Today's guest is Zane, a professional athlete turned premed and is now up to 6 acceptances to medical school. This episode is similar to Episode 168, where we had Jessica, an actress turned premed student who received 10 acceptances to medical school. Their stories are proof that you can actually leverage your nontraditional path to help make your application stand out.
Listen in as Zane shares her unique path that led to her application success even though it has taken her a little bit longer to finish her prereqs and bachelor's degree, working full-time, being a professional athlete, and being premed along with the struggles that came along with that but also how this helped her on her interview trail.
[02:55] A Crazy Dream to Become a Flying Trapeze Artist
When Zane was eleven years old, she went to a summer camp that had a circus arts program. She tried the flying trapeze which she absolutely loved and from that point on, she knew she it was something she needed to pursue seriously being enthralled by the whole apparatus. She then kept going back to the summer camp every year and growing up in New York City, that happens to have a flying trapeze school, she began to try it out even more. It was a feeling interesting to her and it even became more interesting as she learned more about performing. Towards the end of high school was when it became a real idea that she started planning for, realizing it was something she could pursue at that point.
After much practice and getting enough encouragement from trapeze artists after seeing her potential, she pursued the flying trapeze as well as static aerial apparatuses. Not knowing which apparatus to perform on, she was most attracted to the idea of performing and just thought she'd figure out the details later.
[06:22] Prioritizing Circus over School
Zane was a dedicated student all through elementary and high school so she liked learning and school. She reassured her parents that she would go back to school and also have some school in her life at some point. She didn't just finish high school and move on because she always knew she would go back and study. So in her senior year of high school, she applied to a university and got in. Then she deferred for a year, thinking about taking a gap year so she had that on paper option for the following year. Although she had it set up, it didn't end up going that way. It wasn't until later that she realized that she can actually “make it” as a trapeze artist that she cancelled her admission to that school she deferred from and just did it a whole other way later. Her parents basically had an idea she would go back to school and “on paper” at least, she had a school she could go to the next year if everything fell apart.
Had she not found her passion for being a flying trapeze artist, she would have not studied premed. At that time, she was interested in international relations and she might have done something along the social sciences or international relations. In fact, she didn't have great experiences in the major sciences in high school. So Zane eventually ended up with a great job in a well known show.
[08:58] Taking the Premed Path
Before landing her job, she spent around two years in and out of New York City training and performing on and off as well as taking a few classes. She basically had an entire gap year after high school where she just trained and a little bit of performing. Then starting the next full, she enrolled in two classes at a university in New York where she could do Adult Continuing Education, again, not related to premed. It was like a creative writing class and a food politics class. At that point, she already started missing school. The following year, she took statistics and another politics class.
By the time she moved to Florida for her job, she already had a couple credits under her belt. As she kind of became a professional athlete more and more, she developed an interest in nutrition and in the human body in general. She was using her body in a new way and nutrition was a direct, accessible way to look at the cause and effect with working with your body, her body being the test subject. She didn't have any resources while performing and traveling so it's something she thought about and read articles about nutrition. So when she got to Florida, she thought about studying nutrition but the University of Central Florida didn't have a nutrition major so she did Preclinical Health Sciences, with the thought of doing a Master's in Nutrition.
It wasn't until a couple of years later that she had a time off from work due to injury so she had more time to think about her interests. She always says that she didn't decide medicine, but she realized she had been leading up to medicine for years. Her aha! moment being in a professional development class for health professionals where they talked about autonomous healthcare professions and discussed about scope of practice and the order of the team in the healthcare workplace. And when they talked about the physician's role in the team, it was something she was interested in. She didn't admit it to herself at that point knowing what a daunting path it was. But the more prehealth science courses she took, her interest just kept expanding and she wanted a larger scope of knowledge. So when they had that discussion, she realized her one hang up was how much she knew went into changing her path to premed but she finally allowed herself to admit it's what she wanted and that she had to start thinking about all that work she had to do for it.
[13:05] Seeking Out Premed Resources
There was not part-time option at Zane's job and quitting was not an option for her either, both financially and because she loved it so she wasn't ready to stop. She knew it would be difficult to do both but she wanted to be closer to knowing she could do med school before she had to let go of the other day job. So she knew she had to make it work within her current schedule.
In terms of resources, Zane's best friend is in her fourth year of medical school and she spoke to her. She also spoke with another good friend who was a resident at that time as well as another friend who was a year ahead of her. Basically, she spoke to all the people she knew who were somewhere along this path.
One of her biggest first steps after deciding she would apply to med school was outing herself to her close family and friends to hold herself accountable and to get some support which helped a lot. From there, she went to the prehealth advising office at her school which she described as a “rude awakening.” Thinking her major was not the traditional premed major but there was no “premed track” at her school so she didn't realize how far off she was going to be. They sat down and looked at the prereqs she had and didn't have and that was daunting in itself considering she was still missing a lot. When they talked about volunteering, research, and shadowing, it just became a big list and a lot of work. Now having a huge list of things she had to work on, there was something encouraging about unlocking the secret of what it took that helped her deal with how daunting it was at the same time.
