operationMD

Archive for the ‘applying to med school’ Category

GL on the WL

In applying to med school on May 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm

As crazy as this entire application process has been, there is one thing in particular I am extremely grateful that I have been spared dealing with – The Dreaded Waitlist. I know many friends who have succumbed to the draining process of trying to work their way off the WL – it has the power to jade people and to push them off the edge we tend to tread on during this process. It is known for it’s cruelty and hardening effects…don’t let it get to you!

As much as I was going crazy back in fall, waiting to hear from schools, at least I can say that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was either 100% in or out of a school. I have the utmost sympathy for those suffering the experience of sitting on waitlists. Hopefully, those waiting have at least one acceptance at a school they like that they know they can fall back on. Even still, it must bite to be so close to being accepted to one of your top choices, and having to wait on baited breath for May 15th to roll around…the date when people must officially commit to one school and withdraw from others, slowly freeing up seats…hoping that your number gets called somewhere between now and Student Orientation. I vividly recall how compulsively I checked my email in the fall, anxiously awaiting (hopefully) good news of interview invites and acceptances, rather than rejections. I’m sure WLers are in that same soggy boat right now.

To those suffering on the WL – Keep the faith! If you really want to attend a certain institution, remain faithful in sending update letters and letters of interest and/or intent. Hopefully, you’ve stayed busy during the process and have some meaningful things to add to your application file – A’s, volunteer work, clinical exposure, research, etc – or can strengthen your argument for your “fit” with the school by  comparing it to other interview days you’ve had and why this school sticks out. If you’ve put in your work in the classroom and during this process, relax and breathe easy – at this point, it is out of your hands. Ignore the probing questions from family, friends, and nosey neighbors asking where you’ll be come August…it’s none of their business anyways! Stay busy, occupied, and productive. For those of you without a solid acceptance, start prepping your AMCAS and secondaries now. Yes, it sucks that you might throw away a few hundred dollars by submitting your AMCAS early, BUT better to invest in securing a better position for the next application cycle than sitting back and seeing what happens, possibly left caught out there without an acceptance AND entering later in the app process. Personally, I think file processing accounts for 30% of successfully gaining admission (no way to prove this, just a hunch), so get your’s in early and ahead of everyone else’s, then withdraw if necessary.

Trust me, patience is nowhere near my strongest virtue, but it is a great virtue to have, and something that I feel this application process can help develop in you, if you allow it. Good luck my WLers!!! I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes I’ve found to be true…

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. ~ Calvin Coolidge

Advertisements

Decision Making Time

In applying to med school, medical school on April 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Well, if you’re fortunate enough, all your hard work has paid off and you are coming down to the final steps on the road to med school. Whether the final decision is between 2 schools or a list of 10, I’d say usually that last real choice boils down to an expensive school that you love or a cheaper school you’re not crazy about. I’d argue that this is the case for a majority of applicants, with the exception being the school that you love being the cheaper school either because of actual cost of attendance (COA) (i.e. usually your state school) or due to scholarship. But, I feel that the percentage of applicants in this scenario is tiny compared to the rest of us. (Another very small percent has the funds to go where ever their little hearts desire, but I’m not talking about them.) So what do we do? Where do we go? Arguments can be made for both sides…

On the side of the cheaper school is the fact that it is cheaper, which means I’ll in debt for a shorter period of time. Also, when cheaper equals state school (as it does for me), it means closer to friends and family, which can help in unwinding.

Against the state school we have that it usually isn’t as technologically advanced as private schools. For instance, at my state school (which quite honestly resembles a 70’s designed prison), when I asked about a simulation and clinical skills training center, my tour guide looked confused, as if he never had heard the terms before, while both private schools I was looking at either had both or were actively building them. In this economy, we know that while all schools are taking hits, I feel that public schools are getting hit a little harder, mainly because they are state-funded and states are making severe budget cuts (ex: after just paying off a multi-million dollar lawsuit, they just lost $20 million in funding…yikes). Also against my state school is that its COA for in state last year was $56K. They’ve yet to release the updated 2010-11 suggested budget, but I’m sure it’s going up as they stated they have no money. Personally, I don’t find a $10K – $15K/year difference that significant when we’re talking about hundreds of thousands in debt.

On the side of the school you “click with” (i.e. the private out-of-state school) you have the fact that you are happy with your potential student body for the next four years and you feel comfortable there. If you’re anything like me, this is of the utmost importance. I want to know that the place I am spending the next 4 years of my life will feel like a home to me. I don’t want to spend this time feeling out of place or wishing I was elsewhere or annoyed with my surroundings. I know my state school has a very young student body (many 7yr BA/MD students from the ugrad state schools…annoyingly young too) whose immaturity and lack of real world experience irritated me while the private school has an older student body with people with truly diverse backgrounds. Get in where you fit in! Next up is that it is far from home. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends, but let’s be real, they can be a distraction. They tend to not understand the demands of preparing for a career in medicine. Furthermore, time in med school will be severely limited, so it’s not like I’ll have ample time to hang out with them. Plus, I feel that if I did, it would detract from my bonding with my classmates. This way, since I’ll be far away, I can minimize the guilt associated with not being able to spend time with them – there’s always fb, twitter, gchat, ichat, BBmsger, etc. Cold, I know, but I only speak the truth.

