On Being a Reapplicant

I mentioned in my previous ‘Narrative’ post that I was a reapplicant to medical colleges this year. This was the second time I applied, the first was in the 2011 cycle for entry in 2012. You could say I took my time to re-prepare and make sure that this was truly the career for me. Though, if I’m being honest, I never gave up on becoming a physician.

So, summer of 2011, I’ve been working as a tech in one of the labs on campus for almost a year, and I was applying to medical schools as I had always planned. Throughout the process, though, I had the distinct feeling that things were not going as swimmingly as perhaps they should have been. I felt lost at sea, having submitted a personal statement that I was not terribly proud of and drowning in secondary essays written in the same unsteady voice.

While I was applying, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a one month leave of absence from my lab job to volunteer with and shadow physicians in the public health system in Morocco, my home country. This turned out to be the single most impactful clinical experience in my life, even to this day. However, because I had already submitted my primary application and some of my secondaries at the time, I was not able to fully relate the experiences I had in Morocco to the schools to which I was applying. And, to be honest, the whole experience was still too fresh — I hadn’t given myself enough time to really ruminate, sift through the experiences, and allow the “lessons” to come into view.

And so it went. I finished up all my secondaries (which was a most daunting task as I had applied very, very, broadly) and come early spring, I received my final notice of rejection. This was a staggering blow. As this wave of rejection washed over me, I felt as though I had been dragged deeper into the currents with no land in sight.

At that point, I had worked almost two years in the lab, and I was relatively certain that, while it had been an interesting and educational experience, it was not one that I planned to continue much longer. Maybe that was a product of my having been set on going back to school after two years as a lab tech. In some way, I was determined to make that shift, so I began searching for masters programs, primarily in public health. It was then that I happened across an intriguing program that was a blend of public health and statistics: a Masters of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. In that moment, something clicked within me and I knew that this was the program for me. It was as if, after months of treading water, I had finally found land.

I quickly put together the application materials and found myself going through the awkward process of reaching out to my medical school recommenders once more, explaining that I had, in fact, not been admitted into medical school, but that I hoped they might be able to send letters to a new program instead.

If applying to medical school was long and drawn out, this process was the exact opposite. From application to acceptance was barely a month. And shortly after that, I was back in a classroom. I was beyond excited to be a student again but also felt a bit nervous to be exploring such uncharted territory. This was never an eventuality I’d imagined or planned for — I’d always thought that I’d finish undergrad and, within two years, head to medical school. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d find myself back in school — for more math, no less!

Throughout the master’s program, I never quite lost sight of my end goal — I remained steadfast in my desire to eventually become a physician. Nevertheless, I allowed myself the privilege of taking time; I didn’t want to rush through things again. Many factors led me to wait a bit before reapplying, not the least of which was the fact that I had to sit for the MCAT again since my scores had since expired.

With these things in mind, I decided to re-enter the workforce and prepare for the MCAT and reapplication as well. It took me a while to find my footing and after an overwhelming few months of trying to study on my own subjects that I hadn’t seen in years, I eventually decided that classes were the way to go. So, I signed up for courses à la carte at local community colleges and online and decided to take an MCAT prep course as well. After two years of courses, I took the MCAT and re-applied.

I have to say, I felt much more sure of myself this time around. I realized that the time I had taken had allowed me to gain perspective, to ground myself in my galvanized earnestness to enter the medical field. I suppose the moral of this long and winded tale is this: don’t be hasty. There is truly seldom any reason to rush through the process, to approach a goal frantically that requires more graceful, purposeful movements.

Oh, and also: don’t give up 🙂

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