Getting into Medical School, aka Holy of Holies (the F-1 version)

My adventures as an international student trying to get into a US medical school as a prestigious MSI student!

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Location: East Coast, United States

I am a 22 yr old Foreign lady trying to get into an American med school. The journey has been "rough" to say the least. So join the band wagon and let's see if they think I'm good enough to become a doctor. I hope my story encourages someone, maybe you. Not necessarily to become a doctor, but just to follow your dream. Leave your comments as you read...I thrive on feedback. And if this is your first time here, catch up on what you missed, cus every post IS important...well almost all. So forget that board meeting(at your own risk) or skip that class (again at your own risk) and lose yourself in my archives. REMEMBER: "If it aint ROUGH, it aint RIGHT" - Richard Hamilton, Detroit Pistons Guard

Friday, July 06, 2007

Just When You Think The Worst is Over...

Ok this last month has been one heck of a roller coaster. You will think getting admitted into medical school is the hardest part of the deal(well, OK, actually it is) but the paper work you have to do after that is just crazy.

So obviously you have to get financial aid right? Well try getting your parent's tax information(aka W2 forms) from a third world country. Until now I never even knew people paid taxes in Nigeria. So for the last 2 months I was waiting to get this tax information from home to submit my financial aid (FA) know...they have to verify that your dad isn't the King of Zamunda before they start giving you all kinds of scholarships and loans. So here I was with a deadline and waiting on the govt to release my parents tax information. One week before the deadline my mom's information was released (after paying $250 in "processing" fees of course), apparently my dad's will follow shortly. I got a phone call later from my mom telling me that they were now asking for another $750 to get my dad's information. You gotta love the inconsistency of the Nigerian bureaucracy. I proceeded to stare at my bank account for about 10 mins to try and figure out how I could squeeze out all that money...never mind that I still have to somehow pay rent, purchase a car and oh-yeah EAT. At this point I call the Oh-so-nice people in the admission office and begin to ask for some kind of extension seeing as there was no way one week would be enough to submit and process my FA application. I was thankfully granted a five day extension. Hopefully that would be enough. [By the way this deadline is the time within which I must show that I have the funds to cover my expenses for the first year of school (~60,000). If I had my financial aid award, I could deduct the amount I was given from the 60k and just show the balance in an account in my name. So say I was given 50k in aid, I needed to show that there was another 10k sitting in my bank account to cover the get the drift?]. Of course if I missed the deadline, my acceptance will be withdrawn, I will be back to square one and all the other good stuff that came with that...

After looking with no success for a way to bypass feeding the corruption of the Treasury Dept back home, at the end of the day I figured I would rather pay the 750 and face the possibility of starvation than wake up 10 yrs from now and realize I tanked my dreams because of what will then look like a very meager sum of money. It was after coming to this decision that I got on the phone with another Nigerian at the medical school to ask questions about apartments and such. We were about to round up our conversation when I casually decided to vent and ask how she went about getting all the tax info and stuff during her time. Her response was a life saver:

"What tax information? Who has such a thing in Nigeria??"

Apparently the lady I had been communicating with in the FA office was somewhat new and did not know how foreign students went about such things. All I needed was a Notary Public stating how much my parents earned. REALLY?!! I resisted the urge to call my parents at 3am their time and waited till they were up to give them the good news. Within two days I had all the necessary documents, submitted the application, still had my $750 in my account and waited to see how much I was going to be getting from the school.

On the day of the deadline, I got the information. I was hoping that with the need I showed on my application, I would have gotten most of my expenses covered either by scholarships or loans (all the aid is Need Based, no merit aid) and maybe have to show about 5-10000 dollars to cover the rest. Well, when I received the fax that afternoon, there was a gaping hole...30k wasn't covered by any of the aid. So somehow between now and the end of the business day(ahem 3hrs) I had to show 30k in my account. I quickly called the FA office to let them know what was going on and if there was any other way I could get the 30k covered. There was, thankfully, but it was a loan that I had to apply for and that would take about a week plus to go through.

I obviously did not have a week.