Against the school you “click with” is, simply put, usually that it costs more and is farther away. Nine times out of ten, these are really the only two cons that can be found, and for me, they really don’t play into my happiness. Really, anywhere I go, I’m about to be in a lot of debt. Also, anywhere I go is really only a plan ride away – a plane ride usually factored into COA.

There are other factors I’ve left out for different reasons. First is which school is higher ranked? Personally, I really don’t believe in the US New & World report rankings and think that to a certain extent they’re silly and there as a large, ongoing marketing scheme for certain schools. But, for some this is very important. Clearly, it’s not a cue I utilized in my decision making process. Related to this is the notion of prestige, that certain appeal of being associated with a certain name. While I maintain that “fit” is the most important factor for me, I will say that “fit” aside, I think prestige is pretty high up there. I also think that it may operate at a more subconscious level than anything else, but have no doubt, it plays a large role. Another factor is location, which personally was high on my list of importance. My state school is, for all intents and purposes, in the hood, which students argue makes for excellent clinical training. True, BUT the private school far away is in a city that has its large pockets of poverty and high uninsured rates, coupled with a lack of doctors to serve the area, this too affords excellent, hands-on clinical experience and opportunities to deal with “the really bad stuff.” Plus, I actually like this city and feel at home there. Also not included are research opportunities. I’d argue you could find research anywhere you go, it’s just easier to obtain at certain schools, making it a smaller factor in my deciding. In addition, some people know where they want to be geographically for residency. Personally, I do not (but I do have some vague areas I’m interested in), however I want to know I have options, so I looked at match lists and all schools placed all over the country in various specialties, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for me. For some, the opportunity and ease of completing another degree while in med school is important to some. It was for me, and the school I decided on is very strong in the area I’m interested in. I’m sure there are more factors, but those listed suffice.

Funny thing is I know that I’d be fine where ever I went. I know I’d adapt, find my own crowd, and have a great, memorable 4 years – that’s just me. I refuse to let less than ideal surroundings influence my happiness. But then, why wouldn’t I just save a few bucks (i.e. ~$40K-$60K + interest) and chose my state school. To be honest, I feel that this is where the importance of first impressions comes into play. Personally, I was impressed with the pre-interview correspondence and sold on interview day with the professionalism of expensive private school. On the same note, I was equally unimpressed with correspondence and interview day of my state school. I am of the personal opinion that these first impressions carry significant weight and subconsciously influenced the interpretation of subsequent acts of the schools.

When I plugged all my weighted cues into my cognitive Lens Model for decision making, I came to the conclusion that I needed to be at the school I felt most comfortable and supported at and where I’d soar, and for that reason, I chose the more expensive, far away private school, and I’m not looking back.

May 15th is quickly approaching – get on it and good luck!

Financial Aid Woes

In applying to med school, Finances, medical school on March 10, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Thanks to some pressing from my mom, I went ahead and filled out the much dreaded FAFSA last night.  Eyes got crossed a few times flipping through the pages of lines on the forms for my mom and me (yes, she makes me do hers instead of her filling it out).  Finished that sucker relatively fast (haven’t completed one in about 2 years, but I swear it took ages before to do) and submitted last night.  I’m happy to say that it’s already been processed and sent out to the designated schools – one step closer to becoming an official medical student 🙂

Then, something told me to go look at the financial aid websites for the designated schools to see what was due next.  Good thing I looked too, as some have forms due on the 15th (as in Monday!) if you want to be considered for need-based money…and who doesn’t want some of that?  So, I opened my Word document and created a nice little color-coordinated timeline (yes, I have a slight obsession with color-coordinated items) of what’s due for each school and when, with links included where pertinent.  Then, I started reviewing suggested budgets for each school. That’s right about the time I felt my heart sink a little, then stop completely, then rapidly recharge to a pulse far exceeding my normal resting rate.  The schools range in price from about $56k (in-state) to $70k (private). Personally, I feel swindled that our in-state price is that much, for a crappy and dangerous city to live in too. Why can’t we all be like Texas? What’s their tuition, like $8k per year – absolutely ridiculous and unfair…that needs to be regulated or mimicked. Seriously, what is that state doing so well that they can provide professional education for that price. Perhaps other states need to start modeling their system…

Anyways, back to my lovely little state.  Supposedly, state-wide budget cuts are hitting our state school system hard. Librarians are being fired, libraries are being “closed” and restructured into “media rooms” literally the size of a room. Rumor has it that the licensure people came around this week and weren’t too happy with what they saw.  Now, I will state that this is just hearsay and, as of yet, as no truth to it. However, I think it says something that this rumor has sustainability because of the status of the state and it’s medical schools.  Not a good look, Jersey…puts at least one little check under the cons column for your list in my book.

I went into this process stating that money would not be a consideration. In retrospect, maybe I went into this process a bit wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was all about “fit with the school” and “personality of the student body” rationalizing that since I lacked undergrad student loans, I had a little room for give in terms of financial aid. Now…as I stare down that long, dark, barrel of debt, I’m wavering a bit in my stance.  I don’t think it helps that somehow I am just now realizing how much my 12 month post-bacc program cost, smh. When I factor in the price of obtaining an MPH as well…I get slightly overwhelmed and start getting so nervous that I reach the point where I embrace debt and do not care anymore.  I pray that God will work a financial miracle in this situation.  I pray that the financial aid offices will take pity on my soul, and award me a very nice package. I would also love some scholarships – I know they’re hard to come by, but a girl can ask and pray, right?

