I am a miracle made up of particles and in this existence I'll stay persistent and I'll make a difference and I will have lived it - Medicine for the People

Improving My Application Part I

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I've gotten a few comments from readers asking what I did to improve my application the second time around and I thought today would be a good day for a post on this topic.
When I didn't get into UVM I was contacted by one of the dean's of admission who offered to discuss my application with me. What followed was a difficult but incredibly informative and helpful phone call. This dean went through the weaknesses and strengths of my application and encouraged me to re-apply. She was critical but also very kind and I'll never forget how good it felt to have her tell me she had no doubt I would make an amazing doctor someday. The biggest piece of advice she gave me was to take more classes if possible, to show that I could excel at higher level sciences. I've touched on this briefly before but I struggled with the classes in my post-bacc program for many reasons, not the least of which was piling too many things on my plate at once. When I finally figured out not to spread myself too thin, it was a bit late to salvage my GPA. The one bright spot was that I had taken a biochemistry class and done very well because I had arranged my schedule/commitments in a way that gave me plenty of study time. With that in mind, I was interested in taking an anatomy and a genetics course if possible. I figured I should stick to one at a time (in order to not overwhelm myself since I was also working full-time). I enrolled in a single semester anatomy course at Northwestern (actually it was over one trimester) and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately I had some difficulty with the professor, which I think may have just been due to the way the class was set up (a large majority of our final grades were the result of a single research paper which I didn't feel our professor was very clear on and there was some frustration due to lack of communication). Regardless, I truly enjoyed the subject content and worked really hard and ended up with a great grade. It was very refreshing to feel like the work I was putting in equaled the feedback I was getting out. After adding this class to my AMCAS application this cycle my science GPA went up, which is something I'm really happy about. Although it didn't change by much (since it was only one class), I'm mostly proud that the classes I've taken that most closely resemble the coursework that I'll be encountering in medical school are the ones I've done the best in. I've taken it as yet more proof that I'm ready for the challenges that I'll face as a medical student. 
If your main issue with your application is GPA, I would definitely consider taking an additional class or two. Although you might not change your overall numbers much, if you do well you will be able to show admissions committees an upward trend, which is important and noteworthy in and of itself. I would recommend choosing a class that you're actually interested in and maybe one that has some bearing on what you'll be studying in medical school. The admissions dean I spoke to recommended an anatomy class, physiology, genetics or microbiology and suggested that those would be helpful to have taken (any background information will definitely make difficult classes easier later if you've already seen some of the material!!). 
I'm planning on taking another class (hopefully genetics!) in the fall and ideally will be able to send an update to schools with an official grade before the end of interviewing season. I've had several friends do the same and they said it may have helped get them off the waitlist and officially accepted. 
Stay tuned for further posts detailing what else I did/am doing to improve my application!!


Kelsey Smith said...

Hey Chantal! I finally updated LinkedIn and found your blog. I'm so impressed by your determination and tenacity! I would be psyched to work with you...when you eventually become a clinical geneticist! No pressure. Let me know if I can help with the genetics course! It's kind of my specialty now.

Chantal Mendes said...

Haha thank you so much for the sweet words! I'll definitely let you know if I need a hand with genetics in the fall :)

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