2010 Med School Magic Admissions with Linda Abraham

2010 Med School Magic Admissions with Linda Abraham

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

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:03:13 PM)
First I want to welcome you to Accepted.com’s Medical School Admissions Chat for 2010 applicants and congratulate you on getting a head-start on your applications.

I also want to welcome two of Accepted.com’s Senior Editors and Authors- Paul Bodine and Cydney Foote.

Paul and Cyd both have years of experience working with medical school applicants on the writing required to gain acceptance to medical school. In addition, Paul is the author of McGraw-Hill's recently released Perfect Phrases for Medical School Acceptance. Cyd and I have co-authored Write Your Way to a Residency Match, Write Your Way to a Fellowship Match, and our newest (released this month), Write Your Way to Medical School.  Their clients have been accepted to top medical schools, including Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Yale.
Thanks Paul, Cyd, and our guests for joining us.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:03:57 PM)
Thanks for having me.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:04:44 PM)
This is your chance to ask questions. Please post your questions.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:05:09 PM)
As I'm working on my applications, the part I am having the most problems with is in the personal essay.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:05:17 PM)
Where are you having difficulty?

tom (May 7, 2009 7:05:37 PM)
What should I include in it?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:05:47 PM)
Tom, could you tell us a little about yourself?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:06:21 PM)
Great question. It's tempting to give them a kitchen-sink run-through of your med schools qualifications but that's usually a mistake. One focus of your essay *could* be a single experience that most convinced you to go to medical school.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:06:25 PM)
Well, I'm a junior at the University of Miami, majoring in Biomedical engineering.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:06:32 PM)
Tom, you should include what is most important to you and distinctive about you. You have to choose. It can't include "everything." They'll know that when they get to your personal statement. Tell them something they don't know.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:07:10 PM)
Yes, I have done lots of different things, so right now, my essays seem very choppy.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:07:53 PM)
Sometimes if you'll look at your interests -- the things that inspire you, that you enjoy doing, that you like talking about -- you'll have better luck deciding on a topic other than simply your major area of study.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:08:35 PM)
What are you naturally enthusiastic about? Interested in? Besides bio-medical engineering? Or why does bio-med engineering interest you? What about it appeals to you?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:08:37 PM)
Tom, ask yourself: Where do you think you differ from other premed people you know? What do you think is distinctive about you?

tom (May 7, 2009 7:09:04 PM)
Currently, what I have is how my interest in medicine has developed throughout my life.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:09:27 PM)
Has that been a gradual growth or was there a pivotal event that you can point to?

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:09:28 PM)
Or why does something else get you enthused and excited?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:10:06 PM)
Unless the events you describe are distinctive or powerful, that evolutionary approach may not be the best strategy. Since your space is limited in the essay, you may achieve more impact by focusing on a couple of pivotal experiences rather than the broad chronology.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:10:51 PM)
Agreed, Paul. Tom is there some thread that might tie those different elements together so your essay would be less choppy?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:12:09 PM)
You might not have pivotal events, though -- many applicants don't have one.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:12:16 PM)
Ok, thanks that helps a lot.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:12:39 PM)
Let's turn to other questions. Tom, please feel free to ask anything else that comes to mind.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:12:42 PM)
You also want to let your personality come through. The essay should not just be description, but should communicate your personality, your passion.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:12:46 PM)
In that case, you can show how your interests *outside* of medicine have contributed.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:12:43 PM)
Do you think it's worth using one of the many personal editing services?

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:13:26 PM)
Tom. We all think it is an excellent idea to use Accepted's personal statement editing services. We can guide you in answering some of the questions we raised today and also edit your essay. :-)

tom (May 7, 2009 7:13:50 PM)
What's the best way to go about doing that? Using stories?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:13:52 PM)
I think the advantage of using a service is that we have seen hundreds of personal statements and can give you a better idea of what works and what doesn't.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:14:25 PM)
You use stories to illustrate a quality or theme in your essay. Stories are also more engaging and intrinsically distinctive.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:14:27 PM)
Yes, your stories are how you distinguish yourself,

