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 05, 2006

The Week from Hell

(Details have been slightly modified and technicalities reduced significantly)

Interviewer: So are you still at school XXX? Your recommender only stated here that you were going to be there for 2 months

*Dang can we at least sit down before you start drilling me?*

Me: Yes I am, I think she meant I had only been there 2 months before she wrote the recommendation...probably a miscommunication, because I'm going to be there till next year

Interviewer: So tell me about your research at school XXX?

*Nice, familiar turf*

Me: Well I work on these special RNAs that modify other RNAs in a certain part of the cell. Trying to figure out the exact sequence for transporting them to the locations where the function by....

Interviewer: Exactly what kind of modifications do they carry out....

*Oh $#*!, I don't remember!!! maybe this turf isn't that familiar...oh well you gotta say something...*

Me: They modify the 3' end to ensure stability of the RNAs

*Don't ask anything else on this....please....*

Interviewer: So what is the point of this research anyways...?

*Dang he's questioning the source of my daily bread and my boss' entire life. Hmmm...Dr.K said all doctors need to hear is the name of a disease, what was the name of that disease again....*

Me: Disease ZZZ results from improper localization of the RNAs to their cell location so proper characterization of the localization pathway will....

*Geeez he's writing that down....or was it Disease XXX, if he verifies it I'm toast*

Interviewer: So is this disease at the mRNA level or the protein level?

*Dang this is not my PhD thesis, I'm just the assistant chef, I don't know all these details...but it's usually at the protein level so we'll go with that, throw in some technical terms while you're at it...always works*

Me: At the protein level. My RNA requires certain protein factors like dyskerin to bind to it before it can modify the other mRNAs. Without these modifications, the wrong proteins will be translated due to exonuclease activity...

*Oh $#*t, he's writing it down too....I'm SO done...anyways I still have school YYY to interview at right? hmm and maybe I shouldn't cancel that interview with that "We-want-you-to-pay-4years-in-advance school, I can probably cough up $200,000 if I really had to right?....*

Interviewer: So have you made any significant discoveries so far?

Welcome to the first five minutes of the interview I had last week. I don't think I have ever cursed that much in such a short period of time. In my defense, I had no idea I was going to be asked such specific questions about my research if not I would have read up more on it. Even at my first interview, all they wanted to know was general information about it but at this one, after I read my interviewers resume I realised I was going to be drilled. By then it was too late to even try to prepare myself. The guy had like 40 papers over the last few years and 10 more waiting to be published. The rest of the interview went better though...apart from me not being able to read any feedback from his face...he was even yawning during the interview...Thankfully the afternoon interview went extremely well and I felt good about my chances of getting in again...

Whatever happens though, it was a good experience, for 10 bucks extra I rented this really sweet black mazda6 and gunned those cylinders all the way up for the interview and back. And now I also know what kind of questions I will be asked on my research at other interviews, especially for my next one which is really research oriented. The only downside of the whole thing was how sick-ish and sleepy I felt for the next 24 hours. I had ingested way too much caffeine during the trip and had too little sleep.

I got back home at about midnight on my interview day and decided to check my email before I crashed. Laying there was an email from one of my top choice schools...they had put me on hold before interview. What the heck was that supposed to mean? I had heard of being waitlisted after an interview but not on hold before the interview itself. After some research, I realized it was a classic case of "Show-us-how-badly-you-want-this". Apparently the three essays I wrote didn't quite capture this. Now I need to write another one letting them know that life, as I know it, will come to a screeching halt if I don't get interviewed by them. A beggar has no choice, until I get my first acceptance at a school I really want to attend, then I have to jump every time I'm told to. Apparently though, there was worse news to come.

