I hope all of you are well! Our latest blog is aimed to help you through a key part of the medical school application process: your personal statement. We have tips for each step of the writing process from brainstorming to writing to editing. The blue text is personal advice from Brooke Mccollum, our finance manager.

BRAINSTORMING

  • Start the process by just writing: write anything you feel is relevant to your journey to being interested in medicine, the experiences you sought throughout college to cement your interests and your goals as a physician. 
  • This could take anywhere from months to a couple of hours. Every day when I thought about something that could be included in my statement I went to my google doc and wrote another bullet point.
  • This list included personal experiences I had had with medicine myself, memorable moments I had during my volunteering, qualities I had that I thought would make me a good doctor, and what my experiences in college have taught me about medicine and myself.
  • I had 10-15 pages written of completely unedited material and had to cut it down and draw from there for different paragraphs of my actual personal statement. 
  • Don’t ever delete any of these drafts, though, because they will come in handy later for writing secondaries (adversity, diversity, goals) and scholarship essays. You might also be able to use it as inspiration for things you’ll be talking about in the interviews (why us, why medicine, tell me about yourself).
  • A hard thing to do is to then narrow down this list of random thoughts and ideas. To do this, I tried to focus on things that involved a certain theme or story I wanted to tell in my statement. The best advice I was given while writing my personal statement was to make it a story that intertwines your experiences in one narrative.

WRITING

  • Stay away from cliches: sick relative, ignited your passion, “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” “I love helping people,” “I was always a precocious child,” etc
  • Make sure you always tie back to WHY MEDICINE, not why altruism, why science, etc…
  • Make sure that your statement is a good mix of introspection, retrospection, and forward projection. You can even organize the whole paper using past, present, and future as three paragraphs or sections in which to tell separate stories that ultimately tie together
  • Show, don’t tell! Paint a picture for your reader by using the 5 senses while you storytell: write about what you heard/saw/smelled during the memory
  • ALWAYS reflect on what you learned each step of the way (this is also advice you could use in your activities section). Admissions don’t just want to see what you did, but how you’ll use that in the future.
  • Instead of just regurgitating your experiences, be sure to reflect and show how your experiences have shaped you into wanting to go to medical school.
  • Beyond your own experiences, also consider talking about how people have changed you and given you perspective.
  • Step away once you’re done writing, and come back a few days later to really see how you feel about what you’ve written.
  • Be okay with re-writing your essay and doing a total overhaul a few times. Sometimes a few complete re-writes will be necessary for you to reach a clear story on paper.
  • The most important piece of your PS will be the hook — make these POP! You want the reader to immediately label you as unique and interesting before they even start reading the meat of your essay

EDITING

  • Don’t use contractions -> DO NOT use contractions
  • Perfect grammar and spelling is a must!! Edit using grammarly or a grammar nazi friend between each edit and before you send it off
  • I also had a younger sibling read mine to make sure I wasn’t using any jargon or complicated sentence structure, because you want your reader to focus on only the content and not get bogged down by confusing details — my little sister was able to tell me when I had to shorten my clauses or find synonyms for certain words
  • Frame your sentences actively instead of passively, and positively instead of negatively
    • Ex) “I published my research” instead of “the research was published”
  • When you feel comfortable enough with your essay, send it to professors, advisors, or recommendation letter writers for final edits

Redditor u/  gyubari recommends 4-5 people to edit your PS (a suggestion from one of my favorite professors). Try to find people that fit into the following categories…

  • A loved one. Somebody who is close to you that you have a great relationship with. Ideally this person understands you well and can see if your PS is a good reflection of you. Will also possibly boost your ego. This person can be your best friend, mom/dad, SO, etc.
  • A harsh critic. Career advisor/pre-med advisor/some kind of college writing center/college faculty. Pre-med advisors seem to not always know what they’re talking about, but they can dole out some harsh criticism. Mine told me not to bother writing my PS because I wouldn’t get in this cycle. You may need and benefit from some of this criticism and getting critiques from somebody in academia can be helpful. Don’t let it crush your spirit, just internalize the feedback that makes the most sense to you.
  • A stranger. Somebody you don’t know that well. This can be the random guy on the bus or an acquaintance like the girl that sits behind you in history class. How well does your PS paint a word picture of who you are and your goal of med school?
  • A grammar nazi. Somebody who can edit your grammar. This person MUST be different from the aforementioned 3 other categories of people. This can be your old high school English teacher, your study buddy who happens to write screenplays for fun, or maybe even a hired service.
  • For the fifth person, I would repeat one of the 4 previous types of editors. If grammar is your weak spot, pick another person to edit for grammar. If you need a self esteem boost, have one of your buddies read it.
  • Don’t incorporate edits that you inherently disagree with, because you still want to make it your own work!
  • You should aim to have it ready by about June 1 for primary submission.

