Medical Chat — May 2, 2000

Medical Chat — May 2, 2000

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.

Chat Transcript:
Ace the AMCAS Chat

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:00:00 PM)
Welcome to's first pre-med chat of the year. We will focus on the AMCAS essay this evening.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:00:12 PM)
I want to mention that later in the chat I will refer to a few of the sample essays on the site. Please take a moment to print out the following essays:

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:00:12 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:00:21 PM)
The Anthropology Student
The Story-Teller 
Don't write like this! 

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:00:31 PM)
Please note that I made an error in the May Odds 'N Ends. I asked you to print out essay01 instead of essay02. I apologize for the error, but if you printed out the essays referred to in Odds 'N Ends, I would appreciate your now printing out The Anthropology Student.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:00:38 PM)
A little more housekeeping before we begin. 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:

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:00:47 PM)
I will post material to the chat. If you have a question on that material, please type a '?' and I and/or other participants will reply. If one of you wants to comment on the current topic, please jump right in. If you want to start a different topic, please type '?'.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:00:58 PM)
I will open the second part of the chat to questions. Please ask any questions that you have pertaining to writing for medical school admission - AMCAS essay, non-AMCAS personal statements, secondaries, or letters of recommendation. Again if you want to ask a question or raise a new subject, please type '?'; if you want to comment on a topic currently being discussed, type away!

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:01:04 PM)
Since I want to encourage discussion, I am going to start with a question: What is a personal statement?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:01:33 PM)
You have to write one. What do you think you are going to aim for?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:02:01 PM)
I don't bite. Any opinions?

wannabemed (ID=14) (May 2, 2000 10:02:11 PM)
We're supposed to relay as much as we can about ourselves

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:02:15 PM)
Gives medical schools insight into your personality and your qualifications

wannabemed (ID=14) (May 2, 2000 10:02:25 PM)
And talk about some of our experiences and reasons? for going to med-school

Dan (ID=18) (May 2, 2000 10:02:26 PM)
It's a way to tell medical schools about us. 

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:03:10 PM)
OK. Thanks. I like persephone's description the best. You can't in the small space given relay as much as you would like, but you can provide insight.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:03:35 PM)
And yes it is a way to tell the medical schools something about you that isn't found on the transcript and in the little boxes.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:03:48 PM)
Here are two additional descriptions:

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:03:54 PM)
A window into the real you.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:04:01 PM)
A demonstration of your critical thinking and communications skills.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:04:08 PM)
These descriptions definitely reveal important aspects of the personal statement, but they don't go far enough for two reasons:

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:04:21 PM)
1) You are trained to write impersonal, objective academic papers. That is being polite. You are trained to write papers that are BORING.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:04:32 PM)
2. They are very different from the engaging, stimulating, revealing pieces admissions staff members would enjoy reading.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:04:39 PM)
Like the authors of journal articles that so frequently put you to sleep, you have been trained merely to convey information clinically and analytically, not to capture attention or engage.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:04:51 PM)
I prefer to define a personal statement as a human-interest story about you. You are quite familiar with the genre. Our newspapers and magazines are filled with them because they grab your attention, hold your interest, and attempt to convince you of the article's message.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:04:57 PM)
Similarly your personal statement must grab and hold the adcom's attention - and convince the reader to accept YOU!

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:05:08 PM)
The admissions staff is made up of human beings plodding through boring, monotonous, frequently trite essays. They are desperate to read something engaging, exciting, and persuasive. When they do, it goes in the admit pile (provided the numbers are there, too.)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:05:21 PM)
Now that we have clarified what the personal statement is, let's discuss how to produce one. Any questions?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:05:40 PM)
Step 1 - General Preparation

\ Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:05:53 PM)
Lead or hook — captures the reader's attention and makes him or her want to read more. Typically the lead is an anecdote, question, gripping description of a scene, a startling statement or statistic, or a quote.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:06:07 PM)
Thesis statement

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:06:18 PM)
Body — material to support the thesis and anticipate possible counter-arguments or objections.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:06:28 PM)
Conclusion — wrap up the article

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:06:35 PM)
Any questions?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:06:49 PM)
Step 2 - Pick a topic and develop your thesis.