On Wednesday, 7:00 pm a few hours short of 24 hrs since I got the "hold", I got another rejection in my email. To make matters worse, they sent me on a scavenger hunt to find the rejection letter. The email read:

"Your application status has been updated on our page, please log in to your account to read the details of the update"

I wicked is that? They let your heart beat insanely for like two minutes and at thesame time you still have to scan through the 20 or so different userid and passwds in your head for the right one to access your account with. After I eventually logged on, the message was not even there...I had to comb through the numerous links and click the right one again. And then there it was.

At this point we will not be able to process your application further. Your account with us will be disabled and you will be wiped off from our memories for life. In case you didn't understand the last sentence, it means...YOU DON'T EXIST TO US ANYMORE.

But no...this doesn't mean you don't have what it takes to be a doctor, no such thing! It just means you don't have what it takes to be a doctor at our very prestigious institution. So don't kill yourself, everything will be OK.

Admissions Committee

OK so I got rejected...painful but I don't expect to be accepted at every school I apply to. The only thing that made this rejection different was that unlike VANDY where I had not even filled out a secondary, for this one, I had done so and written two painful essays on very random, open-ended questions for that matter. The worst blow of all was the school the rejection was from. KYDU people, K-freaking-Y-D-U!!! Apparently, all the research I did with them had come to naught. I had been dealt a triple hit combo in the space of 24 hours.

All this happened while I was on the phone with one of the members of my Senate Committee on Career Issues but she was discussing some of her own career issues at this point so I didn't feel the need to burden her with the developing story. So I couldn't even verbalize any of the things going through my head at this point. Immediately I got done with her, I called one of the other members of the committee and let it all out. No I didn't cry, didn't even come close...but it was awesomely painful. I went to bed that night just praying to GOD for one piece of good news...just one...but it was Thursday though, the week was almost over.

Thursday night...fell asleep on the lazy boy until my roommate got back and decided to tickle me out of my sleep. I would ordinarily be monumentally upset for someone waking me up from my beautiful-much-needed-albeit-quite-uncomfortable sleep but after a failed attempt at retailiation, I did the only logical thing I could think of-checked my email.

At 11:52pm, 11/02/06... 24 hours after begging GOD to give me something to sing about this week, I got an email from another top 20 school inviting me to interview with them!!

Someone might be thinking that OK, these are just interviews not acceptances so why the hullaballo...well here are some figures from one of these schools

Number of Applicants: 4000
Number of Applicants Interviewed:627
Number of Students Accepted: 260

So there is higher than a 1 in 3 chance of getting in at most places you interview! And if you interview at 5 or more schools(unverified stats)...chances are you are definitely getting in somewhere.

By the way the
"We-want-you-to-pay-4years-in-advance school was Saint Louis University and I eventually cancelled my interview and withdrew my application. There was really no point. They didn't even offer any loans or financial aid to international students. (These few sentences do not capture the depth of thought and fidgeting that went into making this decision) If these were corporate or PhD interviews where everything was paid for, I would have gladly gone to see St.Louis and gain the interview experience but it wasn't worth the stress and money. To make matters worse, about a week ago, msn listed St.Louis as the most dangerous city in the US. And here I was thinking ABBEYVILLE held that title!

The week from Hell was now officially from Heaven.

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Anonymous arturo said...

Hello Abbey, I'm glad your week from hell finished all right. Don't get frustrated, I'm sure you are exactly what one of those medical schools is looking for.

November 05, 2006 3:39 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

I hope so too arturo, hopefully more than one, I will like to have choices...frustration does set in once in a while...especially the waiting part. but every piece of goodnews makes it worth all the wait.

thanks for the encouragement!

November 05, 2006 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... wa o. The waiting and guessing game is definitely not an easy one, in fact it sucks big time. Kinda like job interviews sometimes...Well hopefully, you'll get into one that you actually like. Stay strong men..rejection at some is inevitable afterall.

November 06, 2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

yup..the waiting sucks BIIIGG time but like I said I really wish it was more like regular job interviews where everything is paid for but here they treat us like real beggars sometimes. I don't blame them though...39,000 ppl apply to be doctors every year it would be financially outrageous for them to cover everything.

