I started writing this sometime in the middle of my cycle, but didnt manage to return until the end. Unfortunately, I dont remember as many details as I would like, but I am hopeful that it could to useful to a few applicants (especially fellow re-inventors). Part of this record is an amalgamation of advice I offered fellow applicants throughout the interview season. The rest was written when I had time before the start of medical school in July. If you benefit in any way from this profile, I only ask that you follow up your application cycle with your own thorough profile.
EDIT: For some reason, this text editor wont keep display certain punctuation marks. Sorry folks!
GENERAL: Re-inventor with inconsistent undergraduate performance. Mostly As in upper level classes. Did better in difficult classes but often became bored and neglected lower level classes. Originally intended to be a PhD in chemistry or physics, but decided obtain EMT certification in final year at university because of potential interest in medicine. Worked as an EMT for 1 year before enrolling in paramedic training program. Worked as a paramedic for nearly 3 years. In total, I have almost 5 years of EMS experience with >13,000 clinical hours. Furthermore, have served as an instructor in several AHA disciplines including CPR, ACLS, and PALS. Probably ~1000 hours of teaching. 4.0 GPA in SMP.
Studied for MCAT while working full-time plus for about 6-8 weeks. Only used free Khan Academy videos and two AAMC practice exams. If I could do it all over again, I would have done many more practice questions and extended my study period to 12-16 weeks. Oh well.
Needed to prove to adcoms (and myself) that I could be display consistent academic excellence. I thought I might benefit from a structured program instead of DIY post-bacc.
Strong MCAT performance and As in biochemistry helped me gain admission into competitive SMP. LORs from ER physician at Brigham & Womens (who served as a preceptor during my clinical training as a paramedic), CEO of my ambulance company, director of my paramedic program, and one of my paramedic simulation instructors (who held a joint faculty appointment at Mass General Hospital). Was able to work ~30 hours/week during this period. Earned 4.0 GPA.
Obtained committee letter from my SMP which consisted of letters from CEO of my ambulance company, director of my SMP (assistant dean at medical school), ER physician at Brigham & Womens, and two other medical school faculty at SMP. I like to think my letters were strong.
Lots of guidance from SMP and my undergraduate advising office. Started writing PS and work/activities during Dec 2017 (6 mos before due). Went through three different personal statements with half a dozen drafts each. START EARLY! (In fact, write reflections on various activities in undergrad. Your future self will thank you!).
Only listed 11 activities of the 15 spaces available. However, I came in with nearly double the amount of time (compared to traditional applicant) to bolster my application. Dont feel the need to fill out every space available. Furthermore, combine small segments whenever you can. In general, do not merely describe your activities. Speak about what you learned--about the world and about yourself. Treat the 3 most meaningful activities with as much gravity as your personal statement. That means several drafts and a few trusted editors.
TIMING OF THE PRIMARY APP: Some say the timing of app submission doesnt matter. Others say its the only thing that matters. The truth is somewhere in the middle. I had no idea how successful my cycle would be, but I wanted to give myself every advantage. Whether a school has rolling or non-rolling admissions, interview spots are always rolling. If your app is submitted early, then you may have an advantage. This may not matter for high stats applicants, for they will always go to the top of the pile. Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, Tulane and UMichigan. Application timing matters greatly for these schools--regardless of stats.
However, primary app timing is only part of the picture. Make sure your letters are sent in in a timely fashion. This applies to secondaries as well. The earlier you are complete the sooner you can get an interview. And for rolling schools, the sooner you have an acceptance and can start to relax. This also may affect the money available as well. Several schools have multiple rounds of scholarships and early admits can potentially have greater access to money. Of course, early admits also tend to be more competitive applicants, so interpret that as you will.
Pre-write. Pre-write. Pre-write. I submitted 39 primary applications. From the start, I knew that meant up to 39 secondaries during a period when I would still be working full-time and conducting thesis research. The sooner you complete your primary app, the sooner you can get started on secondaries. Below Ive reproduced some points about writing secondaries from a thread I commented on.
