Med school interview day guide

Today I’m going to give some advice on how to approach med school interviews! Or rather, how to approach the interview day. My application cycle is coming to an end successfully, though it feels like just yesterday that I was exploring Chicago and falling in love with the city before my first interview. There’s a LOT of advice out there on every facet of the application process, so I’m just going to focus on what I learned from my own experiences.

Do mock interviews before you go.

Even if your interview skills are stellar, practice the big questions at home: Why medicine? Tell me about your self. Why this school? These questions will inevitably come up, and even the most eloquent person might have things they want to say, but might not think to say unless they had thought about the question at home. I practiced interviewing with my little brother and my dad, but some schools’ prehealth offices offer mock interview services that will give you feedback. Not gonna lie, I flashcarded myself when there was no one around to practice with. And yes, I’m turning “flashcard” into a verb. More than anything, I think practicing questions gave me a confidence boost that I could pull out to use during the real deal.

Make time to explore the location

Remember – you might be spending the next four years of your life in this city! I get that not everyone can take time off work/school in addition to the days they have to interview, but the time spent exploring the cities was so precious to me, I’d say absolutely do it if you can. You can get a feel of where students live, how you can pursue your interests outside of medicine, and just whether you like the vibe of the city. Plus, you may just end up on an adventure if you’re out and about on your own. Whatever you do though, make sure to get a good night’s rest before your interview.

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Catching a show at the breathtaking Pritzker Pavilion, carry-on luggage in tow! Love the abundance of public art in Chicago.

 

Don’t just arrive on time, arrive early.

This one may seem like a no brainer, but it’s amazing how being in an unfamiliar setting can interfere with your intended punctuality. Whether you opt to get to the school with your student host, by public transportation, uber/taxi, walk, or drive, plan to be at the admissions office or wherever the school indicated 30-45 minutes ahead of time. And if you plan to use Uber, first determine whether there will be very many drivers out on the road in the early morning. I was panicking before my SUNY Downstate interview because I assumed that an area like Brooklyn would be teeming with Ubers, but apparently not at 7am.

Don’t hesitate to talk about things outside of your application.

Your interviewer wants to get to know who you are as a person. One of my interviewers specifically said that he wanted to see if he could imagine an applicant as his colleague, someone to converse with and spend time with. Easy enough, right? In practice, it was actually kind of difficult for me. On one hand, it’s like, “I need to convince this person that I’m suited for med school,” but on the other hand, you’re like, “I want to answer that if I wasn’t going into a health-related field, I’d want to be a cheesemonger, help!” Allow your personality to shine through–using your best judgment, of course.

Be open and cordial with your fellow interviewees.

Even though I was pretty exhausted at the end of interview days from being “on” the entire time, I greatly enjoyed meeting people in the same boat as me! There are so many accomplished young people out there, it might be intimidating at first, but it really helps to talk to each other and kind of diffuse the stress of interviewing that way. It goes without saying that you should still remain professional, even if there aren’t any faculty or staff listening in on your conversations.

Send thank you cards if you want.

Some schools will give you directions on how to send cards, some schools will explicitly tell you not to send them (cough, USC). Send them if you feel like you connected with your interviewer or out of courtesy, but not because you think it’ll affect your admission decision either way. At least with the majority of schools, it’s not a dealbreaker and shouldn’t be.

All right, that’s all for now! I hope some future applicants find this helpful, and feel free to comment your own two cents!

P.S. I think I’m going to gradually make this blog un-anonymous because there’s no real reason for my identity to be hidden, and it’s hindering my ability to write freely. 🙂

 

 

 

blast from the past

Found this draft that I wrote 3 months ago, and it’s so funny to see how much has changed in the short time since, that I’m just going to post it. It ends abruptly because I never finished it:

“Oh boy, I’ve let two months pass since I wrote anything on here, and I don’t even know where to start. It’s not that I have a toooon to write about, but just that if I started somewhere I’d end up needing to write endlessly. It’s either I write something so short it would be like, “I did x, y, and z,” or it would end up so long there’d need to be a separate post describing each meal I’ve had the past two months. Exaggeration, because my life’s not that interesting, but still.