The prereqs she had at that point she realized were all from community college and in that first meeting, they mentioned that not all medical schools necessarily accept those courses and if they do, they don't always love that. She knew then that she really needed to get the rest of her prereqs at the university.
In terms of making it work with her work schedule, nobody actually did sit down with her about it. Having a very complicated schedule, she just took it on by herself and was able to manage. There were moments she was worried about her success in becoming a med student but she never considered not doing it at all and that her current career was good enough considering it was very physical and a limited career. So she always knew she would have to switch gears at some point.
[18:43] Working Full-Time While Doing Premed
Working full-time while doing the whole premed track was something she would have avoided if she could but she stresses that it's not impossible. The year and a half she was doing both full-time was all about keeping her head down and doing what she needed to do in the moment. Once she realized she didn't a five-hour chunk to study but just had to study whenever possible, it helped her a lot so she would find an hour before the show would start or another hour in between shows. She realized that whenever you have a minute, you should be studying, considering she didn't have that dedicated study day or hour so she just had to make it work.
Although she did tell some friends at work for social support and accountability, she didn't tell anyone high up at work. It was coming up on interview season that she finally spoke to them because she knew she would be needing time off with very short notice. Yet surprised, they have always been very supportive in general.
All in all, she took six years to finish her undergrad. At the back of her mind, she could almost picture medical schools seeing flying trapeze artist on her application and just laughing. She knew from the very beginning that there were areas in her application that she thought she needed to balance out.
[23:00] MCAT and Application to Medical Schools
Zane actually pushed the time limit. Graduating in May 2016, she took the MCAT early July. She planned to start studying during her last semester but it didn't happen. She ended up preparing for her application and finishing up her personal statement and doing the rest of the application and studying for the MCAT in the beginning of July. She obviously didn't get her score until early August. So her application was already submitted and everything was already in.
She applied to 22 schools, really wide range in terms of average stats and even location, emphasis on research, etc. She mostly used geography as her guide and then she threw in a couple of dream schools. Then once she got her MCAT score, she thought she could have changed her list of schools but it was already mid-August and everything was in besides the MCAT score.
Although she was a little scared some schools might think she wasn't taking it seriously, this did not directly affect her decision on which schools to apply to. Rather, it affected how she addressed the remaining parts of her application. She couldn't change the fact that it took her six years to get her bachelor's degree nor change what she did for a living nor having taken courses at a community college. But once she spoke to an advisor, she realized she needed to take the rest of her prereqs at a university, she needed to get A's, and she knew she needed to crush the MCAT in order to balance out the very arty, unconventional parts of her application with a little proof of her scientific rigor.
[25:52] Framing Personal Statements
Zane believes that one of the million good reasons to start early is that she must have 15 personal statement drafts that are like four pages and she still hasn't gotten to the point yet. So it obviously took her a long time to figure out how to frame her story considering a lot of different places you could start and a lot of different areas you could focus on. Especially that her decision to get into medicine was slow since it started with just deciding on health care, she had no aha moment, and then she had this crazy career, so it practically took her a long time to figure out how she could get to the point and talk about she's prepared for it and talking about her experiences before she got her current job, which at time, she spent much time on the road traveling throughout the U.S. in a trailer with her performance troupe. In hindsight, Zane thought a lot of things she saw during that time helped shaped her interest in public health, health disparity, and all those things that affected her desire to go into medicine. And during that time, she got to interact with different people all over the world and with different levels of education, with preexisting health conditions, and seeing a lot of accidents. So she focused on a lot of interesting moments during that time.
In terms of her current job, she talked about the opportunities she has had within her job and about balancing a full time job and her premed track. Then she also ended up hitting basic themes and found a way to round it all out. It was definitely not easy connecting a totally different career that made to sense to her and trying to show other people why the transition makes sense was the hardest thing she did in the application process.
[28:45] Medical School Interviews
Out of the ten invites she got, Zane has done eight and she has two scheduled. At the point, she has got six acceptances and one wait list, which was the one that was her only MMI so she's wondering if there is any connection there.
Every single interview she had asked about her job and it ended up being a filter point for her. Some of the schools mentioned it as a weird thing she did and then moved on while some schools really wanted to know about it. She ended up really feeling more comfortable with those schools that asked a lot more about her career. For her, it was telling about the level to which they understood what she's about. The people understood the connection between working in a team as a trapeze artist and teamwork in a risky environment and working in a very diverse workforce. And the people who saw those connections were those she was more drawn to. Zane thinks those were the schools that invited her because of who she was whereas a couple of the schools invited her because of her stats or her age or her work experience in general.
It goes to show that having this unique background even though it's non medical, makes you stand out so much. And when somebody looks at that application, they would want to talk to you. And it showed in Zane's interviews where they just wanted to talk to her and find out more about who she was.
