We’d like to introduce you to Emma Schlager who will be beginning med school at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in the fall. Thank you Emma for offering valuable med school application advice and for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite flavor ice cream?
Emma: Hi there! I was born and raised in the metropolitan Detroit area. In college, I studied psychology at Michigan State University. I graduated from Michigan State in 2013 with a Bachelors of Science degree.
I really love ice cream and I don’t discriminate against any ice cream flavors, except for maybe butter pecan (what the heck is up with that stuff anyway?). For all intents and purposes, I will go with vanilla as my favorite flavor.
Accepted: Congrats on your med school acceptance! Where will you be starting med school in the fall? What do you think makes you a good fit for that program?
Emma: Thank you very much! It is a dream come true. I will be starting med school at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (MSU CHM) in the fall. I knew I was a good fit for MSU CHM because the values and mission of the school parallel my own personal values and goals as a future physician.
MSU CHM prides themselves on being a community-based medical school that serves primarily underserved areas. My decision to pursue a medical career was brought about by a feeling of ethical responsibility, so I love that I will be trained in communities that really need the medical attention.
Like MSU CHM, my service orientation is my main motivator. In college, I spent many hours volunteering at the local hospice residence. I’ve always enjoyed serving my communities as a volunteer.
On the other hand, I also hope to get involved with research in med school, and MSU CHM is a fantastic school for allowing me to do that because of their abundant research opportunities. I have no doubt that MSU CHM will mold me into the compassionate, respectable, and competent physician that I aspire to be.
Accepted: How would you describe your med school application experience?
Emma: Reflecting on the journey now is almost surreal to me because I still can’t believe that I got off that roller coaster of emotion unscathed and with a successful story to tell. It was the highest and lowest I have ever been in my life. The words that I think best describes my experience are long, strenuous, messy, and exhilarating.
First, I started studying for the MCAT in January 2013 and was not done studying for that beast of an exam until September 2013, as I had to take it twice to reach the score that I needed. I studied for the MCAT while also working for a 4.0 GPA in my last two semesters of college, so I spent roughly 9-12 hours a day studying for 8 continuous months. This is what I meant by long and strenuous.
Next, nothing will make you feel more inadequate than applying to med school. After hearing from many different sources over the years that only a small percentage of total applicants get accepted, it is very hard for any pre-med to feel certain that they will get accepted. For somebody like me, with above-average but not exceptional grades and test scores, I was very unsure about my chances of getting in. I was constantly thinking about how the extra classes I took, the time spent studying, and the ridiculous amount of money spent could all be for nothing. My self-confidence was at an all-time low. There were a few instances where I felt completely defeated, exhausted, and depressed. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was messy.
Once I was done with the application, the test, and the essays, all I could do was wait. To my complete joy, the interviews began rolling in. This was the most accomplished I had ever felt in my life. I enjoyed traveling around the state for various interviews. The most memorable interview was at the MSU CHM campus in Grand Rapids. My mother took the trip with me and we stayed at the Holiday Inn downtown. I knew I would love to spend the next 4 years of my life studying medicine in a city so vibrant and electrifying. When I received my acceptance letter, I sat and sobbed. Then, I danced. Exhilarating, indeed.
Accepted: Can you tell us about the Pre-Psychiatry Association you started in college?
Emma: When I first started college at MSU, I wanted to get involved on campus as much as possible in order to meet others with the same interests as myself. I noticed that although there were many clubs for pre-med students and many clubs for psychology majors, there were none that were specifically geared towards psychology majors interested in the medical field. I decided to start my own student organization and I named it the Pre-Psychiatry Association (PPA).
The PPA was very successful. We did a lot of volunteering for the community and also fun activities such as tailgates and holiday parties. We even took a group trip together for spring break one year! Founding a student-run organization was so valuable to me. Not only did I learn about leadership and professionalism, but I also gained relationships through the PPA that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The faculty adviser for the club, Dr. Shafer, became my mentor, who helped me navigate through the pre-med journey and wrote me a very valuable recommendation. Also, if I hadn’t formed the group, I would have never met some of my best friends from college. For example, I will be watching the Event Planner of the inaugural executive board of the PPA, Angela, get married in Punta Cana in June. I will be taking that trip with the initial Treasurer of the PPA, Mark (love you guys!). The club was definitely the coolest thing I did in college and I am so proud of it.
Accepted: How important would you say it is to visit your target med school?
Emma: In my opinion, it is extremely important to have a target med school in mind as early as possible in the pre-med journey. Medical school applicants should have an idea of what medical school they want to attend before applying, because medical schools are always looking for a certain type of “fit” for their school.
Visiting the school, having extensive background knowledge about the school’s history, and doing activities that makes you the perfect applicant for that school makes you stand out to the admissions directors and shows them that you are serious about attending their school.
Like I have said already, I had MSU CHM in mind from the beginning of my pre-med journey. I attended many events at CHM, such as touring the school with my club, meeting the admissions directors, and having panels of medical students do Q&A sessions with my club at meetings.
I certainly believe that visiting your target school gives you an advantage when it comes to applying. If the admissions directors know your name when they see your application, they are more likely to pay close attention to it. The last thing any med school applicant should do is ‘shoot in the dark’ when it comes to picking what schools to apply to. It is better to apply to 5 schools that you are a good fit for, then 25 schools that you really don’t stand out to.
Accepted: What are your top 3 med school admissions tips?
Emma: First, I think the most important tip for anyone applying to medical school is to get your application in as early as possible. This really does make a difference! Everything on your application should be completed by the first day that AMCAS applications are allowed to be submitted. Start drafting your personal statement months before you apply, even if you just sit in front of your computer and ramble about your experiences for a few days. Your chances of getting accepted decrease exponentially the longer you wait to submit your application.
Next, I think it is important to stay as positive as possible while applying to med school, despite the daunting statistics and the odds seeming to be against you. If I could go back and tell myself to calm down and believe in myself, I would. I was so worried about getting into medical school that my quality of life decreased. Just remember, a couple bad grades will not keep you from being accepted. Also, do not worry about what other people say! I was told by many people who had never even applied to med school that I would not get in because I hadn’t done any shadowing or because I didn’t major in biology. Do not believe everything you hear! Major in what you want, fill your activities section with whatever extracurriculars interest you, and just focus on what makes you a unique and qualified candidate for med school.
Lastly, before applying to medical school, be sure that you truly want to spend the rest of your life as a doctor. Some of the best advice I ever got was to consider whether I would be happy being any kind of doctor and not just a psychiatrist. Since then I’ve realized that I actually have many different interests in the field of medicine besides psychiatry, and now I really love the idea of specializing in pathology, specifically dermatopathology. In sum, my last tip is that if you’re going into medicine for a specific specialty (such as surgery), make sure you wouldn’t mind doing something other than that, too (such as family medicine). Your interests will change completely from the day you begin college to the day you finish med school and this is too big of an investment to end up in a profession that you are unhappy with.
Accepted: How do you plan on spending your summer before med school starts?
Emma: Right now, I am currently in the midst of a gap year which has consisted of finishing up the pre-med requirements at a local college while also working full-time at a restaurant to pay down some of my smaller debts from undergrad.
In the summer, I plan to do some shadowing at a dermatologist’s office in the metro Detroit area, continue working full-time, and also take some time for vacation.
The pre-med journey and med school application process were only my first steps on the long road to becoming a doctor, but I am so excited and ready for the challenges ahead. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you, and wish me luck!
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