During my medical school orientation week, we watched a TED talk by Angela Duckworth about grit. In her talk, she proposes that grit is the key to success in life. She says:
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future day in day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon; not a sprint.”
As I sat in the auditorium and watched this TED talk with 170 of my fellow first year classmates, I couldn’t help but agree that grit is what got me a seat in this auditorium, and grit is what will help me achieve the letters “D.O.” next to my name. Not only grit, but God, who gifted me with grit.
Read my journey, or just jump to whatever bolded headings you desire! If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me or comment on this post.
The Decision to Apply
During my sophomore year of undergrad, I firmly decided medical school, rather than PA school, was my calling (future post about this, promise!), but I was fearful and intimidated by this decision. I planned for the changes in my coursework and adjusted my application prep accordingly, but I did not take any solid steps towards this specific goal until the summer before my junior year. That summer, I traveled to Peru on scholarship funding for 3 weeks of performing service work with my honors cohort. We built homes with the Fuller Center for Housing in an impoverished, rural village. Because a doctor came on the trip with us, we also held a three day clinic for the villagers. This was my absolute favorite part of the trip, and my honors advisors noticed. They pulled me aside one afternoon and told me that I was radiant while working in the clinic alongside the physician. My passion showed, and they admired the way I interacted with the families. They told me that I would make a great doctor, and said they would support me throughout the application process. That conversation, my time in Peru, and the feelings that stirred within my heart at that time all gave me confirmation that becoming a physician is what I am meant to do on this earth. After that trip, I felt confident in my decision to apply to medical school. It made me feel a little less crazy for wanting to go through such rigorous training. It gave me hope that this calling came from God, and not just from my own wishes.
I took the MCAT in early August of 2014, so I took what is now considered the old version of the exam. I did not feel ready. Despite making plans for additional coursework, I was waitlisted for physics II during the spring semester when it was offered. I would now have to put in extra work to self study that subject area if I wanted to apply for a seat in the class of 2019. I prayed because I felt like I was taking a big risk that would not reap any benefits ..applying to medical school is not only highly competitive, but quite an investment. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be sure that applying now instead of waiting a year or two was what God wanted me to do.
Even with my fears and insecurities, I felt empowered to apply to medical school and take the MCAT for the upcoming application cycle. I didn’t sign up for any MCAT prep courses, but I did purchase Kaplan and Examkrackers books for each subject on the exam. I also purchased practice tests and questions. I studied all summer long. I brought books with me wherever I went, even on a camping trip I took with my dad. My practice test scores were not as high as I wanted, but I still had faith. My MCAT was in early August, which gave me no time to retake the exam if I wanted to apply during this particular application cycle. Because of that, I gave myself a minimum score to achieve. If I did not achieve that score or higher, I would discontinue the application process. I was afraid and anxious, but I had a feeling in my heart that I would at least achieve that minimum score I set for myself.
The test itself wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but my particular form had a lot of Physics II material, which I had to completely study for on my own without having taken the course in school. Four weeks of waiting later, and I finally received an e-mail notifying me that my scores were available. As I logged into my account, my heart beat quickly. As I glanced at the scores on the screen, I thanked the good Lord because I got THE minimum score I had set for myself. I would still apply after all, even though it wasn’t a strong MCAT score. I felt at peace because I knew this test wasn’t going to determine my entrance into medical school; God was going to determine that, and I felt I already knew His answer.
I submitted primaries as soon as the application portals (AMCAS and AACOMAS) opened in June, and after I proofread my application 1,000 times (okay, not that many!). I mainly sent primaries to D.O. programs (future post about why I chose D.O. school vs. M.D. school!), but I also applied to two M.D. programs: my state’s public medical college, and the one at my undergraduate university. All I have to say about this part of the process is that it was expensive, and took a lot of time and effort to prepare (letters of rec, personal statement, special questions on the application forms, etc.).
You think one application would be good enough, but NOPE. Not the case. After the schools review your primary application, they may invite you to submit a secondary application. These also cost money. At this point, the only way I could afford to submit secondary applications was with the refund check from my student loans. Usually, this check came in September, but for some reason I was unable to receive the check until December. December is late in the game when it comes to medical school applications… At this point, many schools have interviews already scheduled well into the spring semester. Those interviews are for people who already submitted their secondaries and received an interview invitation. Despite this setback, I still had faith that I would be in the class of 2019, and I submitted my secondary applications. I waited to hear back from schools…
I received many e-mails and letters from schools. A couple of these letters stated that my science GPA wasn’t quite to their standards, while several others informed me that they already had all of their interview spots scheduled and most of their classes filled. I was very discouraged, but I still had an inkling of faith this year was meant to be. In February, I received interview invitations from two schools: an M.D. school and a D.O. school. I was over the moon excited! (Look out for a future post about medical school interviews ;))
This was the hardest part. A few weeks after my interviews, I was notified that I was waitlisted at the D.O. school. I held onto hope that I would be accepted… but that hope started to wane by the end of May. I heard nothing back.
I e-mailed the school a letter of intent and gave them updates to my application. I was scared and frustrated, and I hated the uncertainty of being trapped in limbo. To keep myself busy, I got a summer job as a pizza delivery girl. I also accepted an offer to a post-bacc program in case I didn’t hear back about medical school by the end of the summer. I even found a potential roommate. I also took the GRE in case I considered PA school again. Despite these actions, I still had a crazy, tiny feeling that I would be accepted to medical school…
The Acceptance Call
It was early July, and I was grabbing a pizza to deliver when my phone rang. I let it go to voicemail. When I got to my car, I checked my phone and saw the area code was from the same area as the medical school… right away, I had a feeling this was THE call! I called the person back immediately, and the dean of students answered. He offered me a spot in the class of 2019, and I ecstatically told him yes. I will never forget that moment! I was shaking, I was crying happy tears; my dream was becoming a reality! My acceptance didn’t come when I wanted it to, but it came at the perfect time. If it had come any earlier, there would have been no way to afford the deposit, the moving expenses, or supplies I needed. My family also happened to be moving at this time, so I got much of the furniture they no longer needed and we were able to reduce the moving costs. Only God is capable of timing so perfect!
The journey to medical school isn’t easy. The journey IN medical school isn’t easy. I do know it will all be worth it.