|01-13-2007, 11:06 AM||#1|
Who, me? A doctor?
Here is a series of posts dedicated to answering frequent reapp questions - a FAQ. Scroll down to read them, or click on any of the following links to jump to the posts:
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- What did you do differently?
- How did you choose which schools to apply to?
- How to apply to 30+ programs?
- Should you apply Early Decision?
- Essays and Personal Statements: how to write them, and when to revise or reuse them
- How to prepare for the MCAT
- Interview Tips
If you want help improving your application:
- How to get clinical experience
- How to get research experience, and how to make the most of it.
And here's some stories from fellow reapplicants such as yourself from:
If you have any 'pearls' you'd like to share, or if you want to tell your successful re-app story, please send them as a private message me (click on my screen name and select Private Message). I'll take all of the submissions and put them into the FAQ for future SDN users. Thanks in advance for your help.
Disclaimer: These posts are just my thoughts that I've accumulated after applying to ~80 schools over three application seasons. Depending on your point of view, that may make me a a poor source of information!
[X] MS1 - MS3, [X] NIH, [X] MS4
Click to read FAQs on Emergency Medicine, student research, and reapplying to medical school
Interested in EM? Look at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine's Student Resources website and read the results of the 2010, 2009, and 2008 SDN EM Match Surveys
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:32 PM.
|04-10-2007, 06:45 AM||#2|
Alright, I'm a reapplicant, just noticed this thread, thought I'd share my story. First off, to all the reapplicants out there or people who think they might have to reapply, it is possible to get in! I am proof. Last year I applied not fully realizing how hard it is to get in. Obvoiusly, I didn't get in. That's where the decision starts, if this is truly what you want to do, do not give up. The possibility is there.
So what did I do? First off, I made a full evaluation of myself and my application and found my weaknesses. For me it was clinical experience and borderline MCAT. So, before I was even off the waitlists, I started volunteering at a local hospital. They made me jump through some hoops, but eventually I got the position I wanted with more clinical and patient exposure, volunteering in their ER. You really have to want this kind of experience to make it worth while, otherwise you'll get stuck transporting labs or equipment or something, so be proactive about what kind of experience you want if this is something you choose to do. Secondly, I retook the MCAT in August. I didn't do a course, but I did get a new set of books, Exam Krackers this time. What was the difference though? Commitment, confidence and practice practice practice. My score went up 3 points, not huge, but good enough and I mainly attribute it to more detail in studying and just general confidence in taking the test. All the while, I was doing research and really spending a lot of time in the lab and I got 2 publications out of it (1st and 2nd authorship, and hopefully one more to come).
Now, as for your applications. You MUST redo everything, except letters, but if you can get an extra letter from what you're doing in your year off, do it. The personal statement should be different. Themes are ok to stick with, but you really need to dive deeper with it. Be more proactive in explaining how medicine works for you and why this is for you. Use specific examples to back this up as well. Talk about your motivation. Also, in your activities section, don't leave anything out. Include every tidbit of what you did in an activity. For me, I didn't realize how important this was, but when I went back and rewrote the descriptions, I realized I had left out certain things that showed leadership in an activity or left out a small part of my job that involved patient contact. Things that I thought were trivial or didn't think to put in became interesting parts of my application.
At a certain point, it becomes necessary to really sell yourself. Some people are better at this than others, but you need to shape your application in a way that says, hey, look at this, i'm interesting, i've got something here, you should accept me. Also, at interviews, be yourself. Relax. Most interviewers these days do a pretty relaxed style of interview, so just be yourself. Obviously know everything about yourself and have answers to the basic questions, why medicine? why this school? and general knowledge of healthcare and medicine, but more in general, be enthused, and be relaxed and try to make a connection with your interviewer.
I got waitlisted at 4 schools the first year I applied, and this year i've got an acceptance. What it took was some persistance and drive. Just go out and do what you have to do, work on your weaknesses, show you've done something. Also, I think its necessary to stay confident. I didn't get in, but I knew I was good enough for med schools, I just needed to show the schools that.
|05-04-2007, 06:00 AM||#3|
Who, me? A doctor?
