Should I Share My Love for Ortho in My Personal Statement?

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ADG 145: Should I Share My Love for Ortho in My Personal Statement?

Session 145

How do you express your interest in a specific specialty on your application in a way that you don’t come across as close-minded? Our student today is concerned that her orthopedics-focused activities are too specific to the specialty. Is this okay?

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[00:30] Question of the Day

“How much you can convey your passions and interests when they’re so specific based on your life experience without coming across close-minded to an interviewer?”

[00:43] Stay True to Who You Are

My assumption is that what she’s talking about is very specific to a specialty. Psychiatry is also always the one that stands out for students, whether they’re dealing with their own mental health stuff, mental health stuff within the family. And it comes across in their personal statement and their interviews.

'You have to be true to who you are.'Click To Tweet

You have to be true to who you are. If your passions lie around a specific specialty, that’s going to show in your activities. 

Where students go a little bit off the path is that the personal statement is directed that and the interview is directed to that. And so, there’s that fear that it comes across as close minded.

Medical schools know you’re going to do the eight core rotations. And you don’t want to be miserable on seven of the eight, because you are only interested in one of the eight. 75% of students change their mind anyway. So no matter what you’ve been exposed to up to this point, you’re going to be exposed to a lot more, both from a patient perspective and from a mentor perspective.

You may find a mentor in medical school that just just rocks your mind. And that didn’t know you could take these passions you have about this one thing and tie it into this other thing. 

[03:46] At the Core of Why You Want to Be a Doctor

In her case, she’s talking about Orthopedics, having had 14 orthopedic surgeries. She has 21 surgeries in her 24 years. So surgery has really had a big impact on her journey and it’s always been that tangible fix as she’s also a very visual learner.

She has 400 shadowing hours, 200 of them are in orthopedics. She explains she went to pedes and family med and everything she possibly could to make sure it was what she wanted. But she just kept coming back to orthopedics and surgeries. She loves how she learns something about it every time.

Obviously, her ortho experience as a patient is going to come through there as the impetus or potential drive and the “seed” as to why she wants to explore medicine.

'The personal statement is not asking you what you want to do as a career other than being a generic physician.' Click To Tweet

During an interview, it may come across as you’re interested in orthopedics. And that’s perfectly fine. At the end of the day, you just need to be true to yourself. And also, tell them that you understand that you’re going to be exposed to a lot of things in medical school. And that you understand that most students change their mind during medical school coming in with a specific specialty in mind.

And so, tell them how you’re excited to see what else is out there. And that right now, you’re really interested in surgery and orthopedics.

Medical schools are not naive to the fact that there are people coming in with these dreams and desires at the forefront. And students fear that a primary care school will only accept primary care. Even if you look at the match list of a primary care school, they have people matching in surgical subspecialties. They can’t control what you match into.

Make sure you understand the core – what it is about surgery that is driving you, what it is at the core of taking care of these people that’s driving you. Because that’s going to be the message you’re looking for as to why you want to be a doctor.

[07:42] When to Do Mock Interviews

Our student is also wondering when to do mock interviews. And the answer is NOW. Especially during COVID, with virtual interviews, you may get a two-day notice. It happens all the time. 

'The biggest mistake students make with mock interviews is waiting – waiting until they get an interview.'Click To Tweet

When you run a marathon, there’s a very strict schedule of when you want to start increasing your mileage to peak at the right time, right before the marathon. Because that is how your body needs to react to and grow and adapt to running a marathon.

With interview prep, what you do today, you can still remember in two months. And so, there’s no need to wait for when you’re going to have an interview.

Your time right now should be interview prep and understanding who you are. Go through The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview and just glance over some of those questions there. You don’t have to necessarily come up with answers to all the questions. But just see if it sparks any memories for you. See if it gives you any insight or ideas of bullet points to bring up during answers during an interview.

Reflect on who you are as a person. And then do mock interviews, whether that’s with mentors, physicians that you’ve shadowed, your pre health office or one-on-one through a company.

At Mappd, our team advisors do a 45-minute call. About 20-25 minutes of that is the actual interview. We take the character of the interviewer. And then we’ll call it at some point and give you our feedback. We go question by question, through your answers and try to help you understand how to improve your answers.

[13:25] Actions Speak Louder than Words

Our student adds that everything she has done has been in the rural setting. And so, all of her activities are in a rural setting. And so it’s easy to believe it’s what she’s passionate about. And for students who have minimal experience in a rural setting, she’s asking about the best way for them to display or get involved.

You’d be very surprised at how many students try to just throw in these token keywords, “underserved” and “rural.” And then you go and look at their activity list, and you find nothing underserved or rural. It’s the exact opposite of all affluence, and all urban city life. And so, actions speak louder than words.

“Actions speak louder than words.” Click To Tweet

What you’re passionate about comes through in your writing, activity description or your most meaningful essay. That’s the important part. Talking about it in an essay is  less important than the activity itself.

[16:23] Looking Through Different Variables

Our student is also asking about the most important thing when it comes to app besides MCAT prep because she has already done a lot of activities. And so, she’s confident she has a very solid application.

As you go through this process, you’ll start to hopefully get some clear pictures about what your application looks like.

In my newest book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process, I break it down for students to start to think about when doing this “post-mortem”

If you didn’t get any interview, it doesn’t mean that it was just your stats. It could be the story aspect as well. So it’s hard, but you have to look at every variable. Unfortunately, some sites only focus on stats, which is total crap.

'Stats are just one or two variables, GPA and MCAT. And GPA has a lot of different variables, including your trends and everything else.'Click To Tweet

Now, our student says she has lots of clinical experience. But how recent are they? And so, it’s going step by step and variable by variable to look at what is off here. 

There are going to be people out there who have really good stats, good stories, great experiences. And for the most part, they did a really good job writing their personal statement, their activity descriptions and their secondary essays. They got a few interviews, and then they’re just terrible interviewers. That comes across too.

There’s also that possibility where you’re good at every level. But you just applied to the wrong schools. Luckily, it’s more on the fact that there’s really something in your application that needs to be tweaked than applying to the wrong schools.


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The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview