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

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Pardon the cliche title, it's not me, it's Thoureau.

I was in Harlem, NY this weekend and I couldn't help but laugh as I thought of how the US media never let this image of America get beyond the country's borders. Thesame way they never let the images of the modern African cities get into their country. No point screwing up well-established stereotypes right? So just as I wish every American will visit one of the many non-Serengetti/Safari settings in Africa and finally realize that we don't compete with a pride of lions for seats on our public buses, I also wish every African child will pay a short visit to two locations in the US. To Harlem, to convince themselves that America wasn't flowing with milk 'n' cookies like they made us believe, followed by another short visit to Toys 'r' us to grab as much of the available milk 'n' cookies their little hands could carry before the clock struck midnight and they were back in their conventional existence. If only wishes were horses....

If they were, I would have followed lil john's orders, snapped ma faingazzz, and would have had the pick of the litter when it came time to find a job after graduation. If only.

The time is Fall 2005, I had made the decision to wait a year after graduation before applying to medical school and the need to find something to do during this year was vividly apparent. I had visited our Strictly-for-Engineers career fair, just to fulfil all righteousness, sent my resume to many Monsters and Career-Builders hoping they could at least find one monstrous(in a good way) company that will choose to help me build a career. It was still early, about seven months until graduation so all I could do was wait. Which I have never really been good at. Honestly speaking though, I really didn't want the high paying corporate job. I needed to improve my med school application. I already had corporate and research experience. But could always use more research. So during this 'wait' I spoke to "Smart-one", an active member of the "SCCI", who had just started med school at this point. She suggested it would be a good idea for me to come over to her school for a year and do some research, we could live together...blah blah blah. Pretty logical suggestion in theory...but this was one of the top ten medical schools we were talking about, Ivy League and everything and I was the girl in a school no one had ever heard about who had no connections what so ever to any high caliber institution, who had done nothing significantly eye opening, who had...who hadn't....who had...the list was endless. But that also meant I had nothing to lose. I asked her to help me talk to some of her professors and find out if they were interested in taking in someone for a year or so. No problem she was on it. So again I waited.

It must have been two weeks since our conversation and no news. It began to hit me that I had just asked a first-year med student to add me to her already overflowing schedule and find time to run around and help me look for a job. Maybe not so logical. I was getting tired of sitting around anyways so I went on the web and got on her school's web page to look for successful research professors. Successful in this context meaning they had numerous and recent publications. I found a few and proceeded to put together the history of my life in form of a very long email, along with almost every award I had ever won and sent it to these professors. Only one of them replied. A lady. Told me she really enjoyed reading my letter and there was an intsy-bitsy chance she might be able to accomodate me. I will know later in the year if she can. NICE!

Well kinda. "Intsy-bitsy" wasn't exactly comforting and to make matters worse she wanted a letter of Reference from Dr.K! I had promised myself I wasn't going to go back to this guy for anything cus I wasn't even sure what he felt about me. But it seemed I had no choice. (You can imagine my surprise when she sent me an email telling me she got a beautiful letter from Dr.K...I'm thinking "REALLY"?) By early this year after numerous email and phone tags I had not heard a final word. Last time I spoke to her, she was concerned that one year would not be enough time for me to learn all the new techniques in the lab. And that my med school interviews would be a distraction. I wanted to tell her that as it stood, the chances of my application getting me any interviews were pretty slim so she would not have to worry about it. But who wants to hire a pessimist? I gave her a long spiel about how I was a fast learner and how I would plan my interviews so it did not interfere much with work. I pretty much begged this lady with everything I had in me. She still wasn't sure she was going to have room in her lab to accomodate me.

So with no confirmation, I started spreading my roots to other schools. The first email seemed to have worked once so I just changed a few words, made sure I had the names right, didn't want to send Prof.A an email calling him/her Prof. B and then sent my life history to all the coasts of the US. A few replied, many saying they didn't have enough money, no space, their lab was moving to another location, contact them later, what the heck did I think I was doing contacting them directly? etc. Only one interview came out of the whole process. But by March, 2 months before grad, still nothing. "Freaking out" does not even begin to describe my situation. At this point, most of my engineer buddies had jobs or were interviewing at numerous places. Once again, I scolded myself for not becoming an engineer or at least going to a less engineering focussed school. No point crying over spilled milk at this point, but I did anyways. I remember saying my prayers before I went to bed a few nights after this and sobbing my heart out to GOD. I was scared everyone in the SCCI was right. That I should have applied with my subpar score anyways and gone to whichever "We-barely-got-our-accreditation-to-teach-medicine" school accepted me. That I was going to have to take a job in McDonald's or a mall somewhere after 5 years in college to pay for my applications and do nothing to improve my application. I still wasn't even sure I wanted to take the MCAT a third time, I had been studying all year, just in case, but I really didn't feel like going through the torture. Things were a huge mess and I had personally architectured every bit of it.