Moreover, despite the fact she had something really different, she knew medicine was her next path and she had to find a way to articulate it to convince the admissions people that medicine is right for her. If you know it's definitely what you want to go into next, despite what you've done so far, you have to do everything it takes. Zane's takeaway from this story is that no matter who you are, if you know for sure, there's nothing about you that precludes you from going into that path. Find a way to convince them, but you knowing is enough no matter what else you have going on.
[34:00] Choosing Her Medical School
Zane is originally from New York but has lived in Florida now for over six years. She loves it in Florida but she's also willing to go back home to New York. She applied to all MD schools in Florida, a bunch in New York, and a few in between. Either a decision will be made for her and she will be happy no matter what or if she had to make a choice, it will be clear. It's a great situation to be in but it's proven to be a difficult decision to make since she does have choices now. This is why she's still taking interviews for schools she's very interested in because they're top choices and they're in different places and different schools. So it ended up to be a wider range to choose from than she expected.
In terms of narrowing down her choices, she had many people telling her that there's definitely a gut feeling on interview day. She has at least liked every single school she's interviewed at and she loves a lot of them but there are a few that stood out where she already felt like they were her friends, a very important factor to consider since she needs that support group. Additionally, this tells her there's shared values and shared goals. So she's most focused on two schools. For those schools where she has interviews coming, she's going to see what gut feeling comes from those interview days.
[37:35] Final Words of Wisdom
The way Zane would describe her whole premed experience is DIY. She had help but she looked at the list of things she needed – prereqs at a university, clinical experience, etc. She saw them as experiences that would help her along the way and she found her way of doing them.
Zane leaves us with this thought that there are no strict guidelines in terms of timeline, where you do your classes, your age, what you do in your spare time. Variety is valued and we're starting to see that more and more. And there is a lot more wiggle room than you think so don't get caught up in checking things off or how your advisor might tell you or in the order you're told to do them in. Don't get caught up trying to do everything the way your peers are doing it. Just do it in your way in the timeline that makes sense to you. Prioritize being yourself throughout the process because that comes through. One thing that helped her was to keep an eye on the long term goal but at the same time, keep your head down on what you're doing right now. It's such a long process that keeping in touch with where you are in the moment was the only way for her to get everything done to her best ability. So stay focused on the phase you're in right now because there are a lot of phases ahead of you. You will get there when you get there and the only thing you can do right now about everything coming down the line is ace what you're doing right now.
[40:15] My Final Thoughts
Getting six acceptances is phenomenal but it just goes to show you that having this nontraditional path, regardless of what you've done in your past, it's going to stand out as something different as a nontraditional student. It's a matter of figuring out how to tell your story through your personal statement and through your interviews. Figure out how to do that and do it well to be successful.
Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years is part of the Med Ed Media network at www.MedEdMedia.com.
This is The Premed Years, session number 222.
Hello and welcome to the two-time Academy Award nominated podcast, The Premed Years, where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. I am your host Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement, and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.
Welcome to The Premed Years, as I said in the intro, my name is Dr. Ryan Gray and I host several podcasts here on the Med Ed Media network, www.MedEdMedia.com. I host the Old Premeds Podcast for nontraditional premed students, I host The MCAT Podcast for students that are preparing for the MCAT, I co-host that one with Next Step Test Prep, and I also host the new Specialty Stories Podcast where I talk to specialists about their career choices, and what life is like as that type of specialty- specialist I guess. So go check out all of those podcasts that we have to offer at www.MedEdMedia.com.
Today's podcast is- or today's guest is an awesome guest who is very similar to somebody I had on the podcast previously. Now if you've heard of Jessica's story in session 168, you can hear at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/168. Jessica was an actress turned premed student and received ten acceptances to medical school. Our guest today is a professional athlete, and you'll hear what kind of professional athlete, turned premed and now is up to six acceptances to medical school. And we talk through her journey, and what has been successful for her even though it's taken her a little bit longer to finish her pre-req's, and finish her Bachelor's degree, and everything else that goes along with working full time, and being a professional athlete, and being premed, and those struggles that came with that. But also how that has helped her on the interview trail, and why she thinks that has made her successful. So let's go ahead and jump in and say hello to Zane.
Zane welcome to The Premed Years, thanks for joining me.
Zane: Hi, thank you for having me.
Dr. Ryan Gray: I'm very interested to know when you knew you wanted to be a professional flying trapeze artist.
Zane: I have to say, and this is the answer people usually give when asked when they knew they wanted to be a doctor, but when I was around eleven I went to a summer camp and I actually chose that camp because I saw that they had a circus arts program, and it just for some reason was very enticing to me, and I went to that camp, and I tried the flying the trapeze, and I absolutely loved it. And I think from that point on I kind of knew it was something I needed to pursue seriously.
Dr. Ryan Gray: What does that mean that you needed to pursue it?