November 06, 2006 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Oworu said...

Lord, i'd really hate to be cornered in such a situation where someone is throwing questions at me and i am caught off guard. That wud just suck. Teaches us to be prepared for naything but as we can see, you were still yourself so if you don't already know the outcome, whatever it is, u shd be proud and as for those schools rejecting, they do not know what they are losing. In other words, you rejected them. When Dr ........(Nee XXX) is making waves in future, they'd probably be biting their fingers sayin "YEE!!!"

November 06, 2006 12:45 PM

November 06, 2006 12:55 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said... and you want to put me in trouble putting my last name on here...i had to edit that out. but yeah I realize that even if you don't know the answer they want you to think of a logical answer without losing composure. cus in reality one person never knows everything.

but after i got out of it, i had to give myself credit for not letting my panic come through!

November 06, 2006 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Oworu said...

my apologies and by the way, St. Louis IS dangerous!!!!!!!!!

November 06, 2006 1:42 PM  
Blogger Bella Naija said...

It shall be well Abbey...
That was really a tough week but u r getting all these interviews while some people r being rejected right off the bat
An acceptance is on the way!

November 06, 2006 2:40 PM  
Blogger Biodun said...

wow, sounded like a crazy week, pele dear, glad that u got the interview with top 20 skool, hope u get into that skool in Jesus name!

November 06, 2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

ladies...thank you for the support!! may GOD grant you all your heart desires!

November 06, 2006 5:05 PM  
Blogger NaijaBloke said...

Pele ... pray u get admitted to the school u desire .... Rejection is a bitch jere ..

Have a nice week

November 06, 2006 5:33 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

our broda...thank u o! prayer is the only way it seems right now.

November 07, 2006 11:44 AM  
Blogger Overwhelmed Naija Babe said...

Heya babe.. sorry to hear that... It must just be a constant high and low doing all these applications.. getting your hopes up then having them crushed.. i remember when i was applying for uni.. it wasn't even a quarter that stressful and i was bugging out for a bit.. so for med school it must just be that much stres multiplied by 24... but no worries babe.. you'll get into a great one... we're praying and rooting for you... things will work out for you the way you want em 2... AMEN!!!

November 07, 2006 10:15 PM  
Anonymous ogizzle said...

Thank God the week ended well. I believe you will get in somewhere. I didn't even know the stats were about 1 in 3...that's really amazing. I have been keeping up with your blog even though I haven't been posting for lack of time. Second year is a hurdle. Oh and for some reason my school has it worked out that we take our step 1 before April 7. So 2nd yr ends in feb and we have 6 wks to study for boards. I just visited for advice and people were talking about studying 6mnths in advance we are already in November and i am still trying to pass my classes. Meanwhile, you remember all too well how the MCAT was, shoo I have barely recovered from it and now I am expected to do well in an exam harder than the MCAT, harder than Step 2 and 3, that will truly determine my specialty. I feel screwed already! Ooops I think i just used your blog to vent my own fears, hope you don't mind. Lol. Anyways...this whole medical school thing is like a hurdles race don't you think?

November 08, 2006 12:23 PM  
Blogger ABBEY said...

@overwhelmed...yeah i think its nothing compared to undergrad I was already in uni at home so getting this will just have been a plus. Thanks sweetie

@ogizzle...i was beginning to wonder about you. good to see you in the comments section again. and why does wake do that? most schools give their students at least 2 mths to study for it. But you'll make it one way or the other. and don't let the past interfere with your future ...the MCAT was just that, the MCAT now you've crossed that hurdle and you probably know the things you should have done to make you do better. So I'm sure you'll excel in step 1.

its funny too cus one of the 3rd yr med students at a school i interviewed at told us that step 1 was easier than the MCAT but I've heard otherwise from lots of people and now you.

And vent all you want oh..the blog is for everyone's benefit not just mine. This junk really is one big hurdles marathon.

November 08, 2006 1:10 PM  

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