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Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011

The Medical School Application Guide

Everything You Didnt Think You Really Needed to Know, But Secretly Yearned to About Applying to Medical School- At least, I Hope I Got Everything

Crystal Nnenne Azu

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011

Why am I Writing a Guide?

The skeptic- I mean, there are plenty of guides out there already for the med school application process, arent there? Yes, Skeptic, youre right, there are. But, none of them are written by me. Haha. Seriously though, as I have realizedmost of them are not quite complete, just major points like MCAT, how to interview, blah. In this guide, I hope to be very HONEST and get down to the nitty-gritty details that most people dont talk about, dispel some rumors (oh the rumors!), help some of you relax (cuz I know yall need to), save some money, and give you pointers so that you can have a fabulous experience applying to medical school. Sonow the skeptic is like, Well, why do you think you are qualified to write about applying to med school? Well, Skeptic, no qualifications are needed to write about ones experiences, Im just writing the truth of what I saw and feltbesides that, I applied to many schools and went on enough interviews to make me feel confident about strategies and tips to handle the process. So, there!

The Basics: Becoming a Good Applicant

Overall tip Dont be the applicant who just did the minimum or the applicant who just did certain activities to get into medical school because medical schools, and especially interviewers, can tell. I promise you. And also, they know when youre not genuine. My hope is that you were able to, in your four years of college plus whatever extra, do something you are passionate about, an activity you thoroughly enjoyed. Those experiences, what you gained from them, and how well you articulate that end up being some of the aspects that help you get in to the school of your choice. I think most of you have the basics down pat. Grades, MCAT, Recommendations, Personal statement, Essays, Extra-curriculars, shadowing, research, etc. You know you need all of these to be on point read below to find out how I got myself to be on point (or kind of on point haha) in a few of these aspects. MCAT Oh man, so, I did NOT like my score but it has grown on me. For the MCAT, my advice is to know how YOU study, know what works for you. How I studied: I did not take a class. Heck no! Not for 2000 dollars. I used ExamKrackers, practice MCATs, prayer (oh, yes, Lord), and old MCAT exams to study. For me, I tried to study 5 days a week in the mornings and evenings for three months. But, thats not for everyone. Notice I said tried, some days didnt work out. If you KNOW that you are not the kind of person who is motivated to study on your ownstart saving for that Princeton/Kaplan/Examkrackers course now. Seriously. Because MCAT strategy is discussed ad nauseum in other guides, I wont say too much more. Except this- Your MCAT score is not the end all, be all. Really. I know I was shooting for that high score because I thought I HAD to have that to get in to medical schooland because I went to Emory with people who do really well on tests lol. Dont let your homie with the 36 or your classmate with the 41 scare you. Regardless of your score, high or low, it wont be what gets you in to medical school. I dont like to talk numbers too muchbut I will say this: If you have a 21 on the MCAT, Harvard may not be where you want to aim, try state schools and schools that say they will take your score- keepin it real-, 2

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 but if you have a 27 and a good app, please do not be discouraged, apply to those top schools! Yes, with a 27!and if you have a really high score (esp if youre a URM), dont just shoot for unranked or lower tier schools because you have so little faith in yourself. And dont put all your eggs in one basket by going only for the top 10. Use common sense. My last piece of advice for the MCAT issue, please dont be that applicant who is like Oh my gosh, I only got a 33-39 on the MCAT, I guess I have little/no chance. Theyre all over and some of you may even be like this. If you say things like this, here are a few harsh possibilities- 1) You have really low self-esteem and little faith in your capabilities- Pray about this please; 2) Somebody led you astray that your score would not be good enough- Which is why you need to read this guide; or 3) the most likelyyoure merely seeking that stamp of approval from somebody to tell you, oh my gosh, are you kidding me, thats a great score. YeahI said it. Its time to let go of that thinking. I dont want any of you to underestimate yourselves; its really not worth it, so Im going to be blunt and hopefully help you come to your senses. Are there people who have these scores and dont get in? Yes. But, remember, MCAT is not the whole storyschools reject for many reasons (See: I Got Rejected, Why?). Personal Statement Ill list my tips out for the personal statement sectionHonesty Be yourself, be honest, know your audience. In my personal statement, I alluded to my faith and certain true experiences I did not water it down to appease the reader, because its MY personal statement and I am going to be honest. I would recommend the same for you. You want the school that will fit you, so be yourself so you can pick the best choice and the best choices can pick you. Catchy Here is the first sentence in my personal statement: Next up is Crystal, the Firefighter! yelled Mrs. Horner, my kindergarten teacher. Did that grab your attention? For the purposes of this exercise, I will assume you said yes, yes it did. That is the kind of thing you should try to do in your personal statement. Dont overfill it with such things, but keep it light and somewhat conversational, yet professional. How do I know this works? Partly because of the advice Ive received from medical admissions and other doctors. But, also because during the interview process, my personal statement (and specifically, that line) came up in half of my interviews. Yeah, I was surprised. Interviewers from different schools should say It was a delight to read your application. Thats the kind of response you want to hear. And, they dont have much reason to lie to you. You want them to enjoy reading your application, because it helps them to remember you when they are discussing you during that committee meeting. Substance You wanted to be a doctor since you were five years old after your grandmother died from a heart attack. Yeah, so did 20,000 other students. Theres got to be more to it than that! You need to search for substance in why you want to be a doctor. Really ask yourself, why this profession? Ask yourself- Why not law? Why not nursing? Why not P.A School? In my personal statement, I talked about the experiences that led me to the path I am on- I talked 3

