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In today’s episode of the TTP IS, we’re chatting with Jordan, Yale University graduate with a BA in history. Jordan is currently applying to medical schools. He scored a 523 on the MCAT!!

TTP: Hi there, Jordan! Thank you for participating in our TTP IS! This series is a unique opportunity for SDN pre-meds to read about people in the medical field such as yourself, and gain insight on what strategic steps you are taking as a pre-med, to hopefully gain acceptance to medical school. Please, tell us all about yourself. Was it hard to pursue a pre-med track while studying history in undergrad? Did you always want to become a doctor? Tell us all about your experience.

Jordan: Hi! The pleasure is mine! It’s pretty cool to be featured in this series. I graduated from Yale this past May (2017) with a degree in history, which actually surprises some people. I think the older generation expects pre-med students to major in more traditional fields like biology or one of the natural sciences, but it’s actually becoming more common for pre-meds to study subjects in the humanities or social sciences. Truthfully, it wasn’t so hard completing the pre-med requirements and studying history. If you’re taking classes you genuinely enjoy, whether in the sciences or history, then the limitations imposed by the pre-med requirements become much more manageable. As for my desire to pursue medicine, I was never one of those kids who grew up knowing they wanted to be a doctor. I started as someone who knew they liked the sciences, and my interest in medicine developed slowly from there. It wasn’t until my experiences working and shadowing in hospitals that I became confident I wanted to become a doctor.

TTP: How inspiring. You are totally right when you say that it is becoming more common for pre-meds to also study the humanities or social sciences. Taking that into account, can you please tell us more about what your undergraduate experience was like? Yale has one of the most beautiful campuses. You must have been inspired studying there. Did you become involved in any school activities or groups? Please tell us about your extracurriculars, what helped supplement your breadth of knowledge (and your resume), and if any one particular experience was especially meaningful.

Jordan: You’re absolutely right, Yale’s campus is stunning - I think as students we sometimes become desensitized and lose sight of that. I imagine people must envision Yalies spending 100% of their time in the library, but that’s far from the truth. Campus life was constantly bustling with activity, and you almost felt guilty for not participating in some activity or group. For most of my college career, I worked a student job during the week, but I also became heavily involved in my fraternity and residential college, Saybrook (Yale’s equivalent of Hogwarts houses). I also played on Yale’s club baseball team, and in my senior year began hosting a radio show on Yale’s student-run radio station. My two international experiences, though, both coming over the summer, we particularly meaningful.

I spent the summer after my freshman year living with a host mother and studying French in Paris and spent the following summer conducting immunology research in a lab in Israel. Aside from the fun that comes with traveling, I think the experience of living abroad forced me outside of my comfort zone, allowing me to reflect on and refine my interests.

TTP: Wow! Living in Paris must have been so fun (and filled with tasty pastries ;)). And what a unique, insightful experience you must have had researching in Israel. What are your plans for your gap year? Do you have a top-10 list of schools you hope to get into? And what’s your timeline for submitting your applications?

Jordan: I’m currently teaching a math elective at a public middle school in NYC through a company called SAGA Innovations. So far, I love it! It has definitely been challenging, but watching my students improve and succeed has been so incredibly rewarding. I actually haven’t allowed myself to create a ranked list of schools for myself; I’m trying not to allow myself to get too attached to any particular school in order to mitigate the inevitable disappointment inherent in med school applications. I’ll admit that I would really like to attend medical school in NYC since I’m originally from Long Island and currently working there. Fortunately, with my work aligning with the school year, I had this summer to submit my applications. I made sure to submit my primary and all secondaries before work began in late August, and now I’m playing the waiting game that’s a part of the months-long interview season.

TTP: Watching students improve is indeed rewarding. It's wise you have not created a ranked list of schools. Minimize the opportunity for disappointment! Can you tell us more about your experience studying for the MCAT - both the process of studying for the MCAT and applying to medical school? Was anything particularly troublesome for you? Did you grow grey hairs when studying for the MCAT?

Jordan: Honestly, I think I was pretty lucky with my MCAT studying and AMCAS (med school application) submission. I handled both over consecutive summers, allowing me to fully dedicate myself to them, instead of having to juggle schoolwork (and of course my social life). The hardest part, I think, is coming to terms with the fact that your MCAT preparation and AMCAS app won’t be perfect. With all the information on the MCAT and the volume of essays needed for the application, it can be hard to move through them efficiently without spending too much time on any one single item. I won’t pretend that studying and applying weren’t two of the most stressful things I’ve had to do, but for me, the timing allowed me to manage them and my stress pretty well.

TTP: Yes, studying for the MCAT over the summer, then taking the MCAT over the summer, is a great way to allow enough time to fully dedicate yourself to the fulltime job of studying for the MCAT. Unfortunately, the MCAT is often the largest hurdle that keeps people from matriculating in medical school. What was your strategy? Did you find any secrets?

Jordan: I wish I had some crazy secrets to reveal, but instead I can just share my strategy which worked for me. I started my preparation well enough in advance - about 3 months before my desired test date. I think what worked best for me was not marrying myself to a certain number of hours studied - I have friends who have told me they plan on studying 500 hours (I made that number up, but something like that) for the MCAT, but I find that number sort of random and irrelevant. I believe in finding a study program and sticking to it. I used Exam Krackers 10-week self-study program, which kept me on track to cover all the necessary material. My “secret,” if I have one, is to start early, and rotate study topics. That way, everything is fresh in your mind, and you don’t find yourself needing to cram the week before your test.

TTP: Good point. I am sure not marrying yourself to a certain number of study hours also helped keep the study process more organic, with more flexibility if something stood in the way. At this point, do you know what type of medicine you would like to practice? If so, what draws you toward that specialty?

Jordan: I can’t say I know what type of medicine I would like to practice. My scientific-medical experiences have coincidentally focused on leukemia, but I could see myself going into a number of specialties. I think what’s most important to me, at least right now, is the type of work afforded by my future specialty: I want to have the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with my patients while also conducting clinical research in my field.

TTP: Terrific! We'll look forward to innovations you create in this field. Does working as an MCAT tutor help you to maintain your knowledge of the fundamentals?

Jordan: Now that I’m out of school, working as an MCAT tutor has been a great way to maintain my scientific knowledge and my academic mindset. That being said, I believe much of the material covered on the MCAT will be reviewed in the first few months of medical school.

TTP: Do you have any future aspirations to study or practice abroad?

Jordan: At this point in my life, I’ve been lucky enough to travel and study abroad a few times, and I’ve grown to really enjoy travel. I don’t know if I want to practice abroad, but if the opportunity presented itself to spend time doing meaningful work in another country, I would seriously consider it.

TTP: Let’s end on an inspiring note. Have any other tips that you would offer pre-meds?

Jordan: It may sound cliché, but I encourage any pre-meds reading this to stay true to themselves. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the pre-med lifestyle: conducting research, involving yourself in prototypical pre-med extracurriculars, and studying your butt off. But I think it’s so important to recognize and remember that each student has his or her own unique interests and own unique path to medicine. For me, “staying true” meant continuing to devote significant time to playing baseball and later hosting a weekly radio show. My radio show became the highlight of my week - it wasn’t science related or really academic at all, but I think it’s important to remain human and enjoy yourself while you’re young and can afford to. In short, amidst all the pre-med activities and work, I hope pre-meds remember to pursue their outside interests while they still can.
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