Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. Next up is…Cydney Foote.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any graduate degrees?
Cydney: I recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where I’m raising an 8-year-old, three cats, and a “foster” dog that I’ll have a hard time giving up. Born and raised in Texas, I attended the University of North Texas, where I studied Political Science and Communication and competed on the debate team.
After working for a time as an editor in a marketing firm, I earned a master’s degree from University College Dublin-National University of Ireland, the first university in the world to offer a degree in Equality Studies (an interdisciplinary program of the Politics, Sociology, Women’s Studies and Economics departments). I earned a second master’s degree, this time in Political Theory from the University of Washington, before deciding that academia was not for me. A temp job at the UW School of Medicine turned into a career in health care administration, which eventually led me to Accepted.com in 2001.
Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school/non-work book?
Cydney: Wow, that’s an impossible question. Some of my favorites are Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, J.D. Salinger’s Franny & Zooey, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Are Watching God, Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane… I could go on for weeks, and I haven’t even gotten to the non-fiction yet!
Accepted: How long have you been working for Accepted? What’s your favorite thing about consulting?
Cydney: I love storytelling, and with my clients, I get an endless supply of stories. Everybody has a different tale, something unique that makes them stand out, and often they don’t even recognize it themselves. Getting to hear about their lives and their choices and their actions means this job never gets old, even after 14 years!
Accepted: Can you talk about the road that led you to becoming an admissions consultant for Accepted? What jobs and experiences led you to this point?
Cydney: Before 2001, I had no idea this career existed. Then a friend who worked for Accepted recommended me to Linda Abraham, who wanted to expand into the medical school sector (back then, Accepted was predominantly focused on MBA applicants). My experience serving on my division’s admissions committee and meeting residents and fellowship applicants in UWSOM was invaluable for this role. Reviewing applications and talking with the physicians about what stood out gave me that inside look into the process that I share with my clients.
But I can’t overlook the other important qualification – my own failed graduate application. Even though I knew I wanted to study with the theory group at the University of Washington, I wrote a lackluster personal statement – as the department chair was too happy to point out when I asked for feedback. The next year, I did my homework and got in. Going through this experience myself means I can relate to what my clients are going through and bring my experience to bear so they can succeed.
Accepted: What sorts of applicants do you mostly work with?
Cydney: As I mentioned, Accepted didn’t have a medical school sector back in 2001, so I started working with MBA hopefuls. As we’ve built up the med sector, I’ve been able to specialize more, and these days I work primarily with applicants to healthcare-related degrees: medical schools, residency/fellowship programs, nursing programs, MPH, etc.
I love working with these people – so many have focused so completely on the sciences that their writing skills aren’t the best, yet they genuinely care about the world and want to make it a better place. These folks make great doctors, and it’s so rewarding when I can help them bring out their stories in interesting and engaging ways.
Accepted: Can you tell us about the books and articles you’ve authored? How has your love for writing influenced your work as an admissions consultant?
Cydney: From fairy tales to non-fiction to marketing, bringing a character to life is essential – whether it be a knight on a quest, Alan Turing breaking naval Enigma code, or Citrix as the go-to solution for office communications. A medical student applying for a residency spot is no different. Effective writers make their characters real and memorable by relating their struggles and triumphs, and this is what I try to do as an admissions consultant.
Along with many unpublished novels and short stories, I’ve written e-books for several levels of medication education (medical school, residency and fellowship admissions) plus quite a few blogs on various aspects of the application process.
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?
1. Never ask, “Is this what the admissions committee wants me to say?” Trying to discern what they want is going to result in a boring essay – and too much of it will make your head spin. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to answer each prompt in your own way.
2. Don’t fake it. An honest appraisal of your application should highlight your problem areas – lack of clinical experience, GPA problems, etc. – and it’s far preferable that you do that assessment before the admissions committee does. If you find a hole in your experience, plug it before you apply, even if it takes time and effort.
3. Don’t delay. The application process is arduous, but it’s vital that you stay on top of it. It’s been said before, but let me put it this way: I worked with a client this year who applied to 15+ schools. We finished his personal statement in April, began prepping secondaries in May, and he submitted his last secondary in early July. By the end of July, he already had three interview invites and had a much better summer than most applicants.