Name: Anni Ball

Major(s) and minor(s): Neuroscience major and African Studies minor

Favorite class you took at Michigan: 

My favorite STEM classes would probably be NEUROL 455 (neuroscience of Parkinson’s Disease) or 436 (immunology). In both of these classes, I finally felt like I was learning something that was truly applicable to the real world (I know this is all classes, but it was also paired with the feeling that my degree will be worth at least some of the ridiculous amount of tuition money). Dr. Balazovich is a pretty polarizing figure here at Michigan, but I really enjoyed taking classes with him (I also had him for biochem). Immunology especially is kind of his baby, so he puts a lot of effort into this class. In immunology, we had a case study book and projects similar to those in biochem. The second half of the class was about half regular lectures and half case study presentation, which was a nice change from a normal lecture-only class. Dr. B encouraged significant class participation during case study presentation (the students never present, don’t worry) through prompting questions. An added, and unexpected, bonus of this class was that the immunohistochemistry procedures I perform in my research lab make much more sense to me (I will readily admit I did them half-blindly before I took this class). 

In terms of non-STEM, I really enjoyed all of my AAS (African and AfroAmerican Studies) classes because AAS professors are amazing, my favorite was AAS 458: Health and African Development. This class is cross-listed as a graduate-level epidemiology course at the SPH, which led to very few undergraduates in the class (my class had a record number of 4) and an extremely small class size (9 total). I had already taken a class with Dr. Stein, and his teaching gets even crazier (in a good way) in this particular class. AAS 458 is another one of those classes that connects to the real world because Stein updates his lectures with new disease epidemics. There was also a higher level of analysis (in statistics, causes, and socioeconomic implications) expected from students due to the graduate-level designation, which was more of a blessing than a curse (grades are based on participation, the final, and a 3.5 hour presentation) in the end because it added another dimension to my minor and depth to my discussion capacities in future classes (AAS 453 + 495).

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Haven’t taken it yet!

When did you take the MCAT: I plan on taking it at the end of this summer, after I graduate.

What was your pre-med experience: 

Over my four years of college I have questioned my decision to be pre-med many, many times. To be quite honest, I was not having a great time in my sophomore spring and junior fall, partly due to transferring, but mostly due to burnout. I’ve often called myself “a bad pre-med” in conversation because I’ve followed the guidelines for extracurricular activities pretty loosely (again, due to burnout at Wellesley and the adjustment process at Michigan). I have close to no patient interaction hours from my time at Wellesley because Boston hospitals are far away and extremely strict on patient contact, so I can really only speak to the patient interactions I had during a medical+public health brigade I did through Wellesley in Nicaragua or my semester in the dementia unit of Glacier Hills Retirement Community. I will be the first to admit that I’ve shied away from a lot of the extracurricular pre-med requirements because of the fairly stressful, but inevitable, interactions with other pre-meds. Throughout my college career, I’ve basically mitigated this problem by engaging in other extracurriculars outside of health careers to round out my resume (I’m the blog director for a magazine here at Michigan and was active in residential life at Wellesley) or ones that are somewhat related to (pre-)health causes (volunteering at the farms at UM and St. Joe’s, advising for Pre-Med Hub). 

I originally planned on going straight into medical school, but made what I saw as a “compromise” to push med school two years after I decided transferring was more important to me. This helped lighten my load for pre-med stuff—I decided to do patient interaction in my gap years, when I have much more time to commit to it. The amount of gap years I’m going to take is also influenced by my interest in a MD-PhD. I’m pretty involved in my research lab here at Michigan, and will also use my two gap years to better inform my decision as to which grad program I want to pursue. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: (maybe a little bit about transferring and adjusting)

If you’re a transfer student, do not, as I did, underestimate the emotional burden transferring had on your life. I’m sure this varies depending on your experience with Michigan and your previous institution, but I had a hard time adjusting because I’d visited UM once before I got my acceptance, and I came from a tiny, all-women, liberal arts college. If you’re coming from a similar situation as I mine, I would recommend seeking little communities to be a part of wherever you can. I attended a few transfer student events, where I met some of my friends, became close with some of my orgo II labmates, and really made an effort to go above and beyond in my research lab (the people on my research floor are my best friends here). I also think this will change depending on where you are in your academic career when you transfer. Since I came to Michigan as a junior, I knew I had to come in with the mindset that I transferred mainly for the academics (serious focus on my major and career paths), not necessarily to enjoy a completely different college experience. 

In terms of general pre-med advice: chill out. The most toxic thing about pre-med culture, at UM but really in general, is that everything seems like a competition. Yes, you’re technically beating out other applicants for medical school, but there is no need to participate in or play into the stress culture. Do what you think is your best, and don’t worry about anyone else. I would definitely go to advising, either with PMH or Newnan, since it’s a more objective viewpoint of the pre-med track than talking to other students before you go into a biochem exam. Even more importantly, don’t do anything that you’re not passionate about, or derive significant lessons from, for the sake of your resume. If this passion is not apparent when you speak about it, either in interviews or in casual conversation, then it’s similar to not having that experience at all. Plus, you’re at a higher risk of burnout and impostor syndrome if you don’t have some type of grounding reason or tenet. 

Classes:

 

1st year Wellesley

(Michigan)

2nd year Wellesley

(Michigan)

3rd year Michigan

4th year Michigan

Fall

-Biology 110 + Lab (171,173)

-Math 115

-Neuro 100 +Lab (Psych 230+Bio 222)

-French 201 (231)

-Neuro 200 + Lab (Psych 230+Bio 222)

-Ancient Greek Phil (Phil 388)

-Chem 105 + Lab (130, 126)

-Evolutionary Psych (no equiv.)

