Medical School Saga… Finale

Here’s some interview feedback and results from each school.  We can start with the banging bad news and then segway into much lighter outcomes:

Forget about it:  Columbia, Cornell, Einstein, Mt. Sinai (Goodbye NYC schools, slim chances w/ultra-competitive applicant pools)…

REJECTED:

1. Boston University (9/21/09)- Quick and painless via email.  And I poured my soul into the supplemental, ‘optional’ essay too!

2. University of Rochester (11/16/09)-Following BU’s style

3. Georgetown (12/4/09)- Gee, thanks for taking my 130 bucks and the long essay on why I wanted to come to your school…

4. Jefferson (12/8/09)- Thought I had a chance with large class and average stats, but still no chance in Philly…

5. SUNY Upstate (Hold: 10/6/09, 2/12/10)- On “hold” for a time being, hanging my hopes in midair, before letting gravity do its job… eh, just one state school rejection is not really that painful.

6. NYU (3/1/10)- Twice!!! ED and RD… my home school =(

7. Temple (3/15/10)- Quick email that I didn’t see until I got back from Florida, what a surprise.

8. George Washington (Hold: 1/21/10…)- Also fit the average stats, but left me hanging indefinitely. There went my $125 fee and first-class mail… So they kept me waiting until I got an email that basically said the interview season was over and I had a “slim chance” of an invite IF there’s room and time… Forget it, I just withdrew in March.

9. Drexel… Never heard from them since my completed application 9/20/09… Assuming one of those malicious ‘silent rejections.”

Interviews

1. SUNY Buffalo (10/7/09):  This was a special day because it was my first interview (read my earlier blog).  Within one week of completing my application, I was invited and I jumped at the opportunity.  I will not say too much, because you can just read my previous post.  In the end, I was waitlisted 10/14/09 (a quickie one), even after all the arduous preparations and note-taking the night before… apparently, your interviewers score you right afterwards and your fate is sealed.

2. Albany Medical College (11/18/09):  Honestly, I was not too amused with the setting, the school, or my interview.  It’s a classic, old town- what else can you expect from the state capital.  The campus was old and quiet, almost like back in the colonial days.  The library was mad humid and the buildings gave an eerie, ancient feeling.  However, AMC was one of the first schools to pioneer forward with the integrated, organ-systems curriculum and early clinical exposure.  And here comes the killer… I was nearly grilled during my interview! I interviewed with a medical educator, who started off friendly “Describe your hyperhidrosis and experience in Taiwan; How did your MCAT improve so dramatically; What would you do in your year off? What would you be if you were not a doctor?…)  Then came the dynamite “What would you do” questions:

1) A widower has gangrene who needs a leg amputation to save his life.  But he refuses. He’s satisfied with his life and wants to die.

2) A 15 y/o girl is sexually active and comes to you for contraceptives.

3) A woman signs a living will.  Decades later, she reaches a neurovegetative state and her will states she does not want IVs, lab tests, feeding tubes… like a DNR.  Do you revive her? (AND to make it more challenging, she twists this scenario as such:  How about an EMT brings her in with a feeding tube.  You find out about her living will. Do you pull the plug?)

WTH!!!  I tried to stay calm, but I just tensed up and answered all the wrong way by staggering between two sides, becoming ambivalent, or jumbling my thoughts and words.  A few times, I made it sound like I’d do what’s best for the patient and just let him die!  Meh, I was a mess and answered in all the wrong ways possible.  I wanted to hide in my turtle shell and go to sleep… She concludes by asking me what I do in my free time and what I like to watch as we walk back to the other building. I just started talking about 超級星光大道 a Taiwanese version of American Idol… I imploded =( It just felt very informal and strange to me.  As I answered her questions, I sensed her glaring at me and pinning me down.  She really looked bored, leaning her face on her hands and looking at me like a criminal =( I was not soothed in any way when I ended up with only one interview to make it or break it! As I sat there waiting and talking to the other students at the lounge, I felt so unfortunate to have been hit with those bioethics questions, because AMC is known for this style… I ended up “still under consideration” 12/1/09, just short of a waitlist at most schools. This only means I’m in a pool of applicants who will be re-evaluated for the alternate list in case there’s space left in the class.  I’m not too sure about my chances here (plus, I’m not getting much of a vibe here), speaking out of 140 spots, I’d be fighting for roughly 90 (there’s special medical programs that takes students earlier).