- What you did differently that you think helped you get in
I applied 3 times, once during college, once a year later, and then once after grad school. Each time I improved a little.
First Application: Had no idea of what I was doing. Barely got the apps in on time, had a terrible GPA, and little in the way of LORs, ECs. Applied to ~10 schools.
Second Application: Timing of apps was better - right out of the gate for AMCAS, secondaries, and had better ECs and LORs, but GPA still stank. Applied to ~30 schools.
Third Time (the charm): "Completed" grad school, better MCAT, Pubs, medically-related employment, clinical experiences, research. Applied to ~40 schools.
The trends were: Knowing the application process, getting better GPA and MCAT, applying smarter, and getting in those apps faster. I was turning around secondaries in less than two weeks (more on that later). I also applied to a wider range of schools - don't be proud, because more than anything, patients want a doctor to help them, not M.D. from Best Medical School.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 11:53 AM.
|05-04-2007, 06:44 AM||#4|
Who, me? A doctor?
- Did you apply to a different set of schools the second and third times you applied?
- How do you choose which schools to apply to as a re-applicant?
This process is much like the application to residency, as described elsewhere on SDN.
1st time: I actually made up a spreadsheet that compared lowest MCAT and GPA, as reported in the MSAR - I knew from the get-go that my GPA was going to hurt me. There were a few 'dream' schools, but for the most part I aimed for what I thought I could hit, and applied to 10 schools.
2nd & 3rd time: I applied to my state school and just about every private school in the nation.
You apply to your state school, because it's supported by your state, and thereby has to serve the citizens of that state by producing physicians from that state. Confused? How about this: In most cases, this means that you're going to compete with <1,000 in-state applicants for 80-120 seats earmarked for in-staters. The competition is easier because you're on a state level. There are some notable exceptions. The flip side is when you apply to a state school in a different state - then you're competing with 5,000+ out-of-state applicants for 5-10 seats. Big difference.
Private schools are an in-between level of competitiveness, where 5,000-7,000 people apply for 100-200 seats and are all treated equally.
For the most part, I applied to very nearly the same set of schools the 2nd and 3rd time. Over all three times, the main differences were which schools (private and my state) and how many (~30). In hindsight, I may have had more interviews by applying to more (50+), but I had a full-time job in addition to the full-time job of applying.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 11:53 AM.
|05-04-2007, 04:43 PM||#5|
Who, me? A doctor?
- How do you successfully apply to 30+ programs as a reapplicant?
Assuming you've already chosen the schools to apply to, and you already have the stats of an average matriculant, part of it comes from being like a Boy Scout, and part of it comes from remembering the three R's.
First there's the control point of the application process, AMCAS (DOs-to-be, modify my ideas as necessary for AACOMAS). This is the part of process is key because you cannot alter it, and there are important steps that have to occur before and after you submit your AMCAS application. AMCAS is available for entering your data on May 1st (or least it was when I did it) and you can begin to submit it on June 1st. You submit ASAP to give yourself time to write secondaries before a school's deadline. And as re-applicants, you don't need to give a school another reason to file your app into the round file. Before May 1st, you want a few things prepared:
1) A curriculum vitae (CV). You'll need one of these as a doc, and anything you'll apply for in the future will require one. You'd better get used to writing and updating your's as you go along. AAMC has a good example CV, but it is directed towards academics, so delete categories as needed. For now, it'll help you clarify your extracurriculars (ECs) for AMCAS.
2) Letters of Recommendation (LORs). SDN is full of information on getting these and who to ask, but the important thing in this article is time. You need to ask writers for letters about 4-6 weeks before you need them. Since most schools will not accept LORs until they have your AMCAS, that means you need to ask 4-6 weeks before June 1st, or early- to mid-April. When you talk to writers, always give them a current copy of your CV so that they remember you and can laud your accomplishments.
I found the best way to arrange letters is to give writers stamped envelopes addressed to the places you want to apply. I also sent writers emails with the addresses of each institution so they only had to cut & paste the address from the email into the header of their letters.