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:06:54 PM)
Do you have to have a specific thesis statement?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:07:21 PM)
I recommend you do have a specific thesis statement, though you don't have to include it verbatim in the essay. I will get to that in a second.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:07:27 PM)
"I don't know how to start!" is one of the more common comments I hear. Well to start you need a topic and a thesis, a point you are trying to make.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:7:0038 PM)
The topic(s) of your essay should reveal what is most important to you and distinctive about you. Read that again. You need to write about what is most important to you and distinctive about you. That is a crucial point. If you do choose a topic about which you are passionate, that passion will show through in your writing. And it is obvious why you want to distinguish yourself from your thousands of competitors.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:07:52 PM)
Furthermore, you need to choose carefully because you don't have room for the unimportant. The AMCAS-E is approximately 800 words. Since the typical paragraph is approximately 150 words, the personal comments section on the AMCAS application is your good ol' five-paragraph essay. That doesn't give you much space for expansiveness. Do not write a laundry list of your life or a rsum in prose. Carefully select what you will include.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:08:02 PM)
And once you have selected the topics, make sure you are making a point. The personal statement must maintain a duality of description and analysis. What is important and why. If you only describe and fail to analyze, you will end up with the resume-like list. If you only provide the analysis, the why you want to be a doctor without any back up, your essay will probably be a self-absorbed, pompous collection of platitudes. Remember: you need description and analysis.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:08:14 PM)
Analysis means that you are making a point. That point is your thesis.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:08:24 PM)
Your thesis doesn't have to appear verbatim in your personal statement. Its primary purpose is to guide you in writing. A good thesis provides the backbone of a good essay. It helps to direct you: anything that doesn't support the thesis should be thrown out.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:08:34 PM)
Let's take a look at our sample essays. Can you look at Essay 2 (The Anthropology Student) and boil it down to a one-sentence thesis?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:09:00 PM)
Anybody want to take a try?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:09:58 PM)
It is pretty much at the end of the first paragraph.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:10:10 PM)
But if I were to paraphrase, I would say the following is his thesis:

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:10:12 PM)
"My anthropological studies, science classes, research, and clinical experience have prepared me for medical school and a career as a physician."

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:10:25 PM)
How about Essay 4 (It's a little tougher)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:10:43 PM)
"My personal background, volunteering in different clinical capacities, and participating extensively in research have convinced me that I want to be a doctor who treats patients not as collections of symptoms, but as human beings in need of compassion."

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:10:49 PM)
With a defined topic and thesis you should have the direction and focus needed to move on. Any questions?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:10:58 PM)
Step 3 - Outline your essay.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:11:05 PM)
Take a few moments to structure and order your essay. Ask yourself "What are the sub-points I want to make in my essay?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:11:12 PM)
Order them logically and effectively. Again throw out anything extraneous.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:11:23 PM)
Step 4 - Write the body

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:11:27 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:11:30 PM)
Your thesis is the backbone, and your outline is the skeleton. The body, appropriately enough, is the meat of the essay.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:11:40 PM)
We are discussing writing the body before the lead because some are more comfortable working in this order, but if you are more comfortable writing the lead first, go ahead and write it that way.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:11:47 PM)
I mentioned earlier that many writers state their theme towards the end of their lead or the beginning of the body. If you are writing a "story essay," an essay telling a story about one event, you may find it more effective to let the theme become clear as the story unfolds, as the Storyteller did.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:11:59 PM)
On the other hand, if you are writing a "tapestry essay," an essay in which you weave together disparate threads from your life's experiences to create a clear picture, you will probably need to include the thesis earlier in your essay. Generally, the reader needs to know the common thread in a tapestry essay in order to see the whole picture.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:12:08 PM)
That is what the anthropologist did.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:12:19 PM)
Where is the Theme in Essay 2? Do you see how it provides a roadmap to the reader?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:12:36 PM)
Before we proceed further, I would like to perform a non-scientific experiment. Please respond Yes or No to the following questions:

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:12:47 PM)
Do you have clinical volunteer or professional experience?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:12:54 PM)

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:13:01 PM)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:13:16 PM)
Dan or mikegoal?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:13:49 PM)
Have you been involved in research?