By LEGAL(I promise) means that I do not currently care to go into, I had 30,000 dollars in my account the next day, printed off the statements and faxed it over to the admissions office. For the next few days, I had to battle the urge to take all that money and get myself a lexus or something instead of the run down cars I had been looking to buy for a while now.

As we speak, the loan I applied for has gone through, I have returned the 30,000 to my benefactors (bye,bye Lexus) and I can now confidently say that the application process is finally over. [I have also prepared some form of speech ready in case the IRS or some other kind of watch dog wonders what kind of business I am involved in that involves juggling large sums of money between multiple bank accounts(especially with the "great" publicity we Nigerians are getting in the financial world)] I wake up most morinings now and count my blessings. I got into a school I actually wanted to go to, I will be financially independent- I didn't have to take out a loan under anyone's name, I got a better deal than expected on my car and I'm vacationing for the next month trying everything possible not to use my brain.

I hope this journey has inspired someone, it was the most vulnerable I have felt in my short life but it paid off in the end. There are probably people out there wondering if they're good enough to get into medical school or whatever dream career they plan on going into, I felt the same way at the beginning of this process and wanted to back out before the end just in case I didn't get in anywhere, at least I could withdraw my apps before they all actually rejected me. But I'm glad I saw it through. Thank-you all for the support, being able to share the process with you even during the most difficult parts was a very potent stress reliever.

Honestly if this whole process didn't work out, I would literally have had to pack my bags and go back home because I would have lost my legal status...but He really did not bring me out this far to take me back again...


Please continue to send emails and questions my way, I love hearing from you and will try to help the best I can (

Saturday, May 26, 2007

You really have no excuse now!

For anyone who thought it was too late to make that dream come true (CLICK)

Friday, May 18, 2007

I hear the sound...

Well it seems a lot can change in 24, stop, this is not permission for you to skip to the end of the post to figure it out.

I was getting ready for our weekly lab meeting and I remember walking to the room thinking that for the first time in my life I had no back-up plan. Normally, I would have at least two back-up jokers to pull out when the going gets rough but this time there were no options. Of course as I head to the meeting room I made sure my phone was in my pocket in the "silent" vibrate mode. (Post May 15th, your phone quickly becomes your best friend).

And unfortunately instead of paying attention to the meeting's speaker as I sat in the chilly conference room, I kept playing out likely outcomes of this application process in my mind and counting down the minutes till the meeting was over so I could rush to the computer, log on to SDN and figure out who else had been pulled off a waitlist.

The "silent" vibrate on my phone goes off and I get a few polite stares. Normally I would just silence it without looking at the number, but nothing has been normal since July 25th. I pull out the phone and try to figure out the weird area code. Hmmm doesn't look I step out of the room to pick it up.

Apparently this was the second before the second my life will be changed for good. Just like that the dean I had been writing to over the last few weeks was on the other side. For once he was looking for me and not the other way around. It felt weird. So this is what it feels like to actually get this loan cosigner bottle of water from the fountain of youth required...just show up cus we have a sit for you in our incoming class. I go back into the meeting room and as I get in I consider yelling to everyone that I just got into one of my top choice institutions, probably not very professional so I attempt to sit calmly in my chair. Needless to say the rest of the meeting was just a big blur. But one thing's for sure.

Fight-or-Flight response is hereby suspended. Whatever else I get now is simply icing on the cake. And I know the icing is coming because I hear the sound of an abundance of rain.

Ahem...its funny how one little phone call can do wonders for the faith right? Someone remind me of this when next I complain. Thank you for all your support and kind words. Keep them coming though anything can still happen between now and June-July. I also pray that all your heart desires will be realized at the right time and not a moment later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


For the one or hopefully two of you that haven't given up on me, thanks...I'm still here and the last month or so has been a battle to keep my sanity. The appointed date is here and it has almost passed like any other...I woke up this morning, looked at my cell/very-annoying-alarm clock and as my brain finally deciphered that the 1 and 5 next to May wasn't May 51st, 7020, I realized it was finally here and must have unfortunately missed the heavenly host's rendition of "GLORIA" to commemorate the occasion.