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:14:54 PM)
Using stories to communicate your personality? Yes, but also its word choice and style -- this is where an editor can really help.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:15:16 PM)
There are many bio majors. There is only one person who can tell the story of your particular experience and that's you.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:15:39 PM)
Paul & Cyd: How do you recommend applicants start the writing process?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:16:02 PM)
I think the best way to start is to *not* sit down with a blank page and start the essay! That is intimidating even for professional writers. Instead, brainstorming about different events, people, etc. can be a good way to pull out all the materials that might be useful in an essay. Often, if you can get out a lot of your thoughts without trying to put them in order, you can go back and see patterns or themes that can help you decide on your essay topic.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:18:07 PM)
I tend to lean toward an opening that really catches the reader's attention -- so some startling detail, image, etc.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:18:41 PM)
Stories or experiences that appeal to the sense work well.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:19:08 PM)
One thing I definitely avoid in the intro of an essay is a flat general declarative statement: "I was born in Toledo." "I have always wanted to be a doctor."

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:19:21 PM)
Agree 100%

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:19:45 PM)
Should applicants tell their life’s story in their personal statement?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:19:56 PM)
No, I don't think that's possible.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:20:00 PM)
No, they don't have the space to. They can tell it only by focusing on a few key experiences that capture who they are. Let's say 3 to 4 experiences told in depth. Those 4 can communicate who they really are very well.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:20:53 PM)
Though, I've had clients tell great stories about things that happened when they were babies!

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:21:28 PM)
Although I don't usually recommend going back that far. And if you do, keep it short.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:22:01 PM)
It depends on the story and its resonance to the applicant's life now.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:22:10 PM)
Are there any specific things medical schools are looking for?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:22:17 PM)
Using humor, a quirky perspective or quirky story can work -- if done well and if it shows your personality in a positive light. Another reason to work with an editor.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:22:54 PM)
Tom, medical schools are looking for future leaders, compassionate, principled people, who are well-rounded and have a passion for medicine.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:23:03 PM)
Demonstrated interest in and talent at working with people on a general level.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:23:13 PM)
They are looking for a broad range of things -- they want to know that you're smart, able to learn, can work with others, have leadership traits, want to continue learning, etc.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:23:18 PM)
They don't expect your personal statement to show all that, but they do want to see it in your application as a whole.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:23:23 PM)
Intellectual strength, of course.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:23:54 PM)
Yes, they definitely want to know you have the intellect to succeed in medical school, but your grades and MCAT do the heavy lifting on that topic.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:23:58 PM)
But so many people start their essays wondering "what do the admissions committees want to hear?" -- basically, they want to hear about YOU!

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:24:21 PM)
A better question is "What do you want to admissions committees to know about you?"

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:24:45 PM)
Other than length, how do the post-secondary experiences section and the personal statement differ? Should the personal statement repeat the experience section?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:25:42 PM)
The PS experiences are isolated events/experiences, so you're not developing a theme the same way you would in a longer essay.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:26:11 PM)
I still come back to this idea of focusing the personal statement on a few key, intensive, distinctive experiences, and letting the rest of the application fill out the picture. I don't favor overview type essays as tempting as they are to do.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:26:24 PM)
I agree with you Paul. The focused essay will have more personality and depth than the survey.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:26:49 PM)
The personal statement may contain the same experiences (because they should be described in the post-secondary experiences) but you have a lot more space to elaborate and bring out what's personal.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:27:18 PM)
What do you think about applicants who write “I want to be a doctor so I can help people”?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:27:39 PM)
They shouldn't state that. It should be demonstrated by the stories they tell.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:27:42 PM)
I think that any statement needs to be backed up with evidence.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:28:01 PM)
I have a problem with that statement. You can help people in many different ways...my plumber helps me when my sink backs up, too.
Why do you want to help people through medicine is a better question.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:28:29 PM)
It is also probably the most clichéd/overused way to frame an application essay as well.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:28:37 PM)

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:28:47 PM)
Also some people say they want to help people but their involvements don't back it up.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:28:55 PM)
Another good point.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:29:15 PM)
Tom, would you be comfortable saying what the key experience is that convinced you of your choice to go into medicine?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:29:34 PM)
Also, helping people can also mean being a social worker. You need to talk about the specific kind of help that doctors provide.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:29:50 PM)
Exactly, Paul.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:30:04 PM)
Sure, I grew up while my mom was in medical school. So for show and tell, I brought in a brain.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:30:45 PM)