-CHEM 215, 216

-BIO 305

-AAS 260

-ANTHARC 285

-AAS 495

-AAS 453

-MCDB 436

-NEUROL 455

-SOC 302

Winter

-Biology 111 + Lab

(172)

-Physics 104 + Lab (135,136)

-French 202 (232)

-Writing 161 (FYWR)

-Physics 106 + Lab (235, 236)

-Medical Ethics (no equiv.) 

-Psych 205 + Lab (Stats 250)

-Independent Study (Psych 326, 2 credits)

-Chem 211 + Lab (210, 211)

-MCDB 310

-PSYCH 326 (3 credits)

-AAS 458

-AAS 290

-BIO 225

-CHEM 230

-AAS 271

-PSYCH 336

-MCDB 422

-BIO 226

 

How do I ensure my letters of recommendation are strong?

Try to identify your professors and mentors early if you can so you can be extra intentional about forming a relationship with them. 

Relationships take intention and time, so if you are getting a letter from a professor from freshman or sophomore year, try to reach out each semester to catch up in some way. Catching up can be over email or phone call, but in person gives the best quality if your letter writer can be available to meet with you.

One example of how I’ve reached out to professors from early on in my college career have been sending them articles from current courses that remind me of them/their coursework. This led to invitations to meet up to talk about the articles, which led to one professor even offering to write me a letter before I even had to ask! Keeping in touch and maintaining a relationship is essential if you want to get the best rec letter out of it.

 Do not worry about having ALL extremely strong rec letters! If you simply need one more, it is completely acceptable to ask a professor in whose course you did well. Professors understand that you need letters of rec and often are willing to do so. Obviously, it is best to build a relationship with a professor to get a more personalized letter of rec. The best way I would recommend doing this is office hours. If the class is extremely large, it is hard for a professor to get to know you through lecture alone so it is best to go to their office where you will be much closer to a 1:1 ratio. In smaller courses, in addition to attending office hours, It is good to ask questions before, after, and during lecture to continue to remind the professor that you are engaged with the material.

Can I get a committee letter?

Unfortunately, there is no pre-med committee letter service at our university, so you will need to find individual letter writers. Most students find it most beneficial to obtain this combination of letters:

  • Two science course professors
  • One non-science professor
  • One personal letter: a boss, research PI, volunteer supervisor, or physician you shadowed
    • IF APPLYING THROUGH AACOMAS, a letter from any DO physician you have observed in a clinical setting (shadowed or worked with)
    • IF YOU ARE IN YOUR GAP YEAR, get a letter from the gap year employment supervisor
  • IF APPLYING MD/PHD, a research letter — from an MD or a PhD rather than from a lab manager or student supervisor

Can I ask my professor for a letter of recommendation partway through a course?

It is okay to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation while you are still in their class, but it is probably better to wait until the end of the class to ask, and it is probably too forward to ask a professor before the class or internship begins.

Should I ask for my letter in person?

Try to ask for letters of recommendation in person if you can. It can really help to see the facial expressions of the person you are asking, as emotions are basically impossible to know via email. If you have not seen the professor in a while, you can email to ask if they can have a few minutes for you to stop by. Be very sensitive to their time, and go to ask when they say they are available.

When should I ask?

If you don’t anticipate taking more classes with a certain professor, it’s advisable to ask the professor a few weeks after you’ve received your grade in their class. If your relationship with your letter writer is a little bit more drawn-out time-wise, you should be asking a few months before submitting your application. If you want your letter in by June, March/April should be the latest you contact someone about writing you a rec letter — because May will often be the busiest season for all graduate applications and letters. Remember that you can always submit your primary application without having the letter submitted by your professor, and you only really need your letters by the time you submit secondaries (around the first week of July, but could be later because of COVID delays this 2020 cycle).

What if I can’t ask in person due to distance or other reasons?

If you must ask via email, be very polite and formal, and try to keep the email short and to the point. It can be helpful to follow this rough structure:

 1) Acknowledge they have many other important things to attend to and that you are grateful for their time. 

2) Express what you enjoyed about their class and why 

3) Explain that you are applying to medical school and that you are wondering if they could write you a strong letter in support of your application.

 4) Mention what competencies you believe they would be able to speak on.

 5) Thank them for their time and consideration.

 

Name: Brooke McCollum

Major(s) and minor(s): Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience major, Biomolecular Science major 

Favorite class you took at Michigan: I really enjoyed all the psych classes I took, but I would say my overall favorite class was either Psych 402 or MCDB 423. Psych 402, Neuroscience of Mental Health, was the most laid back course I took at U of M. I took it for one of my psych electives for my BCN major, and it basically consisted of reading published research articles about neuroscience of mental health (that were not long) and then discussing them in class. Something else that I really enjoyed about the class was not only did it really explore the science behind mental illness, but we also talked a lot about the impact neuroscience research does and will have on the future of mental health discussions and the treatment around it. It was overall a well rounded class and because of that, I learned a ton. Also, there were no exams or quizzes! MCDB 423, Introduction to Research in Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, was an upper biology lab I took for BCN as well. I really liked this class because I used a lot of the techniques I had learned in my actual research lab, so I actually had a sense of what was going on compared to some other labs I had taken in the past. There were also really cool experiments we did like injected frog oocytes with RNA we had transcribed or growing dorsal root ganglia on plates from baby chickens we had dissected. 