And so the wait and worry continues. Never in my life would I talk smack about those Israelites's so sad that after how far I have come in this journey and all the miracles I've seen, I arrive at the coast of the Red Sea and can't seem to trust the ONE that brought me here.

The mind is willing...but the flesh is so darn weak!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I'm sorry for deserting you all for this long. There just hasn't been any ground breaking news. I'm officially in the middle of the toughest part of this cycle-Staring at the clock and willing it to be May 15th already. But as if TIME itself knows I hold my breath, it drags its feet, counting every second twice before proceeding to the next, and then counting that four times.

Having so much time on one's hand is also bad in many other ways. The nerves have kicked in. Summer is approaching and in a few months I will be starting the path to my future career. It's hard for me because not only do I wonder if I'm ready for this journey, I also have to deal with committing myself finally to one career path-something I have thus far subtley avoided. In college I had two majors just in case medicine didn't work out, even as I get ready for the real thing, I have already started mapping out degrees to add on just in case I don't enjoy medicine as much as I think I will. But that has to stop! The running is over and my hand is just about an inch away from the plow and once it lands on there...there is no looking back, cus going back to one's vomit is just straight up gross.

But this brings up other issues. What if I just don't have the energy to continue? I was jumping ahead a bit and looking at some of the class schedules for some schools. I remember seeing a two-and-a-half hour free block of time in between classes in one of them. Seeing as classes that day would have started at 8:30am the first thing I thought was "Yes, nap time!" Ummmmm NO! This will no longer be undergrad where you delay studying till a week before the test and still ace it, this is med school in which everything I learnt in one year of anatomy would probably be taught in a month. YIKES!

24 days till May 15th - the day the floodgates openeth and those that wait upon the lists might eventually stand a chance

RIP Virginia Tech Victims

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bedside Manner Where Art Thou?

Hope everyone had a good easter! Mine was great! If I was back home, I would have had the pleasant opportunity of having friday and monday off but oh well. Speaking of which, why do people celebrate Easter Monday again?

So what did I do for easter? A family at church was nice enough to invite us poor no-family-nearby "students" to Easter dinner at their home. So there I was trying to be social and mingle with the other guests before the formal dinner began when the following took place:

Man: So what do you do?

Me: I do research at the Med School

Man: Oh nice, what are you researching?

This is always a hard question when you don't know what background your audience has. There's a thin line between try to speak in layman's terms and talking down to someone.

Me: It's loosely related to Disease XYZ

Man:(Stares on like he's waiting for further explanation)

OK...he must be some kind of scientist. Our host was one so it would not be too far-fetched to assume some of his guests will be too. I proceed to explain further in moderate details. Sensing I was beginning to lose him, I can back up to the surface and rounded up.

Man: (Nods) So why don't you study "Disease (Insert completely unrelated and obscure autoimmune syndrome here)"

Me: (Mentally flipping through my Med Terminology IOI textbook and trying to split up the syndrome's name into logical parts-complete with very confused look sweeping across my face)

Man: (Laughing) just kidding

Me: Well you got me

By the way, before this day, I had tried to brush up on the little science I knew seeing as our host was a seemingly big shot cancer scientist for a definately big shot pharma company. Yes...I know it's just an Easter dinner but it is also one of the many opportunities to make a full of yourself over a dinner table of 20 or so people...yeah on occasion, I'm more Type A than I like to admit

Me: So where did you pull that name out of?

Man: Well my wife has the syndrome

Ok time-out. Man just pretty much revealed to you that his wife has some syndrome that you have not had the opportunity to Wikipedia yet. Wife is present at party so you know whatever it is, the syndrome is probably not debilitating enough to confine her to bed. She looks very normal etc. So what would be the best response to man's statement?

Aristotle:(The-Must-think-very-deeply squad) Hmm that's a pity have you considered how this may relate to the alignment of certain astronomical bodies?

Hippocrates: (The-Must-do-no-harm squad) I'm really sorry to hear that, how hard is it to manage?

Me: (The-Must-perpetually-and-stupidly-think-every-disease-is-cool squad) Hmmmm Interesting.