Zane: I was just right away very enthralled by the whole apparatus I guess I would say, and then I kept going back to that summer camp every summer because I was so into the flying trapeze. I also grew up in New York City so there happened to be a flying trapeze school which you can't find everywhere. So I was able to try it out even more, and it was just kind of a feeling that it was something that was so interesting to me, and then once I learned a little bit more about circuses and performing and what that would look like, it was even more interesting. I saw a couple professional circus shows when I was younger, and that kind of made it an even stronger desire, and I think towards the end of high school is when it became a real idea that I started planning for because I kind of realized that it would be something I would pursue at that point, obviously not when I was a bit older. So the real decision and the actions started towards the end of high school.
Dr. Ryan Gray: How does one know that they're cut out to be a professional trapeze artist?
Zane: I mean like I said, I'd been doing it for a couple years at that point, and the people that I had working with me at the summer camp had a little bit of professional performing experience, not much, but enough to kind of help me understand what it would take, and to encourage me once I started talking about wanting to perform. And then the same thing happened with the people I was working with at that trapeze school in New York, there were a few people who had some performing experience and once I started asking them about it they encouraged me, they told me that I had the potential. At that point I definitely didn't have what it took yet to perform, but they said if I was interested, I had the potential. And I won't go into a crazy about of circus detail about the actual skills, but there's the flying trapeze which is what I pursued and what I do, and then there's kind of static aerial apparatuses. So they're solo things, you do them alone, they don't swing around, they kind of just hang up high and you do performances on them. And I did a bit of that as well, so at that point I didn't know which apparatus I would perform on, but I was most attracted to the performing idea, and then I guess I at that point thought I would figure out the details later.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So you got so involved in this that you decided that school wasn't necessary for you, and after high school you skipped college and said, ‘This is what I'm going to do.' How did that go over with your parents that you were giving up education to go be a circus show?
Zane: To run away and join the circus?
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah exactly.
Zane: Well I didn't quite do it that way. What I did was- because I was a very interested and dedicated student all throughout elementary school, high school, all the way up to that point, and it was clear that I liked learning and liked school. So first of all I think my parents knew, and I probably reassured them that I would go back and also have school in my life at some point. I didn't just finish high school and move on. I always knew that I would go back and study, so what I did was in my senior year of high school I applied to university, I got in, and I deferred for a year thinking I would take a gap year. So I had that on paper option for the following year, it just didn't end up going that way, but I definitely had that set up. And it wasn't until later when I realized that I could actually ‘make it' in this field as a trapeze artist, that I kind of cancelled my admission to that school that I had deferred from, and just did it a whole other way a bit later. So yeah they had an idea that I would go back, and on paper at least we had my school that I could go to the next year if everything fell apart.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay so you go into school and you said, ‘Let me give it a shot and see,' which is great.
Medicine Entering the Picture
Dr. Ryan Gray: Looking back, if you weren't a flying trapeze artist, if you didn't find that passion, what would you have studied going into university?
Zane: Definitely not premed, but I think at the time I was very interested in international relations, I might have done something more along the social sciences, or international relations at that point, yeah.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay interesting. So you were not ever interested in being a doctor, premed, any of that?
Zane: No and I in fact didn't have great experiences in the major sciences in high school so if you had told me at that time that that's what I would end up doing, I would not have believed you.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. So you end up with a great job in a well-known show, and at what point did medicine start creeping into the picture?
Zane: Well before I landed this job I spent about two years in and out of New York City training, performing on and off, and also taking a few classes. So I did have that entire gap year the year after high school where I just trained and did a little bit of performing. But starting the next fall, so a year out of high school, I enrolled in- I want to say two classes at a university in New York where I could just do adult continuing education, and they were again not at all premed. It was like a creative writing class and a food politics class. Just stuff that I thought was fun because I started missing school already at that point. The following year I think I took a statistics and another politics class. So I had a couple credits under my belt by the time I moved for this job to Florida. And I guess I knew I wanted to go back to school and study, I still didn't know what, but over the couple years that had passed, as I kind of became an athlete more and more- professional athlete I guess, I developed an interest in nutrition, and just in the human body in general. You know I was using my body in a new way and nutrition was kind of a very direct accessible way to look at kind of cause and effect with working with your body, and my body was the test subject. And I didn't really have any resources while I was performing and travelling, so that's just something I thought about, and I read articles about nutrition at that time. So by the time that I was in Florida and thought about enrolling in school, I was thinking I would study nutrition, and thankfully the University of Central Florida where I went didn't have a nutrition major. So I did pre-clinical health sciences and thought that I would do a Master's in nutrition. So I was on the health path, and it wasn't until a couple years later that I had a little bit of time off from work with an injury, and I had more time to really think about what I was interested in, and I always say that I didn't decide medicine, I realized. That it had been leading up to medicine for years at that point.
Dr. Ryan Gray: How did you do that? What made you realize?
