Interview with Ryan Crane, Entering Medical Student [Show Summary]
Ryan Crane already knows he is going to medical school next fall, having been accepted at two schools in October! The medical school application process is long and ardurous, and Ryan knew he had some weaknesses to overcome. Listen to how Ryan overcame those weaknesses with a a detailed plan that he followed methodically and that led him to success early on. Let’s learn how he did it!
An Admitted Medical School Applicant’s Story [Show Notes]
Our guest today, Ryan Crane, is happily anticipating the start of medical school. He was accepted to medical school in October. I’m going to let Ryan tell most of his story, but here’s a little background: In 2016 he graduated from Michigan State, where he was a bio major and a member of the Crew Club and rowing team. He has worked as an emergency room nurse aid, research associate, and scribe. That’s pretty bare bones, let’s get into the meat of Ryan’s story of early medical school acceptance.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your background and where you grew up? [2:04]
I grew up in Traverse City, Michigan and went to primary school there as well as attended two years at Northwestern Community College before transferring to Michigan State.
How did you decide to pursue a career in medicine? [2:32]
I was always interested in science growing up and was good at it. It was probably during the anatomy class my senior year of high school when we were doing cat dissections that it really clicked. I was naturally good at it and had good instincts. The teacher had me help other students with labeling the anatomical landmarks, so that was the first hint of my interest in medicine.
I also had a traumatic brain injury after riding a bicycle and spent a few weeks in the hospital recovering from that and then several months back and forth talking to specialists. Through that experience I shadowed and interacted with a lot of different physicians, nurses, PAs, etc., which confirmed what I wanted to do. After recovering I started volunteering in the ER at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City to get more exposure, and did so for a year and a half.
You’ve had a lot of different types of clinical exposure. What experience was the most valuable to you in terms of confirming your path? [4:34]
That’s a tough question, since I think each of the experiences has taught me something different about medicine. For example, working as a nurse’s assistant you get one-on-one patient interaction and the opportunity to develop a bedside manner. As a medical scribe you get the flip action of that, working one-on-one with a physician, which taught me to think like a physician and make notes like they would. I am an advocate for multiple types of exposure.
Was your 2018-19 application your first application to medical school or a reapplication? [5:39]
It was my first application that was completed. I began filling them out in the 16-17 cycle but was waiting for an MCAT score to come back, and it wasn’t what I’d hoped for, so I ended up holding off and began working with Alicia Nimonkar at Accepted in anticipation of applying during the 17-18 cycle. Then I decided to wait another year beyond that as we discovered some weaknesses in my application. Together we decided it would be better to hold off and give myself the best opportunity for success.
What are some things Alicia suggested you do to strengthen your application? [7:05]
I lacked significant community service projects. I also hadn’t done any international or domestic project that was a long-term commitment, and my last semester of undergrad was my lowest GPA. I learned from Alicia that the downward trend was not good. I went back and took two post-bac courses and continued coaching for the crew team. I started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and Greater Lansing Food Bank, passing out food at their distribution centers. Through Michigan State I participated in their alternative spring break program, spending a week in Hazard, Kentucky building a house for a family in need. I also worked as a lab manager and research assistant at Michigan State Exposure Science Lab and as a part time scribe at Michigan Heart Cardiology. I had already retaken the MCAT in 2017 and had a score that I was happy with. I took it three times total. The first two I did on my own. In preparation for the last one I got a tutor and took the full Kaplan class. I also took 17 full-length practice tests. My final score was 14 points higher than my original.
What was the hardest part of the application process for you? [12:33]
Probably being hit with 21 secondaries on the same day. Alicia and I had previously discussed it, and I owe a lot of my acceptances to working with her. She was absolutely fantastic. I created an Excel spreadsheet before getting any secondaries which included the school, the date it came in, turnaround date goal and due date along with any notes. I had a goal of one week turnaround for all of my secondaries. I was able to get everything turned around within two weeks, and the high priority Michigan schools I turned around in one week.
How did you approach the primary application? When did you submit it? [14:30]
I had started working with Alicia the year before so I already had a lot of my primary completed, although my activity essays changed a lot based on all of the other things I was doing to strengthen my resume. I started working with her in December 2017 again full time. I was meeting with her once a week to work on primary essays and my personal statement, submitting on June 12. Meetings with Alicia were really helpful to take the stress away. She helped me highlight everything I wanted to in a complementary way across essays.
How many schools did you apply to? [16:30]
I sent 19 primaries to allopathic schools and nine to osteopathic schools. I got secondaries from most of them, but didn’t fill them all out. I sent out 15 secondaries for allopathic and eight for osteopathic.
Did you prepare anything for secondaries before they arrived? [17:36]
For most of my schools I had pre-drafted secondaries. There are all sorts of sites that have prior year secondaries for each program and a lot of schools don’t change from year to year, which Alicia taught me. I started prepping secondaries before even submitting primaries. It definitely took a lot of stress out of secondaries coming all at once by having them pre-drafted. Before I wrote each essay I would go onto each school’s website to look at their mission, vision, and objectives, and figure out how my experiences tied to that.
How many schools did you interview at? [19:16]
So far I’ve interviewed at four schools but fingers crossed there will be more since it’s still early in the cycle.
How did you prepare for your interviews? [19:38]
Before each interview I would go onto the school website to see their specific interview format, whether it was traditional, with a student, or MMI. From there I was able to tell Alicia what the format was, she would prepare questions, and we did mock interviews for each of the schools I interviewed at. Overall I did seven mock interviews with Alicia, and they were incredibly helpful. For each interview I was relaxed and ready to attack it. She gave great feedback and coached me through each of the questions and how to best present each of the answers.
What are your plans for between now and the start of medical school? [21:17]
Pretty similar to the past year. I will continue working fulltime as a research assistant at MSU and am hoping that I will get out another publication or two in the next year which would be huge. I want to make research part of the medical education. It has shown me the ties between medicine and public health and seems really important to continue researching public health to mitigate problems.
I am also a part-time wedding photographer which is nice.
I also plan to take a month off before starting school.
My understanding is that you live in a fairly rural area in Northern Michigan. Are you interested in rural medicine? [24:23]
Yes, I have applied to a few programs that are rural medicine specific. As a rural physician there is more opportunity to interact with patients and develop deeper relationships with them.
What do you wish I had asked you? [25:11]
“What is something you would have done differently if you could redo the application process?” As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t submit secondaries to each of the schools I did primaries. It was a combination of running out of time and lack of research into schools, specifically, looking at letters of recommendation required or percentages of out-of-state matriculants. There was a note with the secondary at Kansas that said something along the lines of, “Out of our last class, there were 12 out-of-state acceptances, and half of those had strong ties to Kansas. Do you wish to proceed?”
Any last bits of wisdom or advice for premeds? [27:59]
Again, look at the letters of recommendation requirements. After submitting primaries for each school I found that some wanted three science faculty and I had already sent in my letters of rec and only had two. So now I can’t apply to the program. So do more research on specifics altogether. One other piece of advice would be there is a downtime between primaries and getting hit with secondaries. If I could do it again I would have worked harder to pre-draft essays during the three-week period in between. The more you have pre-written the better, and even if schools change the questions some of the response might be usable or for other essays, and you will have a lot of experience writing essays.
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