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 the med school application process. And now, introducing Danielle Ward…
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 ice cream flavor?
Danielle: My name is Danielle Ward, and I was born in Germany. I grew up as an Army Brat, so I’m pretty much from everywhere! I graduated from Louisiana State University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry (minor in chemistry). I also received a Master of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Saint Joseph in 2013.
I pretty much love every flavor of ice cream, but butter pecan never gets old. Cold Stone Creamery’s “Birthday Cake Remix” also holds a special place in my heart.
Accepted: Where will you be starting med school in the fall? How would you say you’re a good fit for that program?
Danielle: I will be attending Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – Georgia Campus. I believe that I am a good fit for the program because I have a very strong passion for learning, serving and helping others, and being a part of something greater than myself. I also really value the philosophy of osteopathic medicine, and I believe this program really fits my personality and will help me become the best possible physician that I know I am capable of being. Additionally, I love the south, so I am happy to be attending a school that allows me to be closer to family.
Accepted: What would you say was the most challenging aspect of the application process? How did you approach that challenge?
Danielle: For me, the most challenging part of the application process was overcoming both an extremely low undergraduate GPA and MCAT score. I had a great amount extracurricular activities, volunteering, clinical experiences, research, and work experience, but that means nothing to schools that screen based on numbers alone.
To approach my low undergraduate GPA, I enrolled in a hard science master’s degree program where I excelled. Some schools tend to weigh graduate courses or more advanced courses a lot more heavily, so I feel that this really helped me. I also spoke with admissions officers at a few schools and from their opinions, this was the best course of action for me to take.
I retook the MCAT four times, but was not able to obtain a high score despite studying extremely hard for the test. I think I may have burnt myself out in the process of studying, and this probably had a large effect on my performance. I was actually considering taking the test a fifth time right before I received my interview. I’m so glad that I no longer have to worry about it!
Accepted: Your blog focuses a lot on being a woman, a minority, and a single mom. How did those aspects of who you are play into your desire to be a doctor?
Danielle: I have wanted to be a physician since I was a young child, so I can’t say that any of the above mentioned aspects really played into this desire. After trying to find others like myself, I realized that I may be a bit of an anomaly going into the field of medicine, so I created my blog for those with similar circumstances to have something to relate to. The main focus of my blog is to document my journey, highlight minority women in medicine, and give helpful advice to pre-medical students.
Even though being a single mother has not influenced my desire to become a doctor, it does push me to work harder because I now have someone who looks up to me. I have to be the best role model for my child, and I can’t let her see me give up on my dreams. I want my child to know that with hard work and dedication, it is possible to achieve any goal.
Accepted: Related, how did those three things influence or affect the admissions process?
Danielle: Honestly, I do not think that being a woman or a minority had any influence on the admission process at all. I never mentioned being a minority in my medical school applications, and being a woman does not give anyone a heads up in admissions.
I do believe that managing to be a single mother while completing two degrees, working multiple jobs, and still being heavily involved in a variety of activities may have had the greatest influence. (Did I mention I was still able to graduate with my undergraduate class even after having a child sophomore year?) I believe it speaks volumes that I was able to accomplish so much all while raising a very small child. It shows that I am determined, efficient at managing my time, and able to make the best out of any given situation.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about your daughter? How excited is she that her mom is going to be a doctor?
Danielle: My daughter is 7 years old and pretty awesome! She keeps me busy with all her various activities, but there’s never a dull moment when she’s around. She’s really excited that I am going to be a doctor, and makes it a point to tell anyone who will listen whenever we go somewhere! LOL She’s also ready for the move to Georgia so that she can spend more time with her cousins who are all around the same age as her. I’m definitely glad that I’ll be attending medical school with her being a lot older, because I can only imagine how hard it would be to do it all with an infant/toddler.
Accepted: What type of doctor do you want to be? (I know that may change a million times, but what’s your guess?)
Danielle: I’ve done quite a bit of shadowing, and I am definitely interested in becoming a surgeon. I know many students tend to change their minds along the way, so I am keeping my options open as to what type of surgery I would like to pursue. I absolutely love being in the OR though, and I like being able to see immediate results after the work is finished.
Accepted: Can you share your top three application tips with our readers?
1. Don’t Get Discouraged!
I was not accepted into medical school until my third application cycle. If you get rejected the first time, don’t be afraid to contact the schools and find out ways in which you can improve your application. Also, do not compare yourself to others around you. When the time is right for you, everything will fall into place. Quite a few of my peers from undergrad have already graduated from medical school and it can be pretty discouraging to not be right there with them. Luckily, I kept pushing and I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep believing that you will reach your goals, and eventually you will.
2. Apply Early!
An early application can definitely make a difference in terms of getting an interview. By having all your materials ready to go when the application cycle opens, you will be able to receive and submit your secondary applications sooner. Having an interview date early in the application cycle also increases your chances of not being put on a waitlist. One month before the application opens, try to have your personal statement finished, letters of recommendation on hand, and a complete list of all your activities ready to go.
3. Enjoy the Journey!
Don’t get so caught up in trying to make a perfect application that you forget to have fun and enjoy yourself in the process. Take some time to do some of the things that you love and explore some new interests. Also, try not to rush the process. Once a physician, you will probably practice for 20-30 years, so don’t throw away some of the best years of your life. Work hard, but don’t forget to play hard as well.
You can read more about Danielle’s journey by checking out her blog, Aspiring Minority Doctor. Thank you Danielle for sharing your story with us!
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