Pre-Med Chat — August 17, 1999

Pre-Med Chat — August 17, 1999

Please feel free to let us know if you would like to be informed of future chats by sending e-mail to We would also be interested in knowing if you would prefer a different format or different topics.

Secondary Essay Chat Transcript

This chat focused on secondary application essays for medical school. Linda Abraham,’s president, was the moderator. Cindy Tokumitsu, an editor, assisted.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:55:28 PM)
Is everyone ready to start?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 8:55:32 PM)

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 8:55:32 PM)

gltrilik (17-Aug-99 8:55:35 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:55:47 PM)
OK. Welcome to’s third online chat. We will focus on secondary essays this evening.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:55:57 PM)
I encourage dialogue and discussion, but I would like to suggest a structure to make it easier to follow the threads of conversation. So here is the protocol:

Varsha (17-Aug-99 8:55:57 PM)
oh my god we just had an earthquake in Berkeley, no lie.

Varsha (17-Aug-99 8:56:04 PM)
ok, it' s ok

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 8:56:05 PM)
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Varsha (17-Aug-99 8:56:08 PM)
it was small but scary

rajeev (17-Aug-99 8:56:23 PM)
(This user has entered Writing Secondary Essays)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:56:25 PM)
Nothing in the southern California.

Katie (17-Aug-99 8:56:27 PM)
(This user has entered Writing Secondary Essays)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:56:40 PM)
I will post material to the chat. If you have a question on that material, please type a "?" and then your question. I and/or other participants will reply. If one of you want to comment on the current topic, please jump right in. If you want to start a different topic, please type "?".

Varsha (17-Aug-99 8:56:47 PM)
OK. I apologize for the intrusion, but those things are weird. I'm quiet now.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:57:12 PM)
In response to your requests I have prepared a few questions to discuss. Before I begin, however, I am wondering how many of you have specific secondary essay questions that you would like me to discuss tonight and that you did not send in ahead of time?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 8:57:25 PM)
i do

Nikki (17-Aug-99 8:57:29 PM)
I do, too

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:57:33 PM)
Who else?

Varsha (17-Aug-99 8:57:35 PM)

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 8:57:41 PM)
I might

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 8:57:49 PM)
let me check

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:57:56 PM)
OK. We'll deal with your questions later. Let's proceed with the ones sent in ahead of time for now.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:58:12 PM)
While most of the chat tonight will be devoted to questions and answers, I do have a couple of points I want to make. These points may be review for those who attended the earlier secondary essay chat, but there will be lots of new material too.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:58:22 PM)
First let’s review, how do secondary essays differ from the AMCAS?

bsf (17-Aug-99 8:58:25 PM)
(This user has entered Writing Secondary Essays)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:58:42 PM)
Any ideas?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 8:58:44 PM)
more personal

bsf (17-Aug-99 8:58:44 PM)
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Bonnie (17-Aug-99 8:58:47 PM)
They want something that was not presented in the AMCAS essay

Varsha (17-Aug-99 8:58:51 PM)
More focused

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:58:59 PM)
Good. You're both right.

bsf (17-Aug-99 8:59:08 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:59:19 PM)
1. Frequently more focused and directed. 2. Often writing more than one essay for the application 3. Length varies enormously from school to school.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:59:29 PM)
Points 1 & 2 have specific implications for secondary essay writers trying to determine how to answer the questions.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:59:40 PM)
#1 implies that you have to ANSWER THE QUESTION. If someone asks about the your clinical experience, don’t discuss your business experience.

rajeevp (17-Aug-99 8:59:41 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 8:59:48 PM)
#2 is an opportunity and a restriction. Since the schools already know something about you, you shouldn’t use the same material over and over. In that sense you are restricted.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:00:03 PM)
Therein also lies the opportunity. View the different questions as opportunities to provide the schools with different reasons for accepting you: You have a wealth of diverse clinical or research experience; you are a person with an incredible background in the humanities; or you are a diminutive female body-builder, which implies self-discipline and a certain independence of mind and spirit.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:00:12 PM)
In any case, when approaching a secondary essay question you should be seeking to answer the question in a distinctive, but straightforward way.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:00:20 PM)
Now for the questions that I received before the chat:

