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 introduce a client of mine, David.
Part I — Getting to Know David
When I met David I could tell he was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He was very pragmatic and surprised me with his demeanor — he wasn’t a stereotypical pre-med. In fact, right off the bat he told me his alternative plan was to pursue a Ph.D. if he didn’t get into medical school. He seemed well-adjusted and I was curious about why he came to me. David said his main weakness was being a Chemical Engineering major; he had to make a lot of sacrifices, and didn’t have much flexibility in his schedule, but he finished it in four years with almost a GPA of 3.8 which was a remarkable feat. He was concerned that all the work he put in throughout the years wouldn’t show in his application.
David’s aspirations to pursue medicine were intellectual. He was very into research and learning. He wasn’t really telling me about his connection to people, which made me concerned. As we continued talking, he disclosed to me that his desire to go to medical school was a recent development after witnessing the slow death of his grandfather from Creuzfeld-Jacob Syndrome. He also told me that the majority of his experience working with patients was at the Hutchingson Cancer Research Center which was something he needed to talk about in his personal statement. I also noticed that, for being a native English speaker, David was awfully repetitive with his language — certain phrases and euphemisms he used multiple times during our conversation. He definitely needed some help in demonstrating his abilities and I knew by the end of our conversation how I could help.
David is a 21 year-old white male who finished his undergraduate school at the University of Washington in Chemical Engineering. He finished with a GPA of 3.76. His MCAT score was also a 28.
In terms of patient contact, David had some experience.
- Volunteer/Internship at Tacoma General Hospital (40 hours)
- Internship at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (30 hours)
- Volunteer at Evergreen Medical Center in Kirkland, WA (25 hours)
In addition, he has been involved in a few research projects.
- Worked at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to study the effects of low dose radiation biopsy points on childhood Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients. His article on the topic is under review by American Association of Physicists in Medicine Journal.
- Listed as a contributing author in an article published in the Journal of Virology. “Two Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Latency-Associated Tran-script Mutants with Distinct and Asymmetric Effects on Virulence in Rabbits Compared with Mice.”
Aside from research and patient experience, David has also on-campus activities which he has been involved in along with some leadership roles.
- Founded the University of Washington chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America which has been a two year commitment for him for 3 hours a week.
- Next Generation Scientists lab facilitator (10 hours)
- Publicity Chairman of Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honors Society (10 hours)
- Member of Math and Science Scholars Program (15 hours)
- Member of the UW Cycling Team (2 year commitment; 2 hours/week)
I wish David had more medical experience to work with, but this application was not bad. We simply needed to put it in the context of his medical school pursuits.
Being an engineering major, David had to overcome the stereotype of liking puzzles more than people. His stories needed to have heart and that was our focus. He had a fondness for proven methods and lacked creativity, which somewhat explained why he kept using stock phrases in our conversation — this needed to change. His demeanor in person was very approachable, but the key for him, I thought, was his personal statement and secondaries. He needs to focus on improving those best he can and making them genuine. Another major hurdle was the lack of breadth in his coursework and this was yet another aspect of his application he needed to explain in his writing.
To continue reading about David’s story, please check out part two of this three-part case study.