This interview is the latest in an Accepted 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 our anonymous blogger, Coffea Medicus …
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Coffea Medicus: I am from New York and I attended a top 50 private university.
Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school book? What activities do you like to do in your free time?
Coffea Medicus: My favorite non-school book would have to be Pride and Prejudice. It’s just a fun, witty book and plus I really enjoy reading British literature.
I love running, hiking and playing various sports.
Accepted: You are starting medical school in the fall, congratulations! Did you take an MCAT test prep course? Why or why not?
Coffea Medicus: I did not take a test prep course for the MCAT because of several reasons, one reason being that courses are very expensive. Another reason is that while studying for the MCAT I was also working full-time and commuting about three hours a day, so it would have been difficult to coordinate a course with my schedule. Furthermore, I am very self-motivated and organized so I felt confident enough that I would be able to stick to my own set schedule.
Accepted: Which resources did you use to prep for the MCAT?
Coffea Medicus: I used all of the resources available on the AAMC website, including their practice test. In general I followed the Kaplan books for physics, chemistry and biology review because I got them for free as a Christmas gift. For biochemistry, psychology and sociology I use the Princeton Review because I liked that they had passage-style questions. I also used the Berkeley Review for extensive reviewing on topics that I was not comfortable with. Despite that they were published years before the new MCAT, they are worth using because they really go in depth with each topic. They also provide a surplus of passage-style questions at the end of each topic. For the verbal section I used the Hyperlearning MCAT verbal workbook because it has plenty of passages.
Accepted: How did you decide where you wanted to apply to med school and how did you ultimately decide where you will be attending this fall?
Coffea Medicus: When it came to choosing schools to apply to I focused on schools that emphasized research, since I mostly applied to MD/PhD programs, and that were located within the Northeast. As I mentioned previously, I grew up in New York and ideally I was thinking about staying in New York for medical school. When it came down to choosing which school to ultimately attend I looked at several factors.
One factor was location, since after all I will be living there for the next 8-10 years. This is very important, regardless of whether you are doing MD only or MD/PhD. Medical school will be a challenging time and I knew that I wanted to be close to my family and friends to help me de-stress and to provide me with additional support.
Another important factor was looking at the strength of their graduate school. For MD/PhD students it matters less where you go for medical school, meaning the prestige of the school, and it matters more who you do your research with, and the strength of your graduate program. Therefore, revisit days were critical for me to decide between programs. I made sure to choose a school where I felt like my research interests lined up well with the program.
Accepted: What was the most difficult part of the application process for you? What advice would you give premed students to avoid similar challenges?
Coffea Medicus: The most difficult aspect of the application process was maintaining my self-confidence. Due to my hectic work schedule I had to schedule my MCAT in July, which meant I wasn’t necessarily complete at schools until mid-August. Without a doubt it is best to apply as early as possible, and submit your AMCAS application the first days in June. I felt very good after taking the MCAT so I knew that I had done well enough, but the timing of my application was a bit concerning.
It is difficult to feel confident when there are other students doing things differently when they are applying. I had several friends who applied the first day that AMCAS opened and that made me concerned about my application. At the same time I felt pretty good because I had pre-written all of my secondaries and my AMCAS application was ready to be submitted. I decided not to submit my application until after taking the MCAT because I wanted to be sure that I felt confident enough about my MCAT performance, although I wouldn’t know my score.
Throughout the application cycle my confidence fluctuated. There were weeks where I felt very confident because I had received interview invitations, but then there were other weeks where I was worried about getting rejected post-interview. Honestly, looking back I should have done more things with my free time so that I wouldn’t have had so much time to worry.
Once your secondary applications are in everything is out of your hands, especially so after interviews. It is best to find activities to help you relax and to free your mind from the application cycle.
My advice for anyone applying in future cycles is to apply as early as possible.
Accepted: What motivated you to pursue a career in medicine?
Coffea Medicus: My passion for science has definitely played a role in deciding to pursue medicine. When I was younger I would sometimes dream about finding the next medical breakthrough. I wanted, and still do, to find a way to use science to impact health.
During my undergraduate education I was able to shadow physicians at major hospitals in New York. Seeing the work they did, attending the grand rounds meetings, and talking to current medical students really strengthened my desire to go to medical school.
Another important reason for choosing medicine is that I want to be able to address health disparities and I hope that through my education I will find a way to impact change.
Accepted: Tell us about your new blog and what motivated you to start it? And can you tell us about the origins of Coffea Medicus?
Coffea Medicus: After getting accepted into medical school I started doing a lot of browsing on the internet and came across many blogs by current and past medical students. I started reading their stories and that inspired me to write my own blog, about my own experiences. At first I kept the blog to myself but as I kept writing I realized that maybe I wanted feedback and that some of my posts could serve as advice for other students.
There aren’t many MD/PhD students, especially in the blog world, so I decided, why not start one? I mostly write about applying to medical school or being premed, but I also write fun posts about whatever is on my mind or about current personal experiences outside of medicine.
The purpose of writing this blog is for self-reflection – I want to make sure that I write about all my experiences because I want to look back within a few years and see how much I have grown as a person.
I came up with the name Coffea Medicus because I wanted to combine a couple of things that describe me as a person. For starters, I absolutely love studying languages. I am fluent in three languages and I have basic proficiently in two other languages. That’s why I thought it would be interesting to pick a name in Latin. I also wanted to include the fact that I am an aspiring physician, hence “Medicus.” Lastly, if you are ever around me you will probably notice a cup of coffee in my hand. I absolutely love coffee!
Accepted: What are your top 3 MCAT tips?
1. Only take the MCAT when you are ready. It is okay to move your exam to a later date and it is even okay to wait another year to apply. You want to study for the MCAT as if you will only take it once, so prepare for it right the first time.
2. Make sure to take as many passage style questions and practice tests as possible. If you are not scoring in the range that you are aiming for during your practice tests, you won’t come time for the real exam. They are great indicators of where you are at in your preparation.
3. Lastly, what works for some people might not work for you. Some people are able to study and take the MCAT in as little as 4-6 weeks. That schedule might not work for you and that is okay. Some people are able to self-study and others are not. Find out what works for you and if you need a more structured schedule then don’t be afraid to make the financial investment in a prep course.
Here are some links for more about me:
You can follow Coffea Medicus’s med school adventure by checking out the links above. Thank you Coffea Medicus for sharing your story with us!
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