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:00:41 PM)
1) (Stanford) The committee on Admissions regards the diversity of an entering class as an important factor in serving the educational mission of the school. The Committee on Admissions encourages you to share unique and/or challenging factors in your background, such as the quality of your early educational environment, socioeconomic status, culture, race, ethnicity, or life or work experience. Please: a) discuss how such factors have influenced your goals and preparation for a career in medicine; and b) describe in detail (to the extent not included in previous answers) your involvement in campus or off-campus activities, paid or unpaid, in terms of community service, assumption of leadership roles, activities related to the care of others, etc. Use an additional sheet if necessary.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:01:03 PM)
thats the question i had!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:01:09 PM)
How does a white male who’s attended Catholic or private school all his life answer this question? Also, how should I relate the second part of the question (parts a and b) to the first part? Any help here would be wonderful.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:01:18 PM)
Raakstar, you must be applying to Stanford.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:01:26 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:01:28 PM)
Any ideas from you?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:01:52 PM)
I have some advice concerning the Stanford app as a whole...

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:02:02 PM)
OK. Please go ahead.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:02:03 PM)
well, part a i can tie in.....with some effort....bart b seems disconnnected

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:02:27 PM)
go ahead, amsa

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:02:35 PM)
When I first got this one, I REALLY wanted to save it for last because it was so long. However, having done about 5 or 6 since I completed the Stanford app, I am SO happy that I got it out of the way (more to come)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:02:53 PM)
Do you have any advice on approaching this questions?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:03:10 PM)
they really ask about EVERYTHING, so you pretty much set yourself up for other applications by doing this one first

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:03:45 PM)
(let me take a quick look at what I wrote...I've already forgotten)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:04:00 PM)
OK. That's OK. Here are my ideas.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:04:03 PM)
You will have to focus on the "unique or challenging factors" in you life or work experience, as opposed to a disadvantaged or ethnic background. If your clinical or extra-curricular activities took you off the beaten path or required you to work with people of different and diverse backgrounds, you will focus on that. Have you volunteered in a free clinic, an AIDS clinic? Have you traveled or volunteered abroad? You can contrast that population with the one in which you grew up or in which you performed other volunteer experiences.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:04:33 PM)
Then relate these activities to lessons you can apply to patient care or perhaps working in teams with peers who will inevitably have different perspectives.

ann (17-Aug-99 9:04:37 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:04:53 PM)
If you have multiple examples and experiences that you can use to answer this question, then ask yourself what does this school know about you already. If discussing certain experiences will allow you to answer the question and bring out another dimension of your life or go into greater depth about something really important to you, then those are the experiences you should use.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:05:02 PM)
ready to share my 2 cents when you want

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:05:10 PM)
As always if you allow the reader to use his senses to see, hear, feel, etc. the differences and contrast with which you were dealing, the essay will be that much better. And remember the more specific you are, the more distinctive and interesting your essay will be.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:05:25 PM)
Go ahead AMSA Trustee.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:05:50 PM)
For me, I didn't really have a lot of diverse background experiences to work on, so I focused on my encounters with different cultures and beliefs when I entered college

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:05:50 PM)
Anyone else have thoughts on this question?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:06:04 PM)
Yes, I am the white male who attended Catholic school for 12 years

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:06:07 PM)
That is a good approach for someone with your background.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:06:20 PM)
I thought so :-;

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:06:39 PM)
well, i am asian, have studied abroad.....but what about part b.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:06:42 PM)
Then, I was able to take my reactions and show how I took the chance to become a leader in tying together people with diverse beliefs

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:07:12 PM)
and what if I wasn’t exposed to health care situations in my travels

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:07:25 PM)
Part B is simply description of those experiences that would contribute to the diversity of the class.

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:07:27 PM)
? A general question about responses to secondaries. I have completed about 5 or 6 and I'm really starting to feel like my answers are contrived and something that they must have heard a million times before. Any suggestions on changing the tone?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:07:48 PM)
If you traveled, then you had to deal with diverse cultures and you must have had cross-cultural experiences.

DT (17-Aug-99 9:08:02 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:08:03 PM)
Nikki, could you hold that to the end and ask it later.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:08:36 PM)
yes, they just don’t seem related to medicine

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:08:39 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:08:48 PM)
The question is somewhat confusing in that b asks you describe the experiences and a asks for the significance of those experiences.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:09:14 PM)
I'd like to take a minute to welcome cindyt (AKA Cindy Tokumitsu, one of's editors)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:09:22 PM)
Should we go on to a different question?

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:09:30 PM)

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:09:31 PM)

Varsha (17-Aug-99 9:09:36 PM)

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:09:37 PM)

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:09:42 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:09:49 PM)
Question 2 (Duke and some others) "Describe a moral or ethical dilemma that you have faced and the coping skills or people you talked to to resolve it."

