Cydney Foote, one of Accepted’s most experienced medical school admissions consultants, worked last year with a client, Ben (not his real name), who started working on his personal statement in February and was accepted by October. He certainly had good grades and MCAT, but he also maximized those assets. Read more about his story, tactics, and success below.
Cydney: First of all, congratulations on your success during this application season. How many interview invites did you receive? And how many acceptances were offered?
Ben: Thank you! I received 9 interview invites, attended 7 interviews, and was accepted at the 7 schools where I interviewed.
Cydney: What I found really exceptional was the pace at which you worked through this season. When did you first start work on your personal statement?
Ben: If I remember correctly, I started working on my personal statement in February of last year. I worked at a much slower pace on my personal statement than I did on my secondaries, however. I found that putting it aside and revisiting it a week or so later a few times gave me a fresh perspective that allowed me to improve it every time.
Cydney: By the time June 1st rolled around, you were already deep into writing your secondary responses. How did you know what prompts to answer? And weren’t you afraid that the prompts would change?
Ben: I used a combination of studentdoctornetwork.net and prospectivedoctor.com to find prompts to recent application cycles. Then, I compared the prompts of each school over the past 2-3 years and was able to identify which schools tended to change their prompts. For these schools, I either did not pre-write at all if the school changed it every year or just got rough draft responses on paper if I thought the prompts had a possibility of remaining the same. I was aware that prompts might change, but because of the research that I did beforehand, there was very little writing that I did that went “wasted.”
Cydney: I think this strategy really paid off for you. On July 3rd, I got an email from you that said, “I’ve received 6 secondaries, and have submitted 4 on the same day that they were received…I’m really liking this pace…” How did you keep up this pace? Did you have any special work strategy in place?
Ben: Turning around secondaries is definitely the most stressful part of the entire application cycle. It’s difficult trying to balance quick turnaround time while not hurting quality. The sole reason that I was able to keep up my pace was because I had pre-written so many secondaries. Even for schools that I had not yet pre-written, most prompts allowed me to recycle material from other essays. As for strategy, I prioritized the schools that I liked the most or the ones where I thought my chances would be best. I also learned to manage my time effectively, and brainstormed ideas for essays during any free time throughout the day, such as downtime at work. This time management will be invaluable in medical school because I will need to learn an overwhelming amount of information in a short period of time.
Cydney: Can you think of any downsides to starting so early (apart from the risk that prompts might change)? Would you do it again?
Ben: There is virtually no downside to starting early, and I genuinely believe that there is no other way to do it right. Without a doubt, the quality of my secondary essays would have been significantly lower had I not pre-written anything, and my personal statement would have also been lacking. During the drawn out medical application cycle, you want to do whatever you can to minimize stress. I believe that getting a head start is one of the best ways to do that.
Cydney: You received your first two interview invitations on July 30th, and two more just shortly after that. By October, you already knew you’d be attending medical school in 2016. What part do you think your early submissions played in your success? If nothing else, I feel like you enjoyed a much more relaxed summer than most other applicants!
Ben: I know that my early submissions played a huge part in my success. I did a lot of research about the application process prior to applying, and the one thing that past applicants really emphasized was the importance of applying early. This was further reiterated to me by a friend, a medical student, who served as an admissions committee member and former interviewer. At the point of applying, we’ve all put in the hard work in our classes and extracurriculars. Comparatively, starting to work on essays early is such a small price to pay for something that can have such tremendous impact on the outcome of our application cycles. In submitting as early as possible, not only did I enjoy a much more relaxed summer, but my mind is also at ease for the remainder of this application cycle.
Cydney: Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your admissions journey, and best of luck as you enter medical school!
By Cydney Foote, Accepted consultant and author of Write Your Way to Medical School, who has helped future physicians craft winning applications since 2001.
• Get Accepted to Med School in 2017 [on-demand webinar]
• How to Get the Most Out of Your Experience Working With A Medical School Consultant
• Medical School Admissions: Why Applying in June is Critical