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Med School Prep: Try, Try Again

April 28th, 2009 admin

If you’re a long-time reader you might remember catching a mention that my sweetie has been working hard at applying to med school for some time now. We started discussing his goal to be a doctor right about when we met.

Well, finally, almost four years later, he got accepted!!!

It was a long, hard road, but it was worth it. I wanted to share our story with you pre-med students out there so you can get a feel for what the med school application process is really like.

The First Time Around

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: med school prep was hard, discouraging work, and we were completely in the dark about the process, which made it that much harder.

Ideally, he would have:

  • Studied for 6 months beforehand, and taken his MCAT during his Junior year of college,
  • Done some volunteering at a hospital or other medical facility,
  • Had some medical-related work experience,
  • Had lots of other volunteer service in non-medical fields to show diversity,
  • Built a bond with several professors and medical professionals who could write him letters of recommendation,
  • Gotten straight A’s,
  • Found out about financial aid for the application fees for low-income med school applicants,
  • Gone to the career center to find out more about writing an essay, interviewing, the services they offer to med school applicants, and deadlines, and,
  • Submitted his application at the very beginning of the cycle, in early June. (Most schools interview and admit as the applications come in, so waiting too late can make it much harder to get accepted.)

Unfortunately, we had no clue about any of this, so instead he took his MCAT the summer after Junior year, which put his application far behind, which meant that he got fewer secondaries and only one interview. We didn’t know about fee assistance, so we paid out a LOT of money for primary and secondary applications. He also was unable to take advantage of all the Career Center had to offer, because he didn’t know about it.

For more about how to prepare, check out this post about how to prepare for med school early.

The Second Time Around

When the rejection letters started arriving one after another, it was a big, painful hit to the heart. Every day my sweetie would head straight to the mailbox upon getting home, only to pull out another of the dreaded small envelopes. To say it was hard on him would be a gross understatement.

I was so proud of him, though, because it really lit a fire under him. He scooped up a collection of really good recommendation letters, started volunteering at a hospital, worked two jobs, and got straight A’s the last few quarters of college. He went to the Career Center and found out about a lot of the things in that list I wrote above, and almost the first day applications were open, he submitted his second round of applications to medical school.

Easy As… Rocket Science

But then came the waiting. Secondaries came, and then more waiting. Three months later he had his first interview, but not until the following February did he finally finish his last interview.

And then… you guessed it. More waiting. Rejections. Waitlists. Checking the mailbox every day. calling admissions offices periodically to check his status. Watching his email inbox like a hawk. Passing deadline after deadline, until finally, just last Wednesday, two years after he started studying for his MCAT, he finally got an acceptance. We were excited, relieved, and awed that the day finally came. (And we celebrated true broke-student style by getting some Chinese takeout. Haha.)

The Moral of the Story

Unless you are the rare “perfect candidate,” the med school application process is going to be a very humbling process. You’ll feel defeated, exhausted, and under-qualified again and again. The good news, however, is that you can (and should!) try again. Do your homework, research, talk to other students, and take every opportunity to improve your application, essay, and interview skills. (Try for message boards and helpful articles.)

Good luck, and remember, don’t give up!

photo: be healthy 2 by lusi

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Athena  |  April 29th, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Congrats to your husband!
    This was very helpful 🙂

  • 2. Jamie  |  April 29th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    @Athena: Thanks! We are super excited! Nice to see all his hard work pay off at last–and to know that it made a difference! 🙂

  • 3. Jessica  |  May 6th, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Hi! I’d love to see a post about getting a summer job. I’m looking this summer and I don’t have much work experience. Any advice and tips you could offer would be so appreciated! I’m wondering who to contact (and how often) once an application is turned in, what to wear and prepare for for an interview, and how to master the job if you are lucky to be hired! Thanks!

  • 4. Daniel Williams, MD  |  May 23rd, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    How nice that you post what it’s like from your perspective. My journey started out as a single man, but by the time I got to medical school I was married. By the time residency started we had a child.

    Perspectives and priorities can really change. Thanks for putting out encouraging words.

    If it’s ok, I want to suggest my So, You Want To Be A Doctor? podcast in iTunes ( for more readership support.


    Dr Dan

  • 5. Sirena  |  June 7th, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Hey Jamie,
    I’m in the middle of applying and this piece was really encouraging. Thanks for documenting it and sharing it with us!

    Blessings on your journey!

  • 6. Jamie  |  June 10th, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    @ Sirena: Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I hope everything goes well for you. It is TOUGH, but the payoff is awesome. Good luck!

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