Post written by: Ariella Bourdeau
Getting accepted to medical school starts long before the application year, but if you’re reading this, I’m sure you know that already. The application cycle itself, however, is somewhat of a mystery until you are in it yourself. At least, that’s how I felt this time last year.
I had submitted my primary application around mid-June, and planned to pre-write my secondary essay responses to get ahead of the game. What ever goes according to plan, though? Submitting my primary was such a big relief off my shoulders that I decided to take a week or so before starting more essays. I applied to 12 MD and 12 DO schools, and was shocked to find AACOMAS takes significantly less time to be verified. Like, less than 1/6th of the time it takes AMCAS. My DO application was verified in four days, and I suddenly had a slew of secondaries to submit. When the first few started rolling through, I was able to turn them around within 1-2 weeks as recommended. But once all 24-ish hit my inbox, it became a slow process. I returned some secondaries at the 3-4 week mark. Yikes, right? No. Because I was still accepted to medical school this cycle!
Applying with a 505 MCAT score was daunting for me. I almost felt like I should wait another year and retake the MCAT, but I’m sure you can imagine why I wouldn’t want to do that. The time and energy that goes into studying for that exam is like nothing else, and I didn’t wish to tackle it a second time. After much deliberation and consulting with my pre-health advisor, I decided to apply 50/50 to MD and DO programs. I was also very particular in choosing schools, paying very close attention to the MSAR and ChooseDO tools to see where my stats fell within their class profiles.
I knew I might have a slow cycle given my MCAT score. A 505 is dead-average for applicants, and below average for matriculants. I didn’t receive my first interview invite until late December, to my state school and one DO school. Funnily enough, these invites came on the same day, and I finally felt like my cycle was heading in the right direction. Many of my friends applying alongside me already held multiple acceptances, and though I was ecstatic for them, I was still holding out hope to end my cycle similarly.
I was unable to schedule a mock interview with pre-health prior to my first actual interview. My invites came just days before Christmas, I was in Europe for New Year’s, and every appointment time I was able to make was already filled. So my wonderful, amazing friends who were in the trenches with me hopped on Zoom and practiced with me until I no longer felt silly. They helped me craft strong responses to the standard questions, and I felt confident going into my first interview. So confident that when I finally did have my mock interview, I had glowing reviews! I think I was able to interview so well largely due to the sheer amount of co-op interviews I did over the years. If nothing else, I believe Northeastern sets us up for great success in the interview department. Rely on your skills I know that you’ve perfected and some fantastic friends who understand the interview process (or family!) to help you gain confidence when it comes to interviews. Practice, practice, practice!
For those of you applying DO, having your application verified is about the only aspect of the cycle that moved quickly, in my experience. I received a secondary application invitation from the school I was accepted to in September. September! After that, it was radio silence until January, when I was invited to interview in late February. It took two months to get a decision post-interview: waitlisted. The other two schools I had interviewed at (one MD and one DO) returned a decision within 2-3 weeks. After having been rejected by my state school post-interview and waitlisted at the other DO school I interviewed at in January, I felt defeated. However, there was still action to take on my end.
Objectively, being waitlisted is a favorable position to be in, because you still have a good chance at being accepted off a waitlist. I knew this. So I sat down to make a pro and con list for each school I was waitlisted at, to help me decide where to send a letter of intent. I decided to send my letter of intent to NYITCOM, the school I was waitlisted at in January. For a multitude of reasons, including the established history of the program, the ability to obtain a master’s degree while in medical school, and the curriculum emphasis on teaching doctors to be educators in the field, I felt good about my decision to send my letter of intent to NYIT.
Sent in the beginning of May when schools will start to see movement because of the May 1st and 15th deadlines to choose to enroll in one school for MD and DO, respectively, I was expecting to hear soon after. I am still waitlisted at NYIT today. At the end of May, I was accepted to TouroCOM off the waitlist! I loved both programs and it was difficult to choose where to send a letter of intent, but one major reason I decided against TouroCOM was their waitlist being ranked. They don’t let you know of where you stand on the waitlist, but essentially this means students are accepted in a predetermined order, and I felt that a letter of intent to this school would not greatly affect my position on the waitlist. Basically, if I was going to get in, I would be accepted whether or not I sent a letter of intent. Obviously, I was right, but my letter of intent also did not have a great affect on my status at NYITCOM, either. They did not have a ranked waitlist, and sending a letter of intent here did not get my accepted off the waitlist (yet).
I would say I didn’t have an abundant application cycle. But, all it takes is one school to say yes to you, and you will be a doctor. Only one school said yes to me, and I will be a doctor. Looking back, there are a few things I wish I had done differently. For one, waiting to apply. I was caught up in the idea of not going to and graduating from medical school at the same time as all my best friends who were applying this past cycle. That was silly of me, because one way or another, they will still be my friends and we will all still become doctors. Two, try your very best to not let secondaries overwhelm you. If possible, start writing them before or as soon as you submit your primary application while you wait for it to be verified. Three, write down the name of your faculty interviewer. I had a last minute change in interviewer at NYIT, and when it came time to send my letter of intent, I had no record of the name of the physician I interviewed with. I did not have an email confirmation as the email notifying me of the change did not have his name in it. I also just forgot to make note of his name. So don’t forget that, set yourself up for success.
And I don’t think it would be a blog post without a huge thank you to all of pre-health and my ever supportive friends and family who believed in me this year when I was doubting myself. Keep your head up this cycle, you never know how it’s going to turn out!