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Posts Tagged ‘medical school application’

This past Friday I had an interview for the med school at my current university. Apparently their interview format intimidates a lot of candidates….which makes me feel slightly guilty for saying that I utterly enjoy the day.

It started with the standards: meet the other interviewees, hear from some person in the admissions department, hear from the curriculum director, hear from a financial aid person. All these dutiful pre-med students take notes throughout the presentations. I was honestly the only one (of 15) who took absolutely no notes. Why? Everything they told us was also included in a packet of papers they gave us. And I sat through them all last year. And, since I am there every single day, it is no problem to simply stop in and ask whatever questions I have (they are very good about that sort of thing).

Then the group split: half went to interviews and half had a case-based learning session. I started with the case-base learning (CBL).

How to describe CBL? Well, it’s basically taking all the facts you would get during a “real” medical case, making a differential diagnosis, discussing your next move, and coming up with a final diagnosis. In the actual curriculum one case is spread across 5-6 weeks, while in the interview we get through most of a case in an hour. The case is split up across approximately 10 pages. Each page has a snippet of information (i.e. chief complaint, medical hx, social hx). One page is read at a time and after each page the group does the following: a) discusses the most pertinent details from that page b)creates of list of all the possible differential diagnoses c) creates of list of questions or further information they would like about the case. In actual medical school the students would do two pages or so and then break for a week with “learning topics.” An example of a learning topic would be to research possible causes of low blood calcium.

Decision: I like case-based learning.

Then…the interview. The U- does their interviews in a slightly different manner from other schools. It is a “blind interview,” meaning that the interviewers know nothing about you except your name and your undergraduate school–they haven’t seen any part of your file. The interview itself is split into two distinct sections: structured and unstructured.

Structured–This section consists of three standard questions asked of every candidate. The interviewers are instructed to not respond to your answers (apparently they have researched this and discovered that allowing them to respond often leads to follow-up questions that get off topic and prevents them from getting all the information they really need). Many people find this to be intimidating because the interviewers simply sit there and occasionally nod or take notes while you just talk. I could honestly take it or leave it. One question is always an “ethical” question with no right/wrong answer. Strangely enough it was exactly the same question I answered last year. Someone asked me (since I was rejected last year) if I changed my answer…of course not, it’s what I believe and I’m sticking with it. I will not lie about my values just to get a spot in a particular school.

Unstructured: My favorite part! It’s just a free-form talk session with the interviewers. This is when they can ask the follow-up questions, satisfy the other burning curiosities, or simply have a discussion. I love talking about medical stuff (well, actually I just love talking in general). So I think having full access to talk about medicine with two MDs is like a dream come true. Apparently this also freaks out people because there is no defined structure. Apparently most medical school candidates are freaked out over everything.

This was followed by lunch and a tour with a medical student. The tour was interesting. It was a with an M1. M1s don’t spend any time in the hospital and don’t have many (if any) classes in the actual medical education building. However, as a public health student all my classes are either in the hospital or the med education building. And working in the hospital….well, let’s just say I’ve spent a lot of time there and am getting rather proficient at navigating the 64 miles of hallways in the building. In fact, the med student asked me to comment on the health science campus and schools at times. And in the hospital…he was quite interested in the little tidbits and details I could add.

All-in-all it was a good day. And I received an email tonight that my final recommendation letter was received. So by tomorrow or Friday the U- will have it downloaded on their servers and my application will be complete and ready for review by the full admissions committee!

And it’s back to the waiting game…

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So much has changed in my life recently! Or if it hasn’t changed yet, it has recently gained large potential for a near-future change.

1. I cut back my work hours at the hospital.

This was a really hard choice. One one hand I was spending 40 hours/week at work and only 10 hours (or less) on school. I was making it, but since the discovery that I really love grad school and love what I am doing, I want to get the most out of the experience and that wasn’t happening with all the work I was doing. My supervisor was really good about the decision and I am down to 24 hrs/week starting next week!

I tend to count my worth by how many hours of work I do in a given week (and I typically don’t count school work) so I equated cutting back work hours with being a failure at life. And there are always financial considerations–but the job really didn’t make a huge difference there. I already had to take out some student loans to cover tuition because I didn’t earn enough for that in addition to my living expenses. (yes, considering the job requires absolutely no degree, it pays decently, but I could get a better paying job that better utilizes my knowledge) Now the job will cover living expenses and that’s it.

