In absolutely no way is anything in this series to be taken as advice. I am not an expert in how to get accepted to medical school – I’ve been rejected exponentially more than I’ve been accepted. If there was a formula to get in, I’d share it – but there isn’t. Everyone who is accepted gets to that point a different way.
In May 2011, Matt and I moved to Memphis. The same day that we arrived was the only time we’ve actually seen a tornado – the sirens started going off and we could see the cyclone to the west. It was quite a welcome.
I started taking my medical school prerequisites in June. There was a 2-course difference between taking just the prerequisites and getting my Bachelor’s in Biology, so I had decided to go ahead and get the second degree. It would take 2 years of huge courseloads. I also started working 20 hours per week in retail, only a few minutes drive from school. I volunteered for a few months, 4 hours a week, in an intensive care unit in the area.
My grades were great at first and good after that – they were certainly never bad, but good for medical school is different than good for everything else. That’s one thing that I would change if I could do it over, but I honestly don’t know how I could have put forth more effort than I did. The challenge was that I had never truly learned to study. I hadn’t needed to in high school, and as an English major, I didn’t study so much as review. I had to learn from scratch – what had worked for me in the past simply wasn’t cutting it in advanced science courses.
In August 2011, Matt and I got engaged and started planning our wedding. We moved out of our apartment and into a beautiful house in January 2012, and we adopted a black lab mix (Stella the Skittish) in April. Classes and work went on as they had been.
That summer, I took five weeks off from work and strapped myself to my desk to study for the MCAT. This was the one hurdle that I thought would be a ‘make it or break it’ moment. I took every practice test I could get my hands on and studied between 6 and 12 hours a day (while taking Bio-Organic Chemistry, I might add). It was like training for a marathon – I had a whole schedule of how I would taper down my studying just before the test. I remember laying in bed the night before, singing to myself under my breath (“House at Pooh Corner”), trying to get to sleep.
I couldn’t have asked for a better test day. I’ve heard horror stories, but everything went smoothly for me. Matt and I went out to celebrate that night, and started waiting for scores to come back. A few weeks later, they did; I was very happy with mine, although, being a perfectionist, I would have liked it to be higher.
That fall, I applied to medical school for the first time. We applied in October, which was a huge mistake in retrospect. The thing about this process is that unless you’ve been through it recently or know someone who has, you’re in the dark. You don’t know what’s important and what isn’t. After the last few years, I’ve decided that applying early is probably the most important thing. Applicant decisions are made on a rolling basis – the earlier an application is in, the better chance of acceptance. We waited. And waited. Rejection letters started showing up in the mailbox.
Matt and I got married in January 2013, and we were still practically holding our breaths for news. Until this past autumn, we both look back on our honeymoon as the one time in the past four years that we haven’t been worrying obsessively about my medical school future.
In February 2013, I had my one interview of that application cycle – at the University of Tennessee. My immediate reaction was to cry in my car afterward, so when I got my rejection letter in March, I wasn’t shocked. They were kind enough to provide some feedback, and recommended that I expand my clinical experience. I got a job as a scribe in the Emergency Room at a Level 1 Trauma Center in Memphis, I graduated Cum Laude with my Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, and we got ready to apply all over again.