Actually, when I started receiving acceptances, I prayed that God would show me the school he wants me at based on their financial aid offers. Now that the time is approaching for those packages to be unwrapped, all I can say is, “Yikes!!!” While I still stick by that, I am nervous and am anxiously waiting to see what happens in these upcoming weeks. Keep me in your prayers!

HBCUs…My Rant

In applying to med school, Rants on January 24, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Without getting into a discussion about URM-status (one of the most highly debated topics in this crazy admissions process), I do want to use this forum to rant and vent a little about the necessities of medical HBCUs.  And why not? I might offend some, which is not my intent, however, this is my blog!  So I suppose if you disagree you can leave, comment, or start your own. Hmph! Lol  Let me start with my personal history with HBCUs…

While I did not choose to attend an HBCU for undergrad, I have several family members who did so and it is that confidence instilled in them which prepared them for their successful futures.  In particular, Howard University was their alma mater, something I did not know until I was in college (both are deceased now).  Had I known beforehand, I might have been persuaded to seriously consider them for undergrad (to say the least, HU’s correspondence even back then was comical…hmmm, some things never change).  However, my take on undergrad was that I wanted an institution that mimicked the real world. That meant no all-girl’s school, nor an all-Black (or majority Black) school – that’s just not real life.  Plus, I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood and in a very diverse church (300+ nationalities!). I thought it would be rough for me to acclimate to such a drastically different environment, especially in light of other adjustments that come with starting college. In the end, I am 100% certain I attended the institution God had in-store for me, and I have absolutely no regrets in that regard.  Now, to my rant on my more recent history with HBCUs…

I applied last application cycle and, in retrospect, had a poor choice of schools (not enough and not a diverse range of schools). Among schools I applied to were 2 of the 3 HBCUs, Howard and Morehouse.  [aside: the 3 HBCU med schools are Howard, Meharry, and Morehouse. Personally, I think Meharry and Howard are in the same leaky boat, with Morehouse doing just fine].  Any re-applicant out there knows the pain of waiting through an entire application cycle for a good word from just one school, so there is no need for me to rehash the stress I lived through in 2009.  At the time, Howard was at the top of my list.  My father’s alma mater, a med school committed to training physicians to serve the under-served, and it seemed very much like one large family – appeared to be a natural “top choice” to me.  Looking at their average stats, I saw that I was above average and figured I actually had a decent shot at at least getting an interview.  Little did I know that they use that clause about wanting “students committed to serving the under-served” as a rouse for choosing URM students that probably don’t stand a chance elsewhere…

Last year, I applied with HU at the top of my list.  In short, they “accidentally” left my application on hold the entire cycle instead of taking it off hold when I submitted my fall semester grades.  I found this out after many phone calls to the admissions office, during which I was spoken to rudely and even hung up on. (they really make some applicants jump through hoops)  By the time I actually got through to the dean of admissions, we had a lovely conversation, after which she said they were basically done interviewing, she’d “see what she could do,” and that if she couldn’t make things happen that year, I should be fine if I re-applied next year. Straight from the dean’s mouth. Said oh so nonchalantly too, which really irritated me. No apology, no remorse as to how this would affect my life, nothing.

Lo and behold, I didn’t even get a rejection letter last application cycle.  Then, I joined SDN and re-applied. I’m not going to dilute my feelings like I do on that website. I (and many others I know in similar situations with HU or Meharry) am genuinely offended! Especially after being on SDN and seeing who received “first round” invites. Absolutely ridiculous. Granted, I’m not speaking about everyone here, but when you have perfectly acceptable applicants that have above average stats for your institution, a strong expressed desire to attend said institution, as well as years of service confirming their want to medically attend to the under-served who are turned down by the bunch, there is a problem.  When you have first round interviews going mainly to low-stat applicants from other HBCUs or who clearly have a low probability of getting accepted elsewhere, there is a problem.  I can name numerous URM females with good stats and ECs to support this school’s mission statement who were denied even an interview last year, all of whom would have gladly attended either school and so raised the stats for these institutions.

But no. Let’s be real. In my mind, HBCUs are not reaching their full potential – they are not doing what they are supposed to do. (I suppose that’s debatable, as they are increasing the number of URM doctors in America, they just chose to draw heavily from the bottom of the pool)  Shoot, the complete and utter disgust that institution has left me in would have my father and my godmother rolling over shamefully in their graves right now.  I blame these schools for the stigma attached to URM applicants.  As has been stated time and time again, I would LOVE to see the stats for accepted URMs at non-HBCUs as compared to those at HBCUs. My guess is that they wouldn’t be as low as many claim URM stats are…

And I’m not saying that stats are everything, HOWEVER, you’re telling me that you can’t break a 25 on the MCAT and a 3.00 GPA, yet you deserve just as much as the next guy to go to med school?!? Get out of here. What does deserve mean anyway? You worked “hard” and therefore your efforts should be rewarded? False. Many people “deserve” to become a doctor, but many have to re-apply due to limited seating. And trust, I know many book smart people that will not make great doctors because they lack social skills and are otherwise dumb, however, I think the “deserve” argument is complete gutter.