And although I love my job, it is physically and emotionally demanding. Even with a healthy degree of separation from the patients (which happens to be one of my few talents), psychiatric work takes a toll on a person. Although I never take the beatings (verbal or physical) personally, one can only take so much abuse. After a while of cursing, and accusations, and manipulations, and altered perceptions, and hitting, and biting, it becomes rather difficult for me to bite my tongue and turn the other cheek. And yet, I have to. Plus, working with people who are also medically sick means I have to put forth quite a bit of physical effort and that is not ideal at this time either.

Basically some work=good for keeping a healthy balance with school. Too little work=an unhealthy obsession with school. Too much work=way too much stress.

2. I was invited for a medical school interview at the university I am currently attending.

Not much to say about that. It’s a good thing. It’s happening at the end of October.

3. I am in conversation with a research team about a different job.

With a psychiatric researcher with a lot of neat projects going on.

The initial offer was hourly (read: no benefits) so my initial desire was to just pick up some hours in addition to my hospital work. But it’s possible that it could be made into a graduate assistantship….which means it could include benefits and a tuition scholarship. I’m meeting with the research team Thursday. Stay tuned.

Oh, and at the end of the email she wrote “with your background and experience we would love to have you involved.” A compliment! It did make me rather happy.

In other news:

I have cut back on exercise. I am dealing with it moderately well, Zephyr is not. He is becoming neurotic. He has always had this obsession with lights (and I mean that in clinical, not colloquial terms). Every shadow or ray of sunlight prompts him into his “light hunting” stance and he stares at it intently and then dances around pouncing on it, wiggling his tail, and sometimes escalating into barking. Within the past week it has become unbearable. I can’t open a three-ring binder, turn a lamp on, read my book before bed, open the door to an unlit room, keep the blinds open at night, keep the blinds open during the day….and more. Last night I completely darkened my room, with the blackout curtains I use to sleep after night shifts, and he was still up until 3  dancing around on the bed chasing some invisible light on the wall. He awoke at 6:30 to start it again and is still at it 3 hours later. This means I got 3 1/2 hours of sleep. And I seriously want to strangle the dog…but I can’t, because I know it’s not his fault. It’s definitely gotten worse since he’s getting less exercise with me. So I have a few things to work on here. I need to wear him down somehow: whether it is running with him (despite the ban from my therapist), making frequent trips to the grassy space outside for tennis balls and frisbees, or going to the dog park. I need to get him some more mental stimulation–with all the work I’ve been doing this has fallen by the wayside and I will start scheduling training in our days. And we just need to deal with the anxiety issues more.

I am still freaking out about weight.

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One of my “to-dos” for my new medical school application is to receive feedback from the schools that rejected me and find out what they saw to be weaknesses in my application. I have emailed some, I plan to call others. My new job is actually at a hospital affiliated with one of the medical schools I applied to (one of my top choices, too) and so I was conveniently able to meet in person with their admissions director. It was an interesting meeting.

She had pulled up my application and made notes on it. I’ll run down it…

Grades: Excellent GPA. Last fall I had a couple difficult classes that I didn’t do so well in because I was pretty sick with the eating disorder and couldn’t focus long enough to read an entire textbook page. In the comments I wrote “extended illness” because I didn’t feel that they really needed to know more than that. She said I didn’t need to take any post-bacc work to raise my GPA. I told her I was starting the MPH program and she thought it was great.

MCAT: Fine. Within their average accepted ranges. She said I could choose to retake it, but it wasn’t really necessary. (I had already registered to retake it, so I continued with it)

Experience: Wonderful. She appreciated that I had worked in so many medical situations (hospital, nursing home, psych and medical units). I had shadowed doctors and really seen what they did and determined that it was what I really wanted. I volunteered in both healthcare and other areas that I had interests in.

Interview: Outstanding. She said they thought I did wonderful on the “structured” portion and I really “blew them away” on the unstructured portion. Apparently, most people who graduate early struggle with the unstructured portion.

Then the written application is reviewed by a committee and given a numerical score. She estimated that I had probably missed the waitlist by 5-6 names. Great.

What I got out of the conversation was that my application was more than sufficient. However, I still didn’t get in. Frustrating, no?

