This International Student Is On Her Way To Med School

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Session 341

Noi is an international student who shares her journey with you. She has a 3.9 GPA, which is amazing, and a great MCAT score. Having great stats allowed her to get several interviews and ultimately, an acceptance to medical school.

Meanwhile, please be sure to check out Meded Media for more resources to help you through your journey towards becoming a physician.

[02:22] Interest in Medicine

Noi was originally from Israel. After the second Lebanon war, she saw a lot of people losing their lives. This gave her the perspective of valuing life. She began appreciating what it means to be a physician at such difficult times. This motivated her to want to become a physician.

'Being a physician and being in medicine was outside of politics. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, or outside of the border you live in.'Click To Tweet

Back in high school, she was always very inquisitive. Her dad is a dentist so she went to her dad’s clinic. However, she didn’t want to become one. She didn’t connect with the dental part, but it was caring for the people that she connected with.

[05:22] The Decision to Study in the U.S.

Noi believes that getting a degree in the United States will open so many doors for her to work internationally. She wants to get involved in research that can be implemented in so many countries.

'Having a credential in the United States is something that will open doors for me to work in so many other countries.'Click To Tweet

That being said, she credits all her extracurricular activities to have shaped her a lot. She did a ton of research and volunteering in her gap year – things she wouldn’t have had experienced had she just went to medical school in Israel.

As to why she chose the United States, she did her research on studying abroad. She looked at all the medical schools and systems. She looked at the pros and cons. Israel is a great place to study medicine. If she wasn’t going to Israel, then she had to go somewhere better than it.

Additionally, she loves the culture in the United States. She loves going out of her boundaries. She wants to put herself out of her comfort zone.

Israel has a single-payer system. Moving to the United States, Noi didn’t think about the system of care initially. But once she got her, she was simply in shock.

[10:15] Looking at U.S. Schools and the Finances

Noi is aware that federal loans are not accessible to international students. But a lot of schools have a lot of private loan programs as well as married scholarships. This was something she received during her undergraduate years.

'If you're thinking about coming to the United States as an international student to study medicine, almost all the medical schools require you to have a U.S. bachelor's degree.'Click To Tweet

So if you’re in high school and you know you want to go to medical school in the United States, you have to work hard to get these grades. Get the scholarship and then be able to get to the states. You have to be organized and know exactly what you want to do.

Noi basically researched everything. In fact, she attended an MCAT workshop even when she was still a Freshman. Since Day 1, she knew about the MCAT and that she had to do it and all the things that need to get done. They had a premedical advisor who guided them through it.

[14:10] Dealing with Pressure and Learning English

She felt so much pressure. And she didn’t really realize it until she started the application process. She looked at the percentage of international students who got in. She found it very stressful not knowing what’s next and what she had to do to get into medical school. If she didn’t get in, she was looking at applying the following year or getting a research job.

Coming from another country, Noi still continues to learn new words. However, they’ve learned English since they were in fifth grade. She credits the TV shows and the movies for her American accent. If there were words she didn’t understand, she would learn them. She wasn’t afraid to ask for help. So not being a native English speaker didn’t really affect her.

'If you don't ask, you just wouldn't know.'Click To Tweet

[17:50] Obstacles as an International Student

The whole application process is very different. In the United States, they prepare high school students to go to college. The have advising and all.

For Noi, she’s both an international student and nontraditional student, having served in the army. So this was something she had to work with.

Her advice to students is to make sure you have everything you need. Some schools don’t require SATs, some do. Make sure you take the SAT you need. All universities require the TOEFL exam, which is a standardized test to measure English language ability.

Some schools would also have interviews for undergrad. Preparing for interviews is key. She interviewed with the top 5 Ivy League school and she was very casual. She didn’t have any idea what an interview was.

Also, make sure you edit your essays. Make sure your grammar is perfect. Ask for recommendation letters. Noi had to reach out to her Israeli high school teachers two years after she graduated. She asked them to write it in English.

'I didn't see a Plan B and I was just 'I'm going.' and that's what's happening.'Click To Tweet

Even the medical school application process was challenging for her. But you learn so much about yourself and about other things. This is just the beginning. This is just one application and there are going to be so much more. So she just had to remind herself why she had to do it and her motivation behind it.

Another challenge as an international student is that you don’t have the support system. With Noi, her family is back in Israel. So she can’t just call them in the middle of the night when she needs them. She can’t just go there for the holidays. Being out of her comfort zone allowed her to grow so much.

The opportunities were limited for international students. There are international scholars and student services in every school and they guide international students. But international students are not eligible in their summer programs.

So she only had the opportunity to do research in her school, and it wasn’t a big science department. Fortunately, Noi got summer fellowship that funded her research for the summer and she was paid a stipend.

'The key aspect of being an international student is really research every aspect before you come and not just apply.'Click To Tweet

Volunteering-wise, she didn’t see this as a problem. You can apply for volunteering everywhere. Noi did all her shadowing at the medical school in their school. She also volunteered at another school in DC.

Hospitals accept international students almost all the time. Most of them are research opportunities. Usually, you can only work at the university which can be limiting.

Noi eventually got to intern at the NIH and she did it part-time while taking full-time classes in her senior year.