So what is the purpose of HBCUs in the new millennium?   Is there even one?  Hmmm…to be honest, I have very mixed feelings on this. I think that if HBCUs are to exist, there is no reason for them to have such low stats. Every time I read their stats I shake my head and, as a URM, am a little bit embarrassed.  Contrary to popular belief, there are many URMs re-applicants with decent stats that could have occupied some of these HBCU seats that were not chosen because, let’s face it, these schools feel that the applicants will chose another school over them.  These students would have gladly accepted a seat in the class and raised the schools’ expected standards of excellence, however it is apparent that these schools are in no way concerned with that.  I am also choosing to believe that a majority of their applicants are also considered “disadvantaged” which introduces a whole new confounding variable.

Le sigh. I could keep bringing up points, but I’m tired, it’s a complicated issue, and a highly flawed and imperfect application process.  So, I’ll just end with “I am DONE with HBCUs and think very lowly of them.”  [ends rant and steps off soapbox]

Thankful. Grateful. Blessed.

In applying to med school, Blessings on November 27, 2009 at 7:10 am

Today is the day after Thanksgiving; I have MUCH to be thankful for.  Like most everyone else, I am thankful for a wonderful support system of family and friends.  Especially the ones who stood by me through last year’s crazy application process.  I’m blessed to lack nothing I need (not want) in life, to have good health (though lacking health insurance, I smile), and to hold multiple jobs in this rough economic time.  This year, my thankfulness is extended to blessings in the medical school admissions cycle. First and foremost, I am thankful for finally having been accepted into medical school after years and years of hard work, time, and money. Amen! I could really end with this one statement, but that would make for a rather short post, so I’ll continue.

I am also thankful to have been accepted so early in this application cycle.  Talk about a stess relief! It’s priceless to know that no matter what happens in the subsequent months, whether that be in my personal life or in this crazy process, that I will definitively be a doctor in a few years – provided I don’t go and get arrested or something stupid like that…no worries there though.  It takes all pressure off possible future interviews. It’s even more beneficial that the first school I was accepted to is a school I love and can easily picture myself at. To give you a short synopsis of what happened, I applied early, had a first round interview at this school, was basically told I was “in” on interview day, received official notice of acceptance as early as possible, and I then mentally declared “Game Over!”  All worries and apprehensions were layed to rest as of October 16th, 2009. What a blessed day that was…a day I will never forget!  In addition, I am grateful to have had multiple acceptances – choice is lovely! 🙂

Next, as a tangent off my last point, and as a fellow SDNer put it, “I’m thankful that I will never have to apply to medical school again, and yet also thankful that I went through it at least once in my life.” As crazy as it sounds, I am thankful to have done this process twice. Yes, you read correctly, twice! Doing it once right from the jump is great and all (and certainly much cheaper and the way to go if possible), but in reality, about 50% just don’t get in anywhere on go around 1.  For me, there is something to be said about literally being crushed to pieces the first time around and having the resolve to summon enough energy to reassemble myself (with God’s great glue!) as a stronger applicant for the next application cycle, and without having to take an additional year off between rounds.  I feel pretty great holding acceptances at schools that flatout rejected me last year without so much as an interview.  I know that an acceptance this cycle means so much more to me than one last application cycle would have meant. And, granted, I hear that applying for residency programs very much mirrors applying to medical school, so I better get used to it, but to not have to deal with jumping through any more hoops or fighting to prove myself to admissions committees or even to my, at times, self-doubting psyche is the best thing this pre-med girl could ask for. I’m over this one major hurdle and have a few years to adequately prepare for the next big leap of faith. I’m game. Bring it!  Clearly, my adrenaline is pumping full-throttle this year.

Furthermore, I am thankful for batting 100 in interview conversions.  Granted, I have only had three interviews (3 I am extremely appreciative of!), but all three have turned into very quick acceptances.  All my interviewers verbally expressed how highly they thought of me as an applicant and as a future physician.  This definitely helped soften the blow of out-right pre-interview rejections and helped boost my self-confidence as an applicant.  One of my bigger fears entering this application process was that my GPA would hold me back.  I did just okay in undergrad and excelled in my post-bacc program, but had no clue how med schools evaluate my subsequent mediocre GPA.  While I think the A’s in the post-bacc certainly helped my cause, out of the horses’ mouths it is apparent that my ECs and life experiences count a great deal (or at least at certain schools). I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in such opportunities and to have been able to be of service to so many even at such a relatively young age. God is good!

Also, I am grateful batting 50 for schools I applied to in general.  That’s 4 interview invitations (just got an invite the other day) and 4 pre-interview rejections, with many schools screaming silence or Hold.  With every rejection, my mom does a great job reminding me that there are plenty of others that are crushed right now and who would kill for just one interview, let alone an acceptance.  Trust, I was there last year, I know that she’s 100% correct on this one. And I know that as the cycle progresses, competition starts to increase, however, at the moment I am convinced that all I need is to get my foot in the door with an interview invite, and I’m fairly certain I’ll do a good job “selling myself” to the school.  After all, who knows me better than me other than my Maker?

