January 31, 2009

Oh Interview Day

Let me begin this entry by apologizing for having gone such a long amount of time without posting on my blog. It's my goal in 2009 to write more often (although things aren't off to a good start, since this is the end of January...)

For the past year and a half, I have had the pleasure of working for an esteemed medical school's admissions office. I had always known that the process of applying and getting accepted into medical school was difficult and hugely important, but my eyes have been extremely opened to this whole experience. I have been hurled into a world of MCAT scores, letters of recommendation, AMCAS applications, and pre-medical course requirements. Our office has the task of processing over 5,000 applications each year and whittling down the numbers to a matriculating class of about 156 students. Our application process comes to a head with our Interview Days, on which we interview around 500 applicants throughout the course of several months.

When I arrive to work on Interview Days, our office has a certain buzz of excitement and anticipation in the air. The office staff works together to coordinate an Interview Day that runs as smoothly as possible. The applicants arrive, are given a power point presentation detailing our medical school, and then ushered off to two separate interviews: one with a faculty member and one with a current med student. The applicants then rejoin one another to enjoy a lunch we have catered for them. Afterwards, the applicants are given a partial campus tour.

My task on Interview Day is to act as a hostess of sorts, guiding students to their interview locations, waiting with them in between interviews, and answering lots of questions. In doing this, I have been able to observe numerous applicants over many months. The applicants arrive wearing sharp black suits and crisp white shirts, the women in heels and the men in carefully polished dress shoes. When I introduce myself as a member of the admissions staff, an applicant will shake my hand with the firmness and eagerness I imagine one would shake the hand of the President's. Most of the applicants are extremely warm and personable and I find it very enjoyable to carry on conversations with them. When I speak, they listen attentively, nodding their heads and smiling. I have to admit, I feel pretty important on those days.

These applicants arrive, the hopes and dreams of their last four or more years of hard work riding on our school's decision of acceptance or rejection. You can see the anticipation in their faces---this Interview Day could make or break them. They have all worked so incredibly hard. In fact, I find myself feeling inwardly intellectually inferior to these individuals. They arrive having earned near perfect GPA's, despite having majors such as Chemical Engineering or Biomedical Sciences. Some have double majors; some have double majors AND a minor. They have scored high marks on their MCAT and come highly recommended by their references. I see applicants with A's and even A+'s in all of his/her courses, most of which are biology, chemistry, calculus/statistics, and physics. On top of all this, the applicants have volunteered countless hours in hospitals and clinics, gaining experience.

They are the sorts of individuals that appear perfect, or almost perfect, on paper. Most of the time, the applicants are as impressive in person as they are on paper. The truth is, they are truly exceptional individuals. They have put all their efforts into excelling with the goal of being accepted into medical school. But that is not their end goal---they ultimately desire to be physicians, creating strong relationships with their patients and serving the under-served populations. Lots of people can excel academically and achieve the numbers need to enter medical school, but those that have a true passion for medicine shine through. I have had the privilege to meet many of these young, driven, and passionate applicants.

One of my favorite parts about my job is seeing which applicants are accepted by the admissions committee. It makes me truly happy to see these individuals succeed. They are more than deserving. And it's fun to see someone accepted when I remember having an especially great conversation with him/her. I have also been able to get to know some of the current med students. They are as normal as anyone else and fun to be around. Yet I have a deep respect for each one of them, whether applicant or current med student, for their incredible work ethic. These individuals are going through grueling academics with the ultimate goal of being a doctor, one who serves others. It is an admirable goal and I believe our society doesn't truly understand how hard these individuals push themselves to be able to serve the public, to help others. I know I didn't. I am thankful that there are people out there such as these. So when the applicants shake my hand, I remember how far they've come, how diligently they've worked. I shake their hands with equal eagerness, grateful for their hearts of compassion.

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