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:13:56 PM)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:14:02 PM)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:14:13 PM)
Do you feel your classes are preparing you for medical school? (If not, what are you doing here?)

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:14:30 PM)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:14:37 PM)
of course

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:14:40 PM)
Did you or will you prepare for the MCAT?

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:14:54 PM)
Tried to (waiting for scores)

mikegoal (ID=23) (May 2, 2000 10:14:59 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:15:10 PM)
Now I am going to ask a different series of questions:

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 0002, 2000 10:15:25 PM)
How many of you have worked in a local clinic serving the underprivileged?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:15:37 PM)
How many of you have worked in a playroom on a pediatric floor?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:15:43 PM)

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:15:53 PM)
Not I.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:16:03 PM)
How many of you have counseled people being tested for HIV?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:16:32 PM)
How many of you have researched treatments for MS?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:16:47 PM)
What is the difference between the two sets of questions?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:16:56 PM)
Much more specific

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:17:16 PM)
for the second set

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:17:25 PM)

Dan (ID=24) (May 2, 2000 10:17:31 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:17:33 PM)
You hit the nail on the head. And if there were a larger group of people the specific questions and their answers would distinguish the individuals in the group who superficially are similar.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:17:48 PM)
If you talk in generalities you are very similar to your competition. Only by citing specific examples and using detail judiciously can you individualize your essays and distinguish yourself from your competition.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:18:01 PM)
Furthermore, would your rather read an entirely theoretical book, or a book that mixes theory and example? Don't anecdotes and illustrations bring to life the theory. Don't they make the book (or lecture) more interesting?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:18:08 PM)
Specifics, anecdotes and examples will make your essay distinctive and engaging. You can't just tell the reader you want to go to medical school or maybe even your reasons for going to medical school; you have to demonstrate that interest or whatever points you are trying to make.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:18:41 PM)
Remember, I said above that the adcoms are composed of human beings. Human beings like and respond well to stories, especially those with the ring of truth and sincerity.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:18:53 PM)
So how do you include details? Write in specifics. Don't write about "my volunteer work"; write about "meeting Joe, the homeless Viet vet missing his two front teeth."

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:19:20 PM)
How do you keep from sounding clichd?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:19:22 PM)
Don't write about the plight of battered women or HIV victims; write about one battered woman or one HIV victim, and use a pseudonym.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:19:25 PM)
Focus, focus, focus.

Dan (ID=24) (May 2, 2000 10:19:43 PM)
So you want us to talk about specific stories and not generalities?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:19:46 PM)
persephone, if you write about your unique experiences and give you genuine insights, you will avoid the clichs.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:19:59 PM)
Yes, Dan, choose specifics that are important to you.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:20:04 PM)
That mean something to you.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:20:28 PM)
Also, to avoid clichs, don't try and feed the adcoms what you think they want to hear. Write what an event really meant to you.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:20:41 PM)
Let's compare the Essay 2, "The Anthropology Student" and Essay 9, "Don't Do This"

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:20:52 PM)
What if we've done volunteer work etc, but haven't specifically encountered a situation or person that is as interesting as Joe the Vietnam Vet

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:20:53 PM)
Note how the writer wrote about "Sharon," in Essay 2, how he used a few details to emphasize his non-science major. Did he say anything concrete in essay 9?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:21:30 PM)
wannabemed, they don't have to be a Vet. What kind of volunteer work have you done?

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:21:41 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:21:55 PM)
I work in an big city Trauma Center.

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:22:02 PM)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:22:06 PM)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:22:16 PM)
Have you dealt with gun shot wounds or severely injured accident victims?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:22:24 PM)
Have you been touched by the pain of their relatives?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 0002, 2000 10:22:44 PM)
How have you been affected by the experience?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:22:53 PM)
Now that's good stuff ... I need more spice!

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:23:06 PM)
wannabemed, you should have some great stories!

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:23:26 PM)
Let's look at the storyteller's essay.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:23:34 PM)
Obviously, the storyteller makes excellent use of detail and a few critical specifics throughout his essay. Can someone name a couple?

pbodine (ID=26) (May 2, 2000 10:24:01 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:24:05 PM)
I like the "Big Mac" part

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:24:19 PM)
The Big Mac was a great detail and used it to wonderful effect.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:24:36 PM)
I would like to welcome and introduce Paul Bodine. He is one of's editors.

