Completed and submitted secondaries from July-August. Received interviews from August-now.
11/2015 : Accepted to UWSOM! Now I don't have to constantly live in fear of not getting accepted!
Summary of Experience:
I found out about my rejection when I logged onto their portal. I wished they notified me via email. They did state that they would only consider OOS applicants with 32+ MCAT, which is something I don't have. Oh well, I would have chosen UW over OHSU.
Summary of Experience:
I really did not expect UCLA to even give me a secondary, let alone an II. I am really looking forward to travelling to LA for my interview!
The day before my interview, I stayed with a student host (MS1) at Wayburn, which is housing for UCLA grad students. Interview day was nice. We all arrived at 8 am and had a mini chat with an MS1 and MS2 in the morning at the admissions office. They served danishes, fruits, and mini muffins for breakfast. At around 8:30, we took the bus to the site where we had to take our MMI. We spoke to the Dean of Admissions briefly about the MMI's. There were 8 stations, 10 minutes per station followed by a 20 minute interview (the person conducting the 20 minute interview would be the interviewer at the first station you were assigned). The MMI went by super quick. I got stumped by some of them. I bet one of the interviewers wondered how I got an interview here (the look on his face says it all). But another interviewers said they wished they could have interviewed me for the final 20 minutes and told me he would give me a full mark. (Though who knows if he actually did or not.) Afterwards, we spoke with the Dean again and headed off to take the trolley to have a tour with two med students. They showed us around the hospital and facilities. They gave us a brief overview of what their days are like as a medical student at UCLA and why this hospital/medical school is the best (scholarships, funding, research opportunities, etc). After the tour, we had lunch and got to talk to the Dean of Student Affairs. He is a pediatrician and runs the Global Health section for the medical school. Awesome guy and would love to work with him if I attend this school.
Summary of Experience:
Mayo Medical School was a pleasant surprise. I never really thought I would fall in love with a school as much as Mayo. This was my very first interview and I was lucky enough to have a medical student host me for two nights. Rochester is small, but very comforting, especially since I would be thousands of miles away from home. The hospital campus itself is the medical school. There are only 50 students that make up the class and everyone is very close with each other. There's an overflowing amount of faculty members who are eager to work with the medical students. There is the freedom to create your route in medical school. They give their students free laptops and financial aid is pretty generous. How did my scores allow me to receive an II from such a school?!
There were only 8 of us during the interview day. We first had a presentation from the Dean of Admissions. Then we either had our first 30 minute interview or we walked around campus until our interview started. The interview wasn't actually 30 minutes. It was 20 minutes and then they reserve 10 minutes for the interviewer to write his/her notes, so it was actually really short. My first interviewer was a physician at Mayo. He didn't really ask me any specific questions, but looked at my application and asked about my life experiences and goals. The question that stumped me the most was: "Will you make a difference? If so, how?" I also teared up during my interview. In the end, he told me my parents would be very proud of me, so I hope this is a good sign?
After the first round of interviews, we had our tour with a medical students. During the tour, he greeted basically everyone on campus. He was so comfortable with all the students, which showed how close-knit the medical community is at Mayo. Afterwards, we had lunch with the first years and then we had our second batch of interview. My second interviewer is a 3rd year medical student. She was really nice and asked the typical medical school interview questions. I felt like we really connected, especially when I talked about my study abroad experiences and the unique ideas I had about healthcare.
In the end of the day, we met up with the Dean once more and went over what would happen after the interview day ends. Wendy told us to grab a bunch of cookies before we left for "snacks on the way home." Man, I love this school and I hope it loves me back.
** Placed on hold status 11/13 ** Placed on alternative status 1/15 ** Dean's letter 3/12
A bit bummed that I am on their 'alternative list', but I still feel really lucky to even be at this stage of the process for Mayo. It's a fantastic school and I hope they will give me a chance!
** The Dean sent me a heartwarming email! Right when I thought I was able to move on, they make me fall in love with them all over again. 3/2
It absolutely breaks my heart to say this, but I decided to withdraw from this amazing school. :(
Summary of Experience:
This was my first time in the East Coast and I was definitely in cultural shock. Nevertheless, Boston was an amazing city and it was a fantastic experience. I stayed in a Hostel in Chinatown for two nights. I arrived the day before to get situated and figure out where to go on interview day. There were 22 students during my interview day. Most of the candidates were from the East Coast and a few from California.