Then the writer can put each letter into the envelope and seals it (usually with their signature across the flap). I never read my letters, and I usually asked for the stack of sealed letters back, so I could mail them when I needed, but if you've got the timing down well, your writers can just mail the letters themselves. Interfolio makes all of this academic.
3) Transcripts. Remember to get two copies of your transcripts, one for AMCAS to verify, and one for you to enter yourself. This is pretty easy - just make a stop at your Registrar a month before AMCAS opens, but it gets harder (and your start date gets pushed back further) the more schools you've attended.
4) Personal Statement/EC Essays. This one's optional. Your school may have a premedical committee that makes you write your PS earl anyways. I say just have a good idea of how you're going to start and the themes of your PS at this time.
Now that you have your LORs, CV, and transcripts in hand, open up your AMCAS and start filling it out. Since there's no bonus here for finishing quickly, take your time and work on your application essays and make them count. One thing - always save your essays, no matter if you use them in your submitted application or not.
Once you've submitted, it is time to reduce, reuse, and recycle. What does that mean? Well, if you have 30+ applications out, you'll probably get close to that number of secondary applications. Secondaries ask questions similar to the ones in your AMCAS application, but you will need to come up with new answers.
Or do you? If you've saved everything you wrote during May, chances are you'll have a bunch of half-written essays or ones describing ECs that didn't make the final cut. These essays will often answer those secondary application essays, saving you time and emphasizing the same themes you wrote about in your PS. Just cut & paste and rework as needed. Often two different schools will ask very nearly the same question on their secondary - and so you can very nearly cut & paste one answer for both of them.
As the year goes on, you accumulate more essays, and filling out secondaries goes from answering 3-5 essay questions with thoughtful one-paragraph answers, to searching through files to find the ones that fit well-enough and doing a few line edits. Secondary completion time goes from 3-5 hrs to 20 minutes.
I made it a rule to get secondaries out two weeks after I received them. I had a full-time job, so I'd be writing late into the night to get one secondary completed early in the season. As time went on, it got much easier and I would spend a few hours once a week getting 5-6 secondaries completed.
- Hold up, that's 30+ schools! How do you know which ones you completed secondaries on and which ones you haven't?
I made up a spreadsheet and marked down the progress of each school's application. There were spaces for each step of the process - asked for LORs, received LORs, received secondaries, completed secondaries, application deadlines, etc. I just checked them off as each happened. It also became useful when I asked for LORs, and weeks had gone by, but I hadn't heard from a letter writer (which can easily happen if you are employed). I would know to email that writer and (kindly) ask what was going on. It also helps you keep track of your progress - if you have a school's deadline coming up, it's a good idea to prioritize that school's secondary, even though it may have been sent to you later than another school's.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 11:56 AM.
|05-04-2007, 04:59 PM||#6|
Who, me? A doctor?
- Should I apply Early Decision Program (EDP)?
Your primary strategy as a re-applicant is to apply broadly. EDP runs counter to this. If EDP significantly raised your chances of getting in, then it would be a different story. You might be compared within a smaller application pool, you will be up against kids who think they only have to apply at one place. As a re-applicant, you probably don't have an application that can compete at that level, so there is no benefit to you spending a large chunk of the application season waiting until your EDP school releases you to apply elsewhere. The best way you to get an acceptance is to apply as broadly as possible, and that is the thing that EDP restricts.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:08 PM.
|05-10-2007, 06:17 PM||#7|
Who, me? A doctor?
- How to write essays and personal statements
Telling folks how to write essays are like, um, opinions, because everyone's got one. The general rules as a (re-applicant) that I followed were:
1) State why you want to become a doc. Rather like the zeroth law, you have to start somewhere. This should be your topic and it is your chance to sell yourself.
2) Come up with a plan of attack. This plays into 1). If you want to become a doc to find the equivalent of the polio vaccine for the 2000's, then look at your background and find three things that support this thesis. Write a paragraph about each. Put it together with your opener - I want to become a doc to find the next polio vaccine - and then tie it together with a final paragraph. Standard 5-paragraph essay format should get you to your character limit. If you talk about some experience, that experience better be in your EC essays. If it's important enough to be in your PS, it's important enough to take up a slot on your ECs. It also allows you to shift content from your limited PS to the EC essay where you may have more space to describe what you did. While you're doing that,
3) Be positive. It doesn't matter if you're talking about terrible tragedies of Darfur, always be positive. You're trying to sell yourself. Anything less than that will make the reveiwer doubt you.
