This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the med school application process. And now, introducing Emily Howard…
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Emily: I am originally from a small town in Nebraska. I did my undergrad at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and I majored in English with a minor in Humanities in Medicine. I have been married for 3 ½ years, and I am expecting a baby girl in July!
Accepted: What year are you at A.T. Still University – Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine?
Emily: I am just finishing my second year at ATSU.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about ATSU so far?
Emily: The emphasis on treating the whole person. This is one of the osteopathic principles, and my school does a wonderful job of incorporating the humanities into every aspect of what we learn. There are many extracurricular classes and clubs that incorporate medicine and literature, spirituality, etc., which has been very important to me considering my background in the humanities.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Emily: It is hard to say what I would change, as my school is already undergoing a lot of curriculum changes. I think it is moving in a good direction, but there have definitely been times when it was difficult to be caught in the middle of the changes. Even so, I think it shows how much my school cares about its students and helping them learn in the best way possible.
Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming first year students, to help make their adjustment to med school easier?
Emily: Before you start medical school, even before you apply, decide what your priorities are. Write them down if you have to, but never forget the order. My priorities are Faith, Family, and Career. I decided a long time ago that having a family was more important to me than being a doctor, and every day I try to keep this in mind.
My biggest struggle in medical school isn’t my classes – it is finding a balance between school and family time. It means that some days I don’t get all the studying done that I want to because I choose to spend time with my husband, but I have learned that I don’t have to get straight A’s to be a successful student.
Accepted: Did you go straight from college to med school? Or did you take time off? If you took time off, how did you spend your time?
Emily: I had one year between college and medical school. I worked as a technical writer for a drug testing company and nannied on the side. I didn’t choose to take a year off, but it was a valuable experience for me. It gave me a chance to really decide if medicine was the career for me, and being a few years older when I started medical school definitely had its benefits. However, I think that most students can handle medical school straight out of college.
Accepted: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the med school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Emily: For me the hardest part of the admissions process was not getting in. I applied to three schools and only got one interview. When I got my rejection letter, I felt like the world was over and that I had missed my chance. The truth is, tons of people don’t get in on their first try. It happens all the time (which no one had ever told me). It isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean that you still can’t be a doctor.
Not getting in was really a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to consider alternatives. The schools I had applied to first were all allopathic schools. Honestly, I didn’t even know what osteopathic medicine was. Luckily, a friend of mine who was attending an osteopathic school told me all about it, and it really sounded interesting to me. After looking into it I felt like an osteopathic school would actually be a better fit for me, so I quickly submitted one more application. I got an interview and ended up on the waitlist. I didn’t get in that year, but I knew if I could get on a waitlist, then I could get accepted.
The next year I applied to three more schools, all osteopathic. I got three interviews and ended up going to my top choice, ATSU in Kirksville. I love my school, and it has been a great fit for me. I am so grateful that things ended up the way they did.
If you end up in a similar situation, don’t panic! Ask for help with your resume. Look at areas of weakness. It shows how dedicated you are when you reapply, and the first thing schools will ask you is what have you done since your last round of applications, so make sure you have changed some things. Retake the MCAT, take some more college classes, get some extra clinical experience or volunteer hours. Anything that can show how serious you are about becoming a doctor will look good to the schools you apply to. If you are unsure why you aren’t getting in, don’t be afraid to ask someone. The best advice I got was from an admissions counselor at ATSU. She told me that one weakness in my application was my lack of clinical experience, and she even went so far as to give me the phone numbers of alumni in my area that I could call to shadow. So don’t be afraid to call and ask someone at the schools you are applying to what they are looking for. The worst thing they can say is no!
Accepted: Do you have any other advice for our med school applicant readers?
Emily: I think the most important question to ask about applying to medical school is not, “How do I get in?” but “Is this really what I want to do with my life?” It seems like an easy question to answer, but I know students who got into medical school and then realized it wasn’t for them. The problem is that by that point you have a lot of debt, and it is really hard to back out.
If there is any doubt in your mind about a career in medicine, don’t be afraid to take some time off and figure it out. Medical school is hard, even for those of us who are 100% sure it’s what we want to do. It is so much harder if you have doubts the whole time.
I am a firm believer that if being a physician is what you are meant to do, nothing will stop you. So if you decide it is for you and you work hard, you will get in.
You can read more about Emily’s journey by checking out her blog, My First Patient. Thank you Emily for sharing your story with us!
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