Zane: I guess my moment was I was in a class that was just kind of a professional development class for health professionals, and we were talking about autonomous healthcare professions. So it was kind of this discussion about scope of practice, and the order of the team in the healthcare workplace, and I think when we started talking about the physician's role on that team, it was something that I had been interested in, and I think I just hadn't admitted it to myself because I knew what a daunting path it was. But what had happened was the more pre-clinical health sciences courses I took, which was my major, my interest just kept expanding. So you know, I took anatomy, and everything that I took I just wanted to know more and more, and I wanted larger scope of knowledge. So when we had that one discussion about autonomy, and just the role, and I realized I guess that my one hang-up was how much work I knew went into changing my path to premed, and I finally- I don't know why, I just kind of allowed myself to admit that that's what I wanted, and then I had to start thinking about all that work I had to do for it.
First Steps in Pursuing Medical School
Dr. Ryan Gray: So you were working full-time as a performer, as a professional athlete as you called it, that's pretty cool. You then make this life-altering decision that you realized you needed to be a doctor. How did you go about figuring out what you needed to do? Who did you talk to, where did you get your information, and how did that jive with working full-time?
Zane: Well I guess it never occurred to me first of all to not work full-time. There was no part-time option at my job, and quitting was also not an option for me both financially and because at that point I'd only been in this job for three or four years, and I love it, and I just wasn't quite ready to stop. I also think that I knew it would be difficult to do both, but I wanted to be closer to knowing I could do med school before I let go of the other day job. So I knew that I would have to make it work within my current schedule. The next thing was I- actually my best friend is in her fourth year of medical school, she's graduating in the spring, and I spoke to her. I have another very good friend who at the time was a resident, I spoke to him. And another good friend who was a year- is a year ahead of me, so she's now MS1. At the time she was starting to apply, or maybe taking the MCAT. So I spoke to all the people I knew who were somewhere along this path. And I think one of my biggest first steps after deciding was kind of outing myself to my close family and friends to hold myself accountable, and to get some support which is what I got. So that helped a lot. And then from there I went to the pre-health advising office at my school which was a rude awakening.
Dr. Ryan Gray: What do you mean by that?
Zane: Well I thought my major is not the traditional premed major, but there is no ‘premed track' at the school so I didn't realize how far off I was going to be. And we sat down and looked at the pre-req's that I had and didn't have, and that was a bit daunting in itself. I think I had at that time Bio I, Chem I and Chem II, and anatomy and physiology. So I was still missing a lot; orgo's and biochem, and a lot of the hard stuff as well as some other stuff that just didn't come up in my major. So that was already kind of scary to me, and then when we started talking about trying to get some volunteering in, and research, and shadowing, it just became a big list. That obviously wasn't enough to stop me but it definitely made me sit back and say, ‘Okay I knew this was a big decision, it's a lot of work, I knew it would be, and even though I now have this huge list of things that I should work on,' there was something encouraging about unlocking kind of the secret of what it took that helped me deal with how daunting it was at the same time.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So you're talking to your premed advisors at the school, pre-health advising office at UCF or your state college, state institution. How helpful were they in helping you find courses that you could take at that school that also worked with your full-time schedule?
Zane: They- and I should mention that I got- the pre-req's that I just listed that I already had at that point, I believe all of them were from community college because there are several good community colleges in the area, and I was enrolled in UCF but I could take the classes at the community college and they would direct connect and they were cheaper, closer to home, smaller class sizes. So I had done a lot of those, and in that first meeting they did mention that not all med schools necessarily accept those courses, and if they do, they don't always love that. So that was another thing, is that we knew going forward I really needed to get the rest of my pre-req's at the university. Nobody sat down with me and said, ‘Let's talk about your schedule, and what days work for you?' Because my schedule is so complicated and I'd been scheduling all of my school thus far within it that I kind of took that on by myself. And I ended up doing some pretty funky stuff in terms of scheduling, but that's something that I myself managed.
Combining Full Time Work with Medical School Applications
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. Talk about working full-time, and taking all of these courses, and preparing for the MCAT. Were there any times where you're like, ‘Why am I doing this? I love my career, why am I continuing to kill myself with school to go on and do this thing that maybe I'll like?'
Zane: There were no moments where I had that thought. Once I decided, it was full speed ahead. There were moments where I thought, ‘Am I going to make it? Am I going to have a good enough GPA? How am I ever going to take this MCAT?' There were definitely moments where I was worried about my success in becoming a med student, but I never considered not doing it, and I never considered that my career that I currently have was good enough because it's a very physical and limited career. So I always knew I would have to switch gears at some point, you know? You can't be a flying trapeze artist in your late thirties. So yeah I never stopped and thought, ‘I already have something that I love, why do this?' It was like, ‘This is awesome, I'm going to have something else that I love when I retire from the thing that I love so much. I never thought I'd love my job again.' But yeah working full-time while doing the whole premed track is- if you can avoid it, I would, but it's not impossible. There were times- I'd say it was about a year and a half that I was doing full-time course- a full course load and working full time. Before that I had been kind of part-time student and always working full-time. The year and a half that I was doing both full-time was all about kind of keeping my head down and doing what I needed to do in the moment. So there were a lot of days when I was up at 7:00- I live an hour away from the university so driving early, at school for a couple of hours, in the car driving straight to work an hour away, doing an hour or two of training, and then getting ready for my show, and then doing two shows, finishing work at 11:00 PM, and repeating five days a week. So it was a rough schedule. And what I did was I found time- once I realized that I didn't need like a five hour chunk to study, I just had to study whenever possible, that helped a lot. So I would find an hour before the show would start, or another hour between my two shows in the evening and just put on my headphones and go wherever I was. And I think that is a really important thing to do, is to realize that whenever you have a minute you should be studying. You don't need a dedicated study day or hour, because I didn't have that and you make it work.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Did you tell your work at all that you were on this path, and did they help you once they realized what you were doing?