4) If you have to discuss something terrible, state it, and then be positive. As a re-applicant, if you know you didn't get in because of some poor grades, then state that you got them, state the circumstances, and then move on. That's 2 sentences max - you'll need all of the other space to write about all of the things that make up you. Never over-dramatize. Then, and this part's the kicker:
5) Have a ton of people read it. But not just anyone. If at all possible, have physicians or someone involved with med school admissions read it. While your dad or whomever may be a good writer, or is a reporter for a paper, a family doc is ten times better. Why? Because the family doc is the audience you're writing to. A doc knows whats important. They know what they're looking for. A reporter would help you write a great story, but it may not be one that a doc thinks is important. When you get a lot of people reading it, you'll get tons of critiques. Some of it will be contradictory, and don't take it personally. The PS is a tool to get you admission - not some immaculate work of art. If you have docs (or med admissions folks) reading it, take their advice above all others.
- I'm a re-applicant: Should I redo my PS/whole application?
In general, yes. If last year's application did not work, it only makes sense for you to re-evaluate your entire approach, and that includes your PS and your application essays. If you got a bunch of interviews and were on a number of waitlists, maybe you rolled snake-eyes last year and you can get away with minor revisions. You will still want to update for things you've done in the last year, and you must still always be positive, even though you can write that you didn't get in last time.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:11 PM.
|05-11-2007, 12:13 PM||#8|
Who, me? A doctor?
- How to fill out AMCAS ECs?
This edited is from a post I did awhile back, and I think is still relevant, primarily because most schools won't have a technical or medical person screening and scoring medical applications (see my comments at the end). I hope you find it helpful.
There's several ways to go about it. I listed my research experiences and my publication from those jobs as two different things. My justification is that I did many things while on the job - patient interaction, testing patients, solving problems with equipment, etc. The publication is a detailed description of one experiment and what the results meant. These are two very different things, and I probably confusing to an ADCOM to list them together.
If you have many publications about different facets of the same general research question, I'd lump them together and list their references (so the ADCOM can look them up) and tell the general results (these papers showed that XYZ is good for ABC populations because of 123 reasons). As always, use all of the space you can on your AMCAS. For example, I have biomaterials and biomechanics experience, so I listed these as two different experiences. I listed the strings of publications that resulted from these different projects separately.
In with these guiding ideas, I've thought that while you want to use all 15 EC spots, (assuming you have good stuff to use them on,) you want to use them on a range of items. For example, say you did a year-long research job that resulted in 2 presentations, an abstract, and a full-length journal article. You could list them:
1 research experience (lumping everything together)
1 research experience
1 publication (lump all pubs together)
1 paid job experience (if you've already got a research experience listed)
1 presentation (lump presentations together)
1 publication (lump abstract and journal article together)
I would choose to use this last method. It shows a much greater breadth of experience (uses 4 different categories of ECs) as well as giving you space to write about each separate one. The grouped ones are probably closely related, so you can double-up without sacrificing content. You also condense things enough that you don't look like you're stretching things. Given that most schools probably can only assign some points to each category of EC (e.g. 0-5 points), having 5 good experiences in 5 different ECs is better (4 x 5 = 20 total EC score) than 5 great experiences in 1 single category (5 x 1 = 5 total EC score).
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:12 PM.
|05-15-2007, 11:37 AM||#9|
Who, me? A doctor?
These additions come with contributions from viper2fast505.
- How did you prepare for your MCAT?
V: The first time I took the test I was in Organic 2, Organic Lab, Microbiology,… you know the usual stuff, but it took a lot of time. I only studied an average of 30 minutes a day for two and a half months and only took one practice exam at the back of my kaplan book. I didn’t take a class and that was the only prep book that I ever opened. I got a 31 on the practice test so I thought I was ready. I didn’t sleep at all the night before and I went through the exam in a haze. So I didn’t do as well as I thought. It wasn’t because I didn’t sleep the night before; it was my lack of preparation that hurt me.