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 about health education, serving the underserved, international medicine, and my desire to be in a career that was spiritually fulfilling and exciting, yet challenging. For you, it can be a systemic problem you see in health care, Egyptian medical practices, an episode on Greys Anatomy, whatever. Okay, maybe not the Greys example. Flow Read your Personal Statement out loud to make sure it sounds good too. If you find yourself trailing off because what youre hearing come out doesnt sound that great, you may need to do some editing! You want it to have flow as you have no idea WHO will be reading your Personal statement; the person could very well like to read things out loud for review. Editing Have someone read and edit your personal statement. In fact, have multiple someones read and edit your personal statement. One of my mentors (get a mentor too!) is a Cardiologist, he looked over my personal statement and gave me tips on what to add or explain further. Another person I asked to look at my statement looked more into the grammar and style. Use your network to have skilled people read over your statement. Please. I remember seeing people write on SDN, my personal statement was crap. Well, thats a crying shamebecause you knew you had to write it, so there should be no excuse for less than on point. Recommendations Do yourself a favor and find good, solid people who like you in order to write your recommendations. I promise you, it will help. When you have a lower score on your MCAT, like all positive parts of your app, good recommendations really help. You want to find people who can write GLOWING letters for you, like you were their own child. Im for real. I have not read my recommendations, but I do know that they are good and at one interview, my interviewer told me I cant read what anyone has said herebut they really like you at (my undergrad) You want your interviewer to get that vibe from your letters, so choose wisely and choose carefully. If someone is hem-hawing and are not sure about writing you a recommendation because they actually really want you to go to Graduate School and get a PhD in Biophysics or something, you may want to skip them over. When a person has reservations about the decision you are making, this could show up in your letter! Sometimes it wont, but I would recommend just simply going to possible recommenders who are enthusiastic about your future medical career not the P.I at that research opportunity you did over the summer just because. The P.I may be someone who thought you were going to do a PhD in his or her field. (Of course, if your P.I is supporting your goals, ask them to write one!) Extra-Curriculars Have the extra-curriculars and be prepared to talk about them especially about what you learned from them. My suggestion is to have the research, shadowing, clinical, volunteering, and etc. experiences so that youre not in an interview and someone asks you Why dont you have research experience? It never seems to quite set the tone for a fun interview. BUT, dont just do the bare minimum and dont try to do things just to impress a certain type of school. Some schools are heavily into research and really want students who will do researchdont do two years of research in some lab at your school just 4

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 because (enter medical school here) likes research, because if you actually dont like it, it may not be the school for you (and some of these schools require research or scholarly project during medical school).

When? When I was planning to apply for the 2010-11 cycle, I got a lot of bad information and negative input. Let me explain. Here was my timeline: I sent my AMCAS August 6th or so, took the MCAT August 20th, and finished all my secondaries by early October and gradually became complete at different schools. You often hear that by June 1st is when you should submit your primary otherwise all hell will break loose. Well, for me, I was still writing my personal statement, studying for the MCAT, moving to a new state, and doing a bunch of other things and so, June 1st just did not work out for a sista. In May and June when I would talk to other med school applicants and hopefuls about my planned AMCAS submission date, they would say stuff like Thats really late You may want to apply next cycle What if your MCAT is not good? Its a lot for you to be working, moving, and applying to medical school. Why dont you do it next year? So, I listened (sort of) to these people and began to worry that I was too late in the cycle and that medical schools would have no time to interview me and I would be stuck with interviews at lame medical schools. Okay, none of them are actually lame, but you get my point. Well, all those things I was hearing were not true. At all. Instead, I ended up getting invited to several interviews and interviewed from the end of October through the end of February. So, thank goodness I did not listen to those people because I would have been applying a year later than I needed to. BUT, dont apply like I did. APPLY EARLY!!!! Dont procrastinate. Start thinking about your personal statement early, I mean like March or April if you feel you need that much time. If your family income is within 300% of the poverty level for your family size, apply for the fee waiver between January and May so you can be ready to APPLY EARLY. Benefits to applying early: You get your interview invites earlier on (not an absolute for all schools, though) which helps you feel better about the process, you can hear back from schools a lot earlier (for those that are rolling), you can start the academic year, if youre currently in school, knowing that you have gotten that stuff out of the way, and lastly, from my perspective, it improves your chances. Does applying in October mean you wont get in? No. Does applying in June guarantee a spot? No. But there are advantages to being earlier in the line. There are no real absolutes with applying. The thing is, for schools that do rolling admissions and start filling up their classes, the competition can get fiercer as the year goes along. I have friends who ended up with limited choices, partly because they applied lateand they made me promise to apply early, so I am passing on their advice. In the event that things dont work out for June application, never fear. You can still do well in the process and get plenty of interviews/acceptances!