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:10:10 PM)
Sound familiar? This one drives people crazy.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:10:11 PM)
First let’s look at the nature of a dilemma: "A situation in which one must choose between unpleasant alternatives."

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:10:14 PM)
U. of Chicago has pretty much that same question

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:10:26 PM)
That means they are looking for a situation with no obvious right answer. There is ambiguity and difficulty. Usually each side has some pluses. And each side always has negatives.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:10:35 PM)
The first part of this question asks you to "describe."  Again, use specifics and vivid language to place the reader in your shoes, to let them understand your predicament. But don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on this part of the question.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:10:47 PM)
Once you have set the scene, then go into the aspects that made it a dilemma. What were the pros and cons? What was at risk? What was the unpleasant aspect of each alternative?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:10:58 PM)
Finally conclude by discussing how you resolved the situation. What skills did you rely on or whose advice did you seek? What tipped the scales in one direction or the other? Briefly, what was the outcome?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:11:25 PM)
Any questions?

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:11:34 PM)
Linda, what is the adcom looking for w/ this question?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:11:58 PM)
I think they are looking to see how you handle ambiguity and a little bit about your values and thought processes.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:12:11 PM)
Remember, most of these essays are attempts to get to know you.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:12:17 PM)
I believe they are seeking to learn that the applicant can be frank, reflective, and analytical.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:12:22 PM)
?do you think there really is a right answer?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:12:23 PM)
That too.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:12:27 PM)
And concise in the process!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:12:35 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:12:57 PM)
I think the right answer has to be authentic and sincere along with well written, logical, and thoughtful.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:13:07 PM)
This is not a creative writing exercise.

rajeev (17-Aug-99 9:13:12 PM)
does the nature of the dilemma matter?

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:13:16 PM)
What if your politics/values don't square w/ theirs? What can you do to cover yourself?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:13:20 PM)
What do you mean?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:13:26 PM)
how long would you think is acceptable

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:13:40 PM)
essay length i mean

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:13:41 PM)
Most of the time, schools give guidelines. I would stick with them.

rajeev (17-Aug-99 9:13:42 PM)
can it be controversial?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:13:51 PM)
When they don't, I would go with 1 - 2 pages.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:13:56 PM)
Raakstar, Duke and Chicago give you about 14 lines for that question

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:14:08 PM)
I would think twice about picking a subject too controversial like abortion, religion, etc.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:14:09 PM)
wow, that’s short

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:14:10 PM)
If you have 14 lines, then you need to be very concise.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:14:10 PM)
Subject matter may be open, but there are some obvious no-nos.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:14:15 PM)
That's what i mean by right vs. wrong. What if they wouldn't act as we did in the dilemma..

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:14:42 PM)
wait, sorry, Duke gives you tons of room, Chicago gives you I believe about 30 lines or so

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:14:43 PM)
The point is how you be thought and acted. Did you stick to your values?

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:14:54 PM)
I see

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:15:05 PM)
what if you haven’t had such a situation

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:15:07 PM)
You also must demonstrate that your analysis is sound. They are not expecting to agree with everyone about everything.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:15:07 PM)
Actually, I was just working on Duke with a client today. I think he had up to 1000 words.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:15:22 PM)
You HAVE had such a just have to be creative

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:15:36 PM)
Raakstar, I agree with amsa. You had to have had such a situation.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:15:39 PM)
Raak... U of Pittsburgh says they doubt someone would never encounter that situation

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:15:51 PM)
(Please, call me Matt)

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:15:56 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:16:16 PM)
Remember you can look in many different areas of your life.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:16:34 PM)
sports, extra-curricular activities, family life, friends, dorm life.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:16:39 PM)
the list is endless.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:17:01 PM)
Should we move one?

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:17:01 PM)
That is important, Linda -- keep in mind the overall application package; always try to provide a complete picture. This can be part of rounding it out.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:17:07 PM)

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:17:08 PM)
Have you ever had the opportunity to cheat in a class when you knew others were doing so but decided not to?

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:17:08 PM)

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:17:10 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:17:13 PM)
Excellent point Cindy. Matt, that’s a good example.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:17:22 PM)
OK Bonnie, go ahead.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:17:23 PM)
isn't a dilemma about dorm life trivial?

Varsha (17-Aug-99 9:17:24 PM)
but some schools say please don't talk about academic fraud

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:17:30 PM)
Not at all, Bonnie

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:17:47 PM)
It could involve drugs and alcohol. Getting along with your roommate. A request to cheat.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:17:56 PM)
Friends vs some value.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:18:00 PM)
oh, i see...