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:30:49 PM)

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:30:50 PM)

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:30:51 PM)
How old were you when she graduated?

tom (May 7, 2009 7:30:52 PM)
14 or so.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:31:14 PM)
That could be a really striking introduction.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:31:18 PM)
I can imagine a great opening to the essay with that experience. It would definitely be distinctive.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:31:30 PM)
Is your mother a "mentor" or inspiration for you? She might be one way of framing your essay.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:31:41 PM)
Yes, I hope so.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:32:26 PM)
How has her example inspired you or the opposite, given you second thoughts about medicine?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:33:13 PM)
"Twenty mouths dropped open as I placed the brain on the table."

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:33:26 PM)

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:33:32 PM)
Who fainted?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:34:28 PM)
Thinking about how to tell the opening anecdote in dramatic fashion can sometimes work.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:34:29 PM)
I am not too sure how to describe how it inspired me.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:34:55 PM)
Try to think of two or three elements that really appeal to you and tie it to your mom's experience.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:34:56 PM)
Have you ever considered a career besides medicine?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:35:02 PM)
Is she practicing medicine now? Do you talk to her about her work?

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:35:49 PM)
Hi- I just turned in a draft of mine to my school's premed committee, but I need inspiration to dive back in to editing.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:35:57 PM)
Hi Debbi, welcome. Paul and Cyd, do you have editing tips?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:36:15 PM)
Tom, did your mother try to convince you *not* to become a doctor? Explaining how you decided to go against her advice might be another way of approaching the essay.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:36:40 PM)
Debbi, editing tips -- reading aloud can be *very* helpful.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:37:30 PM)
Debbi: Ask people who know you whether it sounds like you.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:36:47 PM)
Agreed. I like to recommend a 3-step process:

1) Check it in the context of the application. Is it adding to adcoms knowledge of you?
2) Does it have a clear theme and logical structure? Does it hang together?
3) Check writing mechanics, spelling, grammar, etc.

For more details, please see my essay editing tips blog.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:38:02 PM)
No Paul, she loves it.

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:38:07 PM)
Great, thanks!

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:38:14 PM)
Jeremy do you have any questions?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:39:03 PM)
Tom, one approach might be to focus part of the essay on a "shadowing" experience you had with her or describing some of the ways in which your mother has shown her passion for medicine. Then maybe tell a story or two that shows that you have a similar level of passion toward "service to others" as well.

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:39:08 PM)
I'm also working on filling out my work/experiences on the AMCAS - it seems like there's more than one school of thought on whether to put short, bullet-style CV type entries or longer, what-this-experience-taught-me explanations - your thoughts?

tom (May 7, 2009 7:39:32 PM)
Is there some place where I can see what an excellent essay looks like?

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:39:39 PM)
We do have sample essays on our website.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:39:49 PM)
Debbie, I advise against the bullet point approach. These are short descriptions of your experience AND what you got out of it, i.e. how it will benefit you in med school/as a doctor.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:40:14 PM)
I have a book that is full of examples from essays: Perfect Phrases for Medical School Acceptance (not whole essays, however).

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:40:15 PM)
You may also want to check out Cyd's ebook.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:40:27 PM)
Paul does your book have sample essays or just excellent phrases and prompts?

tom (May 7, 2009 7:40:42 PM)
How would you rate the quality of those essays?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:40:50 PM)
Linda, more than phrases -- it has long passages and paragraphs. But not whole essays.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:41:05 PM)
Tom, there are several sample essays in my new ebook- Write Your Way to Medical School.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:41:10 PM)
Tom, I would rate them between good and excellent. They were real essays, submitted and successful. They are not "perfect."

tom (May 7, 2009 7:41:14 PM)
Ok - thanks for the advice Paul!

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:41:25 PM)
Thank you very much!

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:41:50 PM)
Paul and Cyd, Should applicants write about why they want to be a doctor?