Zane: I didn't tell them at that point because there was no help they could give me really. You know I wasn't going to sign up for a class that would have me missing any part of my work day consistently because that- they wouldn't let me do that, I knew that ahead of time. It's a very strict schedule. And yeah I just didn't really think there was any way they could help me. I told some close friends at work for the social support and the accountability like I mentioned before, but I didn't tell anyone high up at work. When I finally spoke to them it was coming up on interview season, because I knew that if I got interviews I would need time off with very short notice. So that's when it became important to kind of loop them in. But before that I kind of just kept it to myself.
Dr. Ryan Gray: And how were they when you made that kind of revelation to them to say, ‘Hey I'm going to be going for interviews, I'm going to need some time off here and there.'
Zane: They were surprised, but very supportive. Yeah my artistic director who's my boss was- has to this date, has given me every day that I've asked for off of work for an interview, and the surrounding days if I needed them without questions.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Nice. Definitely helps to have that support.
Zane: Very supportive in general.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Good.
Zane: I'm lucky in that way.
Choosing Schools to Apply To
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. Talk about your selection of schools. You did well on the MCAT, and you finished up with a great GPA. You took six years to finish your undergrad, right?
Dr. Ryan Gray: Was there any thought about, ‘Wow medical schools are going to look at how long it took me to complete the MCAT, they're going to see that I did a lot of my pre-req's at a community college. They aren't going to take me seriously.' Did you have that thought in the back of your head?
Zane: Absolutely. I could almost picture them seeing ‘flying trapeze artist' on my application and just laughing. So I knew from the very beginning that there were certain areas of my application that were- I'm not going to say weak because as we know they never- we never know exactly what they're looking for. But there were areas of my application that I thought I needed to balance out. So you mentioned obviously my MCAT score and deciding where I would apply, well I didn't have my MCAT score when I made my list. I really pushed the time limit. I graduated in May, 2016 and took the MACT early July, and I did not- I planned to start studying during my last semester but it didn't happen, so I was preparing for my application, like finishing up my personal statement, doing the rest of the application, and studying for the MCAT May, June, beginning of July. And I had my list all written, and then of course I didn't get my scores until early August, my application was already submitted, everything was already in, so what I did was I applied to 22 schools, really, really wide range in terms of- I don't know average stats, even location, emphasis on research, everything, just a very wide range and I mostly used geography as my guide, and then I threw in a couple kind of dream schools just for why not? And then once I got my MCAT score, I guess I could have changed my list of schools, but I didn't. It was already mid-August, everything was in besides the MCAT score, and I just thought you know, ‘Well I have enough of a range that I think I'm going to hit some of them.' And to answer your question about whether I thought there were things that schools wouldn't take seriously, that didn't directly affect my decision on which schools to apply to except that like I said I had a range, but what it did affect was how I addressed the remaining parts of my application. I couldn't change the fact that it took me six years to get my Bachelor's degree, I couldn't change what I do for a living, and I couldn't go back and change having taken some courses at the community college. But like I mentioned earlier, once I spoke to an advisor, I realized I needed to take the rest of my pre-req's at the university, I needed to get A's, and I knew I needed to do- I needed to crush the MCAT if possible because I needed to kind of balance out the very artsy unconventional parts of my application with a little proof of my scientific rigor as they call it.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah your aptitude for science.
Framing Her Story in Medical School Application
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay and so you proved that. Talk to me about how you went about framing your story. Obviously you have the opportunity to tell your story in your personal statement, and the extracurriculars that you choose to put down. How did you go about figuring out what your story was for your application, and then how to talk about it during your interviews?