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:24:37 PM)
It makes his essay personal and brings it down to a level ... However, I feel that it might be a tad trite

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:25:01 PM)
How's that, Dan?

pbodine (ID=26) (May 2, 2000 10:25:10 PM)
Hello all!

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:25:15 PM)
Sounds almost made-up

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:25:17 PM)
OK, Dan. Some would react that way, but for the writer it really was an important moment.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:25:40 PM)
It wasn't made up. This guy really is a passionate fellow who told a true story.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:26:07 PM)
My point is that you need to find your significant moment and convey that passion.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:26:19 PM)
In writing your essay, don't be afraid to show emotion without being maudlin or melodramatic. Gentle humor is acceptable, but not required and should never be forced.

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:26:24 PM)
I agree there but it still doesn't tell me one critical component that a medical school would like to hear ... Why you want to be a doctor?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:27:20 PM)
Wouldn't everyone have the same response?: "To help people"

pbodine (ID=26) (May 2, 2000 10:27:39 PM)
Since everyone has to address that same question, you have to find a creative way to do it.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:27:46 PM)
"To help people" doesn't answer the question.

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:27:59 PM)
No, I don't agree ... That's only one component of why you want to be a doctor ... I want to change public policy with it.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:28:00 PM)
And you don't have to say why you want to be a doctor.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:28:13 PM)
You can say what attracts you to medicine or what qualities you bring to medicine.

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:28:30 PM)
That makes sense.

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:28:37 PM)
What do the Adcomms really want to know?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:28:38 PM)
If you want to change public policy then presumably you have seen where public policy has failed and where it has worked.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:28:52 PM)
persephone, they want insight into how you tick.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:29:16 PM)
They don't want you to give them a bunch of platitudes and meaningless garbage that you think they want to hear.

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:29:23 PM)
I am a studying political science as part of a double major, from that I've learned that I have an obligation to give something back to the community, ... but I am afraid that sounds too much like "I want to help people".

pbodine (ID=26) (May 2, 2000 10:29:28 PM)
Show them you know yourself through examples.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:29:51 PM)
Paul's response is right on, but I would like to return to the presentation and take more questions when I finish. OK?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:29:58 PM)
Step 5 - The Lead

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:30:05 PM)
The lead, like the beginning of almost any written piece, is the most important part of your essay. Put your most interesting anecdote, tidbit, quote at the beginning of your essay.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:30:11 PM)
Let's review what a lead can be: an anecdote, question, gripping description of a scene, startling statement or statistic, or a quote.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:30:22 PM)
Whatever you do, please don't start your essay with "I was born in ..." or "My parents came from ..." Those openings are about as sleep inducing as Valium.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:30:28 PM)
Let's look at our sample essays. Please read the first paragraph in each of them.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:30:40 PM)
The storyteller used anecdote and a question to launch his essay. This lead represents an effective use of anecdote, detail, and a question. Any other comments?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:31:02 PM)
very unexpected

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:31:21 PM)
Yes. He starts out unconventionally and grabs attention.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:31:24 PM)
The anthropologist wanted to set himself apart from the beginning of his essay. It was very important to him that he not be just another bio major. Therefore from the beginning he emphasized his anthropology major. BUT he didn't do so by starting with "I chose anthropology as my major so that I could study the cultural difference among human beings..." He demonstrated his interest and conveyed his excitement through a clever use of detail. Any questions?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:31:38 PM)
wannabemed, you may consider a similar approach.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:31:55 PM)
Step 6 - The Conclusion

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:32:01 PM)
All good things must end, and so too must your essay. That's the purpose of your conclusion - to wrap up your essay.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:32:06 PM)
In the conclusion you should:

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:32:15 PM)
Restate or state your thesis

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:32:27 PM)
I see. thanks LA

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:32:28 PM)
Remind the reader of those activities you really want them to remember.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:32:42 PM)
Tie up your essay by referring back to the lead.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:32:49 PM)
Let's look at our sample essays and see how they concluded.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:32:55 PM)
How did the anthropology student conclude?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:33:32 PM)
He hit the high points again in his conclusion and tied it up beautifully by referring back to the crise de foie.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:33:41 PM)
How did the storyteller conclude?