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:18:13 PM)
you are right, there are tons of things

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:18:23 PM)
If they say not to talk about academic fraud, then don't, but if it is not frowned upon, it is fair game.

rajeev (17-Aug-99 9:18:29 PM)
is it bad to use a situation that might seem ordinary, like alcohol?

farhan (17-Aug-99 9:18:30 PM)
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gltrilik (17-Aug-99 9:18:37 PM)
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Bill (17-Aug-99 9:18:45 PM)
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amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:18:47 PM)
helping you peers in a class vs. getting a better spot on the curve (sorry, typical premed came out there)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:18:52 PM)
Alcohol can be a horrible curse, not just a dilemma.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:18:53 PM)
Often they don't want discussion of academic failure, e.g., bad grade, etc.

gltrilik (17-Aug-99 9:18:54 PM)
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Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:19:05 PM)
Good one, Matt

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:19:17 PM)
The list really is endless. If you all have a better idea, let's move on OK?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:19:23 PM)

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:19:27 PM)

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:19:30 PM)

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:19:33 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:19:38 PM)
The last request sent in isn’t really a secondary essay question, nor is it something that I have tremendous expertise in, but I am willing to ask the group and see if together we can answer it.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:19:53 PM)
How do you manage time and stress during this hectic, pressured period when you have to manage your normal multiple responsibilities AND applications?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:20:00 PM)
Any tips?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:20:02 PM)
I’m clueless here

DMSO (17-Aug-99 9:20:04 PM)
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RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:20:09 PM)
i take naps

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:20:11 PM)
Set deadlines for yourself

Varsha (17-Aug-99 9:20:15 PM)
Prioritize and stick to it. Also naps.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:20:28 PM)

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:20:32 PM)
i say prioritize..

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:20:33 PM)
Most schools say "Submit by December", but if you keep waiting they WILL pile up

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:20:45 PM)
All excellent suggestions.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:20:48 PM)
I have a few suggestions:

Varsha (17-Aug-99 9:20:56 PM)
Hang out with a non premed friend, often.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:21:03 PM)
1. Try to reduce your load to allow for the time that secondaries, interviews, etc. will require.

edge (17-Aug-99 9:21:08 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:21:19 PM)
2. Keep a perspective on the process. You know that not everyone gets admitted. Assess you chances and develop alternative plans in case you are one of the many capable candidates not admitted this time around. Do your best, but acknowledge that life will continue and you can happily pursue the alternatives, if necessary.

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:21:29 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:21:49 PM)
3. Schedule time for "sharpening the saw"  in the words of Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Make sure you have at least a little bit of time for yourself —exercise, music, religion, family or anything that you will be doing for you.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:21:55 PM)
(This user is now known as toolop)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:22:04 PM)
Any other ideas?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:22:06 PM)
Don't feel that your entire admission depends on a single answer to one essay question

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:22:26 PM)
(You'll go crazy after 3 or 4 applications)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:22:32 PM)
Good. Or that your entire future happiness depends on getting into medical school now.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:22:34 PM)
Yes, again, keep the whole package in mind.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:22:49 PM)
Should we return to secondary questions?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:22:53 PM)

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:22:56 PM)
I had the fortune of having someone go through the whole process with me...that is, we try and push each other to get them back

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:23:09 PM)
Matt, I am sure that is a great help.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:23:23 PM)
Who has a question he or she would like to discuss this evening?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:23:23 PM)
what do you mean, get them back

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:23:30 PM)
get the applications returned

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:23:46 PM)
oh, I have a general question

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:23:56 PM)
Ok. Go ahead.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:24:34 PM)
i feel like i should not be using formal writing style since i am discussing very personal things.....

rajeev (17-Aug-99 9:24:37 PM)
when we answer questions about a subject that interests us besides medicine, is it bad to talk about religious activities?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:24:53 PM)
I'll take Raakstar's first and then rajeev.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:25:00 PM)
Raakstar, I suggest a style that is conversational but not casual.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:25:04 PM)
is it ok to use unconventional grammer or punctuation?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:25:23 PM)
where's the line?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:25:30 PM)
You should focus on communicating in a clear, professional style. Big words don't count; correct grammar and English usage does.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:25:47 PM)
An occasional sentence fragment can add to the effectiveness of an essay.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:25:48 PM)
Rajeev -- I believe it is OK, but be thoughtful about the context. I have seen many excellent AMCAS and secondary essays that incorporate an individual's faith.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:25:56 PM)
so i cant use any dashes, etc.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:26:04 PM)
Rampant misspellings and everything in lowercase doesn't cut it.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:26:09 PM)
It appears immature.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:26:28 PM)
A double-dash can be used and is a part of English punctuation.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:26:32 PM)
Just don't over use it.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:26:42 PM)
I wouldn't call dashes -- when used effectively -- to be unconventional

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:26:51 PM)
Raakstar did I answer your question?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:27:03 PM)
yes, pretty much

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:27:22 PM)
Rajeev -- how about you? Do you have any further thoughts on that issue?