Zane: Well I'll say this also to anyone who's preparing to write a personal statement. One good reason to start early, there are a million good reasons to start early, one is that I must have fifteen personal statement drafts that are like four pages, and I still haven't gotten to the point yet. So it obviously took me a long time to figure out how to frame my story. There's a lot of different places that I could start, there's a lot of different areas I could focus on, especially because my decision to go into medicine was- it was kind of slow, it started with just deciding on healthcare, there was no ‘ah-ha' moment, and then I have this crazy career that I've had so far. So it took me a long time to figure out how to kind of get to the point, and then talk about how I'm prepared for it because of what I've done so far. How and why trapeze besides I loved it so I went to go try it. Then talking about some of my experiences before I got my current job, because during that time I spent a lot of time on the road travelling throughout the US in a trailer with my performance troop, and those were some really interesting times kind of socially. And in retrospect a lot of things that I saw during that time have shaped my interest in public health, and health disparities, and those are all things that affect my desire to go into medicine. So I ended up talking a lot about that time because yeah, I was working with a lot of people from all over the world, a lot of people with different levels of education, with some pre-existing health conditions, and I also in my line of work saw a lot of accidents. So there were a lot of interesting moments during that time that I focused on. And then in terms of my current job I talked about the opportunities I've had there within my job, and then of course what we just talked about with balancing that job full-time and the premed track. And somewhere in summarizing all of that I ended up kind of hitting some basic themes, and finding a way to round it all out, but it was not easy. Like connecting a totally different career that makes sense to me, and trying to show other people why the transition makes sense was definitely the hardest thing I did in this application process.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, interesting. I bet it's an interesting read.
Zane: I think so.
Interviewing for Medical School
Dr. Ryan Gray: Talk about your interviews. So you've had a very successful interview season at nine interviews at this point? Or actually more interview invites at this point.
Zane: Yeah I've had ten invites, I've done eight and I have two scheduled.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Two scheduled. And how many acceptances at this point?
Zane: Six acceptances and one wait-list.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Man that one. That one is the one you think about all the time I'm sure like, ‘Why didn't they want me?'
Zane: Yeah and that one was my only MMI so I'm like, ‘Is there a connection there?'
Dr. Ryan Gray: Interesting. Very interesting. So very unusual back story. How much of the interview was discussing your job?
Zane: A lot. Every single interview I've had has at least- every interviewer has at least asked about it. Some more than others, and it's funny, it ended up being kind of a filter point for me because some of the schools mentioned it as this weird thing I did, we have to mention it, but now let's move on, which is fine. And some schools really wanted to know about it, and I ended up really feeling more comfortable at the schools that asked a lot more about this career. Not just because they asked more about my interests I guess, but because it was very telling to me about the level to which they kind of understood what I'm about. So the places that asked me more about it and we went more into depth about my work as a performer, and on a team- I work on a team of trapeze artists, and the people who kind of understood that connection with teamwork, and working in a risky environment, and working in a very diverse workforce, and the people who saw those connections tended to be the people at the schools that I've been more drawn to.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Do you think that they just understood you a little bit more and accepted you for who you were?
Zane: Yeah I think those were the schools that invited me because of who I was, whereas maybe a couple of the schools invited me because of maybe my stats, or I'm older, maybe I'm a more mature student, my work experience in general, but despite the fact that what I did was a little bit crazy in my work so far.
Dr. Ryan Gray: So your story- if you're listening to this and you go, ‘Wow Zane has an amazing story,' go listen to episode 168, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/168 where I talk to Jessica who's very similar to Zane. Having a performance background, and getting tons of interviews, obviously doing well in school, that's kind of the pre-req, but getting a ton of interviews and having those discussions about prior careers, and what you have done, and what Jessica has done. So I always like to tell these stories and have people on, so I'm thankful that you actually reached out to me to come on and tell your story, because it just goes to show that having this unique background even though it was non-medical makes you stand out so much, and when somebody looks at that application they go, ‘Wow I want to talk to Zane because that's cool.' Right? And it showed during your interviews that that's what these people wanted to do, they just wanted to talk to you and find out more about who you were.
Zane: Yeah and I would just say you can't create a story in your application that isn't true. So if you're someone who went straight out of high school, straight to college, knew you were premed, went through four years and now you're applying and you haven't worked full-time in a different field, or you don't have such a crazy nontraditional story, the bottom line for me was despite the fact that I've done something really different, I know that medicine is my next path, and I have to find a way to articulate it to convince these admissions people that medicine is right for me. But if you know that it's definitely what you want to go into next, despite what you've done so far whether you've been premed because you've known for a while, or suddenly you want to do it, that's enough. You have to do everything it takes, you have to check off all of the boxes, and you have to work hard for the application, but I think the take-away from my story is not make sure you have something weird on your application that's going to stand out, but that no matter who you are, if you know for sure, there's nothing about you that precludes you from going into that path. You know, you know why, find a way to convince them, but you knowing is enough no matter what else you have going on.
Narrowing Down Acceptances
Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So you have six acceptances at this point, let's talk about how you are figuring out where to go. Because in your email to me you said you got into your top choice, yet you have new interview invites and you're going to them. How are you deciding, or why are you deciding to go on more interviews even though you've gotten into your top choice? And how are you going to narrow down where you're going to go?
Zane: Well I guess I should clarify, and I may have misstated this in my email, but I have a current top choice.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.