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:34:00 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:34:05 PM)
He answered the question he had posed at the end of his lead. He recapped the highlights of his experience and thereby highlighted his diverse and extensive clinical and research experience as well as his commitment to medicine. Furthermore he concretized his theme and tied it up to the lead by using the detail of the Big Mac.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:34:16 PM)
This concludes the presentation part of the chat. If you were really writing your personal statement you would need to go back and edit it a few times, perhaps show it to a few others (maybe even an editor) and finally whip it into top shape. But for us here and now, I would like to open the chat to your questions.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:34:42 PM)
First I have a question for you: Are you getting cut off and kicked out?

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:35:04 PM)
I got cut off a few times

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:35:09 PM)
I kicked myself off accidentally

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:35:24 PM)
OK. I'll let Digichat know if there is a problem.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:35:32 PM)
Any questions?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:35:54 PM)
How do you know when you are being too creative? Afterall medicine is a conservative profession?

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:36:02 PM)
Well I was wondering if pbodine can give us an example from his own life to use in a personal essay?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:36:14 PM)
You can show it to someone whose judgment and perspective your respect.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:36:21 PM)

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:36:50 PM)
Wow, put me on the spot! Maybe someone I knew was helped by the competence of a doctor and I want to experience that sense of helping someone

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:37:17 PM)
And, how would you personalize as not to sound cliche?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:37:21 PM)
If I were to apply to medical school I would certainly draw on my experiences caring for a young son with leukemia.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:37:45 PM)
Dan, by focusing on the details of the story rather than on the message (cliche) itself.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:37:46 PM)
Probably I would talk about a particular spinal tape he had, one among tens that he went through.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:37:55 PM)
It was one of the first ones that he didn't fight us on.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:38:22 PM)
On the way home I was praising him for his behavior, and I said to him, "Joshua, you were so good today. You did really good."

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:38:36 PM)
My mother had heart surgery recently and I thought the doctors were incredibly empathetic and competent.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:38:54 PM)
He replied, "Mommy, when you're with really good people, it's easier to be good. And we're with really good people"

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:39:10 PM)
Okay I got the idea

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:39:0021 PM)
The confidence he had in the medical staff enabled this seven-year-old to sit perfectly still for five minutes with a needle in his back.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:39:32 PM)
Take a telling moment.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:39:52 PM)
Anyone who has volunteered in a hospital has probably seen examples like that.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:40:06 PM)
While we both chose critical situations, you don't have to.

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:40:12 PM)
You know, I'm applying to school this summer and I haven't done any hard science research, I'm worried that it leaves a gaping hole in my application and will hurt me

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:40:40 PM)
It won't help you, but if your interests are clinical, I don't think it is fatal.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:40:53 PM)
Can you do any research over the summer, just to fill in the hole?

Dan (ID=25) (May 2, 2000 10:41:22 PM)
if I only want to go to one medical school should I apply early decision?

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:41:28 PM)
What did you do in lieu of doing hard science research — maybe it was unusual and is worth telling them?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:41:38 PM)
How do you deal with blemishes in your application like grades? I've tried to work it in my essay and it seems to take away from the cohesiveness...

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:41:45 PM)
Applying to one medical school is extremely risky.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:42:05 PM)
persephone, to what do you attribute the poor grades?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:42:24 PM)
Were they just your freshman year?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:42:25 PM)
I graduated in 3 years...overly ambitious

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:42:32 PM)
Non-science courses?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:42:39 PM)
Have you taken any post-pac classes?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:42:40 PM)
no science :(

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:42:47 PM)
Yes, I have a 4.0 now.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:43:04 PM)
Were you working while going to school?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:43:14 PM)
Yes, 10-15 hrs.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:43:42 PM)
Try and be matter-of-fact in discussing the your undergrad career and highlight your post-bac success.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:43:49 PM)
Did you do well on the MCAT?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:44:07 PM)
I hope so ... I haven't gotten the scores back yet

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:44:14 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:44:22 PM)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:44:30 PM)
Hello, allen.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:44:44 PM)
Are we talking about the essay tonight?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:44:46 PM)
You didn't mention your GPA, but if it is over 3.0 and you get a decent MCAT, and have good volunteer experiences, I think you still have a chance.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:44:46 PM)
Hello Allen

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:44:58 PM)
Yes, we are discussing the AMCAS essay.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:44:59 PM)
Linda is taking questions — any concerns?

