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, October 06, 2006


The very moment I got those MCAT scores back, my body went into crisis mode. Unlike the first time when I had a genuine excuse for not doing well, there was none this time. I had studied my butt off every night that semester. I might as well have been paying my rent to the library too cus I was there more often than I was at home. I went into the exam really confident that I was going to land well in the mid 30s this time. So you can imagine my shock when I did only 3 points better than my first trial. I began to question myself.

Why had I left Nigeria in the first place? Back home I had passed what I consider one of the most difficult and controversial exam in the country - JAMB. I got somewhere in the higher 200's out of 400. That might seem low to a lot of people but my Naija peeps know that is considered a very high score especially if you were not opportuned to take advantage of the numerous and convenient exam question "leaks". I had gotten into University of Lagos, doing Medicine. Again without a need for the famous connections you almost had to have to get in for the major you wanted. So when I saw those MCAT scores, I felt like I had personally altered my career destiny by leaving Nigeria on that August day in 2001. I began to wonder if I was ever going to make it to med school in the US, being an International Student and all. Even if I got in, was I going to get any Financial Aid? I could not think of an American Citizen offhand that would be willing to cosign a loan of $200,000 for me. Heck, I don't think I had the guts to even ask anyone to do such.

Every international student I knew that got into any medical school had gotten a 30 and above, at least that's what they told me. I was so close, yet so far. A Nigerian brother at KYDU advised me to see their Minority Recruitment guy, Joe and talk about my chances. The meeting was very depressing to say the least. He pretty much reiterated everything I was thinking. He told me KYDU might accept me but my chances of any scholarship were slim to none because I did not make the 30 cutoff. Ol' boy even had the guts to question the quality of my school's science program, claiming it might be responsible for my sub par performance. He wondered how I could get a B or better in all my science classes and still not do great on the MCAT. I countered his statement in the most polite way possible, YES, my school was not ranked among the top 50 undergrad institutions, hell, not even the top 100 and NO, our science program did not need any revamping, thank you very much. I tried my best not to get rude cus for all I knew, he might be on the committee reviewing my application, whenever I decided to turn that in. It's funny how you complain about your school when you're in there but the minute an outsider says one bad thing about it, you get all voltron on their behind.

Anyways, from the way things were looking, I was going to have to make some tough decisions. I had not yet volunteered in any clinic whatsoever so there was a big hole in my application. I had three options:

Option 1:

Apply with my mediocre resume and hope and pray that I get accepted somewhere and at thesame time run the risk of throwing $6000 down the gutter if I did not get in anywhere. There was also the small issue of where I was going to get the money that point all my three jobs in school paid me a total of about $4000 a year, I also had no credit card to my name so the option of getting Uncle Sam to pay for it now, and proceeding to pay him back for the rest of my life was out of the question. My sister was also still in school at this point and she had her own problems to worry about so again no show on that side. Well there was always my parents, I could ask them for the money too...but naaaah, gotta start dealing with my problems myself.

At this point someone might ask where my faith was, I could apply to a few schools and look unto GOD to sway their hearts to accept me. But I'm a big fan of keeping things as real as logically possible. Like my pastor in church back home always said to us students "Study like there was no GOD, and pray like that was the only thing that determined your success". So in this case I had not done everything in my power and I was expecting GOD to...

Option 1 was looking shady from all sides

Option 2:
The application process takes a whole year. So if I wanted to get in immediately after graduation (August 2006), I would have to start applying immediately(June 2005). But seeing as I was not exactly in best shape, I had the option of waiting a year, improving my resume, working for much needed money and applying concurrently. The only problem that I faced here was finding someone to hire me for just a year. Of course I had the option of conveniently forgetting to mention this on my resume but what would I do when I had to leave town for interviews? Call in sick for the fifth time in one month?

Option 3:
This option will only come into consdieration if option 2 was adopted. If I was going to decide to take a year off, I might as well try to take the MCAT again and see if I could attain the much coveted score of 30, or maybe higher. Of course this raised a lot of other questions. Unlike the JAMB exam back home, taking the MCAT multiple times looked bad for your record. You also did not have the choice of picking which score you decided to apply with. The medical schools saw all your scores. There was also the small chance of doing worse the 3rd time, *Shiver* let's not even go there.


So these were the options I had. Damned if I did, Damned if I didn't. I spent numerous hours on the phone during this period with my "Senate Committee on Career Issues". Most of its members advised me to just apply and HOPE for the best(option 1). But Hope in this case was going to be a few thousand dollars too expensive. Another small percentage suggested option 2 and only 1 suggested option 2 in combination with option 3. But this was my life and not a democracy so regardless of what the senate decided, I called my own shots.

As you must have figured out by now, it's October 2006 and I'm not a med student yet, so for sure I took option 2 and along with all the job search heartaches that came with it. But deciding whether or not to take the exam again wasn't that easy...

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Anonymous Oworu said...

JAMB!!!!! World war III. What do they have in common. I'll let u figure that out. Well, at this point, all I can do is pray for you and hope for the best. God will be with you. Just make sure u don't sit back aight.


October 07, 2006 12:33 AM  
Blogger Onada said...

You;ll be a med student soon girl!! dont worry.....and dont worry about those student loans..... you'll be able to pay them off in no time as a doctor :)

October 07, 2006 2:19 AM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

@oworu: what do they have in common? aren't those two thesame thing lol. But yes oh, I need prayers and more prayers this is a very crucial point in the whole application. Most of the schools are currently making interview decisions.

@onada: thanks for the encouragement lady. and as per the loans, i hope so too, what I hope for even more is that I won't have to take any at all. God is in control sha, we'll see what he has planned.

October 07, 2006 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have faith!
Honestly, I know it is really difficult right now but I am certain of one thing, God grants his children favour!
All will be well

October 11, 2006 7:11 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

thanks sweetie...I'm looking on to HIM daily, I'm sure He'll come through

October 11, 2006 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you considered Osteopathic schools or Nursing? It may be difficult, even with minority status to get into a US allopathic med school. I think the MCAT is a means of overcoming low school-ranking or GPA, but not everyone does well on standardized tests and many succesful international students have scores in the mid 30s. Also, I think Howard University has significantly lower application requirements than other allopathic schools if you qualify as a minority applicant.

Good luck to you and God bless you.

June 04, 2007 3:41 PM  

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