Been There. Done AMCAS.

Students who are admitted to medical school gain a unique perspective on the application process. Meet some Michigan Med students who are more than happy to share their experiences and advice with you. For more advice, participate in our next #GoBlueMed Tweet Chat!

Nicole Castago

Nicole Castago

Hometown: Snoqualmie, WA
Undergrad: University of Washington
AMCAS application: First day application opened
Secondary applications: Within few days of receiving them

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Name/rank/residency placement success; happiness of students/student life; administration/staff disposition (it was really important to me to go to a school led by an administration and staff who enjoyed their students and who were enjoyed by their students); overall "feeling" I had after interacting with staff/students (whether I reflexively felt that I would fit in/be happy at the school, considering staff/student life/housing/geography/etc.); and cost.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. I prepared for the application process very early, so the most challenging part for me was simply waiting for decisions to be made and attempting to live my life while doing so. It's very purgatorial to be in the middle of the process and not know where you'll be for the next four years of your life, so living life and making personal life plans was pretty difficult.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I honestly felt as though I had every resource that I needed. I felt, and still feel looking back, that I was very informed about the schools that I applied to.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Ask and secure Letters of Recommendation early, or they will inevitably become the single factor preventing your application from being processed. I did just that, and I was in no way stressed about the timeline of my application. Letters are one of the only variables out of your control when it comes to the AMCAS application, and I was very pleased with how willing my writers were to support me when I gave them lots of time. Thoroughly research the schools where you interview, and brush up on significant current events and the history of medicine.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. I able to illustrate my sincere passion for medicine and the importance of social interventionism, while portraying my abilities to relate with others and carry on compassionate conversation. In other words, my true loves are people and science, and I feel that my life experience and overall presentation both illustrated these values.

Matthew Christensen

Matthew Christensen

Hometown: Wheaton, IL
Undergrad: Cornell University
AMCAS application: June
Secondary applications: July-September

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. I applied to all of the medical schools in my home state, and then looked through the MSAR book to select a balanced list of schools to apply to elsewhere.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. Completing the AMCAS application was fine, but the secondary applications were a lot more work than I thought. The interviews took a bit more energy than I anticipated.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I worked with the pre-med advisory service at my college, and worked with advisors to help prepare a personal statement and to practice for interviews. The more you talk and get feedback, the better. I was also mentored by medical students who had been through the process.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Try to relax the night before an interview and get a good night’s sleep. Remember that, after all, most of it is just a conversation with a person.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. An honest and demonstrated commitment to service of others combined with strong work ethic, humility and drive for learning and self-improvement.

Patrick Commiskey

Patrick Commiskey

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Undergrad: Indiana University (Journalism & Political Science BAs), University of Michigan (all the Pre-Med coursework)
AMCAS application: June
Secondary applications: Within a week of receiving

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. My advisor helped me based on my scores and interests.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. The whole application process is made out by so many people to be so overwhelmingly dramatic. And, while I suppose it is a high-stakes proposition, I believe that so much within our profession is overly-hyped and dramatized. In the end, we are applying for the privilege of serving people. Sometimes this message gets lost.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. My pre-health advisor was very helpful. The best advice she gave me was to be involved in activities that I loved, just for the sake of doing, and not to worry as much about having the "perfect" application. I asked a variety of people to write letters from a variety of perspectives about my life, and I ran through a mock-interview with my pre-med advisor.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Let it go. Everything will be fine. By the time interview day comes around, you're there because you deserve a seat. Just be yourself.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. A variety of experiences, an interest in medicine, and the ability to succeed academically.

Zahra Dawson

Zahra Dawson

Hometown: Ft. Washington, MD
Undergrad: Emory University
AMCAS application: August
Secondary applications: ASAP

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Students who were happy, great education, location (somewhere I'd enjoy living for the next 4 years), multiple opportunities for clinical experiences, and financial aid.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. I expected the AMCAS application to be fairly similar to the Common Application, which is what I had used to apply for college. In that way, it met my expectations.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I mostly used my family as a resource. I would send them drafts of my essays and they would reply back with various suggestions for improvement. I think that they really helped me write the best essays that I could. I suppose a pre-health advisor could be helpful in that way as well.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. For Letters of Recommendation, I would definitely suggest meeting with your professors at least once one-on-one to talk more about your reasons for wanting to go to medical school and allow them an opportunity to get to know you better. Having an updated CV for this meeting would also be useful. I did do one mock interview with my school's Career Center and found the feedback to be extremely helpful. It definitely eased my nerves before going into interview season. Additionally, do your research on each school the night before you interview. Pick out a few things specific to their program that appeals to you so that you can mention them in your interviews and sound interested. Also, have some questions in mind just in case your interviewer asks if you have any (these can be the same for multiple schools).