This past cycle I submitted 37 secondaries, so I have a few ideas (10 to be precise) about how to stay on top of this.
1. Perfect the primary. Personal statement and activities sections went through many drafts, were seen by many eyes. I was done by mid-May.
2. Get school list in order. Consult advisors, family. Find out what is really important to you. Make sure you have at least $5K to spend.
3. Identify schools on your list with consistent secondaries. Get several years of data. Some schools change secondaries every year (e.g. VCU, UCLA) while others havent changed for nearly decade (e.g. Harvard). Prioritize the ones set in stone. Save the mercurial ones for last. Personal preference for post-screen secondaries like Vanderbilt and UCs. Guess who wrote a 10,000 word autobio for Vandy but didnt get a secondary? This guy.
4. Youre going to want to start writing secondaries for your reaches immediately. Dont. Mix it up. Low tier, high-tier, mid-tier, low-tier. Your writing will get better and more efficient with time. Youll hit your stride by about a dozen secondaries. That sweet spot is when you should probably write secondaries for the schools you like most. Practice makes perfect.
5. Do your research before completing each secondary. I suggest buying MSAR to start. Do a deep dive on official school websites too. Use the Notes section so you keep a record for Why this school? Will be useful for your interviews too as a quick reference.
6. Dont be afraid to work on secondaries simultaneously. Sometimes you get inspired by one secondary but just cant get it together for another (e.g. the Duke/UMiami/Loyola time-suck monster).
7. Good writing is good editing. Pump out those secondaries to a few good women (and/or men). My girlfriend nearly read every secondary (yeah, shes great). Having a mutual secondary agreement with another applicant can also be useful. Just know you have to factor in time for proofreading someone elses work.
8. Secondaries start rolling in but you arent finished yet....its GO TIME. Aim for a 2 week turnaround for most schools, especially for the ones with rolling admissions and an early interview season (e.g. Tulane, UMichigan, NYU, Mayo). Pay attention when schools give a deadline. Otherwise, feel free to work longer on your secondary (3-4 weeks) for the likes of Harvard, Yale, Columbia, etc. A later secondary hurts you less at non-rolling schools. However, be forewarned. Admissions may not be rolling, but interview slots always are!
9. Inevitably, some schools will change their secondary for the first time in years. (Looking at you Yale and Drexel). But you already wrote it! Breathe. Thats the risk we take. Fortunately, youve already got 20 secondaries worth of material to adapt and reuse!
10. You will burnout. For me, it was at secondary number 25. For you, could be more, could be less. But rest assured, it will happen. This is part of why we start early. When you feel the burn, then you can back off and return later to do your best work.
Bonus: Be organized. Excel, Word, Number, Pages. I dont care. Just use something. Make it color-coded. List hard deadlines, soft deadlines (e.g. 1 -2 weeks) List submitted vs. not submitted. List current status.
Using these guidelines, I managed to write a secondary every 0.5-2 days early on, but that stretched out to as many as 10 days (especially during GO TIME). In the end, every secondary was submitted anywhere from 10 min to 10 days after receipt with a peak time at 2-3 days. And yes, there are tertiary/pre-interview essays (e.g. UMichigan, UCincinnati). Dont bother with those until you get an interview.
ON THE SCHOOL LIST:
This is incredibly important. Be realistic. Consult premedical advisors to assess your chances. A lot of my list was planned around the MCAT because GPA was a wash. Original plan was half practical (median MCAT < 90 percentile), half competitive (median MCAT > 90 percentile.)