R: The first time I took it I enrolled in one of the Kaplan classes. I attended a few times a week after work (I was employed full-time) for 6 to 8 weeks. I came in on Saturdays and studied when I could. My score on the initial test was a 17, and that went up to a 31-32 on the practice exams. That matched my first MCAT of 31. I also got very nervous the night before and slept probably less than an hour, which was my biggest mistake. The best preparation for me (at the time) was the practice exams. They get you used to the pacing of the exam and teaches you how the questions are written.
- How did you improve your MCAT?
V: I talked to my boss and he was cool with me working only half days and the rest of the day I would spend studying. On average I would say I spent 6 hours a day (mon-fri) of good studying. I could go for about 2 or 3 hours then I would take a nap and come back for some more. But I knew from last time it is not enough just to read I wanted to be more active in my studying, that and something to do to keep me awake. I read my Kaplan book taking notes in a notebook leaving space to add more info from other MCAT books. After I got through Kaplan I went to my universities library and they have several MCAT books. They all have about the same stuff in them, they are even organized in a similar way, but they come at the material from a different way. I would add stuff to my notes that Kaplan didn’t cover. By the time I was done I felt that I was really good on the material and that I could point out the flaws that all the books had. So my confidence was really high by the end of summer near August.
After I had covered all the material once I would take a practice MCAT every Saturday at the actual test time and in the building I was scheduled to take it in. I did this for the last 5 weeks up to test time, my average was a 34. When the real test came around it was like any other Saturday and I slept like a rock the night before so I had a good feeling going into it. There is a big dilemma that a lot of people have, what to do the week before the real exam. I don’t know if its that big of a problem now that Saturday is not the only day you can take it, but some people take practice tests right up to the exam. I would advise against that since it’s a lot of work and what happens if you get a bad score it’s too late to learn concepts well enough to apply them. I just used the note book I had been working on all summer to review that last week. It only took me 30 min or so to look over it whenever I was feeling anxious and that was enough to make me feel prepared.
The big difference I made from my first MCAT (27m) to my second MCAT (40P) was the amount of time I spent studying for it. But the more you prepare and practice the better you will sleep the night before I promise.
R: I actually did very little formal preparation for the MCAT the second time I took it. However, I was a grad student in chemistry at the time. I paid the bills by teaching and tutoring chemistry. When you explain the math of pH and C1V1 = C2V2 to a class of 30, three times a week, for a few semesters, it tends to stick with you! I also got very good at describing the same concept different ways – what makes sense to me may not to a student – and I got good at estimating what a student's answer should be, and finding problems in their calculations when my estimate didn't match with their answer. The former helped me quickly see what a problem was testing, and the latter was very good for checking my answers.
Beyond that I spent very little time actually reading books or practicing. I took a few of the practice exams again, to get the feel of the test. Also, I was much more relaxed about the exam. The school I wanted to get into took the best combination of scores, so I felt that I could only improve my chances of getting in. I had a nice dinner the night before, slept a full 8 hours, and was relaxed throughout the exam. I believe this was key because you need to be rested for you brain to endure working at full capacity for an entire 8-hour exam. That last night, don't study. Have a nice dinner – treat yourself to something (but don't drink), because you've spent a lot of time and it's important to reward yourself for working hard.
My second score was a 36. The big differences were greater comfort/practice with the material and feeling relaxed, getting well rested.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:11 PM.
|05-18-2007, 01:39 PM||#10|
Who, me? A doctor?
- Interview tips, especially on questions like "why do you think you didn't you get in last time?"
For me, the above question was easy to answer. I knew I had a poor ugrad GPA. I also knew why I had that number, and I wasn't proud of it, but I also wasn't afraid to discuss it.
For any of you who are reapplying, think hard about why you didn't get in. There's only a few big factors that determine admission: GPA, MCAT, Clinical experience (other ECs go here too), and your interview skills. Don't go calling schools why; Just be frank with yourself and figure out what the most likely candidate is. Be prepared to talk about it, and defend your actions, or not, as appropriate (being a teen father is understandable and commendable, but being a drunk frat boy is something you'll have to show you've grown out of). In the interview, don't blurt it out at the 1st chance - allow the interviewer to have control. If they want to discuss it, they will.