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 Picking Schools I wanted to go to a great medical school with the resources to provide me diverse opportunities, exposure to underserved populations, and more. So, I applied to some of the top medical schools. I also applied to schools, though not as highly ranked, had more community outreach, merit scholarships, innovative curricula, better clinical preparation, etc. When picking schools to apply to, if you have the time, do the research on those schools. Have some ideas about what types of things youre looking for: City, suburb, rural, diverse, warm climate, cold climate, friendlier city, low cost of living, etc and use this to help you decide what schools to choose. Dont apply to schools in the middle of nowhere knowing good and well that you are not planning to live there for four years. Additionally- name isnt everything. The top schools may not give you the medical education or academic environment that you are looking for, necessarily- the best research schools are not necessarily the best schools for you. As for how many schools to pick? There is no set number I can tell you, but here is some feedback. On average, students apply to 12-14 schools. Pick a number that you can afford. If you cant afford to apply to 20 schools, you may want to pick less of the reach schools or schools that you KNOW you wouldnt attend. Secondaries Every school has a secondary. Some secondaries are annoying and redundant. Youre like: What? I thought I put all this on my primary? Yeah, I dont know what thats about, but just fill the application out anyway. Some people dont apply to schools because the secondary is long. Well, I think in this process, hard work is necessarydont tell me youre going to miss out a chance on a possible acceptance because of the length of the secondary. If you dont want to apply, let it be for something substantial. I actually found that some of the longer secondaries asked me some really interesting questions that allowed me to express who I was as an applicant. Think about it. Also, take the secondary serious. There are rumors that schools dont read the secondary, or the primary, or recs, or whatever. Well, I find this from my experiences to be highly unlikely. There has to be something used for evaluation and its not just the interview and MCAT score. Use the secondary to really show the reader who you are and why they should pick YOU over Joe/Sue Somebody. Be honest and thorough. Most of these schools get 5000 applications and pick maybe 200-300 students, if that. Do what you can to stick out in the minds of the committee! Take your time in writing them so that they are good, but not too much time. I did 22 secondaries in six weeks, and I thought I was moving slowly becauseI wasnt in school to see how others were doing theirs and didnt have a guide to give me advice. Haha. As it turns out, I wasnt moving slowly. Now that I look back, I was working a little too hard lol. Anyway, I cannot tell you how much time to take on your secondaries, but what I can tell you is not to let it drag on. Be disciplined and consistent about getting them done. If youre still doing them and its Thanksgiving, youve taken too long, in my opinion. If you applied early like I recommended, I would also recommend that you be done with your secondaries latest by the middle of October. Aim for earlier if you can. If you apply late (aka August) like I did, I also recommend finishing by the middle of October. Lol. Can you say time crunch? If you 6