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:27:23 PM)
i ahve a question

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:27:36 PM)
Rajeev, as long as you are not preaching, you can talk about religious activities.

rajeev (17-Aug-99 9:27:38 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:27:56 PM)
It is something important to you, and in the appropriate questions, it can be the foundation of a good answer.

ann (17-Aug-99 9:27:59 PM)
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bsf (17-Aug-99 9:28:03 PM)
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Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:28:04 PM)
Columbia asks: In what collegiate extra-curricular activities did you engage?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:28:29 PM)
That's pretty straightforward. Do you have a particular problem with that?

annie (17-Aug-99 9:28:31 PM)
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Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:28:33 PM)
this is on the amcas. i'm assumiming they want narrative not a list. yes?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:28:52 PM)
They want a narrative and some indication of the significance.

annie (17-Aug-99 9:29:08 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:29:11 PM)
If you discussed your extra curriculars on the AMCAS, then go into greater depth here.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:29:20 PM)

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:29:35 PM)
It's a chance to show the quality of your involvement and commitment.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:29:37 PM)
Alternatively, discuss something you didn't have space for on the AMCAS essay.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:29:40 PM)
BTW, I have an inside tip on Columbia....If you have ever played rugby, mention it! I think their dean is a big rugby guy, and they are very proud of their medical school rugby team. BTW, if you look in their brochure on their extracurriculars page, they specifically mention "Have you played rugby" and they even show a picture of some students playing rugby

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:29:57 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:29:58 PM)
That is an interesting tip, Matt.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:30:07 PM)
Nikki, welcome back. What was your question?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:30:09 PM)
And, yes, I did play rugby my freshman year :-)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:30:16 PM)
Good move.

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:30:22 PM)
Frisbee at Yale :-)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:30:32 PM)
Yale will help you more than the frisbee.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:30:43 PM)
Don't knock frisbee, Linda...I love it!

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:30:45 PM)
how about "what satisfactions do you a doctor?" I think that is Columbia too.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:30:45 PM)
Nikki, did you have a question earlier?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:30:58 PM)
Matt, that's why you missed the earlier chat right?

farhan (17-Aug-99 9:31:05 PM)
Hi, Can I ask 2 questions: 1. Why do I need to submit a separate essay to every med. school I apply to? and 2. Most applications have spaces where you can fill out any awards you've received, what if you have nothing to list?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:31:10 PM)
you got me

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:31:19 PM)
Yes -- Columbia's question, what satisfaction do you expect to get from being a doctor.

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:31:31 PM)
?What's the best way to answer "Why our school...?" Honestly, for most schools, I reallyd on't have a specific reason.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:31:36 PM)
Only some schools require additional essays. You need to send them in when required or you will be rejected.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:31:52 PM)
2. If you have nothing to list, then leave it blank.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:32:15 PM)
Nikki, that is a common problem. I suggest you visit the school's Web site and scour their brochures and literature.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:32:17 PM)
Nikki -- pick a few specifics -- special programs, unique approach, early patient interaction, specific courses, affiliated hospitals.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:32:19 PM)
Remember...honoraries (honor societies) can count as awards

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:32:35 PM)
Then focus on specific aspects of their program that appeal to you.

farhan (17-Aug-99 9:32:45 PM)
LAbraham: doesn't that look kind of bad?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:32:56 PM)
Do they have early patient contact, a professor that you would like to do research with, or exchange programs that are particularly attractive?

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:33:12 PM)
Cindy problem is that most schools have early patient interaction, special programs like problem-based learning...things that apply to every school.

DMSO (17-Aug-99 9:33:12 PM)
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RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:33:22 PM)
Cornell asks for one sentence on why you choose Cornell

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:33:24 PM) won't look great, but, then again, it won't break you, either. It's just one small part

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:33:27 PM)
Farhan, it certainly is better to have honors or awards than not. But if you don't have them, you can't manufacture them.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:33:59 PM)
Also Nikki, you can talk to current students and ask them what they particularly like about that school?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:34:17 PM)
Raakstar, then you need to be succinct and specific.