On open vs. closed interviews: If the committee has all of your info, then they know why you didn't get in. Don't talk about it unless they ask you, and if they do, then it's because they want to hear you elaborate on it. If it's closed, then don't talk about it until they ask you - closed interviews are meant to allow people like us to show our good side, regardless of what some number is.
On ethical questions: There's a wonderful site at the University of Washington that will prep you for almost any question they'll ask you. Read through the site and you'll be golden. Remember: Autonomy, Justice, and Benificence! It also serves as a great primer for ethical biomedical research, for those who are interested.
On interview skills: I got a couple of those 'How to get into med school" books and looked for their interview sections. Most have practice questions. I practiced answering those in front of the mirror. It sounds silly, but you need to watch yourself. People give off tons of information through body language, and you need to train yourself to give the best impression. Part of that is through your body language. You can also try taping yourself, and reviewing the tape for tells. You can lean in, which conveys that you're paying attention, but don't be a close talker (or a hypertalker). If your hands shake, hold them in front of you, but never cross your arms across your chest. Look directly at the person, but don't challenge them. If you need time to think about your response, then take it (as much as we want to impress people with how much we know, it's much better to show the interviewers that we can think intelligently on our feet).
Another 'duh' sort of comment, but I knew everything that was in my application, backwards and forwards. If you have it in there, never be caught off guard by an interviewer asking about dead african babies; you better be able to talk about anything in your essays.
Which brings me to my last interview tip. The culmination of all of these techniques is integration. When an interviewer asked something, I would
1) apply the ethical principles presented in the U Wash website using
2) experiences drawn from my essays as supporting evidence, which would reinforce
3) why I was such a good candidate
As time goes on, you get to level of
4) I already had a practiced answer in mind.
Oh, and it should go without saying:
5) Never lie.
It's a lot like technical writing.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on abortion?
Me: Well, I personally don't think I could do it - I'm also not interested in practing in field where I would do such a procedure. Regardless, if a patient came to me for one, I would refuse to do it (it's my right), but I know from my time spent shadowing Dr. Smith, that it would be unethical to not provide care for someone who wanted it (or to be a barrier to care). I would refer them to a colleague who could and would provide the services they needed.
I: What about if they were a teenager and they were pregnant?
Me: It depends on the state. Some states the patient can get an abortion without the parent being informed (Anyone please correct me if I'm wrong). If I'm in such a state, I have to follow the law and I have to respect the patient's right to choose. If the patient was 18, then they're no longer a minor and it's their choice regardless.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:19 PM. Reason: edited for clarity, typos
|06-04-2007, 10:24 AM||#11|
Who, me? A doctor?
- My advisor/ADCOM/tea-leaf-reader said I didn't have enough clinical experience on my last application; How do I improve my application from here?
Many applicants have shadowed a doc a few times. Maybe they spent an afternoon with their GP, or saw a few operations, or talked with their dad's friend who is a pulmonologist. That's just not enough. Why? Because medicine is a very tough career, and ADCOMs want you to be an informed applicant. Here are my guidelines on how to become informed applicants.
1) Volunteer for at least 6-12 months and
2) Volunteer for a shift once a week (~6-8 hrs/wk). You need to form relationships with health care workers (and that means PAs, RNs, DOs, MDs, techs, everyone) to start to see how the very complicated US health care system works. You cannot do this in an afternoon. If you volunteer regularly and work hard, these people will respect and trust you. Ask everyone what they like or don't like about their jobs. See and assist in every procedure you can.
3) Volunteer with the homeless/poor. Don't do it because it'll look good on a resume. These folks generally get very poor medical care and you are in a position to actually do some good, and because there is no-one else there to do it, you might get your hands dirty. It is also important to work with people outside of your socio-/ethnic-/economic-status. Most of your patients won't look like you. See how the rest of America lives.
4) Learn from everyone. By watching, asking questions, and not getting in the way, you can learn a great deal. Its as simple as that.
