Reilly Scott is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech and is currently a first year student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia, PA. Below is her interview:
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
I attended pre-health sessions sponsored by VT’s Health Professions Advising (HPA) as a freshman to understand what I would need to do the next few years to prepare for the application process. I mapped out what classes I would need to take before taking the MCAT and that were required by most medical schools. I met with an HPA advisor early on to see if I was competitive enough to apply to medical school in the near future. I researched the schools I wanted to go to see what they expected of their applicants, as well as their average GPA and MCAT scores. The best way to prepare for the application itself is to do the HPEC interview application the spring before you apply. Spending a substantial amount of time and energy on this application made filling out the actual medical school application and secondaries much faster and easier. I was able to get feedback on my writing and how to answer the questions months in advance, so that I had plenty of time to revise my writing and get my application in early.
Do you feel that you were prepared for the medical school interview? What preparation advice would you give?
Months before my first interview, I searched common medical interview questions online. There are a lot of free resources and question banks that you can start to formulate answers to. I also researched the school so I knew who would be interviewing me (student, faculty), what type of interview (MMI, one-on-one, group), and the school’s greatest values (research, clinical, volunteering) so I knew what type of questions they would probably ask and what parts of myself I should highlight. The common and surprisingly daunting question that you should be prepared for is “tell me about yourself.” I was given advice to keep this answer to 2-3 minutes, and to focus on what big events and passions led me to this point. I highly recommend practicing the interview a few times with someone who has experience conducting interviews to get advice on how you present yourself as well as your answers. On interview day, tell the truth and try to be excited! They really want to get to know you and your personality.
What are some words of wisdom about the application process? What would you have liked to know ahead of time? What do you wish someone would have told you before you began applying?
Try to create some connection with the schools you are planning on applying to. For example, you could attend an open house, email someone on the admissions committee to set up a meeting, or get a letter of recommendation from a physician who went there. Medical schools want to accept students who they think will actually go to their school, so if you are applying to a school across the country, but have never left Virginia, then it is unlikely they will believe you would attend their school without some sort of connection. Many of the secondary applications I filled out asked why I wanted to go to that school. I was also given the advice that if you are applying out of state, you are more likely to get into a private school because they don’t have an in-state quota to meet.
What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the medical school prerequisite classes?
Since I was a clinical neuroscience major, I was able to take “Clinical Neuroscience in Practice,” where I shadowed a neurosurgery team every week in Roanoke and spent two nights on-call with residents and medical students. This unique experience showed me the time commitment, rigor, and difficulties of the occupation. In the classroom, we learned about the history and social aspects of medicine and surgery. If you have the opportunity to take this class, I highly recommend taking it before applying to medical school. We had mock medical school interviews with the neurosurgery team and submitted drafts of personal statements. If you aren’t a clinical neuroscience major, then at least try to shadow in a hospital and private practice setting to see the diverse experiences medicine has to offer.
Is there any advice or feedback that you received regarding personal statements that you would like to share?
Don’t be afraid to completely scrap your personal statement and start over. I completely rewrote mine at least twice after getting advice from a couple advisors and teachers. This means you should start writing and brainstorming far in advance. I wrote my first draft in the fall before my application cycle (about 9 months in advance). This may seem excessive, but the Health Professions Evaluation Committee (HPEC) interview application is due in January, and you will need a personal statement for that. In your personal statement, talk about something you are passionate about and try to show your personality. Make sure you have someone else proofread it!
What made the medical school you chose the right fit for you?
I wanted to be in Philadelphia so I could experience a new and diverse patient population, as well as to be closer to home and my extended family, who provided me support in my transition. During my interview day, I felt extremely at home and welcomed by all the students I talked to. It was completely student-run, and upon coming here I realized that most of the organizations and programs are as well, including student-run free clinics throughout the city. The faculty are extremely perceptive to our input and are constantly making positive changes to our curriculum based on our feedback because it is a fairly new curriculum. The pass-fail curriculum makes students more likely to help one another and decreases my anxiety to get a perfect score so I can instead focus on absorbing and applying the information. On your interview day, take advantage of the time you get to talk to the current students so you can find out if the school is a right fit for you.
What is your top tip for applicants preparing to take the MCAT exam?
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the MCAT and take multiple full-length practice exams to see if you are ready. You want to do the best you possibly can the first (and hopefully only) time you take the real exam. The MCAT is one of the main reasons many people push back when they were applying for medical school. I pushed my test back from January to April because I wasn’t prepared, but I had luckily left enough time to delay the test and still apply in June. However, delaying the test costs money so try to determine how much time you will need before signing up for your test date.
Did you have any fears going into medical school?
Going into medical school, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be as smart as my classmates and that I would fall behind. During orientation, the school addressed that most people feel that way, but that we were all accepted for a reason. In addition, I was moving to a new state and knew no one at my school. However, especially in a small medical class, most people do not know anyone beforehand. My classmates were kind, friendly, and accepting of all personalities. Instead of being competitive and cut-throat, students taught one-another, shared their notes and helpful resources, and studied in groups. Being in medical school, you are surrounded by other motivated people who want to make a difference in their patient’s lives. It is an amazing community to be a part of.
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell them off the top of your head?
Enjoy yourself! Medical school has the potential to be the best or worst four years of your life. While you are studying all the time, the information you’re learning is incredibly interesting and will be applicable to your future career to help your patients in the future. Instead of isolating yourself, study in a group and schedule time to take breaks with your classmates, even during a test week. You will be surrounded by some of the smartest and most interesting people you have ever met, so take advantage of this and get to know your classmates and professors. There are so many opportunities and amazing experiences in medical school that weren’t available to you in undergrad, so get involved in what makes you excited and learn as much as you can.