Spring Primary Preparation

Spring is in the air! The trees are blooming, and the weather is warming. For those of you preparing to apply to medical and dental school, however, spring signals the beginning of a long and stressful application process. This checklist will help you prepare your primary so that you can start strong and take some time to relax and enjoy your spring.

Before planning, it is important to understand the application cycle. Medical and dental school applications contain three sequential parts. 1) the primary, which is the centralized and universal online application that is delivered to all the schools to which you apply 2) the secondaries, which are the school specific essays, and your committee packet containing your letters of recommendation 3) and the interview. Medical and dental school admissions is rolling, and applications are evaluated as they are received, so the timing of your primary matters. Aim to be ready to submit in the first few weeks of June by completing the following steps this spring.

  1. Take the MCAT/DAT. The MCAT is an important component of your primary application, and in most cases needs to be taken by May. Since the scores take around thirty days to post, a May test date allows you to submit the primary after you have your score but still within our recommended timeline of the first two-three weeks of June. Many applicants find it too stressful and time consuming to complete their courses, study for the MCAT, and prep their application materials. If you feel too burnt out or you have not had enough time to study, don’t hesitate to postpone your test date, and your application. You will feel better and be a stronger applicant if you have given yourself adequate time to study. The timing of DAT is more flexible, but you should generally try to complete it by June to ensure a timely application.
  2. Work on your personal statement. The personal statement is the first opportunity schools have to get to know you and your motivations for medicine. Get a jump start on it by spending a couple of minutes each day writing about your experiences in college and your reasons for pursuing medicine in a journal. Once you have a draft, submit it to your advisor for review.
  3. Choose your schools. Your school list needs to be decided by the time you submit the primary. Many factors go into choosing schools, from location, curriculum, cost, class size, and culture. Use the Medical School Admissions Requirements or the ADEA Dental School Explorer as well as Penn’s statistics to get a sense the range of schools you might apply to, but recognize that MCAT and GPA are only part of the application criteria. Have your advisor review your school list if you have questions or concerns.
  4. Plan for your secondary essays. Once a school receives your primary they will send you a secondary applications to complete. Depending on the number of schools to which you applied you could be faced with a busy July and early August. Set aside some time in your calendar to tackle these essays in a timely manner.
  5. Mark your calendars. Familiarize yourself with the deadlines for Penn’s committee letter process. Meeting these deadlines will ensure you can request your committee packet early. If you have questions about the deadlines and requirements for the committee letter, reach out to our office.
  6. Take care of yourself and each other. Make time to do whatever relaxes and energizes you. Go to the gym, have lunch with a friend, spend an evening re-watching your favorite show. Check in with your friends who are going through the process.

The application process is stressful. There are a lot of moving parts, and completing them well and in a timely matter is important. I hope this helps you prioritize your tasks, so that you can start the application season off right, but don’t forget to take some time to enjoy the nice weather!

Autism Research at CHOP

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Luis Rosario, COL ’19

This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to work in the Biomagnetic Imaging Laboratory in the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. During my time at the Biomagnetic Imaging Laboratory, I was able to develop many professional skills that I know will help me become a great researcher and hopefully physician one day. I was able to work closely with the researchers every day, learning how to interact closely with child subjects both on and not on the autism spectrum. I was able to gain a deep understanding and appreciation for this specific disorder as well as learn how to deal with certain behaviors that these subjects may have as a result of the disorder. I feel that these interactions have helped me develop an ability to interact with individuals that have been afflicted by a certain disorder, and these skills will allow me to interact better with patients in the future once I finