This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with med school applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the med school application process. And now, introducing…“Z.”
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?
Z: I’m originally from one of the Mountain States in the US (not to be confused with the Midwest!). Mountain States include Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado. I concentrated in economics at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. My favorite ice cream flavor is probably Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your five year plan? Where are you now and where do you plan on being in five years from now?
Z: My basic five year plan is go to medical school, match into one of my top choice residencies as an M4, successfully graduate from medical school, and have a positive start to my intern/residency. Currently, I’m working in a lab while counting down the days until I can start medical school. Five years from now, I’d like to be back on the east coast as an intern/resident. I think I’d also like to get married at some point during that time and buy my first pet dog (French bulldog!) or maybe a Bengal kitten.
Accepted: We have lots of readers who are post baccalaureate applicants or who are thinking about applying to a postbac program. Can you share some application tips that you wish you’d known before applying?
Z: I made the mistake of applying to too many postbac programs, which was costly. I sort of freaked out when I was applying and was worried that I wouldn’t be accepted into any programs.
In the end, I ended up being accepted into all the programs (10) and went to the program in my hometown for financial reasons. I could have saved some money by applying to 3-4 programs. Note: I had a strong undergrad GPA and strong standardized test scores – so I think if one has a weaker undergrad GPA or test scores, then it might be smart to apply to several programs. But if I were to do it again, I would have applied to 3 programs, not 10.
Also, my biggest deciding factor for choosing a postbac program came down to finances and costs. I attended the program in my hometown because the tuition was very cheap and I was able to live at home (Thank you, Mom and Dad!).
I would highly encourage others to prioritize cost when selecting a postbac program (vs prestige) so that you can take out a reasonable student loan and not work while enrolled in school.
I know taking out student loans is scary. So a lot of people choose to work while attending the postbac program to reduce loans. However, I can say that all the people who were working while attending school in my program really struggled to do well in their classes and on the MCAT. (Same for a few friends who did postbacs at other institutions.) For that reason, most of them could not apply this season or did apply but did not receive any interview invitations. In that sense, I think deciding to work ended up being more costly than taking out a loan to cover costs. They have lost a year (time=money) and they will have to pay the application fees again, which can also add up. Of course, this is only my opinion!
Accepted: What would you say was the most challenging aspect of the medical school application process? What steps did you take to overcome that challenge?
Z: The most challenging aspect for me was the feeling that I was starting all over again and that I was “behind” compared to my undergrad classmates who had gone straight to medical school. In other words, doing the postbac program made me feel like I was starting undergrad all over again. In fact, some of the pre-med requirement classes are freshman level courses. It was really hard not to feel like I had wasted my undergrad years and to beat myself up over not “knowing my calling” sooner. However, when I actually started taking those classes and reflected on my “life experiences,” I realized that I had changed and grown a lot since my time as an undergraduate student (it’s been about 5 years now). When I realized that, I knew that I wasn’t truly starting over and I had benefited a lot from “wandering.”
The other challenging aspect was related to my personal romantic relationship. I started this process while in a long-distance (and relatively serious) relationship. However, when we started discussing our future together, it was clear that we had different goals (even though we’re both going to be in medicine) and different end locations. This is something that not a lot of people take into account (I didn’t) and it resulted in a lot of heartache. I’m still working on recovering, but I have been thinking about my upcoming new adventures and that has been helpful.
Accepted: Congrats on your multiple acceptances to med school! Can you talk about some of the factors that will go into your decision?
Z: Thank you! I feel very blessed to have a choice of where I attend. The two biggest factors that will go into my decision will be “fit” and “financial.” Having gone on multiple interviews, I learned how important fit will be for me in finding success as a medical school student. For me, “fit” includes school culture, who my classmates will be, the curriculum, the learning styles supported by the curriculum and lectures, opportunities to pursue my own personal interests, and location. I think “financial” is pretty self-explanatory. I will be balancing these two factors when making my final decision.
Accepted: Most med school applicants worry about how they’ll survive the financial element of med school – paying for tuition, getting scholarships, being in debt. Can you share your thoughts on the subject?
Z: I am definitely one of those med school applicants! The thought of going into a large amount of debt really makes me nervous. I have been reading a lot on surviving medical school financially, which I think everyone should do. I’ve been lucky that my parents are very financially savvy, so I have been leaning a bit on their wisdom.
I’m confident in my parents’ financial advice because my dad put himself through school (and received a Ph.D) without putting himself in any prolonged debt. My parents are currently debt free (and have been for quite a long time) and I believe it is because of their financial wisdom – I intend on following their footsteps.
So, based on my talks with them, we’ve agreed that I shouldn’t commit myself to any sort of career commitment scholarships (Army, Health Corps, etc). Instead, I’m planning on budgeting very carefully in advance, taking out just enough loans for tuition and living costs and necessities, saving money now for emergencies, eliminating any unnecessary spending (e.g. clothes), and dedicating a large portion of my wages as an intern/resident to paying off my medical school debt quickly (even though this will definitely be tough with the small resident income). So, I’ll probably be that medical student who wears the same outfit every other day. Don’t worry – I’m vigilant about my laundry and clean underwear!
Bottom line: With the exception of tuition and living costs in medical school, I think it’s good to stick with the rules, “Don’t spend more than you have” and “1 dollar spent today is 3 dollars lost later.”
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? How have you benefited from the blogging experience?
Z: I started this blog to journal my transition into medical school, my time at medical school, and then my transition out of medical school. I wanted to do it in a five-year journal type format. However, I’ve shifted away from that a little and, so far, my blog has ended up becoming a mix of my daily life and advice for other pre-meds.
I didn’t really have a specific target audience in mind – although now, I think I’m working to write for others who are in a similar position as myself and I hope to share more information with them. I found information to be really important in being able to successfully complete an application cycle and want others to have the same information that I did.
Naturally, I am still very limited in my knowledge, but I want to share what I can. I’ve greatly benefited from just connecting with other pre-meds and being able to share the burden of going through this immense process. I really enjoy helping others. Having people reach out to me and thank me for my thoughts/advice is very rewarding. I also think that looking back every year on my journey (via my blog) will help me to be very mindful of each day and to appreciate the incredible opportunity that I have been given.
You can read more about Z’s med school journey by checking out her blog, 5 year journey: medical school version. Thank you Z for sharing your story with us!
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