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 didnt read it before in this guide, Ill say it again- Apply Early! (If you apply in October, then you obviously didnt read this guide lol. But, if you do, apply and then finish those secondaries ASAP.) Also, dont let writing the secondaries consume your life. If you can get feedback on them, do so. Make sure they are quality and dont BS them. You dont REALLY think that the admissions committee cant sniff that stuff out, do you? Further, feel free to reuse secondary essays (that YOU wrote). Many medical schools have the same essays every year word for word, so its good to use that to your advantage. And several medical schools will ask you the same question, so reuse what you wrote, change it a bit and move on to the next question. Also, something that I realized too late- people on put up the questions for the schools before you may have received your secondary. Use this to your advantage as well. Copy all those questions into a Microsoft Word document to give you an idea of the types of questions the schools will ask. Most schools dont screen for secondaries anyway, so youll probably get several. If you think about, or even better, work on the questions beforehand, you can submit your secondaries pretty quickly. Sidenote: Some medical schools have very boring secondaries with one question about Why do you want to come to _______ School of Medicine? or What have you been doing since you finished school? Be aware that this can be to your disadvantage if parts of your application are weak. If a school has just this one question, make it count! If you have a weaker application (as far as grades, MCAT, recs, etc), you really want to be able to use the tools you can control (Recommendations to an extent, Personal statement, Secondary, Interview) to make an excellent impression. The principle here, for clarity, is the less in-depth the question from a school, the less they will know you as an applicant and your ability as a future medical professional, so make what you do say count. Supplemental Materials Most schools like asking for photos nowadays. The passport sized photo with the single colored background showing your face and shoulders is what you need. Have some of these ready to send or scan to schools. Notice how I described the type of picture you should send. DO NOT send pictures of you: with other people, holding a shot glass, in a model/fierce/sexy pose, or anything outside of specific parameters set by the requesting school. Think professional. If youve graduated, send your graduation pic where you are in your cap and gown if you want to be a little jazzy. Please dont show skin. Why did I say all of this? Because, simply put, one wrong move with even a photo and you could be looked over. Ouch. Furthermore, before you send a school your sixteen recommendations, your artwork, ten of your publications, or all the random volunteer work you have ever done in collegedo your research. Find out from a school WHEN they will accept material, WHAT type of material they will accept, WHO you should send it to, and HOW you should send it.

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011

Preparation For every interview, I thought it best to prepare by knowing what the school was like on paper. I read their websites, got somewhat familiar with curriculum and the features that make the school unique so I could articulate well why I would apply and possibly attend. This is a good strategy for making sure that you know what the school has to offer. You dont have to do this, of course, but, I believe its better to be prepared than not. I also contacted students to prepare for the interview. You can request contact information from various schools for the president of an organization or a specific type of student. Typically, because I am an under-represented minority, I contacted presidents of the SNMA and usually, their information was already provided to me. When you email students, you can ask them a lot of questions about their experience as you figure out the level of interest in attending said school and whether the student body contains the types of students you would want to be (stuck) around for four years. General Preparation: Arrive early, so plan ahead. Dont be the person who came late or last through the door. As soon as you arrive, people (Admissions Staff, Student Ambassadors, etc) are watching and taking mental notes but dont be paranoid. Essentially, do your best to present the image of an individual who is prepared and ready to go! Make sure you know where you are going the morning of the interview; the building, room, what time, etc. Also, make sure you are familiar with the schedule of the day and how long you will be staying for the interview day. Find out if the school gives breakfast. If they dont, please make sure you eat. Some of you dont eat breakfast- well, eat breakfast for your interviews! It will be hours before you have a chance to eat again and with walking on tours, anxiety, interviewing, etc, you will most likely be hungry soon enough. Dress professionally. Wear a suit jacket and try not to wear overly bright colors. It can distract the interviewer. Treat it like a job interview and wear what is deemed appropriate. Ladies, if you must wear heels (I never did), please make sure theyre comfortable. You will be walking quite a bit on the interview day.

What To Expect During the Interview Day: The interview days at universities are pretty similar. Each one may have it in a different order or have different lengths of time, but they are pretty much the same. Heres what will happen (typically): Orientation/Introduction session some staff member of the director of Admissions or a dean will talk with you for a bit about the day and some other information 8

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 A session about the school and the curriculum, financial aid, etc. so you can learn some stuff you may not know and ask questions like Do I need to send a deposit and, if so, is my deposit refundable? (Hey, thats important!) Some schools may not have this session, but most do. Lunch Sometimes a lunch can say a lot about a school Tour this could be any mix of the building for the school of medicine, the medical school campus, the university campus including portions of undergraduate campus, the university hospital, the city hospital, etc. Free time use this time to talk with students, sit in on classes, look around, talk with staff in the Office of Multicultural Programs or another office, etc. The interview, of course! This could be one, two, or three interviews; in the case of a few schools, it is a panel interview. Interviews can range from 25-60+ minutes. Your interview time doesnt necessarily correlate with how well length you did, so dont freak out!

Navigating the Interview Day Process Vigilance Take notes, written or mental, when at the interview. As much as they are looking at you to see if you fit, you should be figuring out if they fit for you. There were some schools that looked so awesome to me on paper, but when I got there, I wasnt impressed or the students gave me a bad vibe. If youre not vigilant, you may miss the small cues that speak volumes about the school. Were students around and available to talk? Or were they too busy with their med school stuff to see potential students? Does the admissions office or do the faculty seem invested in the student body? Do you feel welcome here? Optimism Try to enjoy the interview day and interview process. You might as well; youre going to be at that school for a pretty long day. Confidence & Relaxation Know thyself. Know the school. There is no need to be nervous or anxious when coming to the interview. They just want to have a conversation with you, remember? Just relax. Scheduling For the most part, schools will work with you to secure a good date for your interview. Some schools will email you and say, this is the date of your interview. Being a working woman, this usually didnt work for me so, I had to move things around. Most schools are amiable to this. Many schools also ask you to call or email to schedule, which is great because you can pick your own date. Hopefully, you will find a date that you can stick to. Admissions Staff Do your best not to piss off or annoy the admissions staff. This means no ridiculous requests or things that will inconvenience them. You dont want to be that applicant theyre laughing about at the office (seen it happen!) for ridiculousness.