Let’s start with some random updates to feel like I’m contributing to my ever-present goal of journaling regularly:

  • I started watching How I Met Your Mother, and even though it initially seemed like cheesy guy humor and Ted is super whiny, I am now hooked.
  • My left knee is has been feeling unstable the past month. It started out of nowhere, but now I’m beginning to suspect it’s exacerbated by ballet. I need to stop forcing my turnout, which is hard not to do since my turnout sucks so much.
  • I think I’m getting lazier, which is a very bad thing.
  • I’m trying to read more to occupy my time instead of being glued to a screen (unless it’s a Kindle, hah). I just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and I’ve never felt so creeped out while simultaneously having my heart warmed. The night after I finished it, I dreamed of being on a hillside or mountainside and passing by a long pool with slimy, orange fish-like blobs slowly crawling out of it. I couldn’t decide whether to put them back in the pool or help them find their way to sea. Trippy.
  • I’m not quite sure I’m warming up to interviews. I also am still swinging between confidence in my ability to rock this med school application process and self-doubt that I’m somehow a terrible interviewer and none of the schools will want me. I mean, I leave interviews feeling pretty good in most cases, but what if I’m not conveying my passion for medicine enough? I end up talking about the activities I was involved with in college, but what if my interviewers hear that and think I belong in social work or some other profession?? Not to mention when I’m around the other applicants at a prestigious school, all I can think about is how much better an applicant they probably are than me. It’s hard to remember that not every competitive applicant has worked at the NIH or been published in Cell or started a nonprofit or was a professional athlete, especially when most of the kids I see at these schools really ARE amazing candidates for med school and winning at life.
  • Ballet has been tough. I feel like I’m making no progress in class, and trying to act like and be a performer during rehearsals is harder than I thought.
  • I’m seriously in love with Chicago. I get stomach butterflies for Chicago. I went to Wicker Park, and even though it is the face of yuppies and gentrification, I will admit this secret hipster died and went to heaven a little. Maybe exaggerating, I haven’t actually seen that much of the neighborhood. Ignoring the fact that Chicago winters are some of the worst in the country and that I am the worst person for dealing with the cold, Chicago is a city I want to spend some of my youth in. That used to be San Francisco, but ever since tech town took over and skyrocketed the cost of living there, it’s grown just a little tiresome. (I’ll never truly fall out of love with SF; it was my first love–of a city.) Great music scene, food scene, art scene, public transportation scene, and affordable! The terrain is flatter than I’d like, but that’s something I could overlook.
  • I was into soapmaking for about 5 seconds.
  • I am now using pumpkin spice goat milk soap in the shower.
  • No, it was only a melt-and-pour project.
  • October 15th CANNOT COME SOONER. Please med schools, tell me you love me! Also, reminder to self: set up voicemail on phone.
  • I have an alumni email address from my university now. Woo~. AND the best part is I have access to PROQUEST! I’m still trying to see if I have all-library access so I can get to Pubmed.
  • I think I’ve taken for granted how easily being in school comes to me. My dad has been worrying about my younger brother’s (16) grades, when they seem fine to me.”

#newyearnewme

Writing this post is borderline scary, but I’m forcing myself to put my thoughts onto paper text today. It feels like there’s too much to say at once and I’m just going to start word-vomiting everywhere.

2015 was all sorts of awesome. It was the year I started dancing again, the year I did long distance with my boyfriend (not awesome, but we made it!), the year I started working like a real adult, and–now is as good a time as any to mention–the year I overcame the hurdle of getting into med school!! More on that later. Sometimes I think everything is going too well to be true, like what did I do to deserve it all?

Anyway, since this is the new year, it’s all about change. What can I do differently to be a better version of myself? A few things that have irked me about myself recently have coincided with the “new year new me!!!1” sentiment, so here is my one resolution:

1. Break more rules.*

Okay, let’s be real. It’ll be more like bend the rules…baby steps, right? I’ve found that I totally and unquestioningly follow rules sometimes, and I don’t like it. It’s probably what made me such an easy child to raise (you’re welcome, mom and dad).

This characteristic really came to light the past few weeks. My boyfriend, C, and I took a road trip through Vegas and some nearby national parks. We drove in early to Bryce Canyon to watch the sun rise, and one of the viewpoints had a “DO NOT ENTER” chain blocking the path, probably because of the snow during winter. C wanted to cross it to get to the viewpoint, but I hesitated. We weren’t supposed to! People were going to see us! I did it anyway (literally just stepped over the little chain and walked a short way up the hill), but I had felt so reluctant–for what? If I had been alone, it would have never even crossed my mind to walk past the sign to reach the viewpoint.

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The view at the top of the hill

Another example: I was at the airport to fly back to NorCal after the trip, and my flight was delayed 2 hours. Since I had checked a bag, I decided getting on an earlier flight wouldn’t work, because the bag would still get there later than I would. I waited and waited and finally was picking up my bag at 12:30am at SJC–only to find that it had gotten there on the earlier flight. -__- That moment I was struck by how my own rigid idea of “just how things are/should be” potentially cost me the chance to get home sooner and save my dad a trip to the airport at such an ungodly hour (arrival was supposed to be 10pm…shout out to my unbelievably chill dad and his jetlag from his own trip).

These are just two mild examples, and maybe to some this will seem like the opposite of what a resolution should be or that my fear of breaking rules is laughable, but blindly following rules has become tiresome.

