It’s been a long application cycle. I am past the point of being weary, from paperwork, from interviews, from waiting.
As of January 22nd, I stand with 4 acceptances, and 2 schools have yet to render a final decision. The two I am waiting to hear from are the two most competitive, and the two closest to home. At this point, I am not holding out much hope for good news from these two (although, prayers/good thoughts would be much appreciated). I have turned down 2 of those 4 acceptances after thinking about where I would be happiest and who offered me the opportunities I most wanted out of my medical education–those were easy to decline. The choice had been pretty easy, up until January.
In late December, I received my sixth and final invitation to interview. I almost did not even want to go. How many times can someone answer the exact same set of questions and do it without looking bored or exasperated?! At the same time, I was excited for this one. This particular school rarely interviews out-of-state students, so I didn’t even think I would hear from them. What set this school apart from others, and were the reasons I applied, were the amazing research facilities, a solid CORE of rotation sites, super early patient interaction, impressive global health research and rotation sites, and they specifically mentioned neonatologists as alumni in their information packets.
The interview day went according to plan. After having so much success this cycle, I was fairly confident that I would be accepted. I didn’t want to be too cocky about it, and I was still nervous until I got the congratulatory email on Tuesday (it would have been on Monday, if it weren’t for the holiday). This interview day was different in the fact that the other students were not as diverse as some of my other interviews have been. All were from Ohio; all were still undergrads; all were unmarried. I stood out like a sore thumb. Overall, I loved the facilities; I loved the opportunities; I was impressed with the rotations; the faculty that I meant were very nice and friendly, and the interviews went by with much laughter and exchange of stories. (And, lunch was awesome! We were served, which has never happened out on the interview trail, and my first experience of beer can chicken was great too! Although trying to not get messy while wearing a suit was a bit of a trick.) Also, after my first year there I can apply for in-state tuition and save $39k in school debt (definitely a plus!). Things I didn’t like: we only got to talk to two first year students. As it was Friday, not many other students were available to chat with to get a real feel of the community of the medical school. One of my questions to a student went unanswered; I have my suspicions that this was due to having the admissions staff in the same room at the time, but it was still a bit off-putting. The school itself is also a bit old and in need of some repair. We also have to purchase our own laptops. These might not seem like major grievances, and I would agree with that; what I found most disturbing was the lack of information in print, and how to find this information to begin with. This school is also smack-dab in the middle of nowhere.
So now I have a very difficult decision to make. One school offers an unparalleled first two years of education. One school has an outstanding rotation CORE. The one that is farthest away from family and friends has the most opportunity for gainful employment for David but it’s been painful to find affordable housing on a med student budget. I feel like I fit in at one of them and not at the other. I feel like I have friends at one and not the other. There is one that I will be extremely depressed to have to say “no” to. (Surely that in itself says something, right? No?)
Thinking about it has been making me physically sick. Each has its own pros and cons. If there were a way to get the best of both worlds, I would take it in a heartbeat. To spend such an enormous amount of money and uproot not only my life but also my husband’s calls for great care in choosing. The stress of having to choose has robbed me of my happiness and excitement of even being accepted to medical school at all–and trust me, I know how fortunate I am to be in this position, since ~30k applicants will not be able to say the same at the end of this application cycle…. having had three previous unsuccessful cycles myself, I know far too well just how painful that experience can be.
Luckily for me, this past week at work has been extraordinarily busy and my mind has been otherwise occupied. I am not foolish enough to assume that if I don’t think about my problems that they will just go away, but it has been nice to have a reprieve and not have to think about this decision too much. I have been wanting to make a Pros/Cons list for both schools since I left the Ohio interview, but can’t seem to force myself to sit down and actually do it.
This week, I’ve been reading Dr. Perri Klass’ A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student. In the 1980’s, she was a nontraditional (i.e.: a bit older, not fresh out of undergrad), married medical student who started a family while in medical school, determined to be a pediatrician. She speaks of ethics and philosophy, and what it was like to learn medicine at the beginning of the HIV epidemic. She also wrote essays about her experiences that were later turned into this book. She went on rotations in England and India. In other words, she’s a lot like myself and has done some of the things I hope to do (only at Harvard). Reading her book has brought back a bit of my excitement for starting school, and has made me think more about what I want out of school and where I would like to be for my four years. It still makes me sick to have to choose and make my final decision in just a few short months.
Second Look Day for both schools is next month, so it looks like we will be taking another couple road trips so we can both make this decision together. I am drafting my list of questions so that we can get answers to help make this decision a bit more clear. I hope it helps. For now I think I need to do some more detective work and some soul-searching to figure this out. This is one instance where having too many options has been problematic.