Other than that I targeted schools in a few categories:
Key: II = interview invite R = rejection WL = waitlist A = acceptance
Schools with their own SMP/post-bacc (because I figured they would be more willing to interview me) Drexel: A Loyola: A Tulane: A Tufts: A BU: A Case Western: A Sidney Kimmel: Pre-II R George Washington: Pre-II R
Schools where my MCAT >= 90% of accepted applicants. (Overcompensating) UMiami: A University of Illinois-Chicago: A Virginia Tech Carilion: A Penn State: II declined Howard: II declined Wake Forest: Pre-II R Rosalind Franklin: Pre-II R Virginia Commonwealth: Pre-II R
State schools friendly to OOS (tend have lower median stats) Note: Most Ohio schools OOS friendly and you get in-state tuition after 1st year! UMass: A UVermont: A UMichigan: A UCincinnati: A Ohio State: Pre-II R UCSF: Post-secondary, pre-II R
Then my YOLO list. (including schools known to give crap loads of money) Waaay too many on this list. Mayo Clinic: A UPittsburgh: A Albert Einstein: interview attended, withdrew before decision. Harvard: Pre-II R Vanderbilt: Pre-secondary R Johns Hopkins: Pre-II R NYU: Pre-II R (applied AFTER the tuition-free announcement. $100 donation right there haha) Stanford: Pre-II R Baylor: Pre-II R Mount Sinai: Pre-II R UPenn: Pre-II R Yale: Pre-II R UCLA: Pre-secondary R WashU: Pre-II R Columbia: Pre-II R Cornell: Pre-II R
I received my first interview invite on July 17, 2018 at 5:55 p (EST). It was from Tulane. I received most of my invites in August, but I continued to receive invites until early Jan (Penn State). I generally scheduled by interviews as quickly as early as I could. Fortunately, I had the benefit of controlling my schedule. It is certainly helpful to have a job with that much flexibility. In total, I was invited to 18 interviews but only attended 16. So you might ask why I attended so many. The answer is two-fold. First, I had attended 11 interviews before the earliest acceptance date (Oct 15, 2018). What if the school whose invite I declined ended up being the from was the only school that would accept me? Second, my girlfriend and I were both applying. Every interview I attended was a chance to attend the same school. Furthermore, you may be able to get your significant other an invite if you mention him or her during your interview. Perhaps I made no difference in my partners interview invites. Perhaps I did. I always made sure to remind my interviewer of my partner in my thank you note though. The day after my Tulane interview, my partner received an invite. And at least one of my interviewers encouraged the Mayo admissions committee to re-review my partners application. She received an interview invite the next week. You just never know...
Just like with secondaries, after enough interviews you will begin to get burned out. It is exhausting always being on. At least it was for me. For about 8 weeks, I had 2 interviews per week (sometimes 3!) That may have been poor decision-making on my part. You may need to be strategic with scheduling. Try to schedule interviews with your favorite schools after a few interviews with schools that may be lower on your list. Youll get better with time. Your answers will be more succinct and probably more compelling later in the season. Also include time for yourself to recharge. Be mindful of rolling vs. non-rolling schools too in your scheduling.
Honestly, I think these were a strength for me. Having any significant job experience makes this a helluva alot easier. Lots of anecdotes to draw on. I searched what I could on web to find sample questions. Columbia Bioethics search in google yields a decent paper that models how to organize your thought process. Early on, I was too scatter-brained, in that I tried to explain all sides of a controversy. While it is important to demonstrate flexible thinking, it may be more important to fully develop a single perspective and adapt based on your interviewers follow-up questions. At least that was some feedback from one of my MMI interviewers.
ONE ON ONE:
If I was ever asked about my shoddy undergrad performance, it was here. However, this didnt happen as often as I thought. From what I can recall, only Tufts, BU, and Loyola Stritch really interrogated me about my undergrad years. No one else really cared by the interview stage. Of course, I was always prepared to speak about how I had grown. Other than that, lock down your why medicine and why this school. Id also suggest having good, substantive questions in your back pocket. Some will come from your interview visit, others from your research, and more will come from recognizing what is really important to you as you see more and more schools. For instance, most interview days focus on the pre-clinical years, but the clinical years are just as important (if not more important). Ask M3s and M4s about clinical time at the school. How much autonomy do they have? How much responsibility? Do students avoid certain preceptors? How many procedures (e.g. IVs, intubation, etc) do students end up doing during a rotation? How does that compare to other/peer schools? How did you feel during your away rotations? Did you ever feel like giving up? Who helped you? What happens if you fail a class? A rotation? What part of your school are you most proud of? Is there anything you would change? Why should I not come to your school? These questions are especially great to ask of your student host (which I encourage you to use whenever possible). Be careful in how your ask these questions when conversing with your interviewer. However, with strong questions you will demonstrate interest and get your interviewer talking up a storm. After all, people love talking about themselves.