5) If you aren't getting a good, worthwhile experience, then thank everyone and move on to one that does. It's OK to not like some area of medicine. But it's no fun for anyone involved if you don't want to be there.
If you don't like my advice, you can take LizzyM's, an ADCOM who posts in the Pre-Allo forum: "You have to be able to smell the patients."
I've found that the places that fulfill these ideas the best are urban EDs. EDs are great because they are a longitudinal slice of American culture and they're usually a teaching institution, so everyone's there to learn, just like you. You might see someone die. As long as you keep your head down, you can find out a lot about medicine and yourself.
- How do you set up a clinical experience?
Many hospitals have volunteer services listed in the phonebook, so you can start there. Be aware that they may want you to be a candy striper, which conflicts with your goals. So you may want to look up whichever medical department you're interested in shadowing and call them directly. Again, teaching institutions (e.g. State University Hospital) are a good place to start. You'll often get a department secretary. Tell them you're a pre-med and ask if you can speak to a doc about shadowing. They've probably fielded this question before, so they may even be able to suggest a particular doc. If you strike out, then call a different hospital or department. Cold calling is hard. But as long as you're polite, you're bound to get somewhere.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:21 PM.
|06-25-2007, 05:49 AM||#12|
Who, me? A doctor?
- I just got my rejection, but I already have the total package of grades, MCAT, and clinical experience - should I do research?
- I just got rejected and I have <3.0 GPA / <30 MCAT / no clinical experience - should I do research?
In the first case, yes. In the second, no - a person fitting into that situation, through lack of one or more of the factors listed, should concentrate on those factors first. Does research hurt? No, but an applicant's efforts are better spent by focusing on the first three things any ADCOM will look at.
- How do you set up a research opportunity?
This is a great question and there's tons of ways to go about it. It depends mostly on what you want.
Formal programs are better than informal ones, for one reason which I'll go into later. Look for things like the NIH Summer Research Fellowship Program. You get paid, work with a set of dedicated researchers, and it's a trip to DC. You can also find things in your neck of the woods: The Colorado Cancer Center has a Summer Fellowship Program. I just Googled "research student fellowships" and got a bunch of hits. Also look here. Look at the application requirements to make sure you can apply for any given program. Most will require a transcript, a few letters of recommendation, a letter of intent from you, and a few forms will have to be filled out. This is also how med school apps work, and scholarships, and so on work, so you should get in the habit of lining up these materials quickly. As always, you can increase your chances of getting into one of these programs by applying to more than just one.
Another real easy way to get research experience is by keeping your ears open during class. You will be exposed to many PhDs during undergrad, and nearly all of them will have some research work going on. If there's a prof that you like - is a good mentor and is good with students, then approach them about working for them. While it wouldn't be a formal program, it has the benefits of being conveniently on-campus and can last throughout the school year. There's no secret about it, and most will just tell you yes or no, or ask more about you. Here's an entry I wrote elsewhere that's relevant:
Ideally, a mentor is someone you trust and who has your best interests (i.e. developing your abilities) at heart. As a ugrad student, mentors don't need to be a 'big name', or have a lot of grant money, or even someone in medicine - just having someone backing you up, showing you what it means to do research, is the most important thing.
At this point you're 'kicking the tires' of the career path, and a mentor's job is to clear out the red tape so that you have as rich and educational experience as possible. Learn whatever tools you need to conduct your assays, or studies, or whatever, but focus on the process of refining a hypothesis, designing an experiment that tests that hypothesis, and including good controls. Knowing what your results mean (both what you expect to happen, and what your controls confirm or deny) is also very important. Other things like stats and protocol design sort of shake out of the process from there.
Last edited by RxnMan; 08-07-2007 at 12:22 PM.
|06-25-2007, 06:08 AM||#13|
Who, me? A doctor?
- How do I get the most out of a research opportunity?
There are a few things that any job in research should get you:
1) Experience with refining a hypothesis, designing experiments that test that hypothesis, conducting those experiments, and critically interpreting the results, with the intent of accepting or rejecting your hypothesis.
2) Learning some lab techniques.