BUT He sees all our tears and He hurts when we hurt. I can't write a better ending to this story even if I made it up.


I don't remember if it was the next day after I bore my soul out to Him, or the end of the week. But I know it was spookily close. On Friday, March 24, 2006, 6:43pm, 37 days left on the countdown calendar till graduation, I was in our computer labs working on some of my last acts in college, when I received the first of the emails that would change my life forever.

Dear Abbey,
     I have finally settled the arrangements with various undergraduates
who will be working in my lab starting in the summer. I am pleased to tell
you that we could accommodate you for the year that you would like to work
at Ivy League Que. You would be assisting two postdoctoral level people,
who work on very different projects both involving....blah blah.
I apologize that it has taken so long for me to work things out. My
finances were unclear because of recent problems in our business office,
and - as I mentioned before - I had to wait for people already in the lab
to make decisions about what they would be doing.
Please let me know what you would like to do. As I recall, you said
you would like to start sometime in May, which would be fine with us.
Sincerely, Pof. Cee
It was from the lady I had contacted at "Smart-one's" school. I didn't know what to do when I finished reading the email. Am I supposed to scream, laugh, cry...what? I just stared at the words reading them over and over again...picked up the phone and called the "Speaker of the House" to share the news. It was official. I wasn't going to culminate my college career as a member of the Ron McDonald team.

When it rains though, it usually pours.

Two weeks before graduation, early in the morning while getting ready to go to class, I got a call from a weird number. It was from a biotech company offering me a summer internship writing user manuals and experimental reports for them. It was going to pay about 150% more than my research job and it was something I had never done before. Apparently I had submitted my resume to them at our career fair in February, couldn't even remember. I shook my head as I listened to the guy. Where were they when I was almost pulling my hair out last month? It was a great offer but then what would happen after the summer? And how well will this position help my med school application? After a few days of consideration, I took the research job and politely declined their offer. I started work this June on my birthday :)

By the way, would you believe that the research job I got was with Ivy League Que? Remember that was the same school Dr.K asked about when I told him my second MCAT score? I am going to be around the KYDU area for an Interview in December and I plan to stop by his office and finally give him that big hug I always wanted to give last year(then deal with the awkwardness the hug will create later). I won't be surprised if I go up to his office and find out he never even existed, it would support my growing theory that this guy was some kind of angel GOD sent to prepare me for the rest of my life!

But for now I'm the little African kid in the Toys 'r' us watching the clock fervently and hoping I have enough time to not only grab as many "My Little Ponys"(or what is it the kids play with nowadays?) as I can but also soak up as much of the whole experience as possible before the clock strikes May '07 and I'm off to God only Knows.

This was a long and hopefully not too boring post. I had a hard time making it funny cus all the emotions are still pretty fresh. I know what I've been through is nothing compared to some other stories out there and I would love to hear any interesting/inspiring career related stories you have. So please share!

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, and live the life you have imagined" - Henry David Thoureau

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

:'( + :) = :') {my current emotion - without getting too mushy - lol} oh and its "spiel"

November 20, 2006 1:53 AM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

lol...mixed emotions huh :) ...and "spiel" note taken.

November 20, 2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger Bella Naija said...

Wow...tht was an amazin story.
God is really good!

November 20, 2006 11:10 AM  
Blogger Overwhelmed Naija Babe said...

oh whaoooooo.. that is just fantastic.. so happy for you babe.. God comes through for us whenever we call on him eh... that is just great great great!!! Hopefully I have the same luck when time comes for me to go through my own med school process.. thank God you're here.. lol.. imma bug the hell outta you for every question/application problem I have... hehe... have a great week love

November 20, 2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

@Bella...yes I have to say it is an amazing story. I'm still digesting it myself.

@overwhelmed...u are more than welcome to bug me lol. but yeah its amazing how GOD works.

November 20, 2006 1:36 PM  
Blogger Gramps said...

My people call it JIT - Just in Time. As my mama would always say -God is never late.
A truly amazing story and I'm sure there are loads of people who will read this and be encouraged.

November 20, 2006 2:50 PM  
Blogger NaijaBloke said...

Thatz a good testimony if I may retort ... like Gramps said ..God is never late .. he knows the best time for his children...

U have a nice week

November 20, 2006 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Owumi said...

So true... it happened that way for me too, almost every year. A couple of weeks ago I sent teary e-mails to my sisters, and now I'm having trouble deciding:-) FOllwing your dreams is the best decision you can ever make...

November 20, 2006 8:35 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

thanks for the comments guys.

November 23, 2006 10:27 AM  

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