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. The most important part of interviewing is to be yourself. Be interested. Be friendly. Don't forget to smile. Ask questions. Most importantly, be genuine and be honest. The last thing you want to do is come off as insincere.

Stephanie DeBolle

Stephanie DeBolle

Hometown: Macomb, MI
Undergrad: Michigan State University
AMCAS application: June
Secondary applications: Received July 3, submitted July 9

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Location, quality of program and cost of attendance.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. It was so much harder and more time consuming than I imagined it would be.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I worked with my pre-health advisor extensively. She was so helpful in assisting me with my list of schools, personal statement, and filling out the AMCAS application. I also referenced StudentDoctorNetwork, MSAR and school websites.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Have EVERYONE you know edit your personal statement. You never know who will end up being really helpful. I sent mine to an aunt who ended up getting it read by a friend who served to be the most critical and helpful long term. Also, "Essays That Will Get You into Medical School" is a resource I discovered too late. I would also recommend these things that helped me: a mock interview with an advisor at school, look up common interview questions and practice going through them, read The Medical School Interview: Winning Strategies from Admissions Faculty.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. Motivation, altruism, dedication.

Katherine He

Katherine He

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA
Undergrad: UC Berkeley
AMCAS application: June
Secondary applications: July - Sept

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. I didn’t do much in-depth research – I just applied to the top ranking programs in cities I would want to live. I think in retrospect I should have limited my scope of programs to save money. However, I was working full time, and didn’t have much time to thoroughly research each institution. I applied to ~30 programs.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. It wasn’t fun, but it was straightforward.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I didn’t work with a pre-health advisor, and I limited my exposure to online resources (Student Doctor Network) as I found that they can perpetuate a toxic environment/mindset.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Ask for letters of recommendation early, and ask more people than you need. I tailored my list of letters to each institution. Before interviews, I reflected on my application materials, especially the secondaries. I also researched each school to identify several specific reasons why I was excited to attend the institution. Lastly,I tried to relax and get a good night of sleep. Traveling to the interviews and being “on” for weeks at a time was very tiring. I would have wanted to spread the interviews out more (but was limited by cost).

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. I come from a unique background (Environmental Studies and French), and I chose my extracurricular activities based on my personal interests. I think it helped that I was very open about my personal life and my motivations for pursuing medicine. I did my best to try to be who I am versus who I thought they wanted me to be. I feel like Michigan definitely prioritizes authenticity in its MD candidates.

Erica Heisel

Erica Heisel

Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Undergrad: University of Michigan
AMCAS application: early June
Secondary applications: Two-week turnaround

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. I applied to programs based on what I thought was reasonable for my MCAT score and GPA, and to schools that were in places I would like to live. Lessons learned: DON'T apply to more than 25 schools (I would recommend more like 15-20), it is impractical to complete that many secondary applications. DO apply to ALL of your in-state schools - you have your best chances there, and in med school applications there really is no such thing as a "safety school."

Q. What was the application process like?

A. I had planned to get my secondary applications back to schools in 3-5 days. In reality, they all came at once, and I had to prioritize. It took me up to two weeks on some. Also, there are a few details that require some advanced planning, like getting your transcript sent. So be sure to familiarize yourself with the steps before the application opens.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I found an online tool at the campus career center that was extremely helpful.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. For Letters of Recommendation, it’s important to ask people who know what you're really made of and can speak to your character. While it is often required to have a letter from a science professor, if you went to a big university oftentimes those professors don't know you personally. It's good to have someone say "this applicant earned an A in my class and shows academic promise" but it is great to have someone who really knows you say, "I know that this applicant will make an excellent physician because I have observed them in a leadership setting" (for example). I used the list of questions sent out by the career center site and practiced out loud with my friends and parents.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. Charisma, curiosity, passion.

