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 continue with part two of my case-study on Sara.
Part II — Sara’s Core Themes
Sara definitely needed some guidance. Since creativity wasn’t her strongest suit, and since she had a difficult time on her Verbal Reasoning section, I knew there was a lot of work to be done. I began by outlining her core themes which would tie her entire application together and make her story more easily-digestible for the admission committee. First, and most importantly, was her relationship with Sister Marie Catherine. She was her life-long mentor and she deserved to be part of Sara’s story. Secondly were her experiences at the St. Louise de Marillac Free Medical Clinic which serves low-income, uninsured immigrant communities. Naturally, her latino heritage and her experiences working with patients in Spanish are also part of her story. She told me that her long-term goal was to set up a clinic to treat diabetes for low-income Latinos and this was something she needed to mention.
Sara also, of course, has plenty else to talk about: her work in biomedical engineering, Marillac Ladies Auxiliary, and summer research at Baylor University were also topics she could touch on throughout her personal statement.
Her Personal Statement
Sara listed her many achievements in her personal essay and although she wrote in the first-person, I felt as though I didn’t know Sara at all. I asked her to cross out all the sentences she could have mentioned on her resume. I also relayed to her the prompt, that the whole point was to “use this space to talk about things not mentioned elsewhere on the application.” She agreed and I asked her to come back to me once she wrote a more personal draft.
(Author’s note: You can read Sara’s final personal statement in Pre-Med Success Stories.)
By her final draft, Sara had elaborated on her favorite interactions with patients at the clinic. She explained her sense of accomplishment and the community she derived from them. She also wrote of her fundraising activities and what it meant to her. It took some coaxing on my part, but I managed to convince Sara not to hold back. Admittedly, she did not expect to be talking about baked stuffing and yams in her personal statement, but this added to the believability of her story. I can say that by the final draft, Sara managed to humanize herself through her writing. It was necessary, I thought. Her academic work was stellar, but she was missing something. This, I thought, was the final piece.
In the last article of this three-part series, I will talk about how Sara did.