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 Alex Yu…
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 non-school book?
Alex: I’m originally from Florence, Alabama and currently live in Memphis, Tennessee where I completed my undergraduate studies at Rhodes College. While I mainly studied and received my degree in biological sciences, our strong liberal arts background allowed me to explore many other interests such as fiction writing, poetry, painting, as well as Greek and Roman studies.
As to the question of my favorite non-school book, this is a bit hard to answer seeing that I really enjoyed much of what I read during my time at Rhodes. I do not have one single favorite novel or author, but I can say that I really enjoy southern literature. William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor are just a few of my favorite southern authors. I’m currently reading the newest novel by Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch, and look forward to reading George Saunders’ newest collection of short stories, Tenth of December.
Accepted: Where will you be attending medical school? Will you be going straight to med school from college, or did you have time off in-between? If there was time in-between, how did you spend that time?
Alex: After a long application season, I’ve decided that I will be attending ETSU Quillen College of Medicine, located in Johnson City, Tennessee. I will be moving from one corner of the state to the other, and it is definitely going to be a big change, but one that I am excited about!
I graduated last May, so I will not be starting directly out of undergrad. After an unsuccessful first cycle, I spent much of the summer after graduation preparing to reapply while also shadowing physicians and continuing work on a research project, a project that eventually brought me to Boston to present my work at the conjoint meeting of the International Federation of Fertility Societies and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Since then, I’ve been working at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in a biochemistry lab.
I am currently wrapping everything up since I will be moving in the coming weeks! I hope to spend the rest of the time I have before school starts finishing up the books I want to read, spending time with family, and maybe traveling a bit.
Accepted: What are you most and least looking forward to about starting medical school?
Alex: I think I am most looking forward to starting this new chapter in my life. I am essentially leaving behind the life I built for myself here in Memphis, and it’s a huge risk; however, I have often experienced that some of my greatest risks have led to my greatest rewards. Leaving home and choosing a college where none of my friends were going was a big risk for me after high school, but I was able to accomplish so much and meet so many amazing individuals during my time here, that I have never regretted that decision.
Just as with my experience in leaving for college, I feel that I will be really happy with my decision in choosing my medical school. In terms of what I am least looking forward to, I would have to say the workload. It is definitely going to take a while to jump back into the swing of things; however, I always like a challenge, and a challenge I shall receive!
Accepted: How many medical schools did you apply to? Do you have any tips for our readers on how to choose the right schools and the right number of schools to apply to?
Alex: I applied to six schools this year: four allopathic programs and two osteopathic programs. I think the most important thing to consider when applying is your state residency. Applying to out-of-state, state-funded programs can be futile unless you are highly competitive, and most programs will give you a fair warning if/when you receive a secondary application. You will be paying quite a bit of money when you initially submit your AMCAS, and you will need to evaluate whether or not it is worth it to pay the additional secondary fees. If you apply to private programs outside of your state, then you have just as good a chance as anyone else; however, you should keep in mind that some of the most applied to programs in the United States are private, and you will be competing with a much larger applicant pool. For osteopathic programs, most are private and state residency status will not matter, unless that particular program is state-funded.
My best advice is to make sure you do your research before adding schools to your tab. Evaluate yourself and your chances based on published entering class profiles, and make sure you only apply to schools you would be happy to attend.
As for how many to choose, I would say no less than four. There are some students who apply to ten or more and only get into one program or not at all. You will want to maximize your chances and potentially give yourself options should you be accepted to more than one program.
Accepted: Can you share a few more admissions tips with our readers?
On the MCAT…
The MCAT was my greatest adversary throughout the entire application process. For some, standardized testing comes naturally and unfortunately I am not one of those people. I took a prep course and racked up over 75 hours of testing, and yet I still was not reaching a score I desired. I began to feel inadequate and hopeless that I would ever see my dreams come to fruition because of a single test. Do not let this test make you doubt yourself or your dreams. Everyone’s preparation is a little different for the MCAT, and you will have to figure out what works for you. The key is to never give up.
When you are invited for an interview, remember this one thing: relax and be yourself. You have already proven yourself on paper and now they want to meet you in person. The main goal of the interview is to see whether or not you are a good fit for their program, as well as make sure you contain the personal qualities necessary for becoming physician. You will want to be as genuine and sincere as possible; therefore, try not to have everything you want to say rehearsed.
It is important to have a well-formulated answer to the famous “Why Medicine?” question, as this will most likely be a standard in every interview you attend. You will also want to have a general path to follow when asked, “So tell me a little bit about yourself?” This question is tough because you will question how much you should tell, and whether it should be about your accomplishments or you personally. I would suggest having a one to two minute answer that combines everything. My answer generally involved where I was from, a few details about how I grew up in a multicultural household, my favorite food, hobbies, and then I would wrap up with describing my current research projects and recent developments that were not on my application. This allows your interviewer a few areas from which to jump off.
Also, do not be afraid to talk about any personal hardships you may have overcome in the past. This can be a good area to display empathy towards others, which is an incredibly important trait to have as a physician.
On Distinguishing Yourself in Your Application…
The best way to distinguish yourself from other applicants simply comes down to being yourself, both in the interview and in your personal statement. Remember that the committee and the interviewers will have a copy of your application and all of your extra-curricular activities, so do not go on discussing details about those things in your personal statement or in your interview, unless of course you are asked about a particular experience. Take that time and that precious amount of characters to the story of you.
This sounds abstract and a bit difficult, and it is. The key is to leave an impression of uniqueness. Despite the fact that we all have the same general list of experiences, we are all unique in our own personal way, and we all interpret and respond to those experiences differently from anyone else. They will be looking for your voice in the crowd. All you have to do is let them hear it.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? How have you benefited from the blogging experience?
Alex: Of course! My blog is titled This Medical Life: A Journey in Healthcare. I have only had this blog for a few months, and it is a graduation from my previous blog which chronicled my pre-med journey and undergraduate years. I do not have a specific target audience. Obviously I will probably have a larger pre-medical/medical student viewer base, but I want to have content that applies to everyone.
The most attractive thing about healthcare to me is that it is a common part of the human experience. Hospitals are like airports in that you have so many different people from different walks of life in one building with a common goal. Everyone becomes connected and a part of each other’s stories, and I think there’s something uniquely special about that.
With This Medical Life, I want to explore these stories, and not just through my own personal experiences, but through other people’s experiences. I plan to do this in a variety of different mediums be it artwork, photography, poetry, fiction, or journalism. I want to create content that applies to everyone.
I do plan on providing advice and tips to pre-med students, but what I want readers to realize is that I am more than just my student archetype. I am a person outside of my profession and I want my content to reflect this. I feel that my blogging experience has really helped me find my voice and sort through my ideas about how I see healthcare and what type of physician I want to be. I find writing in general to be therapeutic because it allows me to put what I may be feeling at the moment on something tangible, something that can be manipulated, so that I can really grasp and come to terms with what might be bothering me on any given day. I think being able to think in this manner and sort through these ideas was very valuable when it came time to write my personal statement and attend interviews.
You can read more about Alex’s med school journey by checking out his blog, This Medical Life: A Journey in Healthcare. Thank you Alex for sharing your story with us!
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