Brief break before another set of interviews the next semester…

3. NYMC (1/12/10):  Westchester County was nice and quiet, near NYC.  Valhalla is sandwiched between so many small towns, that if you drove within a mile, you’d be in another small, random town.  When my dad and I went around searching for an Asian place to eat, it was kind of eerie and scary to drive at night.  Not a sweet place to be after dark, unlike NYC where there’s plenty of skylight and commotion.  We based our choice of restaurant on the GPS system, but we always ended up at some take-out joint that was not really a restaurant where you can sit down and enjoy a meal.  So we drove from one end to another, finally choosing this Oriental Restaurant that was a minute from our hotel! Waste of gas… We had a hearty sushi/Chinese food extravaganza (hey, daddy was paying the bill…) and chatted with the waiters.

The next day was the interview.  I have not been accepted anywhere yet, and I have 2 shots now.  I liked NYMC- the campus, the students, the housing, the curriculum.  The interview came first, bright and early.  There was a group of maybe 15 kids, mostly guys.  Once again, I had a medical educator/admissions director interview me.  It was pretty conversational and conventional, a blind interview.  Basically, she reads my application before I walked in… basic questions revolved around my family, my origins, NYU & NYC experiences, my choice in Biochemistry, red flags.  She threw me off guard with questions like “What makes you angry? (people not cleaning…)” and “Have you been to any other interviews? (uh, none of your business)…”  Apparently, for red flags, getting anything lower than an A/A- does NOT count (way to embarrass myself).  Overall, she was very open and interested in my personal experiences and character.

Most schools seem to have adopted the integrated/organ-systems/early clinicals curriculum and I like that.  I tried to find something special about NYMC and I really liked how NYMC focuses on primary care early in the education.  First year preceptorships and clinical exposures are related to quality care and that close doctor/patient relationship.  I also was drawn to the suburban/urban connection, numerous NYC hospital affiliations, comfortable student housing, the well-ventilated and lit anatomy lab, friendly staff and students, and newly furnished buildings.  Negatives?  The cost of private education, the heavy snow, the isolation of the area, the prison nearby, and the intense application pool (11,000 apps, 1500 interviews, 190 class size… tell me that is not daunting).

In the end, I got a waitlist email 10 weeks later on 3/29/10 (way to drag out the misery).  By then, I was already set with which med school to attend, so I just withdrew from the waitlist.  Plus, there’s apparently a huge waitlist movement, so better for people who really want to attend the school.

4. SUNY Stony Brook (1/29/10):  Okay, by now, I was really daunted by the application stats I’ve been saving after each interview.  It’s really crazy how the reality strikes you so strongly.  At each school, there has been roughly 10-15% interview rate, and out of those few hundred students, only about 1/3 get accepted straight out.  Admissions is rolling, depending on each school, and early interviews could be an advantage or a disappointment (around January, I had no acceptances yet).  At SB, the class size is even smaller, but the statistics seem strangely more comforting.  Out of 4000+ applications, 600 interviews, there are about 300 acceptances, perhaps including waitlists).  So there’s a 50% shot and the admissions is rolling until end of March.  I had some hope!