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:45:14 PM)
I was wondering if anyone knew anything about Univ. of California schools. I'm a resident.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:45:23 PM)
Anyone from Stanford here?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:45:24 PM)
Ok ... but I should mention it in the essay somewhere?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:45:50 PM)
Probably. I would need to see your essay, and now isn't the time for me to do so, in order to advise you more in depth.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:46:02 PM)
Persephone — mention all your positives in the essay, even if only briefly. Also try to do damage control

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:46:10 PM)
I can imagine ways to work it in and I can imagine essays where the info wouldn't fit.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:46:41 PM)
Linda, would you suggest a narrative form or a list. Do I need to mention my research, volunteer, and other stuff. I was thinking on just focusing on my volunteer experience.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:46:50 PM)
Make sure the schools know that you were also working while going to school. You can include that in the box section of the AMCAS application. Not just the personal comments section.

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:47:12 PM)
Great ... thanks for the tips!

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:47:16 PM)
In the boxes, I recommend a list. In the personal comments section, you want to provide insight and personality.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:47:23 PM)
You're welcome persephone.

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:47:31 PM)
LA , I work with my family businesses, there are no set hours, and I don't get paid, ... Do I just estimate how much I've worked?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:47:47 PM)
Allen, the transcript from the earlier part of the chat will be posted in about a week and it addresses your question.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:47:51 PM)
So in the boxes, when I list my activities, should I describe it in like one sentence? Or just list?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:48:01 PM)
Yes, wannabemed.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:48:02 PM)
Thanks, Linda.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:48:28 PM)
Wannabemed, yes make an estimate. Do you have unusual leadership opportunities because it's the family business?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:48:38 PM)
Allen, that depends on how much you have to list. If you have a lot of significant activity to put down, list it briefly. If you have fewer activities, give a little more detail.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:48:48 PM)
Great, that makes sense.

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:49:14 PM)
Not sure what you mean by unusual leadership opportunities

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:49:18 PM)
Is it important to list trivial activities ... well, relatively tribial ...

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:49:22 PM)

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:49:49 PM)
Responsibilities you've been given because you're in the family that someone off the street might not have a chance to do.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:49:50 PM)
Like treasurer of my freshman year dorm.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:49:50 PM)
Allen, they are most interested in leadership responsibility. If you simply carry a membership card in an organization or pay annual dues, I wouldn't mention it.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:50:10 PM)
If you participate regularly or actively and certainly if you play a leadership role, you should mention it.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:50:45 PM)
Wannabemed — what kind of business is it?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:50:45 PM)
Allen, if you have room, I would list that. But if you have better material and more recent, you can leave it off.

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:50:48 PM)
On the AMCAS you shouldn't mention things like you are a member of the premed society, of the honors society, etc..?

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 10:51:11 PM)
Do you recommend using the E application or paper. Does the paper application give you more space to write...

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:51:16 PM)
wannabemed, did you participate actively or take any responsibility in it?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:51:33 PM)
Yes the paper ap gives you about 200 more words in the personal comments section, but it is a pain to fill out.

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:51:35 PM)
Not really

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:52:06 PM)
Then either list it very briefly or go into more detail about other things you have done.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:52:27 PM)
Any other questions?

wannabemed (ID=22) (May 2, 2000 10:52:38 PM)
pbodine everything from motel property management to wholesale grocery distribution

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:53:04 PM)
Sounds like there would be some good leadership material there.

wannabemed (ID=29) (May 2, 2000 10:53:15 PM)
(This user has entered Ace the AMCAS Essay)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:53:16 PM)
For the beginning of my essay I wanted to describe getting inspiration by sitting at the ocean ... is this a common approach?