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 Packing I took buses or short train rides for some interviews since I am in the Northeast, but for the few that I took planes for, I was very careful about my packing. My recommendation is to pack lightly and to go with just a carry on. This way, you dont have to pay baggage fees going back and forth and save yourself ~$50 per trip. If you love spending money, no problem, take two checked bags if you like! Haha. My recommendation though, is to save where you can, the process is costly. Interview Day Issues If you go on enough interviews, you will probably have an interviewer who comes late, comes very late, or doesnt show up at all. Dont let it faze you, it happens. Personally, I dont think someone should be signing up to interview students if their schedule is too full, but it happens anyway. Dont let it shake your poise and confidence. Flights If you can manage it, try to schedule interview days on Tuesday-Thursday. Monday and Friday interviews are usually going to lead to you having more expensive flights, so just keep that in mind. If you, like me, find it better to do Monday and Friday interviews because of work or school, try to find flights as early as possible. I found flights could be cheaper when searching during the week instead of on the weekends. Also, if you can, try to do multi-destinational flights for multiple interviews in a set timeframe. It may be a rough couple of days, but doing so can save you money and time in the end. Do what works for you. Hosting My motto (of many mottos), if you will, during the interview process was Every school has a hosting program. In case you are unaware, a hosting program means that a student will allow you to stay in their place the night before the interview or whatever other arrangement free of charge. In all the interviews I attended, I only found one school that didnt arrange a host and that was in DC, so being close to home, it didnt matter. But, with the right preparation, I could possibly have secured a host there as well. Heres the thing. Many schools dont actually TELL you they have a hosting program. But, if you have the motto every school has a hosting program in your head, this means youll ask about getting a host and the admissions office or contact will inform you of how to go about doing so. Be persistent if they give you the run around. This never happened for any of the schools I interviewed at, but Im just telling you so you can be prepared. I emphasize getting a host because spending money on hotels is a waste if you could have stayed somewhere for free. If you like wast- er, spending your money, you can go ahead but just know that I recommend hosting because this process is already expensive. Also, an added benefit it gives you an opportunity to talk candidly with a student or students the day before the interview about the school and their experience there. This can calm your nerves for those still nervous the night before. o What if I cant find a host? Understandably, things happen that may prevent you from staying with a student. Here are some things to consider- Do you have family close to where your interview is? Does a friend from undergrad live close by to the school? Do you have a friend or classmate who actually goes to the medical school or other school 10

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 on that campus? If none of these avenues can find you a way, then, you may need to look at getting a hotel. Another alternative is going straight to the interview that morning and then leaving (not recommended for those who are flying). o Have you had any trouble with hosts? In the event that your host needs to cancel last minute with some generic excuse (okay, fine, some may be legitimate), they will make sure they find someone else for you to stay with because if not, theyd be in huge trouble with their school. What should I ask my host before I come? Here is a list of questions whose answers you can be aware of: Do you have any pets? (God forbid youre matched with a dog person and you have allergies) Where will I sleep? What do I need to bring- pillow, blanket, towel, etc? Where can I grab something to eat? (dinner, breakfast, etc) How far do you live from campus? How will I get to the Admissions Office in the morning? Do you live with anyone else? Are they of the same gender (in case this is an issue for you)? Ask these questions (conversationally, not neurotically) so that you go into the hosting situation prepared, knowing that you will be comfortable and ready to do awesomely on the interview. Make sure you have your hosts number and they have yours before you get there.

After the Interview Thank you letters Every school is different as has been mentioned more than once thus far. Some schools like thank you letters, other schools dont, and some would prefer you emailing only the admissions office. Find out at the interview how they would prefer the thank yous. I would suggest that you write a thank you note to the schools you interviewed at and/or the individuals who interviewed for the schools if the school allows it. Keep in mind that a thank you note doesnt get you into a school nor will it get you rejected if you do or dont send one. (And truthfully, I wouldnt really want to go to a school whose admissions decision hung on whether I sent an official email or snail mail saying thank youbecause, thats lame. And, because Im sure you said thank you during the actual interview day - #hint) But, write one anyway for your peace of mind. Notes Take notes on the schools and EVERYTHING you experienced while there. Take notes on what you liked and especially what you didnt like. Come May when you make your decision, youre going to want to remember those details about the schools you visited and when youve visited several schools, they can get mixed up. I did this in an Excel document, so use what works for you. Someone also recommended to me to record my voice on how I felt about the school. I decided not to, but Im passing on the advice in case you are interested.

