Friday, January 28, 2011

Return Of The Applications

Hello dear readers! I know I've been quiet lately, but what with hurting my ribs and grad school applications, I've been swamped. Couple that with a job hunt and school starting, and I do hope you can forgive me my silence.

BUT! I'm coming back with a vengeance, after I rant slightly about the application process.

So this is my own damned fault, frankly, but I forgot about deadlines for a program that I REALLY want to get into. It's close to home, I already know a ton of the faculty, and I'm already attending school there, albeit informally. So I scrambled and scrambled, and I'm getting everything together.

Here is what I hate about applications: they make you list your classes and grades ad nauseum for each program that you apply to. I don't think I realized how lucky I was with the AMCAS, because I had one application, one set of credentials to list, and one essay to write. Instead I have to write a statement that conforms to each programs' specifications, fill out two applications per program, and list my classes and grades according to each program's idiosyncratic application criteria. Exceptionally time consuming.

It was pointed out to me that they make students spend the time so that people who process applications don't have to; otherwise app fees would be astronomical and it would take forever to reach a decision because they'd have to pay people to do all of the busy work that I'm currently doing. It made me a little less bitchy, but only just. ;)

So grad school. I'm applying for master's programs or alternatively a series of classes that will hopefully make my med school applications look more competitive. I only have 4 of 16 med school applications still outstanding; the rest have declined to interview me. It is looking a bit grim, so I need backup plans. I have been told that I shouldn't take it personally, and I don't. I realize it is part of the process and that while I have lots of qualifications and experiences, my grades could be better and my MCAT scores stronger. Because of the economy, cutbacks in faculty hours and facilities, a lot of med schools are tightening their criteria. Makes a process that is really tough that much more difficult to get through successfully.

Plus my cellular neurophysiology class last semester was taught by two post docs, and both actively do research. One is a neurochemist who studies neurotransmitters, and the other looks into how the brain changes with drug dependency and did her thesis on how alcohol addiction changes the brain. Her model organism? Rats. Yes, she got rats drunk and looked to see how their brains changed over time. It's pretty frickin' awesome.

And they really got me excited and enthused about doing some research. I've been doing my research internship at SFGH, and I really have been enjoying that. I have read anecdotes about a couple of students who were accepted to medical school and decided not to because research was much more appealing to them. I realized that I don't know much about research, and that given where I am in my life, perhaps I should give it a fair try. Who knows, I may end up as a PhD and studying plasticity in drunk rats. It sounds like a great career to me.

So I'm applying to two MS programs and an MA program. I also applied to two programs that are not degree programs but would give me a stronger med school application next time around. I'm not sure how much I want to actually spend two years and not get a degree of some sort, but we'll see how this goes. One program is in New York, which is slightly scary. I don't know if I want to leave my husband for a year while I go do this program and then possibly go to another state that is not home to get my medical degree.

Perhaps you are getting a sense of what I'm up against. There are a number of variables in my life. Nothing is certain and everything seems convoluted. It is a bit scary because I don't know where my life is going, but it is also exciting. I have a number of opportunities available to me.

So I have all of my letters of recommendation lined up (easy! my advisors are the best and are so nice, even though I didn't give them as much time as I wanted to) the transcripts and exam scores are all ordered and sent, and my goal these next two days are to finish ALL of the applications and statements.

I also have a tentative offer to join a neurodevelopment lab at one school. I'm holding out for my first choice, but nothing will be decided or agreed upon until after applications are in anyway. Thankfully MS applications are NOT on a rolling basis like med school apps, so no movement is done on processing until after the deadline is passed. This is more of a benefit than it seems, because it gives me time to sort out things like which lab I can work in and thoughts about a project.

I am taking a pharmacology class and a systemic neurophysiology class this semester, so I will have lots of fun material to talk about. I really wanted to post a bit about action potentials and graded potentials, because they are the basis for everything that our brains do.

Till then, ciao!

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