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 top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Jared Sharza, aka PreMedPrince…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what are you studying as an undergrad? When do you plan on graduating?
Jared: I’m a 20 year old 2nd semester Junior, preparing to transfer into my next university for my last 3 semesters. I originally started school at St. Lawrence University, a prestigious institution located in arguably the most frigid area of Upstate New York. I started off as a premed student but couldn’t keep up with the level of work necessary to move on in the premed curriculum, so I was cut from the program for the following semester.
After a brief semester stint with liberal studies, I found a niche in Economics and International Relations. I always had a deep interest in foreign policy and valued other cultures but decided I could express it best in government. My Economics side was harvested during my 2nd semester Freshman year when I started up a sober driving service for students from campus and into the town. The most rudimentary ideas of Economics came into play as I began to understand the lack of supply, yet high demand for a transportation service into the town (after all, the winters got as cold as -20). Towards the end of that semester, I decided to start investing in Penny Stocks and decided to further cultivate my interest in Economics by studying more of it the following semesters.
My last semester at St. Lawrence was filled with Government and advanced Economics. I was delegated as Class President which I began to get very excited about early on. I also was rushing a fraternity at the time. Everything seemed to start off flawless as I began to think my future was going to be promising my last few semesters at St. Lawrence. However, after a major Greek Life scandal that I had lied to the school administration about, I was placed on judiciary probation which later changed to being placed on a semester of suspension.
I was in a dark place for a while afterwards. I didn’t know how to tell my parents I was suspended- so I didn’t for a few weeks until I had a plan to get back on track. Just after New Year’s 2014, on my birthday, January 2nd, I told my parents. They were absolutely distraught that I didn’t ask them for help or had come to them earlier when the situation was going on. It was a very stressful time.
With the support and guidance of my parents, however, I was able to gain admission to a local community college, Finger Lakes Community College, who was willing to look past my imperfections as I explained to them my plan to move forward. I decided that I had become a strong enough student to give the pre-medical curriculum another try, but this time with a goal and direction to take the MCAT at the end of the year. Throughout this past year, including the two summer accelerated semesters, I finished the whole premed curriculum and had been actively studying for the MCAT along the way.
I was lucky enough to get a seat for the January 2015 MCAT, just before the major changes to the exam come. Two days after taking the MCAT, I will move into Nazareth College as a 2nd semester Junior majoring in Anthropology. A lot of people have asked me, “Why Anthropology, don’t you want to be a doctor?” I always try to explain to them that not everybody who goes to medical school has to major in a Science. I further attempt to express how Anthropology is the study of interacting with people and being able to see through diversity, but to learn to interact with people with an understanding of their culture. It’s very profound to me because I am sometimes asked the difference between Sociology and Anthropology.
I have a deeply rooted passion for languages and cultures alike coming from a family with a heavily diverse background. I feel that through studying Anthropology, I will find a way to express my passion to help others of diverse backgrounds through understanding and learning how to relate my studies to enhance my abilities with the proverbial “Doctor-Patient interactions.”
I will also be part of the Men’s Tennis team at Nazareth and the Pre-Health Club, as well as the school’s respective honors society (having gained Phi Theta Kappa honors society membership this past year).
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? When and why did you start blogging? What have you gained from the experience?
Jared: Part of my plan to get back on track after having been suspended for a semester was to find the support necessary to succeed. I had no friends at the school so I virtually had no distractions from school other than sports. My parents provided a strong support, but I sought a larger group. I took to Twitter using an anonymous Twitter handle name, PreMedPrince, to join the ever-expansive network of premeds, med students, and doctors alike. I became very comfortable with the network as they supported my plans I had expressed.
Towards the middle of the Spring ‘14 semester, I decided in order to keep up my momentum, I had to lose a few of my ghosts that kept on haunting me. Whenever I had doubted my ability to pursue my endeavors, I could attribute it to being suspended, so I shared my experience in the form of a blog. I like to write, and had been using a journal as a pathway for stress-relief and for planning.
After I put up my tell-all story regarding my suspension and how I had planned to get back on track, I received immediate feedback and strengthened support. From the experience, I gained the ability to reach out for support. It had been something I had been lacking for as long as I can remember. I have always tried to be proud of doing things by myself. I have often been very egotistical until I was humbled by being suspended, it was the first time I hadn’t been able to work my way out of something by myself. Success is a team-driven experience. Without a support group, I find it very difficult to succeed at anything.
Accepted: You have very successfully pulled your GPA from a very low point to a high GPA. How did you do that?
Jared: During my semester of suspension while I was attending Finger Lakes Community College, my main goal was to do as well as I could in my courses. The reason behind this was because I had a lot to prove to not only myself, but to future admissions. I have an outstanding disciplinary punishment that will follow me around whenever I apply for schools; I have to check “yes” on the applications. My main concern was how I was going to secure my future when asked about it by schools. I used my suspension as a reality check, a learning experience and I was hell-bent on proving my worth by excelling in school.
I was always a little inferior when it came to school. I never put my best in, rather I’d focus everything into my athletic career. This past semester has allowed me to realize my potential by staying disciplined, seeking support from online groups, and demonstrating to my professors my zeal to thrive and succeed in their classes. After my first semester getting a 3.87 semester average taking 17 credits, I was proud of myself but wanted more, I was addicted to success. I felt so good knowing my hard work had paid off in and out of the classroom.