They offered breakfast (fruits, mini bagels, muffins, juice) before the interview day. We went into another classroom and listened to a presentation from the Dean of Admissions, where he talked about the history of Boston University, the medical school facilities, and the admissions process. Afterwards, half the group went to talk to an attending physician for 1 hr while the other half went to their interviews. My attending physician was a pediatrician and he spent a lot of time answering our questions (medical school related, Boston related, student-related, social activities, good restaurants, demographics, etc). Afterwards, I went on a quest to search for my interviewer. (We were all given an address and map of where our interview was located. Some were within the same building and others were in other buildings scattered around campus. We only had 10 minutes to get to the site, so it was a bit nerve-wracking since I ALWAYS get lost! (I love Google Maps!) Thankfully, I made it on time and my interviewer was waiting for me in the lobby. We went to her office and started the interview. My interviewer is a physician at BU and she asked me the typical questions (why medicine, tell me about your research, what do you want out of a medical school, etc). The interview was very casual and conversational. We even talked about Chinatown and where to get good food around Boston! Halfway through the interview, she have me a scenario to read and asked me how I would respond. I don't know if I responded as well as I wanted to, but she gave me feedback afterwards. I asked her a whole bunch of questions in the very end and she walked me out! She was a really nice and cheerful lady. I hope to see her again!
After the interview, we had a tour with medical students around the facility. The facilities were nice, but not something I would be drooling over. The students were close to each other, but it wasn't to the point where every student was friends with each other. We had a nice lunch with more medical students and then had a line of presentations about the curriculum, financial aid, and what to expect until January. We went to the Office of Minority Affairs and had a talk with an anesthesiologist and medical student. They emphasize a lot on diversity, which is a very important quality I look for in a medical school.
Overall, Boston U was a great experience, but I felt a bit disconnected with the school. Maybe it was because I couldn't get used to the East Coast vibe. Maybe I kept comparing it to small schools like Mayo. Nevertheless, I would still be very happy and honored to be accepted to this school. -------- Update 01/07/15 Deferred until March. (At least it's not a rejection!)
Summary of Experience:
This is my state school and it has always been my top school, but after interviewing at Mayo, UW and Mayo are now both tied.
The interview day was okay, but it didn't feel super special or anything. (Probably because this is my third interview and they start to blend together). It was casual and they didn't spend too much time explaining everything about the school. If you really wanted to learn more about UW, they give you a USB full of information for you to review at home.
There were 12 people on my interview day. My interview was at 8:00 am with three interviewers. My excom member was a physician and the other two interviewers was a 3rd year medical student and a community member. Their practice and jobs were right up on my alley (similar interest and goals). They asked me the basics (why you want to be a doctor, memorable patient, hobbies, experiences, etc). The interviewers really try to make a comfortable setting for the interviewees, but I still felt like the interviews were much less causal as the interviews at Mayo or Boston U. I had a couple of role plays, which were pretty stressful for me. I even had to pause because I didn't know how to respond and felt really awkward. (I didn't feel too confident with the role plays, but hopefully they don't reject me because of this).
The good thing about having the interviews early is I didn't have to worry about it during the rest of the day. But I was freaking out a bit because I thought I bombed my role plays. The Dean of Admissions briefly talked to us. We went on a tour around UW with a first year medical student and then had lunch. Afterwards, the other interviewers had their interviews while I went to visit a class. The class was 4 hours long and I only stayed for 30 minutes. I went back to my student host's place, took off my heels, and chilled out for the rest of the day!
In less than 2 weeks after the interview, I got a surprise phone call from my excom member about my acceptance at 9 pm! She told me it was a unanimous decision on my acceptance decision, so I guess my role plays were okay after all! (I was watching buzzfeed videos on my phone right before she called and was not expecting such a wonderful news so soon).
The following day, I got my acceptance letter via email. Best Thanksgiving gift ever!