Can I Share My Passion for a Specific Specialty in My App?

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Session 127

This student has a passion for pediatrics. Would it be an issue to disclose it on the med school application? We also discussed sending LOR to specific schools.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

By the way, the episodes in this podcast are recordings of our Facebook Live that we do at 3 pm Eastern on most weekdays. Check out our Facebook page and like the page to be notified. Also, listen to our other podcasts on MedEd Media. If you have any questions, call me at 617-410-6747.

[00:24] Question of the Day

“I’m just getting started with the whole application process and getting ready to apply this June. As I’m getting ready to write on some of my experiences and such, I wanted to ask a little bit about who I am. I have a huge passion for pediatrics. I mean, it is written in my extracurricular as I’ve been a supervisor for kids and I’ve done a pediatric internship

I’ve also primarily shadowed pediatric physicians. And so, I’m just wondering how to balance not sounding naive but also making sure my intention and my passion show through. Where’s that balance?”

Who you are and your passions are going to show throughout everything that you do. Your actions show that you are very interested in pediatrics. Now, does that mean that you are going to be a pediatrician? No, it just means that right now, that’s where your passions lie. And so my biggest piece of advice is leave out saying that you want to be a pediatrician.

A lot of students force wanting to be a pediatrician because of their experience around pediatrics and how much they love kids. But once you’re in medical school, and you’re exposed to every other specialty, and maybe you get a mentor in a different specialty, then you may change your mind in the future.

'75% of students change their mind once they get into medical school.'Click To Tweet

Therefore, you don’t need to tamper what you’ve done in and around pediatrics because that’s just who you are at this point in your life. Your experiences are going to show that. But then the common trouble students have is painting this picture that you will be a pediatrician moving forward, and you don’t need to do that.


Q: “I’m applying to a huge range of schools, probably around 25 or 26. But I am a California resident and I hope to stay in California and stay close to home. And so, I was wondering how to show specific schools that I have an interest in going there. 

The two physicians that I’ve asked for letters of recommendation are associate faculty at this school that I really would love to go to. Is that enough to hopefully make myself stand out there? Or is there anything else I could perhaps do to really express to that school that it’s where I’m interested in going?”

A: Depending on that school’s specific secondary questions, if they have a question about why then that’s where that information comes from.

The biggest challenge with a primary application is that it’s generic to the school. Unless you’re only applying to one school, which is also not recommended. But when you only need to submit one primary, then you can make that personal statement as direct as possible.

What you could do especially for the AMCAS application is to have those letter writers write specific letters to that one school. They can specifically say that this student would be a great fit at this school and they know that because they’re on the faculty there or they’re an alumni.

Then if you still want a letter from them to go to every other school, have them write a generic letter that just says you’re going to be a great medical student.

This is only good for AMCAS because AACOMAS and TMDSAS don’t let you do this. On AMCAS, you can have 10 different letter writers and you can pick and choose which letter writer goes to which school. But for AACOMAS and TMDSAS, all letters go to all schools.

[05:33] Writing Reflections on a Personal Statement?

Q: “I’m having trouble with my reflection pieces for my personal statement and I don’t know how to write fairly because I love writing, and I feel like I’m really strong at writing those sensory experiences.”

A: Students like yourself have the hardest time with reflections because you take that creative writing piece that you love to do as well as activating senses. And you try to do that with a reflection. Don’t make it pretty. Don’t do an analogy. Don’t do anything like that.

There’s a lot of storytelling involved to show, not just tell, the experience that led you to want to be a physician or how the experience strengthened your decision to be a physician. Write those in your own words, but you don’t need to be creative with it. Just tell them what you need to tell them.

Q: “I did spend a little bit of time in my most recent job talking about why I chose to do a medical humanities program, and talking about how I really like Narrative Medicine. I’m just wondering if that maybe just should be left out to save space for even more reflection.”

A: Why you did a narrative medicine program or elective, whatever that is, probably doesn’t belong in a personal statement. That’s showing more of your interests, which could go to your extracurricular activity list. The conclusion is the grand idea that you hope to accomplish as a physician.

[08:54] Getting Feedback on Your Personal Statement

Q: “I want my family and friends, perhaps to read it and get constructive feedback. But who do I take seriously, in terms of trusting their feedback?”

A: It’s hard because someone who doesn’t know anything about personal statements or the medical school application process may give you feedback that fits their specialty, or their profession or career. And it’s not necessarily what would work for medical school admissions. But I think you can give it to whoever you want if you trust their opinion. 

In my personal statement book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement, there’s actually a link to get a review sheet to send to people who maybe don’t know about the medical school process. It asks them questions like “when you’re done reading this, can you get a sense of X, Y, or Z?” So this is something that may be useful to send out to some people to get some feedback.


Q: “Something that I’m relatively insecure about regarding my application is that my GPA isn’t horrible, but it’s also not the strongest. Right now, I’m at a 3.5 and a 3.4 science GPA. I have two quarters left on the quarter system.”

A: The number doesn’t tell me anything. Your 3.5 could mean 4.0, 4.0, 3.0, 3.0. Or it could be 3.0, 3.0, 4.0 4.0. What is the story behind your number?

Q: “I have a mild upward trend. I don’t know how strong that would be in junior year. So I definitely got B’s, I got one C in O. Chem sophomore year. And then junior year, I got mostly A’s and a couple of B’s. And then last quarter fall of senior year, I did get a 4.0. My intention is to hopefully end and solidify an upward trend. But it’s not something that I would consider as crazy significant.”

A: Get that 4.0 as best as you can so that you have a much stronger upward trend going. And assuming you get a 4.0, you want those grades to be on your transcript for verification. You can submit then, but you need to request that transcript after the grades are finalized and in the system.

A lot of students will submit on June 1, and then hope that they can update the schools with their grades two weeks later or a month later. But when you submit your application, those are your grades because not every school will take updates. So it is what it is when you submit it.

'Not every school cares about your grade updates.'Click To Tweet

Especially with the quarter system landing right there in the middle of June, just wait a couple of weeks. It’s not going to hurt your application and you’ll be fine.

[14:11] MCAT Prep

She has already taken the MCAT and got a 517, which is awesome. She studied for three months. She intended to do a three-week content review but realized it was an unrealistic expectation. So she ended up reviewing for six weeks and used Blueprint MCAT for the practice tests.

Her scores jumped when she switched from Blueprint to AAMC. And she liked how they were able to offer COVID-length MCAT as well. It was a huge issue this past year because the AAMC doesn’t actually offer COVID-length practice test. So it was hard to figure out the timing.


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