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Took TPR course, studied mid May through beginning of August

When did you take the MCAT: August of the summer before my senior year (August 2019)

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-med experience was very busy but fun and at times extremely stressful, but I would not have wanted it any other way. Throughout my three and a half years, I volunteered through the University of Michigan Hospital and Arbor Hospice. I worked at a research lab and scribed at St. Joe’s Emergency Department and obviously, was an advisor and later on, an E-board member for Pre-Med Hub. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: One reason I choose to go to Michigan is because of the numerous opportunities that are available to undergrads. I do not think at many other schools I would have had the opportunity to work in a cancer research lab that is run by someone that has their own wikipedia page. Michigan is a research institution, so take advantage of it! Another recommendation I would give is to relax and take a breath every once in awhile. Not only is Michigan as a school stressful, but the pre-med track can amplify this stress. It is okay to take a break and go have fun with friends or do something else you enjoy. 

Classes:

 

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Fall

BIOLOGY 173

SPANISH 232

PSYCH 270

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

BIOLOGY 225

MCDB 310

SOC 302

PSYCH 240

CHEM 230

PSYCH 303

CHEM 352

MCDB 436

MCDB 423

CHEM 399

PSYCH 347

PSYCH 402

Winter

CHEM 215

CHEM 216

STATS 250

ENGLISH 125

WOMENSTD 220

CHEM 245

CHEM 246

CHEM 247

PSYCH 230

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236

BIOLOGY 305

CLCIV 385

CHEM 420

CHEM 398

PSYCH 355

none

Spring

PHYSICS 135

PHYSICS 136

Study abroad

PSYCH (3)

HUMANITIES (3)

none none

 

Name: Pooja Polamarasetti

Major(s) and minor(s): Biomolecular Science major, Gender and Health minor

Favorite class you took at Michigan: WS 400: Women’s Reproductive Health. I took this class because it aligns with some of my career goals and because the syllabus looked very interesting; instead of one professor all semester, the class is run by two physicians and each lecture is given by a different guest speaker, including people in fields like law, informatics, global health, sex therapy, and nursing. I started out this class getting the lowest essay grade I had ever gotten and seriously considered dropping it for a W. Before taking this upper-level writing course, I was lacking in writing experience compared to most of my peers (especially as a sophomore in a senior level class). However, I went to the professor to discuss dropping the class and she gave me some great advice: she told me that it would be more beneficial to use the course to bolster my writing skills and learn more about the topics I was so interested in, rather than dropping it to avoid a poor grade. I actually ended up regularly attending office hours, going to Sweetland, and doing essay rewrites to get an A, even after having a failing grade for the first half of the semester. I learned so much more in this class besides the obvious syllabus material in women’s health, and this experience truly shaped my GPA-driven thinking as a college student and pre-med.

When/How did you study for the MCAT: I self-studied the summer after sophomore year using textbooks from The Berkeley Review and online resources (Khan Academy, UWorld, Jack Westin, Reddit). I studied from May – Aug and took it right before my junior year of school started.

When did you take the MCAT: Sept 1, 2018

What was your pre-med experience: I had a pretty good pre-med experience, which I can fully attribute to all my peers and mentors. I had older students sit down with me even before freshman year orientation to help me figure out what extracurriculars I needed to do as a pre-med and what classes I should think about backpacking during orientation. Once freshman year started, I got a peer mentor assigned to me through an organization called MPAC, who I kept in touch with to ask questions and meet with all year. Part of the reason I was so involved in leadership here at Pre-Med Hub was because I knew how inaccessible general advising could be to students, but also how helpful peer advising and mentorship could be. I wanted to pay it forward and served in various mentorship roles, including through PMH, WISE, SLC-ELI, and MPAC, once I felt like I gained enough pre-med experience to be useful to other students.

Recommendations/advice for current students: If I had to do it all over again, I think I would take more risks as a pre-med. I definitely played it safe, from the classes I took to my major to my extracurricular choices. I knew that what I did would ultimately help me make it into medical school, but there are certain regrets that I have. For one, I wish I majored in a subject completely different from what I’d be learning in medical school; I have interests in subjects like Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, and Environment. As a Biomolecular Science major, I definitely learned everything I needed to as a pre-med, but I’m not coming out of college feeling fulfilled as a liberal arts student. Every pre-med is “interested in biology,” but I would encourage you all to explore your other interests as well, because you’ll be learning more biology/biochem than you ever wanted to know in medical school. This post puts it very nicely. I wish I got more involved in research, possibly in a field that is completely unrelated to STEM. I wish I joined dance or acapella groups, instead of sticking to my traditional pre-med clubs. I wish I had more of a life outside of pre-med because I think that would have prevented me from burning out around the time of MCAT and the application cycle.