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:53:16 PM)
Also, a lot of interpersonal experience.

wannabemed (ID=29) (May 2, 2000 10:53:30 PM)
Sorry, got kicked, but not digichat's fault

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:53:32 PM)
wannabemed, you must have worked with people from all walks of life.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:53:52 PM)
Persephone, I haven't personally encountered that approach — sounds OK depending on what you did with it.

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:54:31 PM)
pbodine, what do you mean? what should I avoid?

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:55:04 PM)
should I do with something more spectacular?

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:55:23 PM)
Persephone, I would just make sure you are specific about what kind of inspiration and what about the ocean inspires you. Maybe use a quote that refers to the ocean

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:55:58 PM)
Maybe focus on a particular time when the inspiration you felt led to some great achievement

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 2, 2000 10:56:12 PM)
persephone, if you love the ocean and it plays a significant role, that opening might be appropriate for you.

Linda Abraham (ID=19) (May 0002, 2000 10:56:0030 PM)
It could lead to achievement or initiative.

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:57:38 PM)
Maybe the ocean made you feel at one with the Cosmic All and you decided to have a career helping people ;- )

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:57:46 PM)
It's very important to me ... but I think other FL residents or Cali residents might feel the same...

wannabemed (ID=29) (May 2, 2000 10:58:02 PM)
I hope you are kidding pbodine

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:58:11 PM)
I was kidding — sorry

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:58:26 PM)
I know you were kidding :)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:59:03 PM)

persephone (ID=21) (May 2, 2000 10:59:19 PM)
Well thanks for your advice pbodine!

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 10:59:27 PM)
Sure, no problem.

wannabemed (ID=29) (May 2, 2000 11:00:20 PM)
Doesn't charge like $400.00 to look at your essay?

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 11:00:22 PM)
Linda got kicked off and is trying to get back on. Any other questions?

wannabemed (ID=29) (May 2, 2000 11:00:44 PM)
Doesn't charge like $400.00 to look at your essay?

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 11:00:51 PM)
We have hourly and also package rates. The hourly can be about $100.00 - $200.00.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 11:03:03 PM)
Is there a guarantee for the essay consultation?

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 11:03:46 PM)
There's no money-back if that's what you mean. But we'll make sure we get it right, and we are very effective. :-)

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 11:04:22 PM)
On the package you can quit after the outline and get half the package back so long as editing hasn't started

pbodine (ID=27) (May 2, 2000 11:04:53 PM)
You probably won't want to quit — very few have. Hey, we're good.

wannabemed (ID=29) (May 2, 2000 11:05:25 PM)
Do you suggest that someone who is familiar with the application process read the essay ... is an option, but expensive ... And I'm not sure if the med advisors at my university have time to do it.

allen (ID=28) (May 2, 2000 11:07:17 PM)
What can your editors do that someone who is experienced with the medical school application process not do? I guess what I am asking is: do you edit for style? content? theme? Do you add in flowery language and quotes? Or what?

A Note from Linda Abraham: Unfortunately, at this point Paul Bodine (pbodine) also lost his connection to the chat as a result of problems at DigiChat, the chat hosting service, and the chat ended abruptly. A belated thanks to those who participated in "Ace the AMCAS Essay.

The answers to wannabemed's and allen's questions follow, but were not part of the chat:

Response to wannabemed: Yes, we suggest that someone review your essay. That person should ideally know you well and write well. Familiarity with the application process is helpful. You may want to read the Tip of the Month in the May issue of Odds 'N Ends, which discusses using friends, family, and acquaintances as editors.

Response to allen:'s editors are professional writers and editors with years of experience in different writing capacities as well as experience in writing for admission (See About Us). Admissions staff members can usually tell you what is wrong with your essay, but they frequently cannot or do not have the time to suggest how you can improve it. They rarely have the time to work with you one-on-one to bring out what is unique in your background. Our experienced editors are constructive and concrete in their suggestions and advice. They strive to make your essays a reflection of your singular personality and qualifications. They edit for content, style, theme, and structure. We do not recommend flowery language for the sake of flowery language. Use the language that most effectively communicates your message and point. Such wording is usually simple and direct.