Bill Mallett

Bill Mallett

Hometown: Newton, NC
Undergrad: Brigham Young University
AMCAS application: June
Secondary applications: June & July

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. I looked for schools with all kinds of varied rankings and talked them over with my undergrad mentor.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. Lots of details. And lots of getting rid of unnecessary details. I was expecting more space to express my thoughts, but the constraints made my application better in the end.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. My unofficial undergrad mentor that I had selected freshman year helped so much (he listened to my entire AMCAS application and offered suggestions).

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Practice, Practice, Practice. Come up with a dozen or more stories of perspective-changing experiences and tie them to what you learned from each experience. If you can answer a question with a story, it shows that you're self-aware, present, and thinking critically in the interview, and it reminds the interviewer that you're just a genuinely interesting person. Also, come with some questions and don't be embarrassed to ask them. No one likes a conversation hog. I wish I would have focused more about the character of the school and less on the ranking. But thankfully it worked out that I'm attending a school where I can be proud because of the rigorous academic standards and formidable character.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. Honesty, friendliness, spirit of service, being down-to-earth and confident (even when it was faked).

Arjun Meka

Arjun Meka

Hometown: Snellville, GA
Undergrad: Georgia Institute of Technology
AMCAS application: First day application opened
Secondary applications: Within one week of receiving them

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Happiness and quality of life; research opportunities; residency placement; dual degree opportunities; and prestige.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. The pre-health program at Georgia Tech had a strong group of advisors who were helpful in shaping our applications for med school as well as helping us understand the reality and costs involved within the application process. With ample planning in advance, I don't think there is actually too much challenging throughout the application process.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. I would recommend reaching out to potential mentors for Letters of Recommendation at least six months before applying—this gives adequate time for them to write and upload the document as well as shows that you're not rushing this last minute. Before interviews, re-read your application and always remember why you want to become a physician.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. For me, I think it was my large research background, extracurricular involvements, and being relaxed and honest about why I wanted to enter medicine during the interview process.

Marina Mikhael

Marina Mikhael

Hometown: Claremont, CA
Undergrad: UCLA
AMCAS application: First week application opened
Secondary applications: Not sure

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Quality of student life; curriculum structure and emphases; financial aid; rank; and location.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. The actual AMCAS application was just as I expected, but I did not imagine that filling out secondaries would take such a long time. Especially since I was working and traveling the summer while I was applying, it was difficult to balance all of those things.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I had my older peers and friends as mentors, as most of them were just a year or two ahead of me in the process. It was really helpful to get their input because they just went through it, so they were able to communicate to me exactly what to expect or how to pursue what I want. I wish I had known more about the personal statement review my school had through the career center. I feel that would've helped me solidify my personal statement with formal feedback from people who are experienced with reviewing them.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. I would really recommend asking for letters from people that know you. Having a relationship with a professor is really helpful to ensure an honest representation of you in the letter. For other letters, make sure to get ones from the programs you are involved in the most and mean the most to you. It really makes a difference to show the schools you are applying to what you spent the majority of your time in and how that was able to generate you a weighted letter. For interviews: practice, practice, practice! For the most part, I just did a simple review of my application before walking into any interview, and reminded myself that it’s just a conversation. If you are able to communicate and converse with others all the time, what will be terribly difficult about this specific encounter? You’ve gotten this far in the application process so you should have plenty to talk about. The most difficult part for me was managing my academic commitments while traveling for interviews. I really had to balance interviews and traveling with my exam schedules. Ideally, I would have planned to have an easier (or at least more flexible) schedule during interview season.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. I think that being passionate about the things I was already interested was helpful. Grades and extracurricular activities are important, but if you don't have passion you really won't have anything to fuel you forward through the difficult times of medical school. Leadership and the ability to assume greater responsibility with ease are also important.

Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Undergrad: University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
AMCAS application: First day application opened
Secondary applications: Can’t recall

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Match success/residency placement; perceived student satisfaction; clinical training facilities/reputation; location; extracurricular opportunities.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. I had a working CV of sorts in undergrad, so I adapted that to application once it opened and then continued to edit until the submission deadline.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. Friends who had applied the previous cycle advised me to complete secondaries ASAP once I had received them.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Pick people who know you well to write your Letters of Recommendation, and ask for them earlier than you think you need them — letter writers are busy! Also, if someone offers to write you one without you asking, chances are that it will be a good letter. Before interviews, reviewing information about the school and your application, and always make sure you have questions for them at the end.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. Enthusiasm, perseverance, and work ethic!

