No. 32, Pt. 1: Yale Medical Student, Julian W.'s Advice on the Medical School Application.
Updated: May 18, 2022
We had the opportunity of interviewing Julian W. from Yale University about: Medical School Application.
Julian studied Molecular Biology at Wesleyan University and then spent two years doing clinical research at MGH in Boston. Now, he is a fourth-year medical student at Yale University.
"During the interview, they tell you their secret for getting into medical school: they admit people they see as adults who can make their own decisions about how they want to structure their learning."
"Stats, like the MCAT and the GPA, can open doors for you and close doors for you, but they're never going to get you through the door."
"Research is becoming more and more important to schools, especially to the top schools."
An acceptance to Yale’s Medical School, which boasts a 6.5% acceptance rate, is not a walk in the park in the slightest. So, for our readers who are interested in studying medicine, we wanted to help them by asking a few questions about the application and experience.
Q: First, as a general overview, could you describe the process of applying for medical school, including considering schools, the application requirements, balancing the applications with college, preparing for interviews, preparing for the MCAT, etc.?
A: I'll preface this by saying that I applied in the 2017-2018 cycle, and things change pretty fast, so anything that I say may be outdated. But I applied and took two years off to do more clinical research. I graduated in May and then took the MCAT the following January. During that time, I worked on my application and studied for the MCAT for about three or so months. I studied on the weekends and when I got home from work. I think that it's really impressive when people take the MCAT during college. It doesn't seem easy, but at least half of the people do so. I took the MCAT and then prepared my application.
The thing that took the longest time was the personal statement. I spent a lot of time working on that, revising it, etc. In terms of the application process, it's a common application, which is nice because you don't have to do something individually for every school. However, when I applied, most schools did have secondary supplemental applications that had anywhere from one short essay to six longish essays, which can be pretty burdensome, especially as you start applying to more schools. You only get this application after the common application. You can submit your main application at the end of June, and then around July or August, you start getting the supplemental applications. So, your whole summer, you work on secondary applications, which isn't fun, but I think it is important that you take those seriously. This is because that's the one opportunity for schools to present questions and essay prompts to get the information they specifically want from the applicants.
In terms of schools, there's a web app, which gives you the information on all of the schools that participate in MSAR, like MCAT scores and GPAs, so that you can figure out what schools are in your range to apply to.
Interviews are throughout the fall and the winter. For the most part, my interviews were very conversational and pretty laid back, not as stressful as I thought they would be. People are friendly and want you to come to their school, but at the end of the day, you are the one interviewing and have to give your best, so it is stressful.
Q: Why did you choose to apply to and attend medical school at Yale? How does it present you with unique opportunities?
A: Based on the vibes that I got from my interview days and speaking with other students, Yale is generally pretty relaxed, very easygoing, and very collegial, which is the main reason that I picked Yale over some of the other places. I got a better feeling about the people I was going to be working with and being around for four years at this school.
To answer the question about opportunities, a school like Yale is unique about it. There are plenty of other opportunities for basically anything you want. I liked Yale's very laid-back preclinical years and the fact that we do not have to attend many of the classes in-person or really at all. During the interview, they tell you their secret for getting into medical school: they admit people they see as adults who can make their own decisions about how they want to structure their learning. If you're going to come to a lecture for four hours a day, every day, that's great. If you want to sit at home and watch a lecture, that's fine. If you don't want to watch lectures and work on research and learn on your own with various online resources, that's fine too. Other schools have moved a little bit in that direction, but Yale allows you to shape your first two years the way you want them to and then use the time as you see fit, which opens up opportunities.
Q: The list of the most important application aspects our team researched for getting into med school was the applicant's stats (MCAT, GPA), extracurriculars, and essays. Which ones would you say made the largest impact? Or is it different for everyone and every school?
A: I mean, it's certainly different for everyone, and no matter what school it is, they will admit a range of people, and every year that's becoming more of a focus for schools. They want to get a diverse student body, not just racially, ethnically, but also diverse experiences. So, there is no perfect applicant because the school could get 1000 applications from identical people who seem perfect, but they're not going to take all of those people because they want people who are different.
There is no one-size-fits-all in terms of the most important things.
The most important thing has to be the MCAT. Stats, like the MCAT and the GPA, can open doors for you and close doors for you, but they're never going to get you through the door. If you look at the ranges on MSAR, the top schools don’t only take the top scores. Still, do well on it, make things easier on yourself, and have a good GPA. Having good experiences, regardless of what they are, meaningful things, things that you can talk about, and exciting things, are essential. There is something to be said about checking off all the boxes, like do at least one volunteer thing, give at least one leadership type thing, do at least some shadowing, but you don’t have to do all of them because otherwise, you're going to dilute your experiences. So, find something that you're passionate about that you think you can speak about. I was briefly part of the admissions committee here and it's painfully obvious when people do those very superficial, shallow things that the applicant can't speak about.
Research is becoming more and more important to schools, especially to the top schools, maybe less for other schools. I would do it during undergrad, summer internships, postgraduate in the summer, or get some postgraduate positions during gap years.
Q: The MCAT is a major component of med school. How did you approach studying for the MCAT? Could you describe the test and your top tips for studying it?
A: I spent a lot of time researching how I would study before I started studying. I think that I have very firmly reinforced those skills throughout medical school, medical school exams, board exams, and other exams. People study differently and can do well differently. With that, there's so much angst about doing the right thing and realizing that if someone else is doing this, should I be doing that? Should I also be using the study resource? Should I also be studying this many hours today? It's a really difficult skill, but also really important to block out. Once you find something that works for you, stick with it and put blinders on everything else.
With that being said, the resources that I used to study for the MCAT were practice questions, reviewing content, rereading the Kaplan books, and watching videos. In the end, you're taking the exam that's based on questions; they're not just asking to regurgitate knowledge because all that is just passive learning. Doing practice questions is making you recall and apply the things that you've learned. There's no one-size-fits-all, but I'd say doing as many practice questions as possible is as close to the most important thing that there is.
I took a month to quickly go through the content using several Kaplan books. I'm sure there are tons of other things out there. I took some notes in hindsight, so much of the time was given to writing down notes. Kaplan has some practice online exams from whichever company makes the MCAT. I didn't use any other resources other than Kaplan because it cost so much. I couldn't afford to buy other resources as well. Do all the questions, do as many free questions you can find online a few months before.
Q: How do you think you made yourself stand out as an applicant for Yale Medical School against other competitive applicants?
A: Putting aside scores, I was in the range for MCAT and GPA. My personal statement was pretty good, which assured my path to going to medical school. I did a lot of things that not all applicants talk about. My experience was very instrumental. I decided to go into medicine and focus on where my mind was. I wanted to do a medical degree and got publications out, which helped me stand out. I wrote on the college team in college and was asked a lot about that during my interviews, so my publications caught the eye of many people. I focused on what I was most interested in when volunteering and picking other activities. I started volunteering at an HIV Research Center and met many great people. I was asked about that a lot. No one asked me about my shadowing experiences.
While you’re here, connect and learn more about Julian Weiss on his LinkedIn.
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