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:42:24 PM)
They need to at least touch on that somewhere in the essay. It need not be the main focus. Sometimes that "why" can be communicated indirectly through an example or sometimes through a single sentence.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:43:25 PM)
Paul, I actually disagree slightly here. I've had applicants write successful essays that really discussed more what they bring to the practice of medicine and avoid discussing motivation.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:43:54 PM)
 I recommend a 3-part answer for each PS experience: (1) describe (briefly) the organization, (2) tell what you did, and (3) explain what you got out of it.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:44:18 PM)
The motivation needs to be there in some way, indirectly or otherwise, in my opinion. Stating qualifications isn't enough in my opinion.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:44:46 PM)
I think the motivation has to be there, but the best essays do not focus on it, in my experience.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:44:56 PM)
Maybe the motivation is best illustrated -- not discussed explicitly.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:45:13 PM)
Any tips for non-traditional applicants?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:45:53 PM)
Non-traditional applicants should not discount what they've done! So many times they think if it's not medically related, it's not important -- this just isn't true. Again, that brainstorming I mentioned earlier is invaluable -- it helps to identify things that you've done that can be extrapolated to medicine.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:46:32 PM)
Adcoms have seen so many of the standard premed experiences that non-trad applicants should exploit the fact that they're different.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:47:16 PM)
What are the 3 most important qualities for a pre-med student to have -- and reveal -- in essays and interview?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:47:46 PM)
That's a good question. I don't think I can limit it to three.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:48:06 PM)
People-orientedness, knowledge of medicine (in some fashion), intellectual ability.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:48:22 PM)
You can go over Cyd.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:49:37 PM)
Some of the qualities that applicants show are passion, an ability to think (intellectual ability), strong science skills, an ability to work with others, an awareness of the world around them, and *demonstrated* concern for others.

tom (May 7, 2009 7:49:42 PM)
What are some common mistakes done in applications?

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:50:27 PM)
I've got a whole section on common pitfalls in my book -- the ones I see more often are writing about everything, writing about what they want to hear and writing clichés.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:50:41 PM)
Tom, common mistakes are talking about research experiences, shadowing experiences, grades etc. in an un-unified way -- "resume in prose".

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:50:49 PM)
Tom, let's see... slapping together an essay at 1:00 AM the night before you submit. Writing what you think the adcom wants to read instead of what is important to you. Rambling. Writing a superficial auto-biography as opposed to an essay about a seminal experience. I forgot the resume in prose. Thanks.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:51:34 PM)
Telling rather than showing (Stories over description).

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:52:28 PM)
Any thoughts about applying to an Early Decision Program? I'm a non-traditional applicant with a big family, and my local state school is by FAR my first choice.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:53:40 PM)
If it's where you know you really want to go, then go for it. What state?

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:54:00 PM)

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:54:05 PM)
That's a great program.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:54:07 PM)
Great program.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:54:25 PM)
Non-trad in what sense (the big family is *yours*)?

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:55:03 PM)
I'm 33 - had an 8 year career in IT before staying home with my kids for a few years. My first degree is in history, and I am now getting a 2nd bachelor's in chemistry with a minor in physics. I have 6 kids.

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:55:15 PM)
Wow, that's non-traditional! Your story is a strength, though, remember that.

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:55:30 PM)
Yep :)

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:55:44 PM)
 I have 5, but they're grown. And I'm not applying to med school.

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:55:55 PM)
Last call for questions.

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:55:59 PM)
You'll definitely need to focus on why you're committed to making this huge career shift, but I bet you've got some great experiences to share.

debbidala (May 7, 2009 7:56:29 PM)

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:56:38 PM)
Good luck with your applications!

Linda Abraham (May 7, 2009 7:56:24 PM)
Remember, Accepted is having its Early Bird special. 15% off essay editing services. Also ebooks are 50% off through Monday.
Thank you all for participating today. Special thanks to Cyd and Paul for taking the time this evening to chat with us.

 Don’t miss out on our upcoming SUNY Upstate Medical Admissions Chat with Jennifer Welch and Isabelle Rhoades on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 10:00 AM PT/1:00 PM ET. If you would like to be added to our pre-med event announcement list, please subscribe to our chat events list. Please check the website for details and exact time.

Good luck with your applications and have a wonderful evening!

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:57:16 PM)
Good luck everyone!

tom (May 7, 2009 7:57:26 PM)

CydneyFooteACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:58:10 PM)
Good luck, everybody!

PaulBodineACCEPTED (May 7, 2009 7:58:21 PM)
Thanks, Linda and Cyd for making this so enjoyable.

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