Secondary & Interview Questions

Instead of writing out the common questions I encountered during the secondary and interview process here, I will put it in an Appendix A to decrease the length of this document. It will mention a list of 11

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 questions that typically come up and also some quick notes on answers to help you so you see common answers and hopefully dont freeze up in the process. This list is not exhaustive. To be released later upon request.

I Got Rejected, Why???

Scene: Youre really/somewhat interested in __?___ School of Medicine and youre waiting to hear back from them and then finally, one day, you get that letter in the mail or that email and you open it, perhaps excitedly. You then read what you believe, at that time, to be the worst news of your life, Unfortunately, the Admissions Committee did not feel that And it goes on to basically say that you were rejected and that there are so many talented people applying, it was just so hard to choose, and they hope you can get into another schoolsomewhere else. This can happen before the secondary, before the interview, and after the interview. Take heart, allow me to comfort you (I hope) with some of the reasons why you may have been or will be rejected. Numbers & Statistics Some schools are number crazy and they only want a class that has a 37 average MCAT and a 3.8 average GPA, so they may look at your application and see your 3.6 and 34 and look you over. Many schools, though, will give you a chance (with a good application), but there are those cases that will decide that your stats just arent good enough. (Schools need some way to eliminate applicants unfortunately.) This is typically after the primary (for those that pre-screen) or after the secondary is submitted. If they reject you off of stats, brush your shoulders off and keep it moving. There are more med school fish in the sea. They Can Read Your MindAhhhh! Lets face the truth- you can only pick one medical school. Some interviewers and committee members can tell that you have no intention of actually coming to their school. You may have your sights set on a big city, a better school, a less research-oriented school, and if you arent careful (read: slick), this can show in your facial cues or vocal inflection. When youre an exceptional student with a very strong application, some schools can get a feeling of safety choice and may decide that they would rather give your slot to someone else. It sucks, but its all goodbrush your shoulders off and keep it moving. Fit This does matter. Admissions Committees want to assemble a class that will mesh and that will contribute to or fit in with the current academic/social environment. By rejecting you at whatever part of the process, it could simply be that they felt you either wouldnt like their school or wouldnt fit with the type of students who go there. You Just Messed Up It is my sincere hope that in reading this guide and preparing yourself to be an on point applicant for medical school that you would not end up in this situationbut it can happen. (Butit better not!) You may have actually bombed your interview (not the bombed where you think you did, but you didntactually bombed), or did something problematic like talking on your phone for 15 minutes during 12

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 the tour (Ive seen this happen, it is not a good lookthe Med Student who took us on the tour actually was on the admissions committee, not a good look for Cell Phone Joe/Sue because things like this can count against you), or even were not being genuine about your interest in the school or your aspirations. Interviewer In many schools, the person you interviewed with from the Admissions Committee is actually going to ARGUE on your behalf to the committee. Yes, I knowscary, right? You may end up through no fault of your own with an interviewer who is a jerk/rude/arrogant (because, dont let anyone fool you, they exist) who will not be able to articulate well why you should be accepted to their school, especially if a school does not have an interview evaluation process to weed out the bad interviewers. This is why interview preparation is so helpful; you need to be able to establish rapport with the interviewer quickly and efficiently. Even if they are not speaking on your behalf, they are going to write up a report about your interview and this will be a part of the decision-making process. It Wasnt Meant to Be Sounds clich. But, sometimes, thats really how it is. Im a woman of faith and I believe that God is in control so I prayed and was faithful through the process, which I found to be helpful. The way I viewed rejection during the process was that it was simply help to hone in on the school I would actually choose. Dont get too down about schools you didnt get into. Please. I know its hard for Type A people out there and the overachievers, but seriouslydont beat yourself up. If youre getting invited to interviews and youre even in the position to get rejected (following an interview), youre not in bad shape. Celebrate your victories. In Summary Dont beat yourself up about being rejected. Celebrate where you were accepted to and dont focus on the negative. So, no rumination! Dont sit around ruminating about the little things you think caused you to be rejected like wearing eyeshadow, making a joke, not smiling enough during the interview, or anything else. You win some, you lose some. Its okay to be rejected from a school, it happens to most applicants, so dont let it get to you. At the end of the day, if you have been accepted to one, you can become a doctor! Again, focus on the positive.

What the heck? I Got Waitlisted!