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:34:33 PM)
If you don't know anybody, any suggestions on how you go about approaching these students?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:34:33 PM)
Whatever you do, don't write something so generic that it applies to every school.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:34:39 PM)
I mentioned high professor accessibility, wide variety of extracurrics, and urban setting-- these reasons sound generic, but they are important to me

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:34:56 PM)
At least look up the school's particular name for early patient contact or problem-based learning.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:34:57 PM)
In the Cornell one-liner

farhan (17-Aug-99 9:35:01 PM)
Can you list an award that you recieved say 3 years ago, or do they have to be awards recieved in the previous 2-3 years?

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:35:08 PM)
Those are the very reasons I used...My point exactly.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:35:10 PM)
Yes, per LAbraham's point, it can even be good to mention having spoken to students about the programs etc.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:35:18 PM)
Raakstar it sounds like you did a good job given one line.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:35:37 PM)
I thought I blew it.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:35:58 PM)
Does AMSA have any abilities to connect medical students with applicants to particular schools?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:36:09 PM)
working on it :-)

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:36:16 PM)
What is AMSA

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:36:25 PM)
actually, there is a BIG opportunity at the convention...we have a medical school fair

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:36:35 PM)
Raakstar, you could have been more specific if you mentioned particular programs, but you only had one line and did list what is important to you.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:36:44 PM)

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:36:53 PM)
Last year we had students from over 80 medical schools set up tables to talk to premeds about their helped me out a lot!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:36:56 PM)
farhan, yes you can list something from 3 years ago.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:36:58 PM)
Could we discuss the Columbia question?

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:37:07 PM)
What convention was this, matt? and where?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:37:11 PM)
Of course, that is in March, and not next week :-(

farhan (17-Aug-99 9:37:14 PM)
ok, thanx.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:37:16 PM)
AMSA is the American Medcial Student Association.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:37:24 PM)
I'll talk about AMSA at the end if it's alright with Linda

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:37:25 PM)
Sure toolop.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:37:28 PM)
Which question?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:37:37 PM)
Matt. That's fine.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:37:39 PM)
The satisfaction one.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:37:43 PM)
What satisfactions do you expect to gain as a physician?

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:37:55 PM)
I believe the Columbia question asks for what satisfaction you expect -- it's the inverse of what motivates you, so you can look to see how you addressed that issue in other essays (perhaps AMCAS).

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:38:17 PM)
OK. Here I would describe a clinical experience that was rewarding.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:38:33 PM)
Discuss what you liked about it and how you intend to experience similar satisfactions as a physician.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:39:03 PM)
Raakstar, does that help?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:39:03 PM)
I like that shows that you really KNOW what you want out of being a physician

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:39:06 PM)
What if you addressed this issue in your AMCAS statement? Can I just delineate on it further and refer to my AMCAS statement?

DT (17-Aug-99 9:39:19 PM)
I thought Columbia was non-AMCAS.

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:39:23 PM)
You can also bring in other experiences, say, of helping people, of research, etc. -- just be sure to articulate the satisfaction derived. Do not just "hint" at it. Make it clear.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:39:27 PM)
You can refer to your AMCAS essay, but it would be better if you could add something else.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:39:33 PM)
Yes, Columbia is non-AMCAS

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:39:40 PM)
Oh, good

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:39:45 PM)
It is -- this question is in place of the AMCAS. But most people who apply to Columbia also have had to do the AMCAS for other applications.

gltrilik (17-Aug-99 9:39:46 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:39:47 PM)
One problem eliminated.

gltrilik (17-Aug-99 9:39:58 PM)
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Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:39:59 PM)
That's the problem that I encountered, too. A lot of these secondary questions ask things that were already answered in your AMCAS essay.

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:40:15 PM)
Are adcoms jaded when it comes to the "I want to help people" phrase?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:40:19 PM)
Nikki, on the secondaries you need to go into greater depth or refer to other experiences.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:40:30 PM)
Suzanne, yes, particularly if there is nothing to support it.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:40:43 PM)
?How about the questioni re: what specialty you're interested in? What's the point?

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:40:48 PM)
Suzanne, I can't imagine that they aren't. They probably have read the same phrases a gazillion times.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:40:51 PM)
You also have to remember that "helping people" applies to a lot of professions from plumber to lawyer.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:41:08 PM)
I'd say Yes, on the "I want to help people" phrase, but No on the "Here's an example of how I helped people and enjoyed it, and thus I want to do it some more"

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:41:11 PM)
The question really is why do you want to help people through medicine.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:41:21 PM)
How have you helped people in the past?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:41:28 PM)
And what did you learn from those experiences?