On that note, I must say that I am thankful that this crazy process has drawn me closer to God and has strengthened my relationship with Him, and not the other way around, as I’ve seen happen to some scorned pre-meds.

In sum, I am grateful that I am blessed beyond measure.  All I can do is smile from deep down within my heart and scream Thank you, Jesus!

aside: I’m also extremely thankful I will not be participating in this year’s Black Friday! Neither as a retailer nor as a consumer. I swear, this day can bring out the worst features of mankind, and I’m in a full-on positive mood indefinitely. Would hate for that to be ruined by some silly sale!

The Dating Game

In applying to med school, Finances, medical school on November 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm

To a certain extent, searching for the right medical school is much like searching for the right significant other. Most people have a certain set of characteristics in mind when they search for a mate. For some, they look for a mate that they think is on their perceived level – someone they think physically looks as good as they are convinced they look (emphasis on perceived…you know how some people have that inflated self-image), someone who fits the look they are going for. Some (like me) find intelligence irresistably sexy, and consequently all partners must possess a certain level of smarts to make the cut. Some seek financial security. Still others (usually men) are intimidated by too many brains and therefore chose someone of lesser intelligence to accompany them throughout life. The list continues… Some look for a deep measure of humanity, a concern for the environment, a shared love of music/money/sports/[insert some random passion or value].

One of the funniest things I have said when considering someone is that I could picture them an excellent father and husband, but a boyfriend…not so much :/ Rest assured, we remain friends and have never dated, and I have absolutely no desire to date the man. His unintentional lack of follow-through irks me to no end. However, I know that in another 5 years or so, when he’s matured a bit more, he would be an engaging spouse and potentially an amazing father (I’m not ready to get married or have kids any time soon…let that be known). To round out the list, let’s be honest and just say that some people use their mates for networking opportunities (cold, I know, but I’m sure we can all name somebody). Ooo, one more. There’s always that desperate individual who really doesn’t care what traits another person has, as long as they are available (sometimes that’s not even a requirement) and possess the right body parts (still not always a requirement)…they’re the most entertaining to watch, imho. lol

Likewise, all these criteria are used by applicants to evaluate potential medical schools to apply to, and finally, which one to choose as their legally bound mate for the next 4+ years.  So, let the dating game begin!

So, what am I looking for in a man and/or a medical school? Well, let’s see, for a man, I look for someone who mirrors my life values. I want someone with a sense of humor, who’s bright (I get intellectual crushes very easily…just call me intellectually promiscuous), who understands the importance of giving to others, who’s down to earth (I hate pretension), likes to live life, has diverse interests, and likes to do random things. When evaluating a guy, money’s not an issue. I mean, if he has money, it’s certainly not a negative, but lacking money is not a negative either. Ha, looking at this list, it kind of looks like I am asking for a lot, but I swear I’m not! In the end, I just want a down-to-earth guy, with a nice smile and laugh, that likes to have a good time, but also has a serious side (such as focused on his career and family).

I am pretty much looking for the same thing in a future medical school.  I want a “family oriented” school, where there is a sense of family within my class and between the administration and the students.  Likewise, I desire and institution that supports my diverse interests outside the classroom through reduced lecture hours and various student groups and community service outreach.  The only big difference here is that financial ability will be a LARGE factor when making my selection. 

I am really curious as to how all of this is going to play out. For instance, if I am accepted at a school that seems down-to-earth, has a student body that’s into serving their community (both within the walls of the school and externally), and encourages its students to maintain their outside interests, but lacks a substantive financial support, will I pick them? My heart says one thing and my brain says the opposite. Ugh, I hate when that happens!

In undergrad, I was fortunate enough to receive numerous acceptances at a wide range of schools. One of the schools offered me a $100,000 scholarship for being one of their “top 100 applicants” or something like that. They went over-the-top, inviting us all to campus, taking us out on the town – the put on the works! However, despite their enticing offer, I chose a school that I wound up having to pay full-price out-of-pocket for (thank God I had been left money to finance my education). Why did I chose that school? Because I felt that my undergraduate years were, well, literally priceless! But, unlike medical school, I felt that it made a significant difference where I attended undergrad.

Medical school is a completely different game though. Any US accredited, MD-granting med school is good – it has to be, as we will be handling human life…something our society (rightfully) highly values.  With hard work (both inside and outside the classroom) you can get into any residency program of your chosing. With that in mind, it makes no sense to choose a school that’ll land you a quarter million dollars in debt (GASP!) when you can go to another school that you might not click with quite as well for substantially less money. Plus, lowering debt reduces the possibility of being pigeon-holed into a speciality just for the sake of being able to pay off loans versus following your true passion.  Like most other things in life, I feel that it is important to follow the heart and where God is leading. I’m excited to see what the spring offers. Whew, May 15th, 2010 is only 179 days away!!! Doesn’t seem so far away now, does it?  People keep asking me if I have a top choice right now.  My answer remains the same: I am trying not to get attached to any school until financial aide packages are laid out on the table.  I need to see my potential spouse’s hand before I commit!  I must know how deep those pockets go!