Fortunately, I received several scholarships. And despite what other people might tell you, you can/should ask for more money. Youve earned the right to negotiate the best value for your medical education.
Initial scholarship offers:
UVM : $50k/yr UCincinnati: $20K/yr UMass: Chancellors Scholarship--$28,500/yr for OOS or full tuition scholarship for instate. VTC: $15K for first year. Mayo: $40K/yr UMiami: $25K/yr UIC: Raymond Nester Sweeney Academic Scholarship--OOS portion for tuition (~$50K/yr) with $20K bonus for last two years if score 1 std deviation above national average on Step I. (Keep in mind OOS tuition here is >$95K. YIKES!) UMichigan: $30K/yr
By now, I had organized my acceptances into tiers. I had decided at the beginning that with a large enough scholarship, a school could jump a tier (i.e. >$50K over four years). I used my largest scholarships (or lowest COAs) to leverage better scholarships with my top choices. I only tried this for schools with merit scholarships. I didnt actually receive any need-based scholarships. From what I understand you can potentially negotiate a better need-based scholarship with a larger need-based scholarship from another school.
Successful negotiations for me came in two flavors but always started the same. I would say something along the lines of: ------------------------------------------ Dear School Y Admissions,
I want to thank you and the admissions committee for my scholarship offer! Before interviewing, School Y was my top choice and my interview day only made that more clear. [Insert something you noticed about School Y that was great].
As the application season winds down, I find myself making tough choices. Given that I am paying for my own education and I already have a substantial educational loan burden, cost has become a significant factor in my decision-making. I would love to attend School Y, but it is now one of my most expensive options. I understand that I am in no way entitled to a larger scholarship, but any additional assistance the scholarship committee might see me fit for me to receive would be greatly appreciated.
P.S. Please let me know if I should provide any additional information that might be helpful for you or the admissions committee.
Two schools increased my scholarship amount: UMichigan and Mayo.
My negotiation with UMichigan consisted of an email exchange over the course of nearly 6 weeks. My scholarship liaison not only asked for the specific scholarship values of my other offers, but she also wanted the official documentation. Initially, UMichigan told me no additional money was currently available. A month later (two weeks after second look in mid-April I asked again and was offered $45K/yr! An increase of $15K/yr over my initial offer.
Mayo Clinic also initially denied my request for an increased scholarship. I exchanged emails with various people and even met with a financial aid officer during second look. However, with Mayo, my correspondence remained nebulous as to the identity of the various schools with better financial aid packages. This was true for the specific scholarships numbers too. They never asked. I never told them. Maybe that was unique to my case, because a friend of mine was actually asked directly about the other scholarship offers. In her case, Mayo was unimpressed by the other schools reputation. She received no additional money as far as I know.
In the end, Mayo gave me an additional $5K/yr at the 11th hour (day before decision day) making a total of $45K/yr.
Meanwhile, another friend of mine managed to get Mayo to increase her financial aid award from $0 to $20K/yr. Never hurts to ask!
Shoutout @NickNaylors for a beautiful profile that inspired me. https://www.mdapplicants.com/profile.php?id=19291
And tips on my own scholarship negotiation from @NickNaylors and @belvita
Note that the Multiple acceptance report no longer applies. However, several schools did ask me to list other acceptances on their secondary portal. This was optional of course. Never reveal that youve been accepted to more than 2-3 schools. Some Admissions Directors will be less inclined to send recruitment money your way if they perceive you to be hoarding acceptances (e.g. UMiami).
One final point: Yes, I received 18 II and 15 acceptances, but I also received 21 pre-II rejections. I could have made an entire list out of my rejections. Remember to apply broadly and astutely. Your school list is nearly as important as your personal statement. Your school list could be the difference between transcendent success and utter disaster.
// Applications //
Application Cycle One: 05/31/2018
Undergraduate college: Private college in Northeast