I loved Stony Brook, minus the fact I wrote 3 dense essays in the secondary app just to get considered.  It is more research focused and the curriculum is also integrated/organ-systems based.  Exams include a midterm and final, with small weekly quizzes, aspects that really drew me in.  Other schools do bi-weekly or weekly exams to keep students running marathons… Other positives?  It is cheap for NY residents, I’m back in my home island for school (only 15 minutes away from mommy’s home cooking!), there’s a nice teaching hospital smack on the plain campus, THERE’S A CAMPUS (I’ve lived in NYC for too long), I’m drawn to the nice library w/windows that bring in some sunshine… there’s a diverse student population, a great Clinical Skills Center, and very friendly online notes system… Negatives? Mainly I have to get a car and drive on my own 😦 I actually got too spoiled walking to classes at NYU, grocery shopping, or shopping.  Now, I’ll have to sit on my ass and survive major traffic jams. Ugh…

I had 2 interviews that day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.  Luckily, I had no grilling bioethics questions, which the school’s also known for.  Instead, I had very comfortable conversations, nothing too surprising or probing.  I had a Ph.D and M.D (finally!), both very professional, informative, and talkative.  With my first interviewer, we really developed a full-fledged conversation that went for an hour!  The interaction just flowed so easily and candidly.  At first, I stumbled over “Tell me about yourself” because it was so general, but near the end I grew more relaxed as I talked about my failure to pass a road test, my work in the ER and immunology/cancer research, my personal interest in international opportunities at SB, my free time and obsession with an organized schedule, etc… It was quiet heartwarming to hear him tell me, “You’re the type of student we’re looking for @ SB.  I wish you well and hope to see you at Stony Brook.” Was that a good prediction?  Wow, we really made an impression on each other, and I still feel very grateful for those kind words.  With the M.D, I also had a standard conversation, but I stumbled on some technical terms in my research (since I haven’t been in lab doing my research in over a month, I had no results to describe or publications to boast). Otherwise, we talked more about primary care, diversity at SB, my MCAT jump, and life in the ER (he was an ER doc).

6 weeks later… 3/3/10, I got accepted.  And this is where I plan to go!

5. Rosalind Franklin (2/8/10):  Meh, I was neutral about this school.  I really liked my plane ride to Chicago (Delta cookies are yums!) and driving around with my papa, but otherwise, North Chicago is still not THE Chicago. I think I’d choose Chicago, if it were UChicago or Northwestern, but I’m in the suburban area 40 miles out from downtown.

RFU only recently switched from the basic, traditional curriculum to the integrated style; thus it hasn’t been accustomed to yet =(  Exams are very frequent and the ‘interprofessional’ environment relates to team work with other allied health professional students (podiatry, PA, etc…).  Most teaching hospitals are not nearby; instead, VA Medical Center is the one next door, but the other big name ones are in downtown Chicago.  The region was relatively bland and empty; the nearest civilization was Wal-Mart and some small stores and food joints.  The campus was bleh and quiet.  The facilities were very white and bright, too much for my eyes to handle.  There was a nice student cafe and ordinary library.  It was still a consolidated campus, though I did not get to see the student housing and other buildings.  It’s just one big school for various health professionals.  Apparently, it’s also sandwiched between a bad neighborhood and well-off one… Not too sure about that.  There was a nice naval base by one of the Great Lakes, but I did not get to see that either.

Strangely, I had 2 Ph.D interviewers who really chatted with me about research! Problem is, I left my lab back in December, so I was not in the best position to talk about results, potential publications, protocols, and troubleshooting.  I really had to dig deep and improvise on the spot and remember precisely what my research was about.  Anyway, these interviews were tougher, but I managed.  My first interviewer was relatively standard and informative, until he shot me with an ethics subject related to IVF.  So he drew out a spectrum of allowing or prohibiting IVF; at one extreme, disease and prevention calls for IVF if available, but at the other end, there’s sex selection and perhaps plastic surgery for physical enhancement.  Then, he’d pose me hypothetical scenerios to draw the line:  genetic selection for dyslexia and learning disorders, plastic surgery, blue/brown eyes, metabolic diseases, etc… This time, I made sure to not straggle the middle road and just have a firm belief.  Plus, I added my own impressions based on Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper” (love her inspirational books) to this spectrum.  Contributing is always good.