It relieved me from the fear that I hadn’t done enough this year to improve my application because apparently my application is quite good. But at the same time I find myself thinking if this application was good enough this year and I didn’t get in, why the hell would I expect to get in with essentially the same application next year? I suppose I should trust myself…and the admissions professional…

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Sunday (6—8 hours)

  • Take a full length MCAT—CBT 9 from AAMC.

Monday (3—4 hours)

  • Pre-read Lecture 8 Biology; Lecture 9 Biology; Lecture 8 Physics; and Lecture 7 Chemistry.
  • Review answers from Practice Test you took on Sunday.
  • For questions you got wrong, ask yourself if read it wrong or just didn’t know the science.
  • For the questions you got correct, ask yourself if there was a better way to get the answer.

Tuesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 8 Biology.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 8 Biology. Review it.

Wednesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 9 Biology with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 9 Biology. Review it.

Thursday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 8 Physics with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 8 Physics. Review it.

Friday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 7 Chemistry with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take in-class Test for Lecture 7 Chemistry. Review it.

Saturday ( 3—4 hours)

  • Do every third problem in the 1001 Physics and 1001 Chemistry Books, and every third passage in the 101 Biology Book for corresponding lectures. (optional)
  • Take a full length Test from 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning. (optional)
  • DO mini-MCATs corresponding to week 9 (from mini-MCAT book).

Courtesy ExamKrackers.

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Sunday (0 hours)

  • Take a break—DO NOTHING MCAT related.

Monday (2 hours)

  • Pre-read Lecture 7 Biology; Lecture 7 Physics; Lecture 4 Organic and Lecture 6 Chemistry.

Tuesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 4 Organic.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 4 Organic. Review it.

Wednesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 7 Biology with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 7 Biology. Review it.

Thursday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 7 Physics with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 7 Physics. Review it.

Friday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 6 Chemistry with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 6 Chemistry. Review it.

Saturday (3—4 hours)

  • Do every third problem in the 1001 Physics, 1001 Chemistry and 1001 Organic Chemistry Books, and every third passage in the 101 Biology Book for corresponding lectures. (optional)
  • Take a full length Test from 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning. (optional)
  • DO mini-MCATs corresponding to week 8 (from mini-MCAT book).

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Sunday (6—8 hours)

  • Take a full length MCAT—CBT 8 from AAMC or EK – 2

Monday (3—4 hours)

  • Pre-read Lecture 6 Biology; Lecture 6 Physics; Lecture 3 Organic and Lecture 5 Chemistry.
  • Review answers from Practice Test you took on Sunday.
  • For questions you got wrong, ask yourself if read it wrong or just didn’t know the science.
  • For questions you got correct, ask yourself if there was a better way to get the answer.

Tuesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 3 Organic.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 3 Organic. Review it.

Wednesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 6 Biology with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 6 Biology. Review it.

Thursday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 6 Physics with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 6 Physics. Review it.

Friday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 5 Chemistry with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 5 Chemistry. Review it.

Saturday (3—4 hours)

  • Do every third problem in the 1001 Physics, 1001 Chemistry and 1001 Organic Chemistry Books, and every third passage in the 101 Biology Book for corresponding lectures. (optional)
  • Take a full length Test from 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning. (optional)
  • DO mini-MCATs corresponding to week 7 (from mini-MCAT book).

As always a thank you to ExamKrackers.

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But this one is on time 🙂

My life has been in flux the last couple weeks, but hopefully I can get back into some regular posting for the next two weeks before I move yet again…

Sunday (0 hours)

  • Take a break—DO NOTHING MCAT related.

Monday (2 hours)

  • Pre-read Lecture 5 Biology; Lecture 5 Physics; Lecture 2 Organic and Lecture 4 Chemistry.

Tuesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 2 Organic.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 2 Organic. Review it.

Wednesday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 5 Biology with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 5 Biology. Review it.

Thursday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 5 Physics with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 5 Physics. Review it.

Friday (2—3 hours)

  • Read Lecture 4 Chemistry with a highlighter and pen. Take notes.
  • Take In-class Test for Lecture 4 Chemistry. Review it.

Saturday (3—4 hours)

  • Do every third problem in the 1001 Physics, 1001 Chemistry and 1001 Organic Chemistry Books, and every third passage in the 101 Biology Book for corresponding lectures. (optional)
  • Take a full length Test from 101 Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning. (optional)
  • DO mini-MCATs corresponding to week 6 (from mini-MCAT book).

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