Medical School Saga… Part Deux

Time IS relative, as Einstein suggested, because that one month between July and August gave me the chills and thrills.  How could I have focused on editing my personal statement and application without thinking, Will this be worth it?  How am I sure I did well enough to succeed this application cycle? I sucked it up and just took my chances; I sent in my AMCAS general application and asked for mercy in the coming months.  It was a period of HUGE uncertainty and anxiety, but in the end, I think it paid off.

Mind you, I already failed once with my NYU Early Decision application; my April score was too low for an interview and acceptance.  I thought I’d have a chance in a smaller, yet more competitive, applicant pool with my high GPA and EC activities.  NO pity or mercy from NYU, so I have to weather the whole cycle now.

So Tuesday, August 18 hit, scores come out 5 pm, possibly an apocalypse… I was working at the Palladium front desk until 8 pm.  The entire time, I remembered feeling a huge weight in my chest and abdomen; I could not have felt more jittery and agitated.  I was tempted to check on the computer downstairs, but I resisted.  What if it’s bad? I’d be mopey, round 2.  What if it’s stellar? I’d be ecstatic.  Or I could be manic depressive. Well, I ordered my sister to be the viewer of potentially good or bad news; I’d rather not see my own pain. I gave her my username and password to access my page.  By the time I went upstairs, I video-ed her on Google chat to hear the news.  I said, “So, how’d I do?  Did I go up or down?”  See, if you take the MCATs twice, it better go up.  If you take it multiple times, schools expect and demand improvement, otherwise, they doubt your candidacy.  Kelly ruffled my feathers before revealing, “You did amazing! You got above a 30!!”  AAAAAHHHHHHHHHH, I screamed, I pumped my arms, I jumped from my seat, nearly tipping back… I got a 32S (not spectacular, but I have a good chance), improving on all subjects by 7 points.  My verbal was still the dead weight of my score, but I did go up.  At least I could sleep well and move ahead.

Boy would the next 3 months be burning hell:

1) Med school apps are mad expensive. I started off with 19 schools and nearly $700 just to send out the common app.  Even after weeding out top-tier schools (Columbia, Cornell, Mt. Sinai, Einstein) based on my new 32S, I still had to shed out additional secondary fees.  And I have not gotten to the travel expenses to interviews yet…

2) School-specific secondary essays are a bitch to read and write. Some schools show mercy, so the secondary is just a click of a button-short and choppy.  Others, are just plain redundant:  name, address, pre-requisites completed, courses, activities, alumni connections… just read my AMCAS app and it’s all answered, lord!  Then, a batch of schools make you write essays and short answers, as if reading my deep personal statement about why I wanted to be a doctor were not enough.  A taste of secondary essay questions I weathered through:  Describe yourself.  Why (specific school)?  What do you feel is your most significant non-academic accomplishment?  Briefly describe what A Life in Discovery means to you.  Describe what you envision to be your greatest challenge in working on an interprofessional team.  Health care reform is on the horizon- How does this affect yoru choice of a career in medicine?  Describe an obstacle you’ve overcome and how it has defined you…. you get the idea.

Thought-provoking, mind-probing, and patience-trying.  I tried the lazy way out, by tying similar questions together with one well-decorated experience.  And then there were the stupid character/word limits.  If you know me, I hate those limits, because I’m bound to go overboard expressing myself.  I write out everything, and then tweek away at the details.  At the end, when I’ve reached the right limit, I feel like I’ve chipped away the essence of my meaning.

From August to the beginning of October, I put all my class work to the back burner and ran around perfecting these essays and completing each school’s pesky secondary.  Never did I do so much brainstorming, soul-searching, writing, and revealing in a given amount of time.  All this time, I forced my sister in the hot seat to read and criticize my writings, and boy did she scrap some to pieces.  However, I learned to take constructive criticisms, though they may be hard to stomach.  Because I’m the writer, I cannot see my mistakes, but the other pair of eyes are more attuned to what does not make sense and what I can do to improve.

Next chapter:  Post-application waiting period.  School-specific interview feedback.  And the daunting statistics… and the little bit of optimism in all of us.

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