'There are opportunities. You just have to research and find a way to do it because there's always a way if you want to.'Click To Tweet

[26:20] Researching Which Medical Schools Will Accept You

In figuring out what schools are going to take her application seriously, she got the MSAR and another book that had all the programs. She had a table with all the names of the schools. Her first step was to highlight all of the schools where international students are eligible

Then she went after each of the schools on the MSAR and look at the interview section. She looked at the sub-category for international students – how many international students applied, how many interviewed, and how many matriculated.

However, the MSAR considers DACA applicants as international students, and this is different. Anyway, Noi went through each one. She didn’t bother applying to schools that, for instance, had 400 international students that applied and 10 interviewed, and 0 matriculated.

Even the MSAR of some schools read they accept international students but it’s case-by-case. She did apply to those and they sent her secondary invitations. She spent so much time editing them and sending money to the school.

Then she got a rejection email telling her she wasn’t eligible because she’s an international student. It was only case by case. It’s only if their country funds their study. Plus, you have to go back to your country after completing your studies in the United States.

There are some countries that often where they will fund students to come to the United States. But you have to go back to that country and work. So you can’t stay in the U.S. for residency.

Then you can go to each school’s website and look for eligibility. Look up international students and start reading.

'It's a lot of time and a lot of work. But it's worth it rather than spending $100 for each school that you didn't research for secondaries.'Click To Tweet

Noi ended up applying to 25 schools. There were some of them that she still couldn’t send secondaries to. So it was a total of 22 schools that really got her entire application, secondaries included.

[30:10] Dealing with Finances

Noi already prepared her parents by telling them that she was going to apply to medical schools in the United States and they were going to request specific things. But if it’s a scholarship, this is something you don’t have to show since the school is going to provide funding for you.

But this depends on the school. Some schools say international students have to show four years of tuition in an escrow account and you have to deposit this much. But she couldn’t show that. So these are things you need to consider.

Check if the schools provide scholarships for international students or private loans through the school. A lot of the private schools do provide scholarships, as well as public schools such as UCLA.

Noi stresses the importance of having international students in schools, especially for medical schools since you’re going to be treating patients coming from different cultures. It’s so valuable to have international students in classes.

'You're going to take patients from all walks of life, you need to know cultures. You need to know how to interact with people who are different than yourself.'Click To Tweet

However, finance is also another one of the biggest obstacles since international students are not eligible for federal loans.

That being said, medical schools want to have international students but they realize how this can be financially difficult.

[33:15] Taking a Gap Year

It’s a long process indeed. Noi did all the essays while she was working. First of all, she had visa issues to contend with as well. She took a gap year and she wasn’t a student at that time.

If you complete a degree in the United States, you have a year of optional practical training. This is part of your visa so you have a year to work in a job related to your studies.

This is the phase Noi is in right now. She did biochemistry. Now, she’s working in a lab investigating chemical mechanisms of heart failure. If you’re a STEM major, you can have an extension of an additional 24 months. So it helps if you don’t get an acceptance right away.

Noi wasn’t planning on taking a gap year initially. She was very confident she didn’t need it. She thought she knew what she wanted to do. She took the MCAT her junior year. She took it but didn’t do well as she wanted.

She had to make a decision whether to apply with a score she got and take her chances or take a gap year. She thought taking a gap year was a nightmare. But she knew she could still do so well so made the decision to take the gap year and take the MCAT again after six months.

'Taking this gap year was the best decision of my life. It has been the best year of my life.'Click To Tweet

[36:50] The Application Process

International students are not eligible for DO schools at the time she applied. She was part of the professional medical school fraternity. They had one of the DO administrators and admissions officers come to speak to them. She said they’re not currently accepting international students. So she didn’t apply. Canadian medical students are different.

Noi ended up getting five interviews. What helped her stand out is her army experience which was very unique. She also thinks her motivation to go into medicine, where she comes from, and her personal statement were all big parts of it.

She also did some things unrelated to medical school. She did leadership activities. All her college life, she was a part of the international student leadership team. They started the international student association where they started a cultural program to help bring awareness to different cultures.

'I was intrinsically motivated to do things because these are things I cared about. I didn't think I was going to look good on medical application.'Click To Tweet

But these are all the things she did because she loved them and not just because she was looking to applying to medical schools. She was talking about those things so passionately because those are the things she loves. It was her outlet for being in the library all day.

'Really do things you're passionate about and you care about. Sometimes, it doesn't even have to be related to medicine.'Click To Tweet

[43:05] Postgraduate Training and Residency Training

Noi thinks that if you’re really thinking things through and you do well in medical school and you just do things that you love, then there’s always a way to do it. So she doesn’t really consider applying for residency as a challenge, otherwise, it would just be a limiting belief she didn’t want to consider.

'If there's a will, there's a way.'Click To Tweet

[44:45] Final Words of Wisdom

It’s possible. Don’t limit yourself with anything. You’re capable of doing whatever you stood out to. You just need to be very organized. You need to think everything through. Look at the pros and cons.

Don’t stress out if things don’t work out the first way because things always happen for the best. If it doesn’t work the first time, it will work the second time.

There’s always something to learn from the process. There’s no wrong decision. It’s just something you can learn from and grow from.

Noi is also motivated by the inspirational quote, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Moving forward, Noi is going to David Geffen School of Medicine. She’s hopefully doing cardiac surgery residency. But she’s going with an open mind. That said, she wants to be a physician-scientist in an academic setting. She loves teaching organic chemistry.


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