Classes:

 

1st year

2nd year

3rd year

4th year

Fall

BIO 173

EECS 183

HONORS 240

WS 220

UROP

PHYSIOL 201

CHEM 215 

PSYCH 280 

ANTHRCUL 325

ASIANLAN 115

CHEM 230

WS 432

COMPLIT 100

SURGERY 499

ASIANLAN 215

CHEM 130

CHEM 125/126

CHEM 455

DANCE 100 (hip-hop)

DANCE 100 (pilates)

Winter

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

EECS 280

STATS 250

UROP

MCDB 310

CHEM 352

WS 400

SOC 302

LING 137

ASIANLAN 116

WS 313

MICRBIOL 405

DANCE 100 (intro to popping)

CHEM 216

SURGERY 499

***

ASIANLAN 216

(part-time status)

***I took one upper-level chemistry elective as part of a study abroad in SJTU, China in July between junior and senior year

With all the cancellations in classes, volunteer programs, research labs, and social events, all of you are bound to have a lot more time on your hands. To help you guys out, we decided to make the ultimate pre-med reading list! Bonus: if you’re not much of a reader, we also linked relevant tedtalks by some of these amazing authors.

Gawande is a surgeon, author, and public health researcher. His books explore a wide variety of health topics: from learning to provide good care and accurate patient diagnoses to larger scale economics and policy of healthcare in America. You can read his shorter pieces here and watch his tedtalk here.

“We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.”

This is a memoir about a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Kalanithi discusses his experiences going from physician to patient and shares his ideas about death in his posthumously published book — this one will make you cry!

One of the earliest meanings of the word “patient” is “one who endures hardship without complaint.”

The story of two doctors, a father and son, who practiced in very different times and the evolution of the ethics that profoundly influence health care. Lerner’s is an important book for those who treat illness—and those who struggle to overcome it.

“My dad suspected that his medical expertise had prolonged her life but was even surer that he had helped her mental suffering by letting her know that he was always available, even for the most trivial of problems or questions.”

A “medical mystery:” twenty-four-year-old Cahalan wakes up alone in a hospital room and tells the story of her descent into madness and the lifesaving diagnosis that almost didn’t happen.

“The brain is a monstrous, beautiful mess.”

Groopman writes about how doctors make decisions for their patients and how to avoid erroneous medical thinking.

On average, a physician will interrupt a patient describing her symptoms within eighteen seconds. In that short time, many doctors decide on the likely diagnosis and best treatment. Often, decisions made this way are correct, but at crucial moments they can also be wrong — with catastrophic consequences.

Mukherjee examines the complete history of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

“Cancer’s life is a recapitulation of the body’s life, its existence a pathological mirror of our own.”

Noah tells the stories of his childhood—the hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting moments that created his path from a secret child in apartheid South Africa to the famous American night show host. This book made me cry and laugh out loud!

“Whilst my mother couldn’t give me access to the world, she at least made sure to let me know it existed. A kid cannot dream of being an astronaut if he does not know about space.”

Verghese writes a memoir about his relocation for work and new expanding relationship with his medical intern and tennis partner while they both go through difficult personal experiences. You can watch a tedtalk by African-born Indian author here.

Every year, it takes two full classes of medical schools to replace all the physicians who commit suicide. He described a doctor who filled her car’s wiper fluid receptacle with alcohol so she could drink between errands, and another who injected his bladder with a third person’s urine so he could pass a drug test.

A collection of short stories that demolish the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

“I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.”

A collection of perspectives on a wide array of issues, from food allergies, cancer, and neurology to mental health, autoimmune disorders, and therapeutic music. These experiences are recounted by patients, nurses, doctors, parents, children, caregivers, and others who attempt to articulate the intangible human and emotional factors that surround life when it intersects with the medical field.

“Medicine still contains an oral tradition, passed down in stories: the stories patients tell us, the ones we tell them, and the ones we tell ourselves.”

Written by historian Fitzharris to reveal the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. Warning: she spares no detail!

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong.”

In this memoir, Norman describes her sudden and serious decline in health and her experience seeking healthcare, having her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised.

Women’s bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth. It’s time to refute the belief that being a woman is a preexisting condition.

Pioneering psychologist Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” You can watch her tedtalk here.

“Nobody wants to show you the hours and hours of becoming. They’d rather show the highlight of what they’ve become.”

A bestseller at the moment! In this memoir, a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. She was seventeen years old when she first stepped foot in a classroom. The story, based on a true story, is a coming-of-age story full of self-intervention and family ties. 

“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years.

“What do you know about African-Americans and science?”

A self-help book is always a good type of read. This one is about atomic habits which teaches us how to change our habits and get 1% better every day. Getting 1% better everyday will show tremendous results a lot faster than you think. 

“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than your current results.”

A book recommended by Bill Gates! This book explains why we sleep in an interesting way and explains to us how sleep can make us healthier, safer, smarter, and more productive. There are several theories presented in this book. 

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

This Russian novel focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her money. With many psychological themes, it deeply explores alienation, consequences for our actions, and guilt. 

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

This novel explores moral philosophy from a contractualist perspective as Scanlon analyzes how we define whether something is right or wrong. According to his view, thinking about right and wrong is thinking about what we do in terms that could be justified to others and that they could not reasonably reject. He shows how the special authority of conclusions about right and wrong arises from the value of how we relate to other people. A bit of a dense read, ideal for people interested in morality and how these principles can be applied.

“The reasons we have to treat others only in ways that could be justified to them underlie the central core of morality, and are presupposed by all the most important forms of human relationship.”

