Learn how real students navigate their way through the medical school admissions process and med school itself with our What is Medical School Really Like? series.
Meet Niki, an MS2 at TTUHSC SOM (Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine)
Niki, thank you for sharing your story with us!
How did you know you would make a great doctor?
Niki: Ever since I can remember, I have always had a strong desire to heal. It first began with animals, and when I was younger I wanted to be a veterinarian. As I got older, my love for science and medicine grew stronger and I knew that pursuing medicine was my calling. I knew I had the drive and self-discipline to make it through a rigorous amount of schooling, but most importantly, I knew that I had empathy and compassion that my future patients would need.
Did you take time off between undergrad and med school?
Niki: I took one year off between undergrad and med school and it was a wonderful thing for me. During that time, I worked as a medical scribe where I gained a tremendous amount of clinical experience. Scribing has really helped me excel in medical school, particularly in our DOCS course, which is where we learn how to conduct a patient interview, do physical exams, and chart.
I also got married during that year and got to travel and enjoy lots of time with family and loved ones, which is really a wonderful thing prior to starting a demanding 4 years of med school.
How did you determine which schools to apply to?
Niki: I used a rule of thumb taught to me by an MCAT prep course instructor. The rule is for every 10 schools you apply to, you may get 3 interview invitations and 1 acceptance. But applying is also so specific to each individual and varies based on MCAT score, undergrad experiences, and many other things. Overall, I would say only apply to programs that you actually want to attend that are in places you would want to live.
Did you experience any bumps along the road to medical school admission? How did you identify and deal with the issues?
Niki: I was waitlisted at the program I am currently attending, and it was my first choice. When I received the notification that I had been waitlisted, I was devastated as I felt that I had had a very strong interview and fit in with the program well. However, I was fortunate enough to have been accepted into 3 other programs that were also great programs so at least I knew I had somewhere to attend where I would be happy.
A few weeks before I was moving to start at another program, I received the news that I had received a spot off of the waitlist at my top program. My husband and I took a spur of the moment trip to Texas so that he could visit the town and see more of the school. It was a little bit hectic to change plans so quickly, but I am so happy that I trusted my gut and knew that I belonged at my current institution.
What was the hardest part of the admissions process?
Niki: The hardest part of the admissions process for me was the waiting game when all of your applications and secondaries are in and you are just waiting for interviews or acceptances. It can be a very stressful time, but it is also such a fun time! You get to travel all over, meet new people, and you are watching your dream come to life!
Do you have any study habits that sound crazy but really work?
Niki: I really enjoy reviewing videos while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. For me, moving my body helps me focus so much better and helps me stay generally healthy when it is so easy to sit for long periods of time.
I also start a document a few days prior to each exam that I call “Random Details.” I go back through every lecture and write out any random detail that I think might show up on the exam. There are always a few that do show up, and it always helps me score a few points higher!
What has been your favorite class so far?
Niki: My favorite class was Host Defense, which was our microbiology section.
What does a typical day look like for you?
6am – wake up, go to the gym, come home and shower
7:30am – breakfast, read my Bible, get ready
8am-12pm – watch lecture/study
12-1pm – lunch; usually I have a meeting during lunch a few times per week
1-5pm – review/study
5-7pm – hang out with my husband, dinner, relax
7:30-9pm – study (longer if it is exam week )
10:30pm – bed
How do you think being a student has affected your spouse? Do you have any advice for applicants or new students who may find themselves in a similar situation?
Niki: I think that no matter how much you try to prepare for the demands of medical school and how it may affect your spouse or relationship, it will always be different than you imagine. For me, I was told so many horror stories; people told me my marriage couldn’t survive the stress of medical training, which by the way is a HORRIBLE thing to say to anyone. I came in expecting the worst, but what I found was that in some ways it was both much better and much worse than I imagined.
I think the most important thing is to always make time for each other and remember that your spouse and family are #1, not school. Although some days it may not feel like it, that is so important. At the end of the day, if you both support and love each other, you will make it work and can even thrive together.
Don’t let anyone tell you what is best for you and your family; only you and your spouse can decide that together. You will find a new “normal” that works for you so stick to that even if it looks different than what may be “normal” to others. Most importantly, never forget what a blessing it is to have a partner who supports and protects your dreams. They are your rock on your hard days and your biggest cheerleader on your best days. Never take them for granted. I would be nowhere without my husband who has sacrificed so much for me to be where I am today. Every success I have is because of him and it is so fun to do it all together!
You mentioned that you were accepted to your top-choice school off the waitlist. Did you communicate with your program at all in the interim between hearing you were waitlisted and hearing you were accepted? What advice do you have for waitlisted applicants?
Niki: I did communicate with Tech while I was waiting to hear back from them. Specifically, I had received the email addresses of my interviewers and had remained in touch with them throughout the process which I think helped me a lot in the long run. Additionally, I called the admissions once I was waitlisted and expressed that the program was my number one choice.
Let’s talk home renovation! How did you and your husband decide to undertake your home renovation yourselves? What has been involved in the process, and how do you make time for this project?
Niki: When we moved to West Texas, we were surprised to learn how much more affordable the cost of living was than what we were currently used to coming from Southern California. We ended up buying an older home that needed a lot of work and TLC but we both had some experience with house projects growing up. My husband is incredibly skilled and handy so he took over most of the work and I helped when I could and mostly managed things like picking out colors, themes, and styles. It was definitely a lot more stressful than we were anticipating, but it was a lot of fun to do together. Also, it was great for my husband to have a fun project that kept him busy when I was so busy with school.
What do you think the future holds for you, professionally?
Niki: It’s hard to predict where I will be in 10, 5, or even 2 years. We may be in a totally different part of the country in just a few short years. Overall, I aim to pick a specialty that brings me a tremendous amount of satisfaction and joy in my work. What I love about medicine is the constant state of being a learner that will come with any specialty. Most importantly, I hope to be in a place in 10 years where I can balance work and family life.
Do you have questions for Niki? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Medical School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
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