Next up in our series of featured med school bloggers is Michelle Z., a rising first year med student and the author of the blog, a feeling and a love. Enjoy Michelle’s thoughtful answers and use them to help you make your way through the med school admissions process.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to school and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?
Michelle: I am from Naperville, IL – a suburb 45 minutes away from Chicago. For college, I moved to the East Coast and attended Tufts University, near Boston. I just graduated this May with a B.A. in Philosophy.
Accepted: How many med schools did you apply to? What tipped the scales to favor Boston University School of Medicine?
Michelle: I applied to 17 schools spanning the entire width of the United States. A couple in Boston, a few in Pennsylvania, several in the Midwest (mostly around Chicago), and a few out on the west coast. Ultimately, I ended up on 4 waitlists and had one acceptance – from Boston University. But I withdrew from all the waitlists and easily made the decision to attend BU, since it had been one of my top schools from the get-go. First of all, it’s in Boston, which is literally a hub of biotechnological advancement. If you want to study medicine, this is absolutely the place to do it. Secondly, BUSM’s teaching hospital is Boston Medical Center, which is the largest safety net hospital in New England and has the most diverse patient population, as well. This means that I get unparalleled exposure to socioeconomically as well as racially diverse patients, which I believe is invaluable in the process of becoming a physician. Additionally, BUSM really made me feel like the education that I would receive there would truly make me a competitive candidate for any residency in the future. The students spoke very highly of the curriculum and the professors. And then there’s the fact that many of my college friends are staying in the Boston area, so I still get to be near them – that’s just icing on the cake.
Accepted: Can you talk a bit about how your interest in philosophy connects to your desire to pursue medicine (if in fact they are connected)?
Michelle: Going into college, I knew two things for sure: 1) I wanted to become a doctor, and 2) I wanted to study philosophy during my undergraduate years. Honestly, I would be ecstatic spending the rest of my life doing and teaching philosophy. However, for me, there is a difference between that which is intellectually compelling and that which is ultimately fulfilling.
So I guess my answer to your question is that my enthusiasm for philosophy is not necessarily connected to my desire to pursue medicine. My desire to pursue medicine comes from the thought that my career is the vehicle through which I can contribute positively to society. My desire to do philosophy comes from a different place entirely – it comes from the simple fact that I find it completely fascinating, and quite enjoy indulging in it. Now, this isn’t to say that philosophy hasn’t been greatly beneficial in my journey, because it certainly has: it has taught me to be rigorous in my arguments, which is something that is just as important in science as it is in philosophy, and it has exposed me to extremely important questions in normative ethics, which will certainly shape how I practice and what I do as a physician.
Accepted: Tufts is just down the road from BU so you’re already familiar with living in Boston. Are you excited about spending the next four years in Beantown?
Michelle: I am definitely thrilled to be studying medicine in Boston, where we have amazing hospitals like Children’s, MGH, and the Brigham. I am also thrilled to be in the vicinity of friends that have decided to stay in the area post-graduation. However, I am going to have to drive to my clinical rotations during third and fourth year, and I am TERRIFIED of driving around here. There’s also a big part of me that misses the humble atmosphere of the Midwest, and an even bigger part of me that yearns to experience the West Coast. So I guess you could say I’m pretty ambivalent about being in Boston for the next four years.
Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experiences?
Michelle: I’ve kept journals since I was seven years old. I have always used writing as a way to reflect on my experiences and on my personal growth. I imagine that medical school will be a time of rattling experiences, immense challenges, inspiring interactions, revelations, and generally a bunch of things that I don’t want to forget.
So primarily, I decided to blog just to keep track of my own life. I know I’m going to be very busy in med school, and I want to make sure that I still take the time to sit back and think about everything that’s going on. I thought that a WordPress site would be a nice place to keep all these reflections of mine, and perhaps it’ll provide some entertainment or food for thought for some passing reader.
Accepted: Can you offer some tips to our med school applicants?
Michelle: I have a page on my blog called “On Applying,” which I believe offers some really helpful tips that I wish I’d gotten prior to applying. The best advice I can offer is to APPLY BROAD. If you can afford to, seriously, apply to a lot of schools because there is no rhyme or reason to the admissions process – you will get interviews from schools that you never thought you had a shot at, and you won’t hear a single thing from schools that you thought you had in the bag.
As far as the MCAT goes, I advise coming up with a strict study schedule. Go on Student Doctor Network and look up MCAT study schedules – some very nice people have posted very detailed plans for MCAT success. I studied for about 3 hours a day for the span of 4 months, and used only the ExamKrackers books, and I was pretty happy with my score. If you are able to make up a schedule and stick with it, then I believe that it’s completely unnecessary to take a course (which can cost upwards of $2000). Save that cash for actual applications.
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