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How Premeds Skip Class

Hello friends,
As I might have mentioned before, I’m a premed. At some schools, that might be a certain major, but at Caltech (and most schools, I think), that just means that I have the intention of applying to medical school. Premeds can major in whatever they’re interested in, but for a lot of people that means some sort of biology/chemistry/combination. I’m a chemistry major because I found that when I studied biology, I wished I had a stronger chemistry background.

There aren’t a lot of premeds at this school–everyone else is interested in computer science (CS), engineering, or graduate school. While there is a pre-health advisor, it was still difficult to figure out the premed schedule. Confused-frosh-me always wondered,when do I take the MCAT? How do I prepare? How do applications work? Which profsshould I ask for a recommendation?
Premeds don’t usually liketalking aboutthese sorts of topics because it could stress them out to think of their very long to-do list and how they might fall short compared toother premeds. Fortunately for me, there werepremed upperclassmen who were super sweet and gave me guidance just when I needed it. Caltech is very small, and this sort of guidance is very much needed. Sure, med schools have scarily low acceptance rates, but I’ve been in that place, of feeling confused and lost and clueless, and I want to startmore conversations with premeds about thedifferent paths to take. We don’t have to be competing with each other. Our school is teensy. We can instead work together to make ourselves more competitive againststudents from other schools.

Mostapplications go through a website called the AMCAS. I’m from Texas, which has its own wealth of medical schools that use a separate system called the TMDSAS… both are abbreviations for something something application system. The Texas one opened up in May of junior year, and AMCAS opened up in June. I spent the summer filling out a primary application to send to all 40 schools to which I chose to apply. Someof those schools then sent me a secondary application, specific to their school. Throughout July and August, I spent many an afternoon/evening in Copa Vida, filling those out.

Now, I’ve finally entered the interview stage, which runs from September to February… sometimes March. Texas schools start the whole process a little earlier (interviews can start as early as late July). So far, I’ve gotten to interview at three schools in Texas. Last week, though, I went to Portland, Oregon, for an interview at the Oregon Health and Science University.

I have some family in Portland, and I’ve spent several summers (including this past one) up there, avoiding the ovens that are Texas and California in the summer. I love how it is just the right size. It has a wealth of coffee shops and food trucks, but my favorite place has to be Powell’s Books, a bookstore that is unlike other bookstores. It’s giant, but somehow cosy. Lots of people sit around and just read, and they’re okay with that. My sister, a true foodie, was reluctant to go to a bookstore during our latest Portland trip, but when I dragged her there, she ended up wanting to stay the longest.

I say all this togive you an idea of the beautiful city that I got to skip class to visit for a few days, last week. My interview was on Wednesday (seriously–who schedules interviews only on Wednesdays? Does no one else have school??), so I flew up on Tuesday, interviewed, and flew back Thursday afternoon. Portland in the summer is still quite hot, with none of that Oregon sunshine (rain) that is so famous. People would talk about how much it rained in Oregon, and I would be confused because my summers were filled with hiking, savoring my freedom from mosquitos, and eating fresh fruit under the warm sun. But this, friends, is thePortland I stepped into last week:

It was so absolutely beautiful and enchanting. Two of my favorite things: the sound/smell/taste/feel/everything of rain, and a true autumn. As my plane touched down through the thick and even clouds into Portland, all I could see was color. Greens and golds and fiery reds and oranges rested beneath a dark grey blanket of cloud. The cloudiness made the colors pop all the more.

The school was really nice, too–the designof the building let in lots of light and made room for inspiration and ideas. You may laugh, but I think the Chinese have something going on with feng shui; it all makes so much sense to have a certain intentional flow to a space. Dental students walked round in scrubs, and med students filled white boards in study rooms with all the material they were studying… I could really see myself there. Everyone was really sweet. Despite multiple warnings, I arrived late for the interview due to rain and traffic and road construction and detours and Google maps-ing to an incorrect address, but they were super sweet and called me to see where I was. The rest of the day went without a hitch. I had my first multiple-mini interviews (MMI), where all the interviewees cycle through short 8-minuteinterview sessions. They were pretty fun and definitely not your typical "tell me about your strengths" interview. The other applicants were really fun to talk to, and it was super encouraging.

So yeah. Yay for skipping class to do something important and fun (at the same time, ah)! Just a few more photos…

keep looking’ up,

Jenny Sheng