ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: Personally Revolting

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Personally Revolting

After receiving some initial feedback on my most recent post regarding acing the MCAT, it has come to my attention that there are legions of premeds out there who not only enjoy living vicariously through me, but also wish to follow in my humble, eerily pathetic footsteps every step of the way. Whether it is preparation for the MCAT or choosing the appropriate premed courses, I am clearly the figurehead for a growing cult, a burgeoning mass movement of aspiring physicians who, given all of the nonsense in this blog, frankly should know better. Shame on you people.

Anyways, in another attempt to help those aspiring physicians among you, and to ease the nerves of a certain premed who emailed me from Pennsylvania, I thought I’d touch on what it takes to write the gold-standard Pulitzer prize winning personal statement you’ll need to overcome an application otherwise devoid of Nobel prize winning research, Malaria eradication efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a transcript full of graduate level biochemical physics classes (I guess everyone can’t be like me). What follows is a template to create the stunning essay that will seal your admission to the medical school of your choice*.

The Passion Of The Pre-Med
[FYI, don’t actually title your essay. Unless you choose “Will Put Out: My Life Story” or you’re just a complete douche. In which case, go right ahead.]

Introduction: Were you a refugee from Craptakistan? Did you lose one of your nails in a freakish tire factory explosion? Were you hit by a car during the second week of your freshman year of college, crushing and totaling the car with your body while walking away relatively unscathed (umm...hypothetically speaking, of course)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or you can come up with an equally tragic/shocking/disturbing/eye-opening sob story of your own, then that is how you must begin your essay. For example, “Walking across the scorching Sub-Saharan desert, carrying four dying children on my back while saving the last drops of water for their disease-ridden mother dragging a fifth child right behind me, I knew that I was within inches of losing my life during this dangerous trek to provide Malaria medications to save an entire tribe of thousands. I also knew, right then and there, that I was meant to become a radiation oncologist.” It pretty much writes itself.

Body: Here is where your journey to becoming a physician really starts to explain itself. Yes, that moment in the Saharan desert may have provided you with your original epiphany, but that alone will not sway admissions reviewers your way. What you need to lay out over the next few paragraphs is how, more specifically, you have acted on this original epiphany in your preparation for medical school. Practically speaking, this means you need to pick out the two or three most stupendously amazing things you’ve ever done since you started college and spend a paragraph talking about how stupendously amazing those things were, and how they were made even more stupendously amazing because you were the person who did them. You should also be sure to mention how these stupendously amazing things will make you an amazingly stupendous doctor.

In other words, no, you didn’t just steal $6,000 from your undergraduate institution to spend a summer pretending to do research while you chatted online with babes for hours on end, silly (not that I would have any idea what that’s about). You devoted your summer to the pursuit of original science research with the hope of making a significant contribution to your field while also honing your research skills so that you could apply them to your future as a groundbreaking researcher in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

No, you didn’t spend a few random afternoons standing around in a hospital while people rushed back and forth in front of you, stopping only to ask you where the bathroom was on occasion. You served valiantly as a hospital volunteer, assisting the aged in all aspects of their hospital care, whether that meant spending hours on end talking with them about their treatment or even, dare I say it, assisting the doctors while they treated these glorious people. And now you are not only acutely aware of what it takes to be a clinical physician, you are also one step closer to being completely prepared for your future as a pediatric thoracic surgeon.

Conclusion: The big finish. The grand finale. The lasting impression you will make on every and all admissions committee members. You need something big, something that hits home, something so profound that it will leave your admissions reviewers in tears, yearning for the moment they can approve your admission to their medical school and sealing their fate as “The Person Who Made Sure The [Now Ridiculously Famous] _____ Attended Our School of Medicine”. Time to make it personal. Very, very personal. In other words, if you don’t make some reference to the profound effect a doctor had on either your health or the health of one of your family members, you’ve bought a one-way ticket to Hollywood Upstairs Medical School (it has been way too long since I’ve made an obscure The Simpsons reference). Here, let me help: “Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to pursue a career as a physician because I want to follow in the footsteps of my great-grandmother’s personal assistant’s third cousin, who, while on her death bed after suffering through a shattering trial of cocaine and substance abuse, shared with me the compassionate tale of the physician who sacrificed everything to save her life. This person’s dying words to me, whispered under her breath, were ‘Be like Dr. Nobleheart. Save lives. Use the force. It is your destiny.’ And with that last breath, she passed, but not before providing me with the final dose of inspiration I needed to pursue a career as a cardiothoracicneurobiliaryspinal surgeon, while also pursuing medical research in pediatric oncology.”

I’m all choked up…are you?


P.S. In an effort to provide full disclosure, I should point out that people spend, on average, about 90 seconds reading the essay you are going to slave over for the next three weeks. And after this essay there are these things called “secondaries” where you have to answer even more inane and humiliating questions about yourself in small spaces that people will spend even less time reading. So the only way you can really look bad is if you have a non-functional spell-checker (and you’d be surprized how manny people fall into this categaury).

*Guarantee void in Tennessee. That's two obscure The Simpsons references in one post, in case you're counting.

37 Comments:

Anonymous karen said...

It’s official. I read you site way to much...having it been not 15 min since this was uploaded. As I am currently working on my own personal statement, I will make absolutely certain to include the jewels of wisdom you have so graciously passed down. luv it dude.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Graham said...

My tips for the Pre-Med. And as far as the essay goes, please don't start with a quote. Just my opinion.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

And I thought that writing my grad school apps was a pain in the ass. You med folks win.

