Overview of the Series
In this series of articles, I will be sharing excerpts of case studies on several of my former students (with their permission, of course). Names and other identifying information have been changed, but the material facts — MCAT score, GPA, etc. — are unchanged. The full case studies are published in my book, Pre-Med Success Stories.
I’ll present each case study in three parts — an introduction of the student, followed by an in-depth assessment of the student’s profile and chances for admission to medical school, and then finally I’ll explain what happened to the student once s/he applied.
In this article, I will be introducing a student of mine named Amin. This is part one of a three-part series.
Part I — Getting to Know Amin
When I first met Amin, he came off as uninterested and impatient. He also had poor eye contact; he was constantly watching the wall behind me which made me wary. I congratulated him on his 4.0 GPA and he just shrugged. I asked him how he managed to pull that off, and he just shrugged and said “you just need to find out what the TA wants to hear.” This concerned me and I hoped he wouldn’t treat me the same. Yet, he assured me he would work very hard. Although Amin could be invited to a medical school interview through his numbers alone, I wondered how the interviewer would view him — since he was so cold when I first met him, I knew he needed to work on his demeanor.
As we continued to talk, Amin disclosed to me that for the first six years of his life he lived in absolute terror in a town located on the border between Iran and Iraq when the two countries were at war. He was forced to experience the trauma of death all around him at such a young age, before he had even experienced the joys of life. His family had the good fortune to move to the U.S. and Amin became enamoured with the country. He quickly learned English, excelled in his classes, and became dedicated to pursue medicine. He was without question very intelligent, and his grades spoke for themselves — but why did he come to me? He was a perfectionist and wanted to cover all the bases. Most important of all, he wanted to become a doctor. After his early traumatic experiences that was all he wanted and I loved his determination.
Looking at Amin’s file, his academic scores are excellent. Amin is a 22-year old Persian man who graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in biology and a 4.0 GPA. His MCAT score was a 34.
Because of his academic focus, Amin’s extracurriculars are limited. In terms of patient contact, Amin is a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and worked at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Emergency Room (1 yr / 100hrs). He also helped out at the Blind Children’s Learning Center (4 months / 30hrs).
In terms of leadership and on-campus activity, Amin was the captain of the Persian Olympics intramural basketball team and was a tutor at the Tri-State Learning Center (2 yrs / 200 hours). He was also a member of the Iranian Cultural Club (3 years) and AMSA (3 years).
His time doing clinical work was spent at Bio Detect Inc. where he was responsible for identifying neuronal plasticity related to epilepsy in susceptible Down’s Syndrome populations. He also assessed Down’s Syndrome patients for epilepsy.
Amin’s academic performance made it clear to me that he could handle the rigor of medical school. However, a perfect GPA does not mean there’s no need for improvement. My main concern was to “soften” Amin’s profile — make him less rigid and more flexible. He really needed to stress his leadership and patient contact.
Naturally, I expected Amin’s personal statement to be the focal point of his application. I gave him a few writing prompts to explain himself and his experiences working with others. His biggest setback was his attitude. At first, he refused to write self-critically about his weaknesses; since he was so calculated, I needed to convince him his efforts would yield useful results. My challenge was to present Amin as an intelligent, emphatic young man instead of a calculated, cold (although brilliant) automaton.
Want to continue reading about Amin’s story? Be sure to read part two of this three-part series.