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 top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Morgan Day…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Morgan: I’m from sunny Phoenix, Arizona. I went to Arizona State University for my undergrad (Go Devils!). I graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s in English Literature and a minor in biology. I then took a semester off to study for the MCAT before attending a postbac program at Midwestern University, Glendale campus. I graduated from that program in May of 2013 with a Masters of Arts in Biomedical Sciences and started medical school that fall.
Accepted: Can you share three fun facts about yourself?
• I love being outdoors. I grew up hiking and camping with my family. Whenever I’m feeling really stressed, I make time to spend the day hiking or just being outside.
• I love movies and, as far as I’m concerned, almost anything Quentin Tarantino does is pure cinematic gold.
• I’m an avid reader and am currently reading Moby Dick.
Accepted: Where and what year are you in med school?
Morgan: I am a third year medical student and am half way through my first year of clinical rotations. I’m in a DO program and I go to school in the Northeast.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about that program? Is there anything you’d change?
Morgan: My school offers several different learning pathways. I chose the problem based learning (PBL) pathway. Instead of spending all day every day in lectures, we would meet for two hours several times a week and work through cases. From those cases we would pick relevant readings from our required textbooks and that was the material we were responsible for on our block exams. It catered well to my learning style because I tend to zone out during lectures. It was great because apart from our other required classes and PBL meeting times, my time was pretty much my own and I could learn things at my own pace. The downside to this style of learning is that we didn’t have a ton of guidance. Instead of setting our own learning objectives, it would have been nice to have established objectives for each block, and that’s the one thing I would have changed.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise other applicants who may be experiencing similar challenges?
Morgan: My greatest challenge as an applicant was my lower GPA and MCAT scores. Both were pretty average and it was sometimes hard to stand out among the crowd.
I knew early on in undergrad that I was going to have to bulk up the extracurricular portion of my application, so I got involved in different things that interested me while I was at ASU. I did research in an animal behavior lab for two years. I also participated in an organization that took trips to provide medical care in Honduras each summer, traveling there myself twice. And I volunteered locally at a food bank at least once a month all through college.
Accepted: Can you talk more about overcoming a low MCAT score?
Morgan: My MCAT was within two standard deviations for the year that I took it (back in 2012!), but it was on the lower end of the curve. As far as prepping for the MCAT goes, my best piece of advice is to plan your schedule and give yourself plenty of time to study. I, like many of my med school classmates, took the MCAT twice. But the first time I took it I tried to study for the MCAT while I was taking a very heavy course load my second-to-last semester of undergrad. Looking back, there was no way I was going to get my best score simply because I didn’t prepare myself to be successful scheduling wise. So when I retook it, I was selfish with my time and stuck to a strict study schedule. By preparing this way, I ensured that when I retook the exam, I got the highest score that I could.
For potential applicants that may be scared of applying because they’re worried their stats aren’t good enough, the first thing I’d say is breathe. 🙂 You are not alone. Applying to medical school is intimidating. But most people that apply aren’t perfect applicants, including myself. So if you know that your stats aren’t your strongest point, you’ll need shine in other ways and supplement your application with extracurricular activities. This doesn’t mean that you should do a dozen things once or twice just so you can list them on your CV. Rather, find a couple of meaningful projects (volunteer, research, medical mission organizations, etc.) and commit your time to those activities. Not only will this reinforce your commitment to community service, something that all schools are starting to weight more heavily, it will also allow the admissions committee to see what you’re passionate about. Plus, it will give you talking points on your interview in addition to broadening your own experiences. And ironically, the things I felt I “had to do” to get into medical school, ended up being some of my greatest experiences while I was in college and where I met some of my closest friends.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? What have you gained or learned from blogging about your experiences?
Morgan: I started my blog, Heart Work, during the middle of my first year of medical school. It was initially a way for my family back home to keep tabs on me, but I’ve gained a lot from it as well. I have always enjoyed writing and I find writing about my experiences in medical school, and also everyday life, to be very cathartic. Not only that, but I think it is very beneficial to reflect back on situations, especially some of the intense ones I’m involved in as a student.
Studies looking at physician burn out and compassionate patient care have shown that most medical students start becoming jaded and less compassionate in their third year of medical school, and it kind of makes sense. It’s the first time we are really dumped into a clinical situation and for whatever reason, when that happens, students start to disconnect from the humanistic aspect of medicine.
I’ve found that by reflecting back on patients whose care I’ve been involved in, I can review my actions – the things I think I did well, and the things I can improve on, specifically from a patient care perspective.
So, what began as me writing something only my mom and some other close friends would read, has evolved into an outlet that helps me to remain closely connected with the humanistic side of medicine. I hope that this will assist me in practicing compassionate, patient-centered medicine when I’m a physician. I also hope the stories I share are encouraging, and sometimes comical, in addition to shedding some light on what the path to becoming a doctor entails.
You can follow Morgan’s med school adventure by checking out her blog, Heart Work. Thank you Morgan for sharing your story with us!
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