1:53 AM  
Blogger Daphnewood said...

it is sad that your advice is actually sound in this situation. Don't fret about North Dakota. A lot of states give HIGH preference to state residents. I think in Texas 90% of the students have to be Texas residents. California doesn't give a rip where you come from so an essay like that would go a long way; thus the reason why everyone gets an interview from USC.

2:34 AM  
Blogger MedStudentGod said...

Speaking of priority state attendance, I have dealt with that when I applied as well.I applied to a school in a state I had lived for 22 years before moving. My mother was an OR RN in their neurosurgery unit, and I had several contacts, but in the end they told me that I had to be from the state (since I had now become a resident of another state recently), a minority, and yada yada yada. That was money well spent.
I completely agree with the essay bit - I used a tear jerker about a drug adled mother and her daughter while I was "assisting" a doctor in an ER. I knew that would get them.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Old MD Girl said...

Applying to medical school sucks even more than taking the damn MCAT. Just when you think you're hitting the home stretch, the next school has 10 required essays about NOTHING. And God help you if you're one of those combined degree people. Yeesh.

My tip for the essay: avoid overuse of the word "really." It gets really (hehe) annoying after a few sentences.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Squeaky Dear said...

Eww. Those things make me sick to my stomach. I don't see how the admissions folks manage to read all that garbage.

Is there any hope for those of us who don't have anything even remotely Sub-Saharan to talk about?

All those "overcame personal problem and discovered love for neurobio" and "nursed sick sis through really REALLY bad illness while working to support entire family" people make it more difficult for us regular mortals to get into med school. Sigh.

8:21 AM  
Blogger A. said...

Another great post. It is amazing to me how similar applications to medical school are to those for divinity school (my own experience). Perhaps it is all "striving after the wind."

You know, you should just chuck it all and just become a writer/consultant for a medical show on TV. Heck, maybe CNN or ABC or some other network needs a new Sanjay Gupta or Timothy Johnson or the like. You say you're good looking, perhaps you should pursue a TV medical career.

8:42 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Depending where you're applying, short can also be good. At the school I ended up coming to, one of my interviewers said "I liked your essay. It filled less than half the space we gave you. That's ballsy." Just as long as you say what you need to.

8:47 AM  
Blogger The Angry Frenchie said...

Ah, the Personal Statement.

Why are my friends already freaking out about this exercise in futility AND the MCAT, at the same time?!?

10:52 AM  
Blogger Nightshade said...

Very entertaining post! Your advice will doubtless work for all personal statements: just change the med school parts to the relevant subject matter and you have a personal statement for all applications!

You're a good writer and very amusing, as many have suggested before, perhaps you should consider writing more on the side, a book or such, it'll be a great way to get away from daily life and to do something enjoyable.

12:05 PM  
Blogger genderist said...

I'm intrigued that you referenced oncology twice in this post... does that mean you're leaning that direction? Or are you still torn with the flakiness and erythema that is derm?

It is so very exciting.
Happy Earth Day.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

you crack me up :-)
You really should think about writing a book...hmmmm... maybe entitled, "Ah Yes, Medical School". Maybe it will pay for medical school ;-)

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the process: the "Fake Applicant" becomes the "Fake Doctor." Its true the stuff we write in those essays is just what we think they want to hear. When, in reality, those that do actually read (not skim) the essays want to claw their eyes out. But then, what the hell inspired you to do this to yourself if it wasn't something cheesy but truly remarkable? Make fun of it all you want, but we all jumped through the hoops to get a seat. So I'll take the cheese, the drama, the sob-story, and a spot in the med school class of 2010. Call me the "Idealistic (but successful) Applicant."

10:50 PM  
Blogger Fat Doctor said...

Don't forget to include this classic phrase: Committed to lifelong learning, I...blah, blah, blah. No essay is complete without it.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Princess Turned Pumpkin said...

I absolutely cracked up reading this. I will have to be back and do some more reading!

1:48 PM  
Anonymous la dentista said...

Another great blog, bro. You make us proud. :)

9:23 PM  
Blogger medstudentitis said...

I just stumbled upon your blog. I'm a med student and I think your advice is pure GOLD. I actually think my med school essay went a little like this:

"some fucker didn't diagnose me and I lost a kidney. Let me into medical school so I can pay it forward.

Then I worked with some kids who couldn't see and it was great.

My life will not be complete without going to medical school unless of course I win the lottery. Then all you suckers are going to see me buy a strip club and live out my days in happiness."

Pretty much followed your formula and I got in! Keep up the good work of advising your cult. Maybe you guys could all lie down and have a nice glass of koolaid once the whole admissions process is done.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just getting caught up on your blog here.

Comments:

1. You'll change your mind again and again over where to spend your residency. Where as in location and where as in specialty. (And, inevitably, as a 3rd year intern you'll revisit the insanity when deciding whether or not to do a fellowship.)

2. Wait to get married. Seriously. The divorce rate (according to some PBS documentary) is about 90% for people who marry in med school or during residency. Keep chatting up those nice Jewish girls, but wait awhile.

Keep up the great posts!

1:28 AM  
Anonymous canadiaNomis said...

I can't believe how similar my essay was to your recommendations.
I, too, started my essay with a gerund and used the word malaria within the first paragraph of my essay. I was lucky enough to come down with it.

And, hey, it worked. Class of 2010.

2:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And just get rid of all the words like "just" and "really." They just are not really necessary in your essay. => They are not necessary in your essay.
Now doesn't that sound better.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i need u to read my statement.. how can i send it to u for feedback? its 600 words of ballsy material- you'll love it.

8:44 PM  
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