Jeffrey Nadel

Jeffrey Nadel

Hometown: Centennial, CO
Undergrad: Colorado College
AMCAS application: First day available in June
Secondary applications: Within a week of receiving each one

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. There were a couple of factors I considered when deciding on programs—first was the type of curriculum the school offered. Although many schools are undergoing substantial curricular transformation, it was important for me to be in a place that a) took an organ systems-based approach to teaching, and b) had many modalities in which I could learn (lecture, small group, case based, etc.). I also looked at opportunities that each school offered. I wanted to be at a place that had strong biomedical sciences, a strong school of public health, strong policy programs, and an interdisciplinary reputation. I wasn’t sure exactly what would catch my eye in medical school, but wanted to be assured that I could find opportunities in whatever discipline excited me. Geography wasn’t as big of an issue for me. Overall, I think these were great criteria in honing down a list, and I couldn’t be happier that I wound up at UMMS—it satisfied both of my big criteria perfectly.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. It took longer to complete the AMCAS application than I anticipated. I went through many revisions of my Personal Statement and Most Meaningful Experiences. I also had a hold up with my transcripts being processed, so I would be sure to request them far in advance!

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. My undergraduate institution had a pre-health advisor who I was closely in touch with throughout the process. She was excellent in helping me to hone a list of schools, prepare my application, collect my letters of recommendation, and was useful in providing advice as I got ready for my interviews. It is great to work with someone with experience and who has seen the process before. I also used the MSAR resource to help me hone my list of schools and read a number of different blog articles about preparing my essays.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. I would recommend asking for letters of recommendation from professors or mentors who know you well, have seen your work, and who can provide colorful anecdotes about what you would add to the field of medicine. I enjoyed having a broad array of letter writers—not only science professors and not only academics. I received feedback in my interviews that each person brought something different to their descriptions of me, so trying to branch out may be a good strategy—as long as they know you well. Also, being able to articulate why medicine is the field for you is an essential part of success in medical school interviews, even if you won’t be asked this question by each interviewer. Some interviewers asked about current events in health care such as my opinions about recent health policy changes, so keep informed on these, too. It can be helpful to draw on secondary essays you write for other schools as you near the end of your process. While you need to tailor each secondary, many schools ask similar questions so your essays can build off of one another—save them and remember to look back at them as you answer others.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. I think showing interest, curiosity and flexibility at your interviews, as well as being friendly and cordial, are all important qualities to show that you are someone a school may want. In my case in particular, my interests and personality aligned very well with the programs and attitudes at UMMS, so I am elated to have been admitted here. Go Blue!

Uchenna Okoro

Uchenna Okoro

Hometown: Beltsville, MD
Undergrad: University of Maryland, Baltimore
AMCAS application: June
Secondary applications: August

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. I would say the top five qualities I was looking for in a medical school were community, financial aid, lifestyle/balance, support and school ranking.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. Before I started the AMCAS, I heard that it would be an extreme pain to fill it out. I actually didn’t find it that bad to go through it though. I’ve never been a fan of writing essays, so that wasn’t fun. I mostly was just double and triple-checking every small detail that was the pain. In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad, however I wouldn’t say I’d like to do it again anytime soon.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I did work with a pre-health advisor during my application process, but I did not find it to be that helpful and actually felt like it made the process a little more difficult. Our pre-health office had their own way of doing things and made us do extra things that weren’t always relevant to our applications, which sometimes added to the stress of the process. All in all things went okay, but they could have been a lot better if the advising had been different.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Knowing that the AMCAS opened a month early was a huge thing I found out in the midst of my process. This helped me build the framework for most of my essays and have the bulk of things ready to go once the official opening date arrived. I found that Student Doctor Network usually had the past essay prompts for all of my secondary applications so I could get a head start on those, too. Both of these are crucial because the biggest thing I learned during the application process was that APPLYING EARLY is so important! Quality beats quantity any day with letters of recommendation. Definitely ask people with whom you’ve had long-standing relationships and people who know you on a personal level.

With that said, you have to make time to build those relationships, too. I worked as a tutor for three years as well as in another extracurricular for the same amount of time. My supervisors from each of those were happy to write me letters and one even forwarded his letter to me and seeing what he had to say about me was very flattering. I also got two from research mentors. We had to get five letters total because of our pre-med office, so my last one was from someone from whom I just took a class but didn’t really know. Never feel you have to do that though.