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:41:43 PM)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:41:56 PM)
Toolop, simply answer what is most attractive to you now.

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:42:14 PM)
?How long does this chat run?

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:42:15 PM)
Would it be selfish if we focused on the personal satisfaction, versus the patient's improved condition?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:42:17 PM)
along with why. Those two points will demonstrate some familiarity with medicine.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:42:24 PM)
How long do you want it to run?

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:42:25 PM)
OK - I thought what if my interest, primary care, doesn't jibe with the school's strengths?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:42:54 PM)
Raakstar, focusing on personal satisfaction would better answer the question in this context.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:43:29 PM)
Most schools, even heavily research oriented institutions, are dealing with a primary care world.

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:43:42 PM)
Raakstar, I don't think it would be too selfish. I don't think schools expect that you already know the satisfaction of a patient's improved condition. We're not MDs, yet. Your personal reasons might ring more true.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:43:50 PM)
I assume you also have research and are interested in research along with primary care if you are applying to research-oriented schools.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:44:24 PM)
yes - should that be integrated into that question's answer?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:44:29 PM)
Remember the application is a whole, not just one sentence or answer.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:44:31 PM)
I don't feel I have the room to just apply to schools I am really interested in....I feel I have to go wherever I get in.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:44:31 PM)

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:44:38 PM)
right on bro.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:44:47 PM)
Yes Toolop.

Nikki (17-Aug-99 9:44:56 PM)
I totally agree! That's why I feel like some of my answers are BS.

annie (17-Aug-99 9:45:22 PM)
For research oriented schools how do you best demonstrate your commitment to research?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:45:30 PM)
Raakstar, you should apply to schools at which you have a chance and in which you are interested.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:45:49 PM)
Don't worry if your answers appear to be BS...if the committee questions whether an answer is BS or not, then it will come up in the interview, and then you can show them that you are authentic (well, unless your answer really was BS)

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:45:53 PM)
Re Nikki's point -- that's why it's helpful to do an earnest, fresh job on the early essays and then try to work with that material as much as possible.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:46:06 PM)
If you have been involved in research, you have already demonstrated it, Annie. If you haven't done any research, it is kind of hard to demonstrate commitment to it.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:46:51 PM)
Any other questions?

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:46:54 PM)
I have a question...

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:47:10 PM)
OK Bonnie

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:47:36 PM)
I have some across the question "decsribe yourself" and " any othe information you would like to bring up to the adcom"...

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:47:43 PM)

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:47:46 PM)
they are asking for general...

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:48:04 PM)
Take activities that are distinctive and important to you and write about them.

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:48:23 PM)
would a specific experience be categorized as not answering the question?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:48:27 PM)
Allow the reader to use their senses to visualize the scene and then write about their importance to you.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:48:50 PM)
Try to use material not discussed in the AMCAS essay, or again, go into greater depth.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:49:00 PM)
I have one more question, also.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:49:08 PM)
? UCSD wants an autobiography! How do I limit the information I put in here?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:49:22 PM)
Not if that specific experience exemplifies qualities that describe you or provides the other information.

Katie (17-Aug-99 9:49:22 PM)
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RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:49:27 PM)
I suppose the answer to that is what you just told Bonnie

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:49:43 PM)
With Tulane: 3 major reasons you want to go into medicine.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:49:43 PM)
Toolop first your question and then Raakstar.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:49:55 PM)
You're right Raakstar.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:49:58 PM)
Hhow can one be so concise but not trite?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:50:17 PM)
Focus on what is most important to you and be anecdotal.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:50:19 PM)
the answes are supposed to be one line each!

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:50:22 PM)
Raakstar -- I have been working on such an essay with a client. It's tricky. You can go into your background, what was important to you -- not just things directly related to medicine. You can elaborate on formative influences.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:50:27 PM)
Forget the anecdotes.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:50:34 PM)
Just list the three reasons.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:50:42 PM)
be witty, if possible...

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:50:43 PM)
They obviously don't want depth there.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:50:47 PM)
then they'll remember you

cindyt (17-Aug-99 9:50:54 PM)
Raakstar -- try to bring out a theme that is consistent with the AMCAS too.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:51:03 PM)
But not duplicative of it.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:51:09 PM)
It should complement the AMCAS.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:51:12 PM)
isnt that a big risk? being witty?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:51:13 PM)
e.g. have all 3 start with the same letter or something catchy like that...just be sure to be sincere

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:51:32 PM)
They really aren't opposed to wit and intelligence.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:51:37 PM)
It can even help to demonstrate some.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:52:16 PM)
Any other questions or should we let Matt tell us about AMSA?

