This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Jonathan Karademos…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What are two interesting things about you?
Jonathan: I am from Washington State and attended the University of Washington in Seattle. I studied microbiology and graduated in 2008. Two interesting things about me…hmm…lets see. While I blog now, I actually hated writing in college (I dreaded every paper I had to write). Second, I have been stung by a jellyfish and still have the mark on my side.
Accepted: Where are you in med school and what year?
Jonathan: I am currently a third year student at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Drexel U College of Medicine so far?
Jonathan: My favorite thing was getting the opportunity as a student to be on the admissions committee. Not only was I able to interview prospective applicants, I was able to provide my opinions during committee meetings that other committee members actually responded to. It was really cool seeing the admission process and how applicants are really chosen (there is a lot of bad advice out there on how to get into medical school).
Accepted: Did you go straight from college to med school? Or did you take time off? (If you took time off, how did you spend your time?) How did that experience influence you?
Jonathan: I actually took quite a long time off from school. Almost 4 years. During that time I held two jobs and tried to do many things to strengthen my application to medical school.
My primary job was as a researcher at the HIV Vaccine Trials Network in Seattle, WA. I took care of three very expensive flow cytometer machines and analyzed blood samples from various HIV vaccine trials around the world.
My second job was as a host in a busy Jazz Club in Seattle. While a lot of people may wonder how this helped me for medical school, it actually helped tremendously. This job solidified my skills in multitasking, thinking on my feet, and interacting with different personalities (some people were nice, some not so much).
The biggest thing the time off did was helping me to mature. Living in the “real world” is very different than going to school and comes with a new set of responsibilities and stressors that are not simply learned overnight. Learning how to adapt to the new situations has now helped me in the hospital where I initially felt lost but am now a lot more comfortable with whatever gets thrown at me.
Accepted: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the med school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Jonathan: It took me three tries to get into medical school. In retrospect I definitely was not ready for medical school on the first try, and it showed in my application. The second try was tough. I had retaken the MCAT, volunteered, shadowed, and really worked on my application, but it was not enough.
For my third application, I was absolutely determined to do anything I could to get in. To that effect, I went into shadowing overdrive. Within a period of about 6 months I was able to get over 100 hours of shadowing in various low-income clinics (while working 70 hours per week). When it came to applying again, the shadowing experience really helped shape my personal statement, which lead to an eventual acceptance to Drexel.
Accepted: How do you balance work/life as a med student?
Jonathan: This is the million-dollar question. Honestly, I am still trying to find that balance. During my first year I had the mentality that I was going to study harder and perform better than anyone else. The problem was that I neglected the life balance aspect. I did not work out as often as I used to and I neglected some of my hobbies. What ended up happening is that I did “satisfactory” on a lot of my courses during the first semester. When I realized that I needed to exercise more and continue my hobbies, things changed. I was studying less but my grades were improving because I had more focused study sessions and I was a lot happier.
When my wife (then fiancée) moved to Philadelphia during my second year, I had to learn new balancing techniques. One of the things I made a commitment on fairly early was a date night. Usually on the same day each week (unless there was a test the next day) I would stop studying around 4pm and completely devote my attention toward my wife. Since she is not in the medical field, this helped me get a break from medicine and recharge.
Third year is a little tougher to find the work/life balance. There are multiple hospitals and multiple time commitments that it can be hard to find a good routine. However, I still try and do what I have been doing during the first two years: I find time to exercise and I still have my date nights with my wife once a week.
Medical school is a marathon that can be very rewarding or grueling depending on how you approach it. If you can find and do things in school that make you happy, you will take away a lot of positive experiences.
Accepted: What are your top 3 tips for med school applicants?
Jonathan: When you interview, do two things: be yourself and back up your responses with things you have done. Part of the interviewer’s job is deciding if you are the right fit for a school. If you are not yourself and get accepted, it is possible you could be miserable at that school. In terms of backing up your responses, don’t say that you want to be a surgeon if you’ve only ever shadowed primary care physicians. If you want to be a surgeon, make sure you have shadowed a surgeon and can explain why you like that field.
In the years before applying, shape your experiences for quality. I’ve seen multiple applicants where they had 30 different things they did for a month at a time. Sometimes they got in, sometimes they didn’t. If that same person instead had 5 big experiences that lasted 4+ years each, then they probably got in because they could talk about how much those experiences shaped their character. Quality over quantity!
Be prepared for rejection and don’t give up. There are a lot of very talented people applying to medical school. Sometimes you wont get into a school because of competition. Other times it will be because they didn’t think you would fit in with their mission. Keep trying to improve and admission committees will acknowledge perseverance when they see it. One of the best pieces of advice I received after getting rejected twice was that if it truly is your dream to become a physician, it is not a matter of if, but when.
You can read Jonathan’s blog at medicalstudentjourney.com. Thank you Jonathan for sharing your story with us – we wish you the best of luck!