This is a confusing position. You may feel that you werent good enough to get in but not bad enough to be rejected. Well, dont think that way. Sometimes schools can waitlist you because theyre not sure you would actually attend. We all know that there are a lot of worthy candidates for these medical schools. Consider it a good thing to be on the waitlist. You made it pretty far! These schools are still interested in you after seeing the whole package, they dont want to just let you go, but theres not a lot of room for admissionso they waitlist you. Dont take it personal, just celebrate the fact that even if you make a May 15th decision, you could still get accepted somewhere else and actually change to a school you really wanted to attend at which you were waitlisted.


Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011

Financial Aid
Apply for financial aid. You dont know how much youll get until you get that aid award, so, put in the effort. Nevertheless, applying for financial aid sucks. When I was a senior in college, I did a dance because I didnt have to fill FAFSA for the next year. True story haha. Applying for financial aid in medical school sucks much more than for undergrad in my opinion. This is, in part, due to each school having different processesunfortunately. Some schools want just the FAFSA. Some schools have their OWN financial aid application. Even others use Collegeboards PROFILE Online and many others use the Need Access form. Some will say send them tax returns- either yours or your parents or both, or dont send the tax returns unless the Dept of Education asks to verify you. And then, some of them dont want you to apply UNTIL youve been accepted. Other schools say apply even if youre not accepted yet. So, it can be a bit annoying. Stick it out, take deep breaths, be patient. When you get whatever amount of free money, I expect that it should be worth the hassle.

Choosing the School

When you have reached that glorious day where you have been accepted to several schools and have received your financial aid, it then comes time to make that final decision of where you will attend medical school for the next four years. Think about these things and more when picking:

Location Can you really live there for four years- things to do, demographics, etc? Hows the
weather? Affordable living arrangements?

Cost Will you be in 200K debt by going to this school? Or would you rather pick the school that
leaves you with 80K debt or even 15K or 0?

Fit Do you think you could like the students? The culture? The curriculum and mandatory

Resources Will your experience there develop you into the kind of doctor you want to be? Will
you be able to go abroad for international medical experience?

Whats in a name? Some of us wonder whether our undergraduate school makes a difference in getting into medical school. I honestly dont know exactly how much impact it has, but I can just tell you my experience. On my interviews, the vast majority of the students who were interviewing with me were from schools that I had either heard of or was very familiar with, usually well ranked and very visible institutions. This was much more pronounced in the top 15 schools. There was the occasional student who was from a small school I never knew existed, but it was not many. What does this mean? It can mean several things. One, schools highly ranked are more likely to have larger pre-med populations and therefore, are more in a position to prepare them better and prepared students are better able to do well in the process. (Just thinking about it logically, when you know that youre pre-


Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 med in high school, you usually aim for a good undergrad you can go to in order to get good preparation, right?) Two, excellent students who attended lower ranked undergrads may not feel that they could apply to highly ranked med schoolswhich I think is hogwash. Apply! Dont under-estimate yourself. In conjunction, they may be applying to only lower ranked med schools, of which I only applied to a few, so I wouldnt be able to form a sound conclusion whether those students were predominantly there. I did notice less of the most reputable schools represented. Another theory medical schools are biased against schools that are not super important in the scientific scene. While some may say this last theory is true, Im not inclined to agree. What you did AT that school is more important than what school it actually was. The names are all the same when it comes to medical schools, right? Yes. And no. It really depends on what residency you will do. And, this is coming from medical students themselves. If youre doing pediatrics, general medicine, etc., your medical school will matter less (much less) than students who want to do Dermatology or Ortho. So, if you may be interested in the more specialized residencies that are tougher to get into, choose wisely where you apply for medical school. From my interview trail experience, I found also that the name of a medical school correlated with names of residency matches. This could be that students at lower tier medical schools didnt think they would be able to match into higher tier residency programs. I am not able to say for sure at this time, but it is certainly likely. It could also be that they werent able to match to their highly ranked choice in residencies. This can be an unfortunate truth, so again, choose wisely where you will apply and eventually attend. Hit me up in a few years when Im applying to residency; I guess Ill write a guide for that as well haha. Ranking Ranking isnt everything. Yes, I have alluded to the difference between lower and higher ranked schools in this document a few times. For me, I prefer to go to higher ranked schools. Generally and not always, they have more research money, more resources, better hospitals, and better financial aid. The last one is actually a major factor for me. But, if you dont care about ranking, that is perfectly fine. Go to the best school for you without being worried about where it falls on the US News Ranking. And, remember, that a better ranked school doesnt necessarily mean better education or better social experiences. Keep those things in mind.