Now, my second interviewer really nailed me to a stake.  I should have taken it as a bad omen when I forgot to shake his hand as a warm welcoming gesture (but he did not either)… He worked in immunology/microbiology.  He was Chinese/Taiwanese and relatively informal with the interview.  He referred constantly to a template of questions and reading it while I responded, not much eye contact, which is a biggie… I did not really think he was paying much attention.  I felt like I was pouring out my soul to a blank wall.  Then he probed me about my research in immunology (even tested me on which MHC molecule matched a particular antigen) and how my chemistry background can troubleshoot issues I outlined in my previous research with T-cell receptor proteins.  I kept getting interrupted in my responses because he was not getting my point, and I was not getting his persistence!  Then, he continued with that template and perusing my application, while I struggled to be straight and not turn any more red.  Why medicine? Why RFUMS?  What are your leadership experiences?  Have you been to China/Taiwan? Do you play sports/music instrument?  He joked that every Asian parent forces a child to play either the piano or violin =) Discussing our heritage and joking about Asian stereotypes eased me slightly, and I had the urge to just talk to him in Mandarin.  He actually thought I was Cantonese because of my middle name spelled differently … Anyway, then he posed another big question:  What problem do you see facing American society? At first, I used my answer at my Buffalo interview about body image and the ideal beauty in America.  Then, he did not seem to like it or get it, and then I quickly jumped to weight and chronic illness facing the future generation, if not current!  To fix it, I suggested the soda tax I keep hearing Bloomberg talk about and changing fast food chains.  Well, he threw in the bomb by saying “Well, what if I really like my hamburger.  What if you put restaurants out of business?”  Hmm, we kept going back and forth on this topic, such as making healthy food cheaper or including more healthy food at fast food chains like Subway… I walked out burning up in the cheeks and heart in smiterines.

Overall, I did not feel too connected here.  Good thing I also got out in time before the next big snow storm came that Monday night.  The same storm system followed me to New York, when it struck a few days later with a vengeance!  Perhaps it was a lucky sign that this would be the first school to accept me =D  After my acceptance on 3/3/10, I was thrilled!  But personally, I know rejections are hard, and I hated declining an offer of admission.  The Dean and Committee chose me because they liked me and saw me fit as a medical student.  Now that I have to choose one school and reject one, I hated writing even a polite letter of “Thanks, but Sorry”… Even my mother was like, “This is the first school that accepted you.  It hurts to turn it down.  It’s so wasteful.”  Then again, there are other students out there who still need an interview or just one acceptance.  At least I have offered up my spot for someone who could use it and appreciate it more.

6. SUNY Downstate-withdrew before interview… I was not too hot about Brooklyn and the neighborhood, but apparently the clinical work is outstanding.  After my acceptances in early March, I was like “Woot, no more interviews, please.” I reached a point where I was tired of monthly trips out and curtailed paychecks.  I mean, I liked the time away from school and mini-vacations to interview at med schools, but I wanted to just settle.  I was also unsure of how much space Downstate had available for students, because it was nearing the end of interview season.  Basically, I was done.  As much as I would like dressing up in a suit and looking prim and professional, I wanted to enjoy my Spring Break that week.  Initially, I was supposed to go to Alternative Breaks at Patch Adams, but I had to back out early March to prepare for an interview.  Soon, I got my acceptances, withdrew my interview for 3/17, and had not plans for Spring Break.  Hey, senior year should be awesome, so I went to Orlando, FL with a group of friends.  Totally needed to treat myself for such a hard year.

*** For everyone of my schools, I’ve been hounded with “Why medicine? What clinical experiences have you had to prepare you for the field?  What’s your research like?…”  I’m so glad to have had some research, but also to have maintained some volunteer and patient work.  Otherwise, I’d be screwed if I fell under my old PI’s spell and focused on JUST research.  For God’s sake, I’m going to be a doctor, not a graduate student in the lab for the next 10 years, looking under microscopes and writing a dissertation that will be shredded to pieces if it sucks.  Make sure you walk into an interview knowing something about the school and why you’d like to go there!  Plus, my MCAT jump was a great booster, and it certainly was mentioned at nearly every interview:  How did your MCAT improve so dramatically?  I did not figure 7 points really mattered, but it reflected my character significantly and chances at interviews.  Hope this helps anyone in the future.  I’d love to mentor and provide feedback!

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4 thoughts on “Medical School Saga… Finale

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