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over. – Richard Branson

Did I format that quote right? Actually, whatever. I’ll learn in time. 🙂 Ooh, here’s another one I like from Pirates of the Caribbean:

You’re pirates. Hang the code, and hang the rules. They’re more like guidelines anyway. – Elizabeth Swann

*With that said, my guidelines are: don’t get my med school acceptances rescinded and in general don’t be an asshole.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE

believing

My stomach feels like there’s a storm brewing inside it. What is up with my weird intestinal problems as of late?? Please stop.

Anyway, I received an amazing piece of news yesterday evening! Checked my email after moping around between secondaries and pretty much screamed. I got my first interview invite at U Chicago Pritzker! To be honest, this is a HUGE confidence booster and obviously an incredible opportunity. I might have mentioned this before, but I sometimes go through periods of feeling less prepared for the intense med school admissions process than my peers. But receiving this invitation is a reminder that there are people out there who believe in me…not just friends and family who will support me no matter what, though I’m ever grateful for them, but admissions committees that meet with exceptional candidates for a living. While writing my secondaries, I’ve had time to reflect on my strengths and unique skills, and really learn not to treat this process as a competition. Funny, because it’s one of the most competitive processes out there, but I’m not doing myself any favors by comparing my life experiences to others’, especially since what we actually gained from those experiences matters so much. I just have to show that I’m capable, informed, and committed, even more so now that my grades and scores don’t give me an edge anymore. It’s up to me to prove to schools that I’m just as awesome in person as I am on paper.

Trip to the ER

This past week has been unpredictable! Last Sunday, I woke up with my stomach feeling kind of funny, but thought nothing of it and went about my day with the goal of finishing up 3 secondaries for submission. My body decided, nope, plan derailed. By 3pm, I felt like I had a moderate stomach ache, and by 8pm, I was tossing and turning unable to get relief from the pain in my midsection.

My dad drove me to the ER, and I hobbled in clutching a throw pillow. They were able to room me immediately and started giving me fluids through IV. The nurse also had to draw my blood to try to find the cause of my stomach pains, but I was so dehydrated by that point that they had to poke me a few times. I don’t have a fear of needles, but I just really wanted something for the pain at that point. And the ER delivered! After a while of laying there miserable and freezing (does pain make you feel cold? I didn’t have a fever), the doctor ordered some medication for the pain and I felt so. much. better. It was like breathing a sigh of relief, and I could even take a short nap. Speaking of the doctor, he was so kind! I always think of EM doctors as intense people rushing around, but this doctor was great at listening to my concerns, speaking to us patiently, and even returned with warm blankets when I said I was cold.

I was eventually wheeled over to radiology for a CT scan to rule out appendicitis, but plot twist, my appendix was apparently not visible in the image. At that point, they couldn’t do much else so they discharged me around midnight and advised us to return in 8 hours if my pain got worse. Morning came around, and my pain was still pretty bad, but not worse than the last night, so I just stayed in bed. It was strange knowing almost exactly when my pain meds wore off, because I started waking up around 4am and not being able to sleep well after that. Over the next two days, I stayed home from work and caught up on sleep, and by Wednesday morning, the pain had totally subsided.

Unfortunately, during my little episode I received 9 secondaries. 9 secondaries with a 3 day delay due to illness! I’m now playing extreme catch up with these essays and spent the last two evenings feverishly writing and editing and throwing money at these schools. My sad, sad wallet.

So that’s been my past week. Being sick and feeling like my insides were going to cave in makes me appreciate feeling well and unencumbered by any health problems. Remember to take care of yourselves everybody! There is nothing more important than our health.

Here come the secondaries

At noon, I checked my email, and boom, secondaries! I thought med school primary applications were going out to schools on July 2, but today works too. I got SUNY Downstate’s secondary and Mayo’s fee request, since they don’t have any essays. Who else wishes more med schools would screen their applicants before sending out secondaries? I know those essays give people a chance to show admissions committees what they’re all about besides scores, but it feels like such a drain of effort and money to prepare essays for schools that might disqualify an applicant based on their primary application alone. Oh well, I’d like to think that I would receive those secondaries, screen or no screen!

I’m actually pretty excited this is happening because the last few days have turned into me saying screw pre-writing! and watching the pilots of How I Met Your Mother and Friends to get away. On a more productive note, I finished Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal, which I want to talk about in a separate post. Now that secondaries are coming in, I feel like my work is the real deal, even though pre-writing is “real work” too. Wish me luck!

Verily verified

AMCAS verification

Got verified today! Not going to lie, I was a little concerned that my primary application was still sitting there, “Ready for review,” after being submitted a week ago. Of course, there’s really nothing to worry about since medical schools don’t even start receiving applications until early July. It’s just nice to be one step closer in this convoluted process!