As the words left my mouth, the extent of their stupidity and cold heartedness struck me. This was not immunology class where every pathway was something to drool over, this was a human know...the soul behind the pathway and the first words that come out of your mouth is that?! Needless to say the conversation ended a tad bit awkwardly and my attempts to dig myself out of the ten foot hole I dug seemed essentially futile.

I proceeded to kick myself for the rest of dinner.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I have struggled to find a minute amidst all the craziness I'm currently trying to juggle to update you on what has been going on in my world. So here goes:

Well...another waitlist came in last week. Not even from a school I want to attend but all the same the thought of being on three waitlists can be very depressing. It means I really won't figure out where I'm going till May or later. It's looking like a long summer already :(

Unto relatively more exciting stuff, I went for the seminar and reception for Ben Carson and it was pretty inspiring again. I remember him walking quietly into the room while everyone was outside where the food was. I was sitting in the empty room at this time and as he casually walked over to the podium to set down his stuff I kept thinking
"Wow this is him?! This is THE guy"

It was weird to meet the man behind the book and actually hear him refer to many of the stories in there during his speech. I felt like I was meeting a fragment of my imagination in person because I had formed a personal image of him that fit perfectly with the way he told the story. I also got him to sign my book and in between the hand shake leading up to the signing, I kept reminding myself that I was currently holding the hands that had been in the central processing units of the highest of God's creation, and here the hands were, looking like mine and yours. And he also does do this thing with them too while talking to you (the whole rubbing together at chest level thingy) that makes you do nothing else but just stare at them. I had to force myself to make eye contact during our two minute encounter. His wife was also there too but I really didn't get to talk to her.

The next book I ordered and I'm currently awaiting is "The Language of God" by Dr.Francis Collins one of the Chief Scientists behind the Human Genome Project. Hopefully by the time I finish it, it would be June and I would know for sure what prestigious institution of medicine I will be indenturing myself to for the next four years...ahem...PSYCHE!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ok too good to be true I know...but I get this sudden epiphany to check my work email which I check like once every two weeks. I see an email from this lady whose mails always talk about one seminar or the other. I'm like "Ok let's see what seminar it is this time"

Guess who the speaker is?

Ben Carson?!?!

I promise you I don't make this stuff up, apparently the truth is really stranger than fiction!!!

And they're giving a free lunch too..I'll really have to be crazy not to go. It's in a few days(like a week plus) so I'll let you guys know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BOOK IN REVIEW: "Gifted Hands"

So after a few nudges, I ordered my copy of Ben Carson's book.

I got those few minutes of "if a 'ghetto' kid from Detroit can do it, I definitely can too"

But I also got the few scary moments- One of these was his very point blank statement about how it was his gifted hands (aka "extraordinary eye and hand coordination") that made him a great surgeon and even though there were many surgeons out there, just as many who didn't have (or learn) this skill were plagued with complications in their surgery.

The scary thing was the fact that you didn't have to have this gift to become a surgeon, so you might very well hustle all the way for 10+ years of your life all for you to find out you're just average and could have been better at something else? As in there's no conspicuous gnome with a big bright red flag on the way that yells out "WRONG DIRECTION!!!"? Or maybe there is and we just ignore it?

Also very comforting were his words about putting competition aside and just trying to be the best you can be. I was forced to learn this at work because it's not class where you know there's going to be an exam and you can actually aim to be the best in class. There's no one else in this class but you. And the goal is simply to be better than the person you were yesterday. A much harder task because there is really no finish line.


There was also the part when he was in med school and had pretty much digested his text books so much that he knew more than the neurosurgery residents. Apparently, a few of them ended up handing over their pagers to him and getting him to answer their calls while they caught up on sleep. Like he said, some people would call this being taken advantage of, but really, it's a textbook case of a symbiotic relationship - Partner A benefits by getting extra sleep and Partner B by gaining extremely useful hands on experience.