Premed advisors: You already know…

In applying to med school, Rants on November 4, 2009 at 3:12 pm

 

\frustration

What most of us feel like when dealing with advisors

As I look around and see where I am, I can’t help but begin to question who has been instrumental in my development as a human and on my trek on the road to the M.D.  While I can think of numerous people that in one way or another positively contributed to this journey, the one group of people that have done the least good (and possibly the most harm) have been pre-med advisors.  Who else is not surprised by this discovery? Lol

Ah, my experiences with pre-med advisors – where do I even begin?  Let’s start back in my freshman year.  I’m a bit of an oldhead now, so we’re talking Fall 2003…thank God women in my family age so well 😉  I had just came back from my grandfather’s funeral (an emotional event in and of itself) and was meeting with an advisor about missing classes.  He was the man freshman and sophomore pre-meds from specific dorms had to go to for academic advising.  This man also had an infamous reputation for being a mix of a douchebag and a pedophile.  Needless to say, I was apprehensive about even making the appointment, but knew I needed to have the excused absences duely noted.  So, he pulls out my file, starts asking me about missing classes and asks for the obituary while reading through my file.  Our conversation goes something like this:

Advisor: So I see on your first gen chem exam you got a B+. Why is that?

Me: Well, my grandfather was getting really sick. I was running back and forth between here and there trying to help him, blah blah blah (mind you, its a B+ on my first college exam, not an F…)

Advisor: And you want to be a doctor? Why do you want to be a doctor? You’ll never get into med school with B+s… (He then proceeds to tear me apart)

I proceed to ball out crying while my advisor exhibits no sympathy.  Remember, I was only  there to get excused absences, not career advice!  Ha. I was so young and naive about the usefulness of advisors. Once upon a time, I thought their word was gold. I quickly learned otherwise, thank God!  Some of them turned my friends off from medicine completely, but I guess you could argue that those individuals did not possess the drive and dedication and/or maturity necessary for a career in medicine.

Fast forward a few years to Story #2: Required advising meeting to plan my schedule

Me: I’m having trouble finalizing my schedule. Which three classes would be most beneficial for me to take? Immuno, Biochem, Cancer Cell, Developmental, or [insert a few others]?

Advisor: [on his computer, clearly not really paying attention] After a loooong delay, “Use your best judgment.” Followed by silence (I think he was playing a computer game?)

Me:  “Why are you here?!? What is your purpose???”  and proceeded to storm out his office, silently cursing my last attempt at actually using an advisor.

Note the difference in reaction only a few years made 😉  Yeah…they are quite the bunch.  Telling people not to do research or that applying in November is late…are you trying to set us up for failure?!?  Don’t schools want to boost the percentage of students that get accepted on their first try?!?   Those were only two of a few stories I had.  I’m sure I could’ve had some more, but I learned early on the unimportance of the pre-med advisor and the frustration that ensues every time you try interacting with them!.  They were good for two things: wasting my precious time and making me feel down about myself and my future.  Thanks a bunch, guys!

I will say, that I had one, lone beacon of light in this whole advising process, and that came in April 2009, roughly six years after starting down this journey towards the M.D.   A little late, but better late than never, right?  Sadly, the wonderful lady who gave me useful and advise and direction technically wasn’t even our pre-med advisor! Smh.  She was kind of “on loan” to us as an assistant advisor.  I tell you what – she put all our real advisors to shame! 

Here’s one of my favorite threads on pre-med advisors. Feel free to share your advising nightmares!  I know some of you need or want to vent…lol

Accepted!

In applying to med school, medical school on October 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know I’m failing, but I swear I’ll do better to make a conscientious effort to blog more frequently.  Anywho, the main reason I did not update you this past week was that it was the dreaded, highly anticipated, Decision Week 2009.  For those unfamiliar with the med school application process, October 15th is the earliest date schools can officially notify applicants of acceptances.  In other words, it is one of the most anxiety-ridden days…that is if you were an applicant blessed with an early interview or two.  I, like many of my fellow SDNers and pre-med applicants, was a nervous wreck leading up the 15th.  I had heard rumors that last year there had been a glitch in computers and emails about CBCs (criminal background checks) had accidentally been sent to those who had been accepted to schools, but had yet to be notified.  This year, I do believe CBCs won’t be conducted until the first of the new year, however that did not stop me from increasing my compulsive e-mail checking in the days leading up to the 15th.

Unfortunately, I did not received any news (good or bad) on the 15th.  Nothing but emptiness filled my inbox 😦  However, I did receive great news on the morning of the 16th – I was accepted to a school I absolutely loved!!!  That’s right folks, I am going to be a Medical Doctor!!!  Woooo-Hooo!!!!  I tried to predict how I would respond to an early acceptance.  My original guess was that I would pass out, wake up and run around the block beaming from ear-to-ear, call my mom, post the good news on twitter, facebook, and AIM, send mass text messages, and then part-tay!  My real reaction wasn’t too far from this.  I had actually just gotten off the phone with moms when I found the lovely little present from God sitting in my inbox.  I immediately hit redial and shared the good news with her.  From there, I’m not 100% sure what happened.  It was a mixture of being unable to breathe, a few tears were shed, I think I almost passed out, and in the middle of all this I managed to simultaneously electronically post and text messages about the great news.  When I got off the phone with mom, I ran around the house in circles, like a dog chasing its tail.  When I finally tired myself out, I sat on the big leather sofa, stretched out my arms, looked up towards heaven and repeatedly exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus. Praise you God!” Rinse and repeat until I was light-headed and out of breath.

