Next up in our series of featured med school bloggers is Mingle, a med school applicant and anonymous blogger at Mingled Mangle: A Pre-med’s Blog. Mingle is a non-traditional med school applicant who was an AmeriCorps Volunteer in a surgery center, now volunteers as a grant writer, and loves food. Enjoy Mingle’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?
Mingle: I grew up in San Francisco, California and graduated from one of the University of California schools in 2009. I have a B.S. in Cell Biology and a minor in Asian American studies. I was originally in the catch-all major, Biological Sciences, but the Cell Bio people sold me with fancy microscopes and fluorescent yeast-beasties. Because Cell Bio was such a small major, it was also easier to see a faculty adviser. I minored in Asian American studies because one of my high school mentors got me interested in San Francisco’s unique history and diversity. In college, I started taking classes to learn about different Asian Am communities and really loved it.
Accepted: What have you been doing since you graduated from college?
Mingle: I’ve been working, mainly. I spent the first year after graduation working two part-time jobs as an after school program leader and a retail sales associate. The highlight of that year was my catapult class, which I dubbed “Pwnage.”* We built a table-top catapult out of wood and springs and launched marshmallows. I was very entertained watching these kids run around trying to catch marshmallows. My original intent was to save up for the MCAT preparation course and the medical school application fees. I ended up postponing my MCATs. At that time, I didn’t feel ready to tackle the application process yet.
Instead, I joined AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) and worked with a non-profit surgery center in wine country. The VISTA program is all about improving a non-profit’s infrastructure. I spent most of that year writing grants, fundraising and networking with business leaders and policymakers in the area. Grant writing exposed me to the business and operations side of healthcare delivery – how much labor and supplies cost, for example. I was extremely fortunate in my placement, because I met a lot of strong men and women who were also good mentors. After a year, I was ready to start tackling that MCAT and my apps.
I returned to San Francisco, but before my MCAT classes started, I underwent surgery to repair my torn labrum. After I was out of my sling, I started MCAT classes, physical therapy and started working part-time as a medical interpreter for a physical therapy clinic. I studied for a total of six months including classes, took the MCAT in March, and then retook it in late-April. This summer, I started volunteering as a grant researcher for another local non-profit. Whew! It’s been a busy year!
Accepted: What stage are you at right now with your med applications?
Mingle: My AMCAS application is waiting in line for verification. I submitted it in early July and had a nice celebration eating oysters and clam chowder. Since then, I’ve been working on the secondary applications from schools that do not screen the AMCAS application.
Accepted: What has been the most challenging aspect of this process so far?
Mingle: The MCAT. It gets pretty depressing. I was constantly worried that I wasn’t studying enough, didn’t know enough, or wasn’t fast enough. It was not a healthy mentality for me, so I had to balance it with regular exercise and fun-time. My friends set up designated days to take me on walks so I could chase squirrels.
I chose to take Kaplan prep courses. My instructor was also really good at teaching and reviewing concepts. The first two months were rough. It took time for me to get into a good study habit and relearn concepts that I had learned years ago. The winter course schedule was a huge boon, because we had a month off in December. That was when I really got on track with the class. Things were smoother after that.
Accepted: How did you go about choosing topics for your AMCAS essays? Can you share some of your thoughts on the essay writing process?
Mingle: I read “Essays That Will Get You into Medical School” by Dan Kaufman, Chris Downhan, and Adrienne Dowhan. This book helped give me pointers on how to get started, how to structure my essay, and has a lot of sample essays to give me a feel for what worked for people.
I started off by writing whatever I wanted. I wrote a paragraph about every activity that was even remotely meaningful to me and structured it around one anecdote to represent the overall experience. My first draft exceeded the character limit. Over time, I pared it down and chose three experiences that meant the most. I chose one theme that sums up why I want to be a doctor and did my best to weave each story into the theme. I also tried to show why each story is relevant to my career goal. I included a lot of introspection – what I learned, how I felt about it, and how those lessons will help me in the future.
I ended up working on my theme and conclusion last because that’s typically how I write. In the process, however, I had to go back and forth a lot to make sure that the essay was “tight” and didn’t have any random loose ends. The things that I cut out made its way into the Work/Activities section of the AMCAS app as my “Most Meaningful Experience” paragraphs. This was great, because then I could expand upon the “personal statement rejects” even more.
Accepted: Your blog appears to be a med school applicant/food blog — an interesting combo! Why did you decide to blog about your application/eating experiences?
Mingle: I started the blog on a whim. Initially, I was actually planning to post my art, but art is pretty time-consuming and the application process is even more time-consuming. I blog about my application process to vent out some of the frustration. I post a lot about food because I like sampling different restaurants and like to share these experiences with others. San Francisco has a lot of restaurants and food trucks. You can pick based on the type of food (Chinese? Italian? Burgers? Etc) or your preferred price range. People come up with some pretty creative things too.
*I had to ask Mingle what this meant. Here’s his explanation: “Pwnage is video game lingo for beating someone at a game. It was originally “ownage” but someone made a typo and it stuck. I chose the name because I figured it would appeal to the boys.” I guess it’s a guy thing!
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