UCSD HMP3 Constructing the AMCAS Presentation - Ben Ostrander


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Ben Ostrander, an alumnus of UCSD HMP3, shares his medical application success secrets with current members.

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  • Icebreaker. Get to know the audience.About me.
  • Note that almost anything can be related to medicine. One of my activities on my application was cycling, and I talked about the many ways I saw links between competitive cycling and medicine.Also, research is broadly defined. Research is most definitely not confined to pipetting in a basic science lab for 20 hours a week.
  • From the outset, this might not seem important as long as you do everything that is “expected of you,” but it actually becomes very helpful down the line.
  • Interviews are conversations, particularly medical school interviews. Random topics will come up. The more you’ve read about, the more you will be able to converse about in an intelligent, informed, and impressive way.
  • I did a lot of traveling during my time as an undergrad, and whenever I went somewhere, I created a Tumblr blog to write about my experiences and share them with family in friends. I took the quality of the blog very seriously and actually really improved my writing by thinking about how to frame my travel experiences in a creative, informative way. At a certain point, I started to think about how I would write about the experience while I was experiencing it! Can you see how advantageous this might be if you do this with premed activities?
  • I took the MCAT at the end of the the summer of my junior year, studying while doing research and taking 2 courses.
  • Last June, I submitted my AMCAS the day before graduation, after working on it all week while simultaneously studying for finals. This was insane. It is obviously better if you can get more done before finals. I pressed submit on the 5th day after the application opened (June 14th) and my app was not verified until July 23rd! This year saw a massive number of early apps, as more and more applicants recognize the importance of this. Be sure to send in your transcript BEFORE you submit, preferably in May.
  • Example: “I am a driven and I am passionate about understanding the human body.” versus “I worked tirelessly in the lab day after day to better understand the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, driven by a fascination with how the brain comes to deteriorate.”
  • There are certainly expectations to this. If you have a very strong interest and have really distinguished yourself in a certain area, you certainly can focus more on this.
  • There are a few nuggets of uniqueness I have tried to throw in throughout each step of the process: I race bikes. I spent one summer in Nepal and another in Peru. I know how to play the didgeridoo. I am currently working at a winery.
  • I submitted 23 secondaries, all by mid-August, but I’ve only heard back from a little over 1/3 of the schools I applied to.
  • What does conversational mean? Faculty doctors, who have years of experience reading people through clinical work, are observing how you communicate and interact. They are generally less concerned with your qualifications, which you have already proven to get an interview invite in the first place. The key question they examine: “If I was this person’s patient, would I want them to be my doctor? Would I be comfortable with them?”
  • Edison is one of history’s most famous inventors, and is recognized for his creation of the incandescent light bulb. But it famously took him over 3,000 trials to come up with something that worked. There is this idea that to get accepted to a school like Harvard or UCSF or Johns Hopkins, you have to be a genius. You certainly have to be smart, but I’m here to remind you that genius is largely a product of incessant work and relentless determination.
  • UCSD HMP3 Constructing the AMCAS Presentation - Ben Ostrander

    1. 1. How To Set Yourself Apart: Constructing an effective AMCAS application November 6th, 2013 By Benjamin Ostrander
    2. 2. 1) The WHAT and the HOW  Success in the application process starts with WHAT you do and HOW you do it
    3. 3. WHAT?  It is no secret what admissions committees want to see…  (Hint: Google “medical school selection factors” or “med school applicant traits”)  The important thing: Do what you love, love what you do!  Your activities should be things you enjoy  There are endless options, so do something you are passionate about  These are not boxes to check
    4. 4. HOW?  If you enjoy what you do, it makes a huge difference  Questions to ask:     Am I learning? Thinking critically? Actively participating? Reflecting on this activity?
    5. 5. 2) READ/WRITE  Read read read. Write write write.  Many fail to recognize that the quality of an application is heavily dependent on your ability to effectively express ideas and experiences through language  So you have to practice
    6. 6. READING  All good writers are voracious readers. So read!  My suggestions: Atul Gawande, Paul Farmer, Oliver Sacks, Michael Gladwell, Abraham Verghese, the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Economist…  Bonus: Through reading, you not only improve your writing and vocabulary, but you are also preparing for interviews
    7. 7. WRITING  Write a lot! And not just for school  Write for the Guardian, Prospect Journal, Saltman Quarterly, Triple Helix, or start a blog  Keep a journal, preferably one that you will share:  This forces you to write, and to put effort into it
    8. 8. 3) START EARLY  Plan:  How are you going to take care of all the requirements and still stay sane? When are you going to take the MCAT? Do you realistically have time to fit that activity in this quarter? Will you have time next quarter?  Then you finally reach the application year…  First: Start prewriting for your personal statement
    9. 9. BASIC TIMELINE  Spring Break: Write a first draft of your personal statement.  May: AMCAS opens online. Start filling it in.  June: Submit! Apply early. This is especially tough on the quarter system.  July-August: Complete supplemental apps.  September: Let the interviews begin!
    10. 10. 4) TELL A STORY  This is probably the most important thing!  Many premeds participate in very similar activities, so the difference is HOW you talk about them in your application
    11. 11. AMCAS COMPONENTS  AMCAS is your medium: The application is to you as the poem is to Robert Frost and the novel is to Leo Tolstoy.  Academic transcript: Believe it or not, this tells an important story  What did you major in? Did you have a minor? What trends are apparent in your grades?  Essay: 5300 characters  Work/Activities Section  15 slots available, 700 characters each  3 most meaningful activities, 1325 additional characters
    12. 12. STORYTELLING  This is hard!  Your mindfulness and reflection during all your premed activities (the HOW) and all the reading and writing you have done to become the next (insert favorite author here) now take center stage.  Think deeply about who you are, your personality, and why medicine. Show these traits in your writing.
    13. 13. SHOW DON’T TELL!
    14. 14. MY EXAMPLES Personal Statement: Most Meaningful Activity
    15. 15. 5) FOCUS, BALANCE, SHIN E  Focus on the traits medical schools are looking for and that you honestly feel you possess (see selection factors/traits: compassion, empathy, leadership, motivation, com munication…)  Tailor your app:  This is especially important for secondary applications: Is the school a research institution? Is primary care the focus? Do they have an affiliated school of public health?  Pay very close attention to the language in the mission statement and on the admissions website.
    16. 16. BALANCING ACT  Construct a balanced application  This is especially important for the primary app. You can narrow your focus more in the supplemental apps.
    17. 17.  Your 15 slots in the Work/Activities section should ideally be divided somewhat evenly into the different categories
    18. 18. SHINE  How will you be remembered? How are you going to differentiate yourself ?  Do not hold anything back  There are ways to describe what you have done and really highlight and accentuate them without falsifying information.  You are all interesting people, so be interesting!
    19. 19. RECAP 1. The WHAT and the HOW. 2. Read read read. Write write write. 3. Start early. 4. Tell a story. 5. Focus, balance, shine.
    20. 20. INTERVIEWS  If you submit early, you can expect to hear back from the first schools sometime in September  BUT: Interview invites are stochastic and unpredictable. Be patient.  Prepare: Browse the school website, see Student Doctor interview feedback surveys, do mock interviews, think…
    21. 21. HOW ARE THEY ANYWAY  In general, on interview days schools are recruiting you just as much as you are trying to prove you deserve a spot  Usually consists of a dean welcome, two 40-60 minute interviews (or MMI format), lunch with current students, and a tour  Interviews so far have been largely conversational
    22. 22. REMEMBER
    23. 23. QUESTIONS?  Feel free to shoot me an email: bostrand9@gmail.com