Really, this was all in Divine timing.  My grandmother just so happened to be visiting from down South and I was able to share the good news with her in person.  I am her only grandchild, the last of the bloodline, if you will.  My grandmother has suffered numerous bodily ailments since as far back as I can remember, and since I started down this road to the M.D., my mom has been praying that my grandmother would live to see the day when her only grandchild would become a doctor.  Through all the pain she lives in, the news made her spring out of her seat and hug me – not an easy task for someone with scar tissue wrapped around her spine and arthritis all over the place.  Of course, more tears were shed and the rest of the family was immediately notified.  Everyone on both sides of the family said, “I never thought I’d see the day when we would have a doctor in the family!”  Really, I never thought it was that big of a deal.  I am just following my heart, my passions, and where God leads.  When I said this to my mom, she responded with, “Are you kidding me?!?  You have no idea what an inspiration our story has been to other single mothers…”  I guess she’s right and I have slightly underestimated how monumental of an achievement this is for my family and my situation.  In the past few days, it has slowly been sinking in.  All I can do is smile and praise God!

I must say, I feel like a tremendous burden has been lifted from my shoulders, for I know that no matter what happens during this long, tiring cycle, at the end of the day, I will begin training to become a medical doctor at an institution I absolutely love!  What an AMAZING, INDESCRIBABLE feeling!!!  Just the thought makes me beam.  Now, I’m not a smiler.  Actually, I have been told that my neutral face looks on the mean, cold, standoffish side of the spectrum – good thing I’m usually laughing 😉  But, I’ve been smiling ever since the good news was delivered.  God is beyond good!  I’m still eagerly waiting on the acceptance packet to arrive in the mail (and a little nauseous at the thought of having to come up with the deposit money in my current financial situation…oh, the sacrifices I make), at which point I’ll probably get that great adrenaline surge again 🙂 

Now comes the debate on whether I should withdraw my application from some schools or just leave them alone and see what happens.  But, more on this topic later…

To everyone out there – Keep the faith!  As a friend of mine put it, I am the poster-child for re-applicants everywhere!

2 Down, 1 to Go…

In applying to med school, interviews, Rants on October 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Two interviews down and one more to go before I sink into the silent abyss awaiting a new interview invite.  Yikes.  I liked having my first interviews spread about 1.5 weeks apart.  It kept me on my toes!  I prepped incredibly hard for the first one, then having another one so close to it made me stay on that elevated state of being, pumped up on epinephrine and endorphins.  The same thing is going on now.  I admit, my anxiety, and consequently, energy level has slightly declined since my first interview, however, I’m still up in that realm.  What’s going to happen when I finish my last scheduled interview next Tuesday???  Will I be able to motivate myself to stay up-to-date with the health care reform debate or the latest medical developments?  What if I don’t get another interview until January?!?  That’s a good 3-4 months away… Will my anxiety level ratchet back up?  Will I lose some of my interviewing “finesse” I have been refining??  Will I be a hot-nervous wreck , checking my e-mail roughly 100x a day?!?  

Now, that last one I can answer – YES!  I know me, and I know how I’ve already been this application cycle – frantically checking both email accounts (in case an email accidentally gets sent to an old email address) hourly.  smh.  Patience is not my strongest point, but I do believe God is using this time to help me develop some of it.  I honestly don’t know how I’d do sitting for the next few months without hearing a word from anyone.  To be quite honest, after a few weeks, I’d probably pick up the phone and give one school in particular a ring to see what exactly is going on – not quite sure what I’d say, but I do have some words for them…  Otherwise, I guess I’d start working on update letters, as well as letters of interest.

Even in this crazy process where there seems to be ample amounts of quiet time, don’t be mistaken – there is no such thing as down time.  If SDN has taught me one thing, it’s this – anytime you’re sitting back relaxing, chilling, cooling out, or just breathing, there is some crazy neurotic, desperate pre-med out there doing whatever they can to give their application a little bit of an edge.  People are out there volunteering hours they don’t have, doing activities they don’t want to do just to add an additional 40 hours of service (like that will really stack up against applications with 100s of hours of service over years…eh, let them have false hope), sucking up to family friends who happen to be doctors for an additional letter of recommendation to add to their file, etc.  In sum, there are some out there constantly doing.the.most. around the clock.  Now, do I really think this will pay off for them?  Eh, probably for some of them.  I like to think that AdComs can see thru the b.s., but experience has showed me this type of nonsense works sometimes.  Anywho, as annoying as these people are (often also the most verbal of the SDN gang), they keep me on my toes.  They remind me that there is never a time to slack off or grow comfortable – someone is always there, positioned to take your seat!  So, to the obnoxious SDNers that keep typing away nonsense online, trying to make others as paranoid and anxious as you, I say THANK YOU! Mwah!

EDP = ???

In applying to med school, Rants on October 1, 2009 at 10:43 am

To apply through the Early Decision Program (EDP), applicants must follow these guidelines:

  1. Apply to only one U.S. medical school by the stated deadline date (August 1 for schools that participate in AMCAS);

  2. Provide the school with all required supplemental information by the stated deadline date (August 1 for those schools that participate in AMCAS); and

  3. Attend only this school if offered a place under the EDP.

If these guidelines are met, applicants will be notified of the school’s admission decision by October 1.