So here I am a few more months to finishing work and I remind my boss that I would be checking out early summer and starting my three month fun-albeit-broke-vacation before I start med school. You can imagine my surprise when he comes back to me in a few minutes and starts to attempt to arrange for me to stay longer. I'm trying to explain that it's not a choice but rather a necessity seeing as my work authorization would be ending. Even more to my astonishment, all sorts of wheels started rolling to make a legal stay extension possible. For a few minutes I had to catch myself and put it all in perspective...Dear GOD, is this the same me that was always mad at myself for not being better at my work and thought they were probably counting down the days till my depature? I remember talking to one of the kind people helping me with the paperwork and she expressed that they were just probably trying to use me as much as possible before I left etc. Call me ignorant, naive, insecure or whatever but the fact that I am even considered "skilled" enough to be "used" is kind of a big deal and can we exactly call it USING if I'm learning more and simultaneously smiling all the way to the bank every Friday? My word for it - symbiosis good people, S-Y-M-B-I-O-S-I-S. I'm the crocodile bird giving the croc a free tooth pick and simultaneously getting my dinner.

We'll see if the paper work comes through. And even if it doesn't, it's the thought that counts.

All in all, Gifted Hands was a good and inspiring book, some parts were so cliche though that I felt I could predict what would happen. But I guess cliches are cliches for a reason-most knowledge really is hidden in books all over the place, and hardwork and faithfulness to GOD really does pay off eventually.

Has anyone else read this book? What did you think about it?
Thanks for recommending it "Aunt" I really needed it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I apologize for my recent AWOLness.

So all things being equal the story of my third MCAT was supposed to be my last post in the whole application process. I was supposed to keep everyone wondering whether or not I took the exam again(like u were even thinking about it) and finally let it all out the day I knew where I will be attending med school for sure. You know...something in the line of "And after all the MCAT I am going to my dream school, blah blah blah".

Ummm....YEEAAAHHH, all things are so not equal.

Here I was a week and a half ago basically living in cyberspace waiting for admission results from that school that had been playing dodgeball with my heart(and hundred other premed's) for a week or so, under a kind of pressure I never knew I could feel. It was then that the whole journey of the last 2.5 years started flashing before my eyes, and again I started reliving every single MCAT I had taken...the last one being the most traumatic and thus giving birth to my "Blast from the past". But the daydreams come and go and I'm currently enjoying a hopefully longer period of peace from them.

For the benefit of those who didn't quite understand the details of my last post, the "war" was my third MCAT. "Battle 1" - the Physics Section, "Battle 2"- the Verbal Section and 3 - the Biological Sciences section.

So yeah I walked out of the exam feeling like I completely bombed the whole thing. This would have been especially harzadous to my whole situation if I didn't at least show an upward trend in my scores. But what could I little shading bubble sheet was probably awaiting it's turn in some "little shading bubble sheet reader thingy" hundreds of miles away and nothing I could do could change anything. No matter how many times I woke up in the middle of the night to work out one of the exam problems I happened to remember to verify my answer...crazy days maan, CRAIZEEE DAYS. Anyways, 8 weeks later(yes they kept us waiting for about 2 extra weeks!) the results did come out.

I did one point better than my second MCAT. One point! I scaled through it by the skin of my tooth. The Physics that I thought I monumentally screwed up ended up being thesame score as the last time I took it (miraculously) Bio finally came through and I got an almost perfect score in that section. So maybe that was the only good that came out of the whole thing. I never got the 30+ score I wanted or thought I needed so bad. It was a 29, darn close.

At the risk of sounding extremely cheesy...realizing I was that close but yet not quite there made me realize that the battle was not going to be mine this time. If I had probably done very well on the exam I would have gone into this process on a very high horse and would only be setting myself to be thrown off later. So hey, better now than later right? (*Kneeling and Praying* Plss GOD I have really learnt from this-don't let it happen to me again)

PS: My AWOLness was due to trying to dig myself out of a waitlist. Yeah after the dodgeball game they left me sitting on the fence....I spent all of last week conveying in writing to their dean that the first words I uttered in my life was their institution's name. Half way through, I figured I might as well send an update to whatever other schools I was still interested in. I promise you premeds out there, if you want to reduce the chances of you becoming a serial scribe...seriously...kick butt in every single blessed way! SEERREEUSSLLEEE!!!!