Prepare for interviews by going through the specifics of your AMCAS/secondary applications because many schools will ask you about what you wrote in them. Also, my scholarship program also did mock interviews, which were really helpful for me. Lastly, if there’s anything you can look up/research on the school, that’s helpful. Showing that you’re knowledgeable about a particular school shows a genuine interest and can help prove to them that they should consider you strongly. The most challenging part of the process for me was actually the applications itself, specifically because I am not a fan of writing essays.

Just start as early as possible to give yourself time if you do happen to struggle with the written aspects of the application.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. One of my attributes that contributed to the offers of admission to medical school I received was my personality. People that get into medical school are all very capable individuals, and as pre-meds we tend to be very anal about everything related to academics. By the time you get to interviews, that means schools have deemed your work thus far worthy of consideration so they just want to put a face to the credentials and get to know you on a personal level. That’s a great time to really portray who you are, which is what I did during my interviews and it seemed to work out for me.

Warren Pan

Warren Pan, MSTP

Hometown: Sylvania, OH
Undergrad: Harvard University
AMCAS application: June?
Secondary applications: July

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Ranking/reputation; location; specialties known for; research opportunities; and camaraderie

Q. What was the application process like?

A. This went terribly for me — less autonomous control. I sent in my secondaries in July, but due to a delay in my Letters of Recommendation, I was not complete until late September. All my specific Letters of Recommendation were done in April, however I had to wait for my composite House letter. I think I was handicapped in being a late submission due to the drawn out process.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I spoke to a friend who had just finished Harvard Med and was a surgical resident at MGH for advice, but it was not detailed or AMCAS specific.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. I wish I had made light of the whole letter of recommendation aspect/delay.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. Showing competency in the arenas you are involved in (even if they are not medicine-centric).

Juan San Juan

Juan San Juan

Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Undergrad: Duke University
AMCAS application: July
Secondary applications: Within a week of receiving them

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. High academic ranking; quality of clinical teaching; happiness of students and lifestyle—this was something I paid a lot of attention to during interview days; research and extracurricular activities available; and how well the school prepared students for residency.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. It was lot more "busy work" than I expected but I really didn't have any expectations prior to starting. Overall I thought it was relatively pain-free, although the stress of the implications made it seem more difficult than it actually was.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I worked with a pre-health advisor, which was slightly helpful in that he gave us information that I wouldn't have known otherwise. The problem was that he was in charge of working with hundreds of students, and I think that some students missed out on information since it's hard to keep track of what has been told to whom. For example, none of my friends nor I were ever informed about how truly important it is to submit your application early. We received information that was mostly procedural, as in how and where to do things, but I don't feel that I received guidance or tips and I wish I had more of that. I also didn't know what questions to ask, what information I was lacking, and what things I should be thinking about. It would have been nice to have a frequently discussed topics or something like that to get the gears going. I think it would've been particularly useful to see example application essays that were successful and some that weren't. The pre-health department did host sessions where they gave tips and mock interviews with feedback. I found this to be helpful and wish I could have had more practice.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. The most important advice would be to tell pre-med students in their first or second year as undergrads to make an effort to develop relationships with mentors. Letters of recommendation were not something I was ever thinking about given all of the other responsibilities I had, so when it was time to ask for them I only had one legitimate mentor to ask. Before interviews, think about your answers to commonly asked questions and do a bit of research on each institution prior you visit so that you can prepare some questions of your own.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. Being well-rounded helps a lot. Every interviewer I had seemed to be impressed with all of the different things I did (sports, research, volunteering, good academic numbers), and it provided for a lot of different topics to talk about during interviews. Although there's no way for me to know, I think being personable was helpful. Being friendly and making little jokes here and there can only help.