Adapted as a film by the same name, this book follows the lives of three female African American mathematicians working for NASA in the 1960s. The novel explores themes of discrimination and racial segregation as the three protagonists are overlooked on account of their gender and race but are later shown to be pioneers in math and engineering. One of these women, Katherine Johnson, just recently passed at age 101.

“Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.”

Name: Peyton Goethe

Major(s) and minor(s): Double major in Neuroscience and Psychology

Favorite class you took at Michigan: Split into science and non-science, below.

Non-science: AAS 245: Islam in Africa, with Dr. Rudolph Ware — something I didn’t know much about but has contributed greatly to the person I am today

Science: PSYCH 345: Human Neuropsychology—arguably what inspired my interest in combining Neuro and Psych fields of study, awe-inspiring to see the intricate mechanisms that help dictate our behaviors and daily lives

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Take summer off from classes to study. Try to truly immerse yourself in the content by doing daily practice questions/ passages.

When do/did you take the MCAT: January 2021

What was your pre-med experience: My pre-medical experience was far too competitive. The people surrounding me in most of my classes made me feel that since I didn’t come out of the womb wanting to be a doctor, I wasn’t a “real pre-med.” My own struggles with an inferiority complex definitely contributed to that, but nevertheless, it wasn’t an environment in which collaboration or compassion was encouraged. That led to some irresponsible academic choices (i.e. 19 credits, including taking Biochemistry, Genetics, and Animal Physiology and RETAKING Orgo I at the same time)—to this day, I cannot articulate what motivated me to make such a ridiculous schedule that looks like a joke. I think it might have been a combination of my response to the competitive nature of my surroundings as well as my unrealistic expectations of myself in order to be a physician. I always wonder if I was trying to self-sabotage myself from truly pursuing medicine on some level due to my feelings of inferiority. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Find a niche of people who inspire you to grow, but not because they make you feel bad about any aspect of yourself—also, find close friends who can, for example, veto unfeasible schedule choices to prevent you from spreading yourself too thin when you’re not in the right headspace. Make time to decompress in whatever way works for you. Get involved in things that motivate you to pursue the career you’ve chosen. 

Classes: Again, before you look at my class schedule, please see most of this as a guide of what NOT to do. I retook four classes because of how irresponsibly I scheduled my classes. I did two spring and summer semesters and one summer half-semester. I had to do a whole M.S. degree just to have something besides my abysmal cumulative and science GPA—nothing wrong with getting an additional degree, but debt is debt. If I didn’t have to improve my academic performance, I would’ve much preferred getting an M.P.H.

However, there is also something to be said in regards to forgiveness. I look at this schedule and genuinely laugh, still shocked that I made it out of some of these semesters. I do my best to avoid festering on the subject of my previous academic shortcomings and focus on where I am now—in a job I love that challenges and teaches me on a daily basis and has significantly affected the healthcare professional that I will become.

  1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year

Fall

CHEM 130

CHEM 125

SPANISH 231

ENGLISH 125

UC 107

ANTHRBIO 368

BIOLOGY 172

PHIL 359

PSYCH 345

PSYCH 326

BIOLCHEM 415

BIOLOGY 226

BIOLOGY 225

BIOLOGY 305

CHEM 210

PSYCH 356

AAS 246

BIOLOGY 222

MCDB 421

MICROBIOL 405

PSYCH 402

Winter

STATS 250

SPANISH 232

PSYCH 290

PSYCH 211

UC 108

BIOLOGY 171

BIOLOGY 173

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

PSYCH 240

CHEM 230

PHYSICS 135

PHYSIC 136

ALA 472

PSYCH 250

PSYCH 413

AAS 245

ENGLISH 317

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236

 

Name: Daphne Samuel

Major(s) and minor(s): BCN

Favorite class you took at Michigan: AnthrBio 363: Genes, Disease and Culture

When/How did you study for the MCAT: Studied from May 2017 through Jan 2018, Took the in-person Kaplan course fall 2017

When did you take the MCAT: Jan 2018

What was your pre-med experience: I think my pre-med was kind of brutal. I definitely had to put in a lot of effort in things that I couldn’t see the end of. The pre-med community I had around me was competitive and I found myself looking around, comparing myself to other uber-smart students rather than looking ahead at my goal of being a physician. I looked to other non-medically related organizations such as my student ministry and my a cappella group for community instead and found so much solace in the fact that being pre-med did not have to be my life. 

Recommendations/advice for current students: Find a community that supports you regardless of whether you become a doctor or not. You need balance, and they will be the first ones to put things in perspective when it seems like nothing is going your way. 

Classes:

  1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year

Fall

CHEM 210

CHEM 211

GTBOOKS 191

PSYCH 250

UC 150 (FY Sem)

BIOLOGY 225

PHYSICS 135

PHYSICS 136

PSYCH 230

PSYCH 326 (Research)

STATS 250

ANTHRBIO 363

BIOLOGY 226

PSYCH 308

PSYCH 326 (Research)

PSYCH 347

BIOLOGY 305

PSYCH 423 (Research)

PUBHLTH 200

Winter

BIOLOGY 173

CHEM 215

CHEM 216

HONORS 232

PSYCH 240

**

MCDB 310

PHYSICS 235

PHYSICS 236

PSYCH 326 (Research)

PSYCH 337

WOMENSTD 220

ANATOMY 403

ANTHRCUL 344

PSYCH 330 (Sem)

PSYCH 401 (Sem)

NONE (I graduated)

**Summer between 1st and 2nd year: Took the equivalent of CHEM 230 (pchem) at Oakland University

Building a List of Schools

 

Coming up with a list of schools is a time-consuming but essential process to gearing up to apply in the upcoming cycle. Being strategic about the schools you apply to can give you a great advantage during the process, and even improve your chances of getting in

 

  • The best way to begin making a list of schools is to start a google sheet of every school you are interested in, charting GPA, MCAT, applications they receive per year, OOS-friendly, etc. Then, start narrowing down until you get to the number you want!