During my research into medical schools, I came to realize GPAs were extremely competitive. My goal and thought process was to get as close to an A in every course. I didn’t have room for anything less than an A because, again, I need to prove myself to admissions.
Accepted: How would you advise other premeds who are struggling to boost their GPAs?
Jared: It’s no secret that the level of work premeds are expected to do in and out of the classroom is becoming more and more competitive. GPAs have to be high, very high. Students cannot afford to get more B’s than A’s in required courses. I’ve pinpointed a few keys that contributed to my success and have worked for others. I found that I wasn’t doing all-nighters anymore, rather, studying smarter.
Figuring out how to actually learn the material is something I found worthwhile. Students tend to rely solely on the word of their professors which may only help in the short-run, but the material won’t likely stick. In order to effectively learn the material, I used YouTube videos for absolutely every topic I had this past year. What this does is it allows you to get another perspective on the subject and could potentially offer tricks to simplify the material. I found this really useful when I was taking Organic Chemistry because we were getting a lot of material to cover.
As a visual-learner, I made use of whiteboards whenever I could. I found it extremely helpful for comprehending metabolic content for Biology, mechanisms for Organic Chemistry, and Physics problems. Actually doing and exploring concepts allowed me to get a more complete understanding which helped me on exams. I also supplemented this with making flash-cards for Biology as I found them to be most useful for this course specifically.
The last piece of insight I can offer is visiting professors. I always read that medical students and doctors suggest to visit professors during their office hours. I finally realized this was necessary to demonstrate my ambition and actual curiosity to learn and figure out ways to enhance my abilities in the classroom. I found this to be extremely helpful as my professors would look over my papers early and offer significant advice that directly contributed to my success on assignments.
The main thing to keep in mind when struggling to boost your GPA is that whatever you try won’t work instantly. Through persistence and dedication, you will get there if you sincerely have the inner drive. Make sure you look at your whole life at school and see if there is anything that is holding you back, or something that could potentially culture your success. Schools have many assistance programs that are just waiting for you to reach out, the thing is you have to reach out for the support; they can’t help you if you don’t inquire.
Accepted: What stage of the med school admissions process are you up to so far?
Jared: I am currently in the final days leading up to my MCAT, so currently studying! This past semester I chose my professors that I wanted to write for me letters of recommendation on behalf of my science proficiency. This past year has been very hectic and everything has been moving very quickly so I will be taking some time to breathe and relax afterwards into the Spring semester. I will be working on writing parts of my personal statement and continue to research into medical schools and may even visit a few. I will also be volunteering at the local hospital on weekends and hopefully be shadowing the athletic trainer during home games for various sports. The reason I want to shadow an athletic trainer is mainly because I have a passion for sports medicine being an athlete, but also because I plan on shadowing physicians during the summer.
Accepted: Can you share some MCAT studying tips with our readers?
Jared: The MCAT is very daunting, intimidating if you will. I found out very early when I first started my pre-medical requirements this year to supplement my course studies with MCAT preparation material. This allowed me to tailor my way of thinking in these courses to the way the MCAT asks questions. I also was able to get a new perspective on the material, which allowed me to further enhance my understanding of a topic at a given time.
The mind-set necessary for the MCAT is one that is very tough and is able to adapt to studying and find outlets to channel stress. For example, my stress reduction outlets include Swimming and working out (alternating every day) and writing a reflection in a personal journal about the previous week and to write goals for the next week. Premeds need to learn early on that since the MCAT is such a big deal with a lot of content, to take things step by step.
Learn one unit of material at a time and move on to the next. Make sure to keep the information in your mind by using flashcards that briefly summarize what you’ve just finished and it will all come together after a while.
The biggest studying piece that I found was on the AAMC website. They list everything that could possibly be tested, content-wise. I will have gone through all of the material over 21 days which at first was very intimidating, but having taken it step by step, I found myself to have retained a lot of it through the practices I listed above.
I have done my MCAT content review without any structured company review. I can see how they are helpful, in virtually every way. Personally, I found that I had all the material, and used the AAMC practice tests to measure my performance throughout my review and was confident in my ability to do this on my own.
Some advice though would be to not allow others opinions sway yours. Everybody has different ways of learning and the silver lining to taking the MCAT besides successfully completing it, is that there is an abundance of resources out there to help you prepare- from practice tests, practice questions, practice videos, etc. All of these major prep companies offer free trials and free material to try out their services. I advise to try them all, however. Even if you don’t like their questions or the way they deliver their material, at the very least you are getting practice of the same material with a different perspective.
Accepted: Do you have target schools in mind yet? Where do you think you’ll apply? Do you have a “dream” school?
Jared: I don’t have a dream school in mind. I think the reason for that is because of all that I’ve been through, I realize my chances have been harmed. However, I like to think that my continued persistence up until I apply will be worthwhile and some admissions panel will take note.
Being a native of NY, my dream school would most definitely be the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. However, I do plan on applying broadly, which is something I think is worth sharing. In this day and age, premeds are entering a very competitive domain and some people would be inclined to argue that applying broadly is important because once you’re in; we all have the similar goals and outcomes. However, don’t let that idea keep you down from shooting for the stars.
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You can read more about Jared’s journey by checking out his blog, PreMedPrince. Thank you Jared for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!
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