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:52:38 PM)
Go ahead, Matt

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:52:44 PM)
Well, how does this whole editing/client thing work? How do I sign up?

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:52:45 PM)
no more questions

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:52:50 PM)
AMSA: American Medial Student Association...

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:52:51 PM)
What does it cost?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:53:05 PM)
but it is dedicated to ALL physicians-in-training...even premeds!!!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:53:10 PM)
You can go to Registration to sign up or e-mail

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:53:19 PM)
Cost: $20/year or $65 for 4 years

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:53:26 PM)
I'll discuss prices when Matt finishes.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:53:26 PM)

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:53:41 PM)
(go there for the full scoop)

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:53:44 PM)
national convention:

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:53:55 PM)
March 15-19, 2000 in Washington, DC

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:54:14 PM)
with TONS of stuff for premeds (maybe even Linda Abraham :-) )

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:54:25 PM)
I hope so!

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:54:29 PM)
oh, and I"ll let y'all in on a little secret

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:54:30 PM)
Perfect! I live there, and it will be in time for applications!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:54:34 PM)
Matt do you want to give an e-mail address too?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:54:47 PM)
This isn't supposed to be announced until Thursday, but...

edge (17-Aug-99 9:54:58 PM)
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LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:54:59 PM)
This transcript will -- with a little luck -- be posted.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:55:22 PM)
Go ahead we're hanging on every word Matt.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:55:23 PM)
All NEW AMSA members (retroactive to Aug. 1, I believe) will receive either a FREE copy of the AAMC's Medical School Admission Requirements...

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:55:32 PM)
Great deal!

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:55:38 PM)
or $35 towards a purchase of $100 at

annie (17-Aug-99 9:55:53 PM)
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amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:56:02 PM)
Yep, the MSAR is $25, but you can it for FREE by simply joining AMSA, with free shipping too

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:56:11 PM)
oh, and one more thing that I'll plug :-)

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:56:17 PM)
Go ahead.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:56:18 PM)
Linda can vouch for this one..

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:56:20 PM)
the convention seems late in the application game. what does it offer in march?

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:56:44 PM)
AMSA has a great listserv where premeds talk about a WIDE variety of topics

Bonnie (17-Aug-99 9:56:49 PM)
or maybe i'm a year late..

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:56:59 PM)
interviews, secondaries, general advice, etc.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:57:04 PM)
Matt is right on that. The listserv is excellent. Very supportive and helpful.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:57:13 PM)
Well, AMSA members do get discounts on some airlines for interviews

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:57:18 PM)
I strongly recommend the AMSA mailing list.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:57:38 PM)
details for the AMSA listserv are on the AMSA premed webpage:

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 9:57:42 PM)
Matt, I'll join after this chat.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:57:56 PM)
Good going Matt.

amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 9:57:58 PM)
Thanks, Linda!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:58:01 PM)
Now to plug

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:58:17 PM)
Information on our services is available at Services and Critique & Polish.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:58:45 PM)
If you can't cut and paste that fast enough, then go to Help and simply go down the menu on the left.

DT (17-Aug-99 9:59:20 PM)
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RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 9:59:34 PM)
ok, thank you.... how soon will the transcript be posted?

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 9:59:54 PM)
I would like to thank all of you for coming and sharing your questions and answers. I want to thank particularly CindyT for her input. I can't type fast enough.

toolop (17-Aug-99 9:59:58 PM)
Thanks to Linda and Cindy!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 10:00:06 PM)
The transcript should be posted in approximately 1 week.

RAAKSTAR (17-Aug-99 10:00:10 PM)

cindyt (17-Aug-99 10:00:11 PM)
Best of luck to you all!

Suzanne (17-Aug-99 10:00:14 PM)
Thanks for inviting me, Linda!

toolop (17-Aug-99 10:00:18 PM)
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amsa premed trustee (17-Aug-99 10:00:19 PM)
Great job, Linda and Cindy!

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 10:00:19 PM)
I am very interested in your reaction to the chat. If you could e-mail your comments to, I would greatly appreciate it.

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 10:00:34 PM)
Thank you again. Good night.

Tina (17-Aug-99 10:00:37 PM)
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Tina (17-Aug-99 10:00:46 PM)
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Bonnie (17-Aug-99 10:01:08 PM)
Thank you Linda, Matt and Cindy..

LAbraham (17-Aug-99 10:01:18 PM)
You're very welcome. Let us know how you do.