3) The possibility of getting a letter of rec from your Principle Investigator
4) Some $$$
5) Learning the ancillary stuff of research, like writing up your work and presenting it.
There's all sorts of other things that go on with research, but these are the five things you as an applicant want to focus on. #1 comes from having a good mentor taking you through the scientific process a few times. Don't worry if it doesn't make much sense after a year in a lab - it takes a few iterations to get the process right (otherwise PhDs would only take a year!). I hold that #2 is incidental, and is just a hurdle to getting to thinking about hypotheses. You'll almost never focus on this when talking about your work anyways. You get #3 by working hard and listening to your PI. That's it. Make a good impression by working hard and you'll have someone willing to help you become a MD. #4 is where you have to pay your bills. #5 is where a formal research program may be better than an informal one with your prof.
The problem with having research on med school applications is that they are of such varying quality. Unless it's some sort of well-known program (where something formalized at a well-known institution may be better,) ADCOMs have trouble judging the value of your EC. Were you Pasteur Jr., or were you a bottle-washing lab monkey? Some of this comes out in your LORs and your essays, but the best way to convey the value of your work is by getting a publication. Why? Because it says that your PI, or a review by your peers, thinks your work has enough scientific merit to warrant being shown off.
Publications range from posters to journal articles. You don't need a 1st authorship in Nature, but you should have something that summarizes your efforts. Formalized programs often have a small conference at the end of the summer where program participants are required to put together a poster and present it. Knowing this, PIs will give participants small independent projects that can be completed in a summer.
You can do this working for your prof at school, but it takes more effort on your part. Do the work your PI assigns you, of course, but as you get familiar with the techniques and the way the lab runs, ask for an independent project. It may help to first find a local conference - there's often ugrad/grad research days at large universities - and then approach your PI. Simply tell them that you'd like to have some small project of your own to present at such-and-such conference. If you're a good worker, most PIs will take this as a sign of you wanting to contribute more and will help you out. As you play the research game more and more, you can start to use conference abstract submission dates as your deadlines to motivate you and to give projects a specific start and end date.
Last edited by RxnMan; 09-16-2007 at 11:49 AM. Reason: Dead links
|06-28-2007, 06:24 PM||#14|
I had applied in 2005-06 with no interviews. About 10 allopathic schools (most were pretty high reach schools, bad idea I know), 4 osteopathic schools.
My GPA was low b/c I was an electrical/computer engineering student at a pretty tough engineering school. Plus no biology background, and a poor MCAT score (26Q). I didn't have my premed coursework complete until Spring 2006 also (I took a lot of them as a post-bac, including Gen Chem II, Bio II, and O Chem labs.) I had some work experience after college (I was in the Navy for a little, and worked in a hospital), but that wasn't enough to help fenangle me into medical school...
Net result in 2005-06: 1 interview offer (an osteopathic school I hadn't researched very well, and in a very rural area I wasn't familiar with, so I declined). No acceptances.
Reapplied in 2006-07. Retook the MCAT in August 2006 after taking a Kaplan classroom-based course. I recommend this highly to anyone willing to fork over the big bucks and for anyone who needs a daily kick in the tush for 2-3 months before the test. Another bonus: all of my pre-med courses were complete (definite help in making my application look better, not to mention a help for me when I retook the MCAT). Plus I took some extra courses b/c of personal interest and to help with the MCAT: biochem, microbiology, medical terminology, some history courses, and some language courses.
In 2006-07, I applied to a few more schools (about 15 allopathic, 3 osteopathic). More lower tier schools and less reaches. (I learned an expensive lesson.)
I asked for new letters of recommendation, and stuck with the old ones that I knew were outstanding. Applied much earlier! I had waited until the last minute in 05-06 (October for AMCAS, December/January for secondaries)...in 06-07 I pushed and got everything done (AMCAS and secondaries) in July/August, except for my MCAT score (which came in October). Higher MCAT score: 32Q (I am indebted to Kaplan).
Net result in 2006-07: 5 interviews. 3 acceptances. I'll be settling into an allopathic school next fall.
And I'm very happy that I persevered with the (awful) application process one more time. Any questions, shoot away.
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