Zane: And that one's definitely my top choice in Florida. So I applied- like I mentioned I'm from New York and I've lived in Florida now for a bit over six years so I'm a Florida resident and I like it here, I've been here for a long time, but I also am willing to go back home to New York. So I applied to all of the schools- all of the MD schools I should say in Florida, a bunch in New York, and a few in between. And I guess I just thought either the decision will be made for me and I'll be happy no matter what, or if I have to make a choice it will be clear. And again not complaining, it's a great situation to be in, but I do have choices now and it's proving a very difficult decision to make, and that's why I am still taking interviews for schools that I'm very interested in because they're top choices they're just in different places, and they're very different schools. So it's ending up being a bigger range to choose from than I expected.
Dr. Ryan Gray: How are you going to narrow those down?
Zane: One thing that a lot of people told me before I started interviewing that turned out to be pretty true was that there's definitely a gut feeling on interview day. You might not know it when you have like a mediocre gut feeling. I mean I haven't had any really bad feelings. I'm sure that is pretty obvious when it happens. I've at least liked every single school that I've interviewed at, and I've loved a lot of them. But there are a few that stand out as these are my people, that's the only way I can really describe it. Like I can think of two schools I've interviewed at where I've thought I already feel like these are my friends. And that's been a really important factor for me to consider because I need that support group and it also just tells me that there's probably some shared values, and shared goals there. So those are the two schools that I'm the most focused on, and then the ones that I have interviews coming, guess I'm just going to see what gut feelings come from those interviews, and then there's the second look option if I get to that point and still don't know. But I'm still waiting on some decisions, so it's a long process.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Well you've obviously been very successful on your journey. You have done things that a lot of premed students are told they can't do by taking pre-req's in community college, taking six years to get your Bachelor's degree.
Words of Wisdom to Premeds
Dr. Ryan Gray: You've shown them that you can do it and obviously be successful doing it. What words of wisdom, some last words of wisdom do you have for the premed student who is out there in community college and freaking out about their chances of getting into med school because they think they're doing the wrong thing.
Zane: I would say- so the way I describe my whole premed experience is DIY, right? Do-it-yourself. Like everything that I- I had help but I kind of looked at the list of things I needed; pre-requisite classes, a certain number of them at a university, experience in a clinical environment. All of these things, and I didn't go to my advisor and say, ‘How can I do all of these things within my schedule at the university?' I just saw them as experiences that would help me along the way, and I found my way of doing them. So what I would say is there's no strict guideline in terms of timeline, where you do your classes, I mean I also have classes from four different schools, your age, what you do in your spare time. I think variety is valued first of all, and we're starting to see that more and more, and there's a lot more wiggle room than you think. So don't get caught up in checking things off how your advisor might tell you to do that- or in the order that you're told to do them in. Don't get caught up trying to do everything the way that your peers are doing it. Just do it in your way, in a timeline that makes sense to you. Prioritize being yourself throughout the process, because I think that comes through. And one thing that helped me throughout the process since it did take me awhile both getting my Bachelor's degree and getting everything ready to apply to medical school, was keep your eye on the long term goal, but at the same time keep your head down on what you're doing right now because it's very easy in this process to think about, ‘I want to be a doctor so I get to think about applying to med school, I have to think about the MCAT, I have to think about my personal statement, I have to think about- after that I have to think about step one, and residency, and where I'm going to be,' and it's such a long process and there are so many boxes to check along the way that kind of keeping in touch with where you are in the moment was for me the only way to get everything done to my best ability. So stay focused on the phase you're in right now because there's a lot of phases ahead of you, you'll get there when you get there, and the only thing you can do right now about everything coming down the line is ace what you're doing right now.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright again that was Zane. Zane, thank you for joining me on the podcast and sharing your story. Amazing story, obviously six acceptances is phenomenal but it just goes to show you having this nontraditional path, whether you're an actress like Jessica was back in 168, like Zane is here as a professional flying trapeze artist, whatever you've done in your path- in your past is going to stand out as something different as a nontraditional student. It's just a matter of figuring out how to tell your story through your personal statement and through your interviews. So you have to figure out how to do that and do it well to be successful.
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And one more from Junior Undergrad who's studying MD to DNP to MD. It says, ‘This podcast has given me the information I need to get the confidence to gear my goals towards medicine again. I'm a female and being from the Midwest I've always been encouraged to be a mid-level provider, and then eventually to switch to nursing so I can ‘have a family.' When I couldn't get med school out of my head, The Premed Years guided me back and encouraged me to go for what I love. Plus you guys are a double physician family which will be in the boat I'm in if I make it to that point. I really appreciate the information and will continue to listen.' Awesome, thank you very much for that review. Good luck on your journey.
If you would like to leave a rating and review, you can do so at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/iTunes. I hope you have a great week ahead of you, and if you have not listened to every episode that we have to offer, I suggest you do. Go back and listen to them all. Download them all on your phone while you're on a WiFi signal so that you can not incur data overages on your cellular data plan. But I hope you have a great week and listen to lots more podcasts, and follow up with us next week here at The Premed Years.
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