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 Kate Ackert…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? When did you graduate?
Kate: Hi! My name is Kate Ackert and I am from Manhasset, New York. I was a biology major with minors in Health Studies and Chemistry at Siena College in Albany, NY. I graduated in May 2016, so only a few months ago! Siena is a liberal arts school, so I had the opportunity to get a well-rounded education by taking philosophy, psychology, sociology, and English classes in addition to my science coursework – AND I got to study abroad in the coolest location on the planet…the Galápagos Islands. I loved it!
Accepted: If you could describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Kate: Enthusiastic, quirky, and adventurous.
Accepted: If you could meet any famous person – past or present – who would it be and why?
Kate: I would love to meet Tina Fey. I think she’s a smart cookie and so funny! We could swap Sarah Palin impersonations! I think she is a great female role model. I love to see women taking charge and holding their own in an industry that is dominated by men.
Accepted: Where are you currently going to med school?
Kate: I go to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) and am loving every second of it.
Accepted: What motivated you to pursue a career in medicine?
Kate: I grew up surrounded by doctors – my dad, two of my uncles, and three of my cousins are docs! From my family experiences, I knew it was a field where I would be challenged intellectually, where I would get to form connections with people, and where I could help others. During my college years I realized that medicine is a career that is not centered around science, but rather a love for humanity. You have to care about people to be a good doctor. I do love science, but if I wanted to strictly be a scientist I would have gotten a PhD. What I really love is making people feel good and building relationships (with some cool science thrown in there) and that’s exactly what medicine is.
Accepted: How did the application process go for you? Did you experience any challenges along the way?
Kate: My application process was a little difficult. My pre-health advisor wasn’t supportive of me applying to med school straight out of undergrad because she thought my GPA was too low. I was tenacious and persevered and I got into 3 medical schools! It’s kind of a blow to be told that you aren’t good enough or that someone doesn’t think that you’re a good candidate, but I knew that medicine is what I wanted to do and I pushed through. I’m now perfectly happy and doing well in school and I am so glad that even though someone told me I wouldn’t be successful, I am! I used that experience as motivation to work hard. I’m glad that I’m 22 and in med school because I feel less pressure to match into a certain specialty that allows for having family as opposed to some of my friends who are also M1s and in their 30s. Sometimes it can be difficult because a lot of my classmates have Master’s Degrees or did postbacs where they learned a lot of the information that we’re learning now and I feel like I’m too young or behind, but I know that it will all even out after we finish the anatomy and
biochemistry parts of our curriculum and move on to the systems-based part of the curriculum.
Accepted: Which resources did you use to prep for the MCAT?
Kate: I didn’t study for the MCAT as much as I should have. I had just come back from studying abroad, I was working as a research assistant full-time and taking a night class at the same time I was studying for the MCAT. I took a Kaplan In-Person course at night and relied mostly on my foundational knowledge from my pre-med coursework at Siena and I ended up doing well on the exam. What a relief!
Accepted: Can you share your top three tips for those going through the med school application process now?
Kate: I would say to be yourself, know when to fight for something and when to hold back, and to never give up.
Being yourself is so important in the interview setting. Schools are looking to find a good mix to build their class and if everyone says that they are interested in primary care or rural medicine because they think that they are more likely to get in that way it’s not fair to the school or the people that actually want to go into that! If you are interested in a specialty like surgery or EM don’t shy away from saying that in your interview! Let your real personality – with all your interests – shine through. Schools may want a violin player or an artist in their class because it diversifies the class and brings in new ideas and opportunities for medicine. Who knows, maybe that violin player will be a world-renowned surgeon because of their nimble fingers or that artist may be the next Frank Netter. So be yourself!
You have to know when to fight for something. If I had listened to my pre-health advisor I wouldn’t be where I am now. I knew in my heart that medical school was the right place for me and that I had a chance of getting in, even if I didn’t have a 4.0 GPA. I took the initiative to visit the schools I wanted to go to for open houses and met admissions counselors at Health Fairs and it worked for me! However, some people go crazy overboard with sending in thank you letters and constantly emailing and calling schools and that’s when you have to hold back and just stick with the process.
My last bit of advice is to never give up. No matter what happens, if you have a dream you need to go for it. Do be realistic. If you have a 2.5 GPA and a 490 on the MCAT you probably won’t get in. However, there are many things you can do to improve your application, like doing a postbac or a Master’s program and retaking the MCAT. Don’t be afraid of following your dreams, no matter how long it takes!
Accepted: Any other words of wisdom?
Kate: Find ways to enjoy studying! Med school is much different from college. You are always doing work. Find good friends, travel if you can, be silly, and enjoy the journey!
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