Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Studying

Some of you know that I will be taking the MCAT again this summer. Yes, I am already in medical school, but I am considering the possibility of a last round of US school applications. My old scores have expired and to apply again, I must test again. If I do as well or better than my last attempt at the exam, then I will continue with applications. If not, then it will be a good review of the materials and I'll get a short trip to London out of the deal. Regardless, I have started the whole application process and, in so doing, wrote an update for my letters of recommendation from Portland State. I thought I'd share that letter with you because I feel it describes my position well. 

This update is somewhat unorthodox, as is my application. I am applying to medical school yet I am currently a medical student.

After years of applying and rejection, I was accepted at the Medical University of Gdańsk in Gdańsk, Poland, my husband’s home city and country. Once enrolled in their 6 year program, I withdrew my AMCAS
(the med school application service) application because I had finally made it to medical school. While not my first choice, I was ready to accept it after so many attempts.

I just completed my first year at the school and have done very well. Attached is an unofficial transcript. I have been very happy with the quality of education and the subject matter, but I am missing the camaraderie that comes from a strong small class of medical students. I long for a class of educational peers.  The program I’m attending is intended primarily for students who do not have prior degrees and often have very little other experience. I am finding that my years of preparation and other experience are definitely not the norm.

In my current program, I will graduate in 2015. If I continue while I attempt one more round of applications for the chance of attending a choice school, I will still graduate in 2015. The difference, aside from tuition costs, lies in feeling that I may have a closer connection with and have more opportunity to be challenged by my fellow classmates. I have looked at the possibility of transferring, but very few schools entertain the idea of medical transfer students, particularly from foreign institutions. I will be retaking the MCAT this summer as my former scores have expired.  I will also be submitting my new letters of recommendation directly to AMCAS.

I am gaining valuable experience and knowledge that I would not have been able to achieve were I still working at my hospital job in Portland and continuing my US-based volunteer efforts. In summary, the way I have improved my application is by becoming a medical student.

One major downside to another round of applications is the cost. Taking the MCAT internationally costs  $295 plus the cost of travel to and from the testing site in London. If I continue with applications, the first school is $160 and each one thereafter is $32. There is a program setup to help students with these costs.  I applied and was denied. After submitting my appeal I receivedan email that reiterated: "The Fee Assistance Program (FAP) is provided to assist individuals with extreme financial limitations whose inability to pay the full MCAT registration fee or the AMCAS application fee would prevent them from taking the examination or applying to medical school." I was rather upset by this and I felt it warranted a response.

Dear Sir or Madam or Automated Response Generator,

Thank you for your response.

In light that I am not sure how I will be able to pay my rent next month, much less the MCAT fee or AMCAS application fees, thank you for assuring me that I am not an individual with extreme financial limitations. This is very reassuring. Since I do not have the funds to pay the registration fee, I suppose I can always use my credit card and burden myself with even more crippling debt.

Thank you for providing me with the awkward decision of choosing between food and shelter or my higher education goals. I had hoped my appeal would garner additional assistance, though, unfortunately, it seems it has fallen on deaf ears.

Chelsea Unruh

I didn't receive a response.

One of the most frustrating parts about this whole situation of possible reapplication is that I feel I must be secretive about it. As I stated in the essay, I don't feel that I have many classmates here who challenge me. However, if I tell my classmates that I am applying for US schools, they will inevitably ask why and that's difficult. I want to go to a school that has smart students.* How can you say that without hurting feelings or sounding like a complete ass? It's a similar issue with my professors, although trickier as I need letters of reference from them.  I need a letter of reference so I can go to a better school, a US school.** As you can see, I have to handle this delicately. 

Starting tomorrow I am beginning a strict regiment of studying for the MCAT. I have less than a month before I take the exam and I have SO MUCH to review. I may not be posting as much, here nor on facebook, and I may be slow to respond to emails. I'm hoping I can handle 2.5 weeks of intense study without burn out. During this time, I will, however, be accepting emails or comments of encouragement and as much positive energy as can be sent this way. For now, it's off to a pre-study sleep.

* This is not exactly how I feel. There are smart students at my school. However, due to age and experience differences, there are not many students that I would call my educations peers. 
** Again, not a true statement. The school is excellent. The Polish division is the top in the country and int he top 10 in Europe. The English division, however, is not as developed and is not as competitive.