Read the interview with Dr. Jennifer Harvey, a 2015 VCU School of Medicine Alumni, who is now in her Intern year of Residency at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, NC.
What led to your interest in medicine? I loved science, and was just very curious about medicine.
What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study? I majored in chemistry. My high school chemistry teacher was amazing, which sparked my interest in the field.
What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for medical school?
I played soccer and spent a lot of time in the training room/sports medicine staff.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
My mom helped me a lot. She is not a health professional but works with many of them. She gave me a lot of information and arranged meetings for me where I could ask for advice.
Were you successful on your first attempt at application and would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?
I was successful on my first attempt.
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?
It’s difficult to study for MCATs while you’re studying for all of your other classes. It would have been helpful to be a part an organized preparation program instead of just studying on my own.
How do you balance the demands of medical school with additional obligations and challenges?
It’s not always easy and certainly is more time consuming than anything I’ve ever done before. You have to rely on your support system. It also helps to foresee potential conflicts and work them out with faculty way ahead of time.
Do you feel that you were prepared for the medical school interview? What preparation advice would you give?
I felt prepared. While it’s good to anticipate questions to be prepared, the schools want to know about the real you. It’s not important to give the “right” answer, just the answer that lets them know more about you. *Everyone asks why you chose medicine, so at least know an answer for that one.
What obstacles did you overcome in your medical school journey?
No major obstacles. Difficult at times when friends are moving on with jobs. They have money and vacation time, while you have debt and can’t really ask for time off.
What do/did you enjoy most about medical school?
3rd and 4th year of medical school are much better than the 1st and 2nd. It is fun getting to try new things every month when you have no idea what you are doing and then compare your experiences with your peers.
What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the medical school prerequisite classes?
I loved my chemistry classes, and astronomy, and creative dance!
Is there any advice or feedback that you received regarding personal statements that you would like to share?
Have a short anecdote in there to help people remember who you are. Doesn’t have to be about medicine!
How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?
Three. I wanted to stay close to home, and didn’t have time to look around too much before applications went out. It was important to me to attend a school where peers and faculty were down to earth and energetic.
What made the medical school you chose the right fit for you?
I don’t have a concrete answer for this. I enjoyed science, I wanted to take care of patients and help people to be healthy. I also appreciated the pathway. I had to choose schools and residencies to apply to but was safely tucked into the medical school system.
Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered medical school?
Oh absolutely. You can’t write everything down when you study. There is way too much information. You have to trust that you know it after only going over the information 2 or 3 times.
What memory stands out the most from your first few weeks of medical school?
I don’t remember the first few weeks of medical school!
What is your top tip for applicants preparing to take the MCAT exam?
Prepare early, and have somebody to keep you accountable to your studying. It’s so easy just put it aside.
What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for medical school?
I took the maximum federal aid offered.
Did you have any fears going into medical school?
I was nervous I would change my mind about which profession was right for me.
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
The thought that SO many people have been through it and are now successful. If they can do it, I can do it too.
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell them off the top of your head?
There is always something to stress about. The happiest people are the ones who find a way not to stress. Tests are important, but not as important as you think. Just do your best!