Being a URM Some ignorant, misinformed individuals would have you believe that by being an under-represented minority (URM), you can just easily breeze into medical school with an 18 MCAT and 2.7 GPA and no effort. Uh, no. Let the record show that minorities who are in medical school put in the WORK and DESERVE to be there. Some of our White and Asian brethren have said that Black and Latino students are taking their spots in school. Another fallacious argument. Lets not pretend you havent heard 15

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 these accusations. But my response to those spot taking anxietiesOne- who told you that you had a spot? There are over 35 thousand students applying for 16000+ seats in medical school, there is no guarantee. Two If someone has grabbed an aforementioned spot, I can safely surmise that it was probably another more-qualified student of your ethnic/racial background, because Black and Latino (and Native Americans) are still severely under-represented in medicine. So, in theory, our White and Asian counterparts are taking URM spots. It may sound harsh, but I just want to make it clear that nobody is (or should be) entitled in the medical school arena. I also want to emphasize that being a URM does not guarantee you entrance into medical school. It does seem, however, to make things easier for the excellent students to get in the door to actually be evaluated because there are already less black students applying and matriculating (Out of ~1000 black men who applied in 2008 only ~400 were accepted). As a note, I was the only black person on SEVERAL of my interview days, which is very unfortunate and surprised me a little. This doesnt suggest to me that its so easy for URM students to breeze into medical school. If youre a URM, I expect you to be on point and represent excellence (like all good applicants) because once you do get in the door, either through interview or being granted a secondary, you need to shine. I encourage all URM to work hard and aim high (while still applying to the less-of-a reach schools) because, as I mentioned before, we are still SEVERELY under-represented in medicine. Do URM medical school applicants have statistically lower GPAs and MCATSyes, that is true and doesnt make these students less deserving. Again, stats are not everything. The committees now look at the whole candidate to find a quality future clinician or physician scientist instead of just score as was done before. So, does being an under-represented minority help you in getting into medical school? Sure, it can to a point, but in the end, what got you into a school will not be your skin color, but the potential the Admissions Committee sees in you to carry their name forward with excellence as a future physician. Withdrawing Sometimes, during the process you may need to withdraw your application from a school. It could be when you get invited to interview and then realize that its not going to work with your schedule or that you really dont feel like flying to California. I also withdrew from some schools who asked for nonrefundable deposits once Id been accepted because I dont like the idea of a non-refundable deposit. Some schools will not allow you more than two weeks to sit on the decision before you must send in a deposit. I tried to extend the decision until getting my financial aid, but some schools wouldnt work with mein retrospect, I should not have applied to them. Think about these things before choosing schools. If you need to withdraw, write the Admissions Office a nice little email about your withdrawal and dont feel too bad. They get a lot of these. Optimism Smile. Its contagious. Enjoy the medical school application process. Try to enjoy the travelling and the new people you meet who you may never see againor not until a future SNMA/AMSA conference. Dont think negatively about getting a secondary, interview, or acceptance. How does that really help? With that said, its time to start a revolution! Doctors, unfortunately, have a relatively high suicide rate. Crazy, right? Suicide is a by-product of negative thinking (dont read that and think Im saying that 16

Medical School Application Guide - Crystal Nnenne Azu - Copyright 2011 negative thinking is the end all, be all CAUSE of suicide, Im just saying you have to think negatively about a situation to consider suicide). Im not writing this to scare you, but, its better for you to learn now to think positively, improve your self-esteem, and have a more optimistic view on yourself and your life. Dont beat yourself up about anything in this process, thats not self-love. (Now, if you dont have self-love, hit me up and well talk because loving yourself and being optimistic are advantageous for living a healthy life. Dead serious.) Patience The medical school application process has a lot of waiting. Please, just accept that and dont overthink the waiting. Just to give you some perspective: I submitted secondaries and heard back for interviews in as little as three days and up to as much as a couple months- there is serious variability. You really dont know how long its going to take to hear back from the schools, so dont give up on a school because its been three weeks and Joe Somebody has an interview but you dont. This patience idea ties back into optimism. If you have trouble with being patient, you will most likely need to learn patience skills for the medical school application process.

I hope that you have parents who are supportive of your medical school goals and dreams. If not, please find people in your life who are supportive of this goal. It can be a draining process to apply and medical school itself is a challenge. With supportive parents, keep them in the loop about your successes and problems during the process. They should cheer you on and encourage you to succeedand be angry at a school if you get rejected haha. If I could tell parents anything, it would be to be as supportive and genuinely helpful as possible without being overbearing.

In Closing
It is my hope and prayer that somewhere in this over 15 page Medical School Application Guide, you found at least one thing helpful that you will take with you into the application process. I wrote this guide because I wanted to write down my thoughts on the process and share it with others who could hopefully benefit. The application process can be tedious and arduous at times, but I believe you can make it through successfully onto the other side. God bless you and sincere good luck. P.SIf you want some serious feedback on my experience at a specific school, feel free to contact me. I will be very honest about what I saw and experienced with the school during the process.