Kylie Steenbergh

Kylie Steenbergh

Hometown: Shelby Twp, MI
Undergrad: University of Michigan
AMCAS application: Late June
Secondary applications: July & August

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. I picked the majority of my programs based on locations and what, if any, global health programs they had. The reputation of the school was also a factor. I did an initial pass through of all the medical schools using a book I purchased and MSAR. However, this list required extensive grooming because I could not afford nor did I have the time to apply to as many schools as were on my initial list. Ultimately, I did not finish all of my secondary applications due to the large number of primary applications I submitted.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. It was much harder than I originally anticipated. The application itself was time consuming, and I wished I had kept a better record of my activities and such.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I worked with a pre-health advisor, and she was very helpful from large things, such as deciding whether to take a gap year (which I ultimately decided not to) to small things, such as questions about how the semester systems were categorized by AMCAS.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. I wish I would have had a better source for personal information from current students about their experience at the particular school. Other than being a student, I think this is the only way to get a true understanding of what it means to be a medical student at that school and what may be of interest to you at that particular school. The thing that helped me the most was a mock interview I had with my pre-health advisor. It was very, very rough, but we debriefed after and I felt a lot more comfortable. I honestly just tried to relax. I think a lot of people get caught up on knowing all the details of each of the schools, but I didn't feel that was necessary in my interviews. However, it is always good to know one or two things about the school! I tried to think of the interviews like a conversation, rather than a question and answer session about myself.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. I think you just have to be yourself and remember that if you have been offered an interview, the school already likes you. Now, it is the time to make sure you like the school. I think being honest and truthful about who you are as a person and whether that fits with the culture of the school is necessary in ensuring your success.

Sara Walker

Sara Walker

Hometown: Brighton, MI
Undergrad: University of Michigan (BSE in Biomedical Engineering, BS in Honors Mathematics, Minor in French and Francophone Studies)
AMCAS application: First day it opened in June
Secondary applications: Within one week of receiving

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Since I was applying to get an MD/PhD, I started with the list of ~40 schools that had Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTPs) and first cut all the ones I definitely didn’t want to attend. Then, I culled from there based on other characteristics I wanted - potential research mentors, location.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. The most aggravating parts of AMCAS were the character limits (especially for the activities section), and the navigation setup at times (having to scroll through half my application in order to add a letter or a school). I wanted to complete each secondary within two weeks of receiving it (or less), which was difficult when I had 16 secondaries at the same time. My suggestion would be to save all your secondary essays in a file so that you can refer back for other secondaries (and occasionally use the same one and customize for the new school).

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. I met with a pre-health advisor during undergrad but she didn’t have as much experience with MD/PhD as with MD. For MSTP, I would suggest contacting a current MSTP at your school (if possible) and ask them about the experience.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Get a few more Letters of Recommendation than you think you need. It’s easier to change out letters when they are already written than to ask a new writer to write one for you. If your school offers a service where they hold letters for you and can send them to AMCAS for you, take advantage of it - it was so helpful for me. One question I asked almost everyone at my interviews was “Why did you decide to come here?” which was great because (1) I could ask the same question to everyone and potentially get a different answer, and (2) I really wanted to know that answer too. The most challenging part for me was all the waiting. I’m usually on top of things and get through my to-do list fairly quickly, so waiting for schools to get back to me (for secondaries, for interviews, for decisions) was agonizing. There’s not a real way to make this go any smoother, except to just know it’s going to happen.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. For me, I think a lot of it had to do with standing out in some way. Michigan, for example, doesn’t really want cookie-cutter applicants; they want people who have a real passion for something, and I think that’s what came through in my application and interview. Be yourself.

Adam Weightman

Adam Weightman

Hometown: Clarkston, MI
Undergrad: University of Notre Dame
AMCAS application: June
Secondary applications: As soon as possible (August?)

Q. How did you decide which programs to apply to?

A. Location, cost, reputation.

Q. What was the application process like?

A. I think for historically high-achieving individuals the rejection associated with not being offered an interview or not being accepted into a particular school can be very difficult. However, you have to trust in the process and stay confident throughout.

Q. What support and/or resources did you access when you applied?

A. My pre-health advisor was crucial as he had been through the process before and was able to not only advise me, but also advocate for me with medical school admissions.

Q. What’s your best advice to people who are applying to med school?

A. Consider writing out answers to common questions that you anticipate as this will allow you to feel more confident when you face them. The caveat being don’t sound rehearsed! Also, make sure to take a deep breath, do a couple of power poses, and RELAX prior to the actual interviews.

Q. What does it take to be a successful med school candidate?

A. I think aside from quantitative stats, personality and demeanor really matter during med school interviews. Don’t overlook the importance of being calm and confident when interacting with those in evaluative positions. I think strong leadership and time-management skills are important, as well. Any unique extracurricular involvement or interests can also shed interesting light on you as a person, which as an interviewer, has been the most insightful information I’ve gained from applicants.

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