Tuesday, May 27, 2008

For my dear premed friends...

With the new round of medical school applications starting I thought I'd share some words of advice to you all! It was a bit of a lonely, confusing process for me (I don't think MITCO's site is really sufficient), so I definitely want to make it a better experience for some of you!
Some people have been asking me what needs to be done when, the basic steps of the application process and I'll address that as well.

What to get done:

By June 1:

Regarding Recommendations:
  • Make sure you have 3 recommendations lined up for you (preferably 2 science profs + 1 other). This takes more time and effort than you think- you need to establish 3 STRONG relationships with professors who are often really busy. Make sure you give them THIS FORM (Recommender Info Sheet and Waiver Form) when you ask them for a recommendation, this waives your right to look at it and details what your recommender needs to do.
  • At the same time you need to get THIS FORM into MITCO (Recommender Designation Form) , this tells them who they should be expecting recommendations from.
  • Also to be submitted to MITCO (Credential Form), this makes sure you have a file in the Careers Office for recommendation letter submission only. You may have already done this when you requested a premed adviser earlier in the year.
AMCAS- Primary Application
  • Start your primary application on AMCAS: https://services.aamc.org/AMCAS2_2009/
    • Big things: write your personal statement- get it edited by MITCO, your premed adviser, your friends, at least 3-4 people.
    • Also make sure to put effort into writing about your activities, this will really make your commitments come alive on paper.
  • Make sure you have submitted a transcript request form to the Student Financial Services office (11-120). You need to have an official transcript submitted to AMCAS to complete your primary application. Your grades may not be all in, but just tell them to send it once your grades are all in.
  • Choose schools. I'd suggest applying to 18+ since its all a really random process. MITCO has a great "matching" sheet that shows you where people with your GPA and MCAT score got it and I used that as a base for my list (ask for it). I also bought a U.S. News book. I applied to 21 total ranging from UPENN to UMASS.
  • Once you've finished with your primary application submit it! AMCAS will submit it to all the schools you choose (for a hefty fee). Do it earlier rather than later- AMCAS gets really backed up towards late June with all the primaries coming in. So try to submit June 15 or earlier. Call and check that AMCAS has received your official MIT transcript. Check regularly that your application is complete
By July/ Aug 1:

Secondary Applications
  • Your primary application should have been completed by now and you should start receiving invitations to complete secondary applications from all your schools. They send you the emails and they take varying amounts of times to get these invitations to you.
  • Once you get a secondary invitation, look at the secondary! Some schools just ask you to pay more money and that's it! Some schools ask you to write 7 extra essays! So definitely check before assuming anything. Complete and send the secondary ASAP.
    • It gets overwhelming very quickly to have to write 21 essays +. But tackle them, keep yourself on a strict deadline. My biggest regret was not sending my secondaries earlier (Being abroad is hard, having a summer job, the start of school workload..). Try to get them in by September (I send my last one at the beginning of October).
    • Why get secondaries in early? Because schools will not be swamped with a lot of apps yet and will actually get to read yours in a reasonable time frame- thus you get interview invitations earlier, more of them, and you are less stressed. I got turned down by some schools that just seemed overwhelmed with apps and didn't seem to get to read mine (just my opinion). Over 6,000 people apply to medical schools- set yourself apart from the pack and get your secondaries in EARLY!!!
  • Secondaries need your recommendations! Now is the time to check in with each of your recommenders and see that they have submitted your recommendation to MITCO. (you should be regularly checking in with them starting in June).
    • You need to let MITCO know which schools you want to send your recommendations to. Fill out the School Designation Form and give it to MITCO.
    • Make sure you've done everything on this checklist: http://web.mit.edu/career/www/preprof/filechecklist.pdf to make sure you are ready for your recommendations to go out and complete your secondary application.
    • In particular, meet with your premed adviser and physically GIVE them all the stuff mentioned in the checklist. You should have formed a decent relationship with them since they write your summarized letter of recommendation (they read all your other recs and put it together). While your secondary app can be submitted before your recommendations, the schools won't look at it until EVERYTHING is in. Therefore, nag, bother, remind your premed adviser to get their part in by the end of August LATEST. Check that MITCO receives it! You'll get an email confirmation when MITCO sends out all your reccs and to which schools they send it to.
  • Since secondaries are submitted to each school separately (unlike AMCAS nice standard primary app) you need to continuously CHECK with each school on the completeness of your secondary app (have they gotten your recs from MITCO?) and whether your application has been reviewed by the committee. Often the school's secondary application website will have an accurate status of your application, but call if it hasn't changed in awhile.
  • You will most likely be offered an interview through EMAIL, so check often. Interview sooner rather than later, just my personal opinion that earlier interviewees get more attention and that the committee isn't overwhelmed with everything yet.
Interviews October - February
    • Do a mock interview with MITCO before your first real interview. Practice practice practice before it. Read up on sample questions: http://web.mit.edu/career/www/preprof/pminterviewquestions.pdf, I even wrote down answers and memorized them for ones that are tougher. You want your answers to be eloquent and well though out. I did not get one question I didn't practice on already during my interviews.
  • Try to live with student hosts, saves on the hotel bill and you get a unique perspective on the school.
  • Take notes on everything. You'll be happy if you have to make a tough decision between schools and you have these details.
  • Ask the same important questions of each school: How long is the anatomy course, What housing options are there, What kind of mentorship do students get...
  • Write a thank you letter to your host, to the dean of admissions after your interview. Common courtesy
  • Make sure you read interview instructions CAREFULLY. a lot ask for passport photos of you, make sure to get a lot of these done! I'd suggest making them yourself, print the correct size out at a local walgreens- s0 much cheaper than getting them done officially.
  • After your interview, or before it, keep the school UPDATED with your achievements, grades, your continued interested in the school. Make it complete and send it only when you have something major to report. Send both a paper version and an email version to the admissions office. CHECK that they receive it and put it in your file.
  • Once again, keep your med school updated with your activities, achievements.
  • Check in with schools that have not yet offered you an interview.
  • Once you get your first acceptance (YAY!) withdraw from schools that you don't have interest in. Common Courtesy. If you want to hold your place in the class you often send in a check (~$100) to the school around mid May. You can always notify the school if you get off a wait list and decide to switch schools, but you will not get your $100 back.
  • If you're wait listed somewhere (oh the fun!NOT), write them a letter of interest. I included updates in mine and wrote passionately about why I still wanted to attend their school. I sent this at the beginning of May. This way they'll have read it when they start pulling people off the wait list around May 15.
  • Keep your premed adviser, recommenders updated! They care about you, and took the time to write you a recommendation. Keep them in the loop.
OK! That's my spiel. I hope its complete. If you have any questions at all, contact me jlee629@mit.edu. I'd love to help :). If you want to see my personal statement etc. let me konw as well.

Just FYI- I sent secondaries to 21 schools. Got invited to interview at ~8 schools. Accepted to 2 schools, wait listed at 2 schools currently.


Genetics from Genes to Genomes said...

Hi Jess! It's Zoe-- I was freaking out about submitting my recommendations for my application this year so I emailed Jen L. who showed me your entry and it's so helpful! I hope all is well in med school!


Anonymous said...

jlee629.blogspot.com; You saved my day again.