Posts Tagged ‘frustration’

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]

Premed advisors: You already know…

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



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