 

MSAR MSAR MSAR ! ! !

  • Buy the MSAR! This will be your best investment all cycle, and it costs $28 for 1 year or $36 for 2 years
  • The best time to buy it is after you receive your MCAT scores and are ready to begin the application cycle
    • Without your MCAT score, the MSAR will not be as useful and it may also expire earlier in the interview cycle.
  • It is also helpful to have MSAR as long as possible in the school year to help you look up school information before interview days and making final decisions between acceptances (if you are thinking about only getting a one year subscription)

 

Distributing Your School List: 

  • If you are an average applicant, make sure you are not applying to mostly schools that are considered “safety” or “reach.” You want to distribute your list using MSAR where a majority of the schools you are applying to are “target” and then have a couple “safety” and “reach” schools.
  • “Safety” →  above 75%
  • Target” within 25-75% for GPA and MCAT
  • “Reach” below 25%

 

Secondaries

  • Most applicants apply to 20+ schools
  • Although sending in the primary application just requires ~$40 and a click of a button, completing each school’s secondaries can be a super expensive and tough process (~$70-$200 per secondary and several essays). 
  • Before you send your primary off to a school, ask yourself whether you will have the time and energy to complete the secondary. You may even want to do some brief research on what the secondary prompts have been in previous years (no guarantee they will repeat). Some schools have over a half a dozen essays, or a really long or odd prompt so you will not want to apply unless you are very invested in the school’s mission and program.

 

Tuition:

  • In-state schools are usually much cheaper (especially public medical schools
  • Some out of state (OOS) school’s will consider you an in-state resident (you’ll get to pay in-state tuition) after you’ve attended their institution for a year or two.
    • Check out school tuition policies to see if this could apply to you! 

 

Relevance: 

  • More important than metrics, extracurriculars, letters, and essays — the schools that you target can have the greatest impact on your success in a given application cycle. 
  • Most students spend months cultivating the perfect school list: doing internet research, talking to current students, and seeing advisors.
  • Make sure that you would be willing to attend every school on your list. In all reality, you may only get into your last choice – would you be ready to go there? 

 

Geographics: 

  • The first thing to consider is the geographical location of the school you will want to attend (Urban/Rural/Suburban, region of choice, etc.) 
  • Many MI medical schools, for example, are much more likely to interview and accept Michigan residents
    • If you are from the state of MI and want to stay here, the 6-7 schools in Michigan will be your best bet: focus your applications here.
  • Do your research if you’re applying to an out of state (OOS) school
    • Some OOS schools only accept applicants with strong ties to the school/region/state. 
    • Take a look at the map on MSAR to see what states the school typically takes students from. 
    • If a school shows a preference for in-state, think critically about if it’s worth spending time/money applying to that particular school. 

 

Yield: 

  • Look into how many applications that school receives each cycle. Some schools are notoriously “low-yield,” which means they receive much more applications (12,000+) or have much fewer spots (<50)  than the average school . 
    • Some examples: Drexel, George Washington, Georgetown, Temple, Boston University, Mayo, Jefferson, Tufts, etc …
  • This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just make sure your entire list aren’t only low-yields.

 

School Focus: 

  • Read school’s missions to find out what their focus is on: examples include:
    • Research (Cleveland, Stanford, Michigan…)
    • Comprehensive Patient-care (Central, OUWB…)
    • Public/global Health (George Washington, Emory…)
    • Community Service (Rush, MSU…)
  • Some schools are better for known for some specialties than other schools
    • IF you have an idea of what specialty you might want to go into, MSAR provides stats on what kinds of specialties their matriculants eventually go into → this is a great tool! 

 

Age of Applicant: 

  • Taking a gap year before medical school is more and more common these days. This puts anyone applying directly out of undergrad at a disadvantage when it comes to the application cycle. 
  • This is not to discourage those of you that feel ready for medical school after your junior year of college.
    • You can still maximize your chances by applying smart

 

