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 review my student’s — Janet — application to medical school.
Part I — Getting to Know Janet
When I was first introduced to Janet, she met me with a huge grin. She had excellent manners, a strong profile, and seemed to have everything in order — I wondered, why would she ask me for help? However, I soon got my answer. Janet already had a write-up of things she wanted to address. Timing was her main concern. She also had a serious problem underselling herself. She had been working as a physician’s assistant for quite some time now, and although she has been told multiple times that she could be doing so much more with her talents, she’s still unsure. She needed me to push her in that direction and had come to me for some guidance. She had been avoiding second-guessing her consequences, taking an easier career path, but she now regretted missing out on her full potential. She also relayed to me that she had begun to realize the necessity of balancing her life — and that doing so was not an inherent quality, but a skill she had only begun to learn.
Three years ago she just barely missed an opportunity to pursue her first-choice PA school. Now, she wanted more options. She had no regrets though, which made me realize she was mature and serious about this. On a personal note, she also divulged to me how sometimes it was difficult being an Asian-American student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Even worse, she felt bad about being so far away from her parents. Despite this, she held firm in her aspirations and none of this held her back. She was serious and I liked that about her.
At first glance, Janet’s file looked very good which is why I was initially surprised she needed my help. She is a 24-year old Chinese-American who finished her undergraduate schooling at the University of California at Berkeley with a major in physiology and a GPA of 3.52. She also attended graduate school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Physician Assistant Studies where she passed with honors. Her MCAT score was a 37.
Through her work as a physician’s assistant, Janet has had plenty of hands-on experience with patients.
- As a physician’s assistant at Rossmore Women’s Healthcare Medical Group, she was responsible for new obstetrical workup and follow-up through pregnancy, evaluations and management of gynecologic patients, annual gynecologic exams, birth control methods and education, and office procedures.
- Part of the PA Helper Program at Huntington Memorial Hospital where she shadowed PAs and aided in the workplace.
In addition, she also has some community service and leadership roles under her belt.
- Small group ministry at Foursquare Community Church in Concord, CA.
- Alameda County Diabetes Center performing patient check-ins, vital signs, and cleaned rooms.
- Horace Greeley Elementary School Teacher’s Aid (4th and 5th grade) responsible for reviewing tests with students, mentoring students in developing math skills, and graded papers.
- Youth summer camp at Riga, Latvia Camp as coordinator/counselor where she was involved with camp organization, counseling, camp nurses, art projects, and campsite maintenance.
- Union City Tutoring Program tutor in math and history, preparation for obtaining GED.
- Campus Crusade small group leader where she lead weekly Bible studies and one-on-one discipleships.
Janet is also published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants (JAAPA) for her article “Is there an Effective Test for the Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer?” which was done at the University Hospital in Omaha, NE.
So far, Janet’s credentials look great. She has patient experience, academic strengths, and plenty of community work. Just by looking at all her experiences, she can easily demonstrate she’s capable.
Janet needs to explain in her personal statement the tension between her current health career and her aspirations for more schooling. I told her that she also needs to properly explain how being a physician’s assistant gave her experience with patients and that she is now better at managing her personal and professional demands than she was a few years ago. Because Janet never had to write secondaries when applying to be a physician’s assistant, she was a bit nervous. She didn’t want to sound repetitive. I told her all that she needed to do was affirm the stellar parts of her application on her secondary and elaborate on them during the interview.
On a whole, she had no real setbacks except for maybe her undergraduate GPA. Regardless, I saw this as an opportunity to make an already strong candidate even better. I suggested as a start, she should begin scouting for medical schools and start visiting ones she was most interested in.
Now that you know Janet, next I will share with you how we developed her personal statement and core themes. Here’s part two.