If not accepted under the EDP, applicants will automatically be placed in the regular applicant pool by the school and may then apply to additional schools. EDP regulations apply to both AMCAS and non-AMCAS participating schools.

For the 2010 entering class, 79 medical schools will offer admission through the Early Decision Program. Since most participating schools only admit a small portion of their entering class through the program, only applicants with an excellent chance of admission to a particular school should apply under this program.

I just don’t understand WHY in the world you would do it?  For instance, I was checking SDN yet again :: surprise, surprise :: and I come across a post of someone doing EDP at a school I already interviewed at.  They’ll find out Oct 1st their fate, while I’ll find out Oct 15th mine.  Perhaps if the window of time between EDP notification and regular decision notification was statistically significant, then maybe I could see some benefit to doing EDP.  HOWEVER, logic tells me to just apply as early as possible and wind up in the same boat.  I don’t understand the value of being locked into one school (even if it is your so-called “top choice” <– a concept I’ve never really identified with).

There are too many variables.  What if you get in early but get a lousy financial aide package?  You’re screwed.  What if you don’t get in?  You’re screwed yet again, because now you’re late for applying elsewhere that cycle and you basically have <14 days left to select the schools you want to apply to and need to rush in getting secondaries submitted.  I know there are pros as well, provided you get in – guaranteed early admissions and thus reduced stress for the remaining months of the application cycle, significant reduction in out-of-pocket expenses required to apply to numerous schools in order to secure one spot, etc.  I’m all for big risks and big potential rewards,i t’s just that, to me, it is way too big of a risk, for a relatively small reward. 

Once again, I don’t see why you wouldn’t just apply as early as possible, hope to get in the first round or so of interviews and then potentially have some acceptances waiting for you mid-October.  If you like your choices then, you can stop submitting secondaries, decline interviews, etc and still save some money.  Plus, you’d have some leeway in deciding how much money you’re willing to shell out for med school by being able to compare financial aide packages offered to you.  EDP just seems like a horribly shaky game of Russian Roulette…You have one shot to secure a spot at a school you love and hopefully their financial aide office will look kindly on you.  I don’t know, maybe the people that do EDP are loaded and money is of no thought to them for med school…but then that negates the whole advantage of saving money by doing EDP.  Hmmm….

Also (so out of order, but objections keep popping into my head), as the AAMC website says, EDP applicants should have stellar marks and ECs – i.e. the whole package – since very few spots per class can be filled by EDPers.  If you are that strong of an applicant, why on Earth wouldn’t you cast your net out to other schools that pique you curiosity (surely you were not only attracted to one school, right?) and just apply early.  As a strong candidate, you’d probably get a bunch of interviews (at least more than 1) early and be in the same boat, but with more options.  I.do.not.get.it.  Maybe these EDPers are the type that are indecisive or just hate the idea of having to make a decision this substantial come May 15th?  But, doctors need to be decisive, so I’m sure that’s not it…Hmmmmm… 

(Back to EDP) Even if it’s only a total of 5 schools you decided to apply to, but you applied early, you’d be stationed in a much firmer position strategically and not significantly in debt, as compared to doing EDP.  Especially when you consider that hefty price tag the AMCAS makes you pay for just selecting one school to send your primary to.   Might as well maximize that initial deposit and get a few more schools out of it for a couple of bucks more, while simultaneously maximizing your options and opportunities.  I know I’d be pissed if I applied EDP to a school I swore up and down was my top choice, then got a crappy financial aide package I was stuck with, and then was left to wonder,  Hmm, I wonder how much money I could’ve got from School X…

Or, maybe I’m just a greedy, controlling pre-med that likes to think they have some sort of control in this unpredictable process.  Personally, I’ve never been the one to have a top choice anything.  I’ve always had a few “tops” in any category, and differentiating them based on “like” was never possible, for they each had their own pros and cons which basically evened-out.  I like being able to have choice at a given point in time.  Perhaps I’d like to think that having 5 options instead of 1 will be advantageous, and that I then have the power to chose out of a multitude of options my destiny.  I love the power of choice and the opportunity to choose.   I believe that freedom of choice make life worth the living; knowing that you chose one out of several options presented to you and consequently move one more step down the path of life, embracing whatever lies behind that door.  Now that’s fun.  That’s excitement.  It’s like playing a game where you chose from Door 1, Door 2, and Door 3 and you get whatever lies behind.  It’s not fun to play the same game when you only have Door 1 to chose from, right?  That’s just scary.  And, to me, EDP vastly limits choice and is like playing that game with one Door: whomp whomp.  Your choice is which one school do you want to risk your life on.  That’s not really fun.  But, I guess you can view EDP as a shotgun to the regular process, for in the end of regular admissions, you still have to chose which school you want to marry.  Once again, I just don’t get it.  It seems boring and risky and not worth the potential reward. 

At this point, I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record: Why EDP?  Throwing all eggs into one basket… It’s nonsensical. Why EDP?  Throwing all eggs… blah blah blah.  Perhaps someone can enlighten me.  I am truly curious and have yet to find one person who can give me a convincing reason for choosing EDP.