January – March 

  • Attend workshops/advising hours to get all of your questions answered!
  • Begin gathering application materials! 
    • Request Letters of Recommendation (LORs)
      • Interfolio Dossier is a great resource that allows you to store all of your letters. This particular resource stores your letters for multiple years, allowing you to use the same letters for future cycles in addition to the upcoming one. 
    • Prepare Personal Statement (PS)
      • Try to have at least 3 people read your personal statement: peers as well as adult mentors; many recommendation writers will ask you for a rough draft of your PS to learn more about you.
      • Above all, your PS should be personal to your own journey to medicine! Brainstorming hard and writing extra pages will never hurt you, because you will need this material and introspection during your interview trail and beyond.
      • We do not recommend paying people to edit your PS because there are many resources available for free: including Sweetland and other pre-health students and mentors. You can also come in to our PMH peer advising hours if you want an extra person to look over it!
    • Think about what 15 activities you’d like to include in your application, and which 3 you’ll pick for your most-meaningful activities. You will have to calculate hours and gather contacts—e.g. volunteer supervisors, presidents/advisors of student organizations, bosses at employment—and find emails/phone numbers for each one. 
      • It might also be beneficial to ask one or multiple of your contacts for these most-meaningful activities for a LOR.
  • Prepare for the MCAT
    • Ideally you’d like to have your score by the time the application opens, so the latest that many people recommend scheduling your test date is in early April (it takes a month for the scores to come in).
    • With that being said, you can take it later and submit your primaries without your MCAT score – if you’re confident that you did well on the test. 
      • If you are unsure about which range of schools you will be applying to, choose one “throwaway” school where you will apply regardless, to submit AMCAS and begin the verification process on the first submission day. After receiving your score, you can add schools to send your primary to (adding schools shouldn’t delay verification). 
  • Finalize a list of schools to apply to 
    • Our Feb 2nd workshop is based on this step of the application process:
    • Get a subscription to MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirement) – the best resource for acceptance statistics. 
    • Check out-of-state schools to see if they have a preference for out-of-state/in-state applicants.
    • Ensure that all of the schools you’re applying to are ones that you are passionate about attending! 
    • Avoid too many reach schools! Be realistic, and choose schools that you have the best chance of getting into. The application process is stressful and expensive, so make the most out of your time, money, and energy!

April 

  • Request official transcripts as soon as you finish winter semester courses. This can be done through wolverine access or in-person at your academic advising center. It is usually not beneficial to wait to apply until spring/summer semester courses are graded because this will delay your application.
    • Make sure you get transcripts from ALL of the institutions that you attended! This includes community colleges you might have dual enrolled at in highschool.
  • Get chemistry exemption letters if you need them
    • Newnan states the following: “If you do not have A.P. credit, but you place directly into organic chemistry, you are entitled to a chemistry placement letter. Some schools may not accept this letter and instead will insist on courses taken on a college campus. It is also the case that some schools will not accept A.P. credit for chemistry.” 
  • Final edits on personal statement and find new editors.

May 

  • AMCAS will open on May 4
  • Can begin submitting AMCAS on May 28
  • Some DO schools have supplemental essays (secondaries) within AACOMAS while others will send a separate invitation after the submission of your primary application
  • Begin filling out your primary application

June

  • Submit primary application (by the end of June) 
    • Verification takes 3-5 weeks
    • Applicants who submit their materials first will be reviewed first, get secondaries sooner, interviews sooner, etc.
    • That being said, it is not required that you submit the first day possible; just make sure you are within the first two-ish weeks to make it into the first verification batch.
      • Submitting on June 1 vs. June 15 shouldn’t make too much of a difference, but the earlier the better!
      • Verified applications won’t likely get sent to medical schools until the last Friday of June. Therefore, there is no real difference between clicking submit on the first day or a little bit later, especially if the quality of your writing will improve.
      • DO Schools begin receiving and processing application from AACOMAS in mid-June
  • Take the time to pre-write secondaries, especially if you have other summer plans! Most can be found online, here, or on reddit/sdn: https://www.prospectivedoctor.com/medical-school-secondary-essay-prompts-database/

July 

  • Probably the busiest time of the application cycle! 
  • Start to receive secondaries → best if you can submit secondaries within two weeks of when you receive. Some schools have hard deadlines; but others don’t care if you wait longer. However, submitting earlier demonstrates your interest in the school (as long as your essays are still high-quality).
  • Once you submit secondaries, relax! You’ve done all you can at this point.

August – March 

  • Interview season commences! You can hear back anytime during these months, so don’t put yourself down if you don’t receive early interviews. Some schools, including Michigan, interview in-state applicants last so you may not hear back until winter semester. Post-interview decisions are usually made between one week to several months. If you placed on a waitlist or alternate list, you may not hear back until the very end of the cycle.
  • FAFSA opens in October! Fill it out early if possible because more funding is available at the beginning of the financial aid cycle. Start filling it out listing the schools which you’ve heard back from, because you can only have a maximum of 10 schools on FAFSA. You can also submit to one or two schools, and add more as applicable in later months.
  • Send updates to schools that you are still interested in later in the school if anything significant has changed on your application—new job, fall transcript, publications, etc. 
  • You can select “plan to enroll” for any school that you have been accepted to.

April

  • Apr 15: you must narrow down your “plan to enroll” to your top three schools.
  • Apr 30: you can begin to select “commit to enroll” for your top school, at which time all other schools that you have received an acceptance or waitlist offer are notified that you will not be attending (they will not know which school you have chosen instead, though).

May 

  • At this time, you will tend to see the most movement on waitlists. 

July

  • You will need to make a final decision about which school to attend.

This timeline is specifically for the 2020-2021 application cycle for regular decision applicants. Please keep in mind that dates may change slightly depending on the application year.  Aim for early at every stage!

 

AMCAS Timeline (MD)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


AACOMAS Timeline (DO)