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Secondary applications may, in fact, be the worst things in the world.

Remember not so terribly long ago when I was complaining about how difficult it was to write my personal statement? Secondary applications are like that. Only there are eighteen of them. And they want to know scintillating things like, how will I add diversity to their school, (I’m a white middle class female; let’s face it, I’m not going to improve anyone’s demographics,) or why do I think their particular school is the place I want to go (most of my decision making was based on city, average graduate debt, and lack of a research focus.)

And then there are the writing prompts that sound like they were designed by my second grade teacher: “X University celebrates a Life in Discovery. What does a Life in Discovery mean to you?” I know the point is for me to talk about having a passion for lifelong learning, and lord knows I have a passion for lifelong learning, but the words a Life in Discovery didn’t mean anything to me until they asked.

The sad part was that I was sort of looking forward to secondary applications. I like open ended questions and the chance to expound upon my past and my passion for medicine. I’m a writer; this is what I do. But there are only so many times that a person can write about how a varied background has made her a more well-rounded individual before it starts to loose its fresh optimism. (Two, actually. I can write about it twice before it goes stale.)

I’ve started banging out the essays so quickly that I can hardly stand to reread them for fear I will actually be confronted by the dearth of decent sentence construction. My hope is that no one is actually going to read these. Or that, like cover letters, everyone else applying is writing responses that are just as cliched.

For now I’ll keep banging them out and hoping for the best.



I checked my MCAT score with a friend from undergrad holding my hand mentally through the phone. She listened gamely but confused as I started shouting scores into the receiver.

“Is…is that a good thing?” she asked, warily.

I didn’t have the focus to explain what the scores actually meant. The final proclamation that I would never have to take that exam again was easy to interpret though. We cheered for approximately thirty seconds before I begged off to report the scores to my family.

Even in my relief, though, the actual meaning of the score didn’t hit me until I was driving home from work later that evening. The air conditioning and the radio blaring into the sweltering July heat I suddenly started laughing hysterically and banging on the steering wheel. A driver in the car next to me gave me a concerned look, which only made me laugh harder. Done. Finished. This horrible awful test that I had been dreading since I first accepted the idea of going into medicine almost two years ago was complete and I would never have to worry about it again.

Just as quickly as the excitement hit, it’s also starting to wear off. I wasn’t really doing much as I waited for my MCAT score other than worry, so now that it’s over there hasn’t been much change in my daily schedule. The next hurdle, secondary applications, are already piling up and I’ve just lost my absolute last excuse to ignore them….

I wish I could really write about the women I see during my time at Planned Parenthood. I started one entry about something I saw last week, and halfway through I realized that it was probably too graphic to share, even under the thin veil of anonymity I attempt to maintain. This story did not even step a toe into the heart wrenching tales of the actual patients I saw on Saturday, all of which were too dear and too personal for a description to be anything but a betrayal.

So this entry is about a lack of stories rather than an actual one.

The most I can do as a counselor is be sympathetic and press a pamphlet for a support group into open palms. I wonder if people who train for this position in a professional capacity learn better lines than, “It must be incredibly difficult” or “Remember that you’re not the only person who had to live with this decision.” It seems trite for the women who are confident in their decisions, and it never seems like enough for the ones who are genuinely upset.

This past Saturday the protester on the corner was louder than usual. I could hear him yelling in the office where I did the counseling. None of the women commented, but a few furtive eyes glanced in his direction. One woman even commented that she should really be out there standing with him. I can scarcely imagine a more gut-wrenching place to be than caught between us.

The gossip from an outside vendor is that the protester sells the babies put up for adoption by women he’s talked out of having an abortion. I don’t believe it for a second, but the story has a morbid appeal. It’s the sort of unfair generalization I hear him shouting to the people who drive into the clinic. There was a woman with him today wearing a long pleated skirt and a dour expression.

I try not to wear my political hat when I’m at the clinic. Enough of the women I see are religious and pro-life that I try to provide comfort without controversy. Unconditional positive regard was something we talked about in psychology classes; I want them to know I understand that they need to do something they would otherwise find reprehensible. I want them to know that I think that must be a very hard thing to do. Harder still with a man yelling at them about heartbeats at three weeks that don’t actually exist. I can’t think that it would help them for me to get on a soapbox about how their right to choose is sacred. They chose. It was never a political decision.

Someday I hope to have enough stories that I can start to blur the lines between the individuals without losing the substance of each individual experience. In the meantime, I will continue to filter everything through my own impressions and try not to lose track of how valuable it can be to be anonymous.

I have always enjoyed looking at the world through the writer’s eye; seeing the story that exists behind the framework of daily life. This article, which comes via a friend in publishing, finds similarities between Grimm’s Fairytales and the patients seen in the hospital. The author comments on how medical training seldom provides insight into the context of an individual’s ailments. She is left with these haunting images and the questions they provoke. And yet my sense is that, simply by viewing these patients through the lens of a storyteller, she is probably gaining a greater insight into their illness than the physicians who don’t bother to wonder. If nothing else, she is likely more invested in her patients if she can invent a narrative for their lives; a way to pick out individuals amid the blur of cases that crowd into a day’s work.

At the end of our last lab, my partner and I said our goodbyes to the TA over the shoulder of the stock room manager and shuffled our way out into the hallway. As we stepped out into the hot concrete of the patio I threw my arms wide and shouted, “We never have to enter that lab again!” to the few straggling students still milling about on a Friday afternoon. No one gave me so much as a glance.

And with that, my postbac career is over. I have two lab reports to bang out over the weekend, but classes are done and I have officially completed the prerequisites for medical school.

Of course the end was a bit anticlimactic. My primary application has been in for weeks and the “starred” section of my email inbox is filling with offers to fill out secondaries. MCAT scores are due to come out in three weeks, and tomorrow I start packing up my belongings to move across town.

And through both of these two weeks of our final lab I have been grading and running review sessions for the new generation of postbacs who started in early June. They’re struggling with the same complexities of stoichiometry and electron configurations that confounded me a year ago. There is nowhere that I am more aware of how far I’ve come than standing in front of the review session, covered in chalk dust trying to remember the same rules for Lewis structures that sent me into a panic last summer.

In the midst of all of that the blog took an impromptu hiatus. I’m back now and ready to document the next step of the journey; the infamous glide year. Last year was all about getting my foot in the door, this year I have to talk my way inside.

For those of you who followed my journey for the past year (or some fraction thereof) I hope you have enjoyed the ride. The next chapter should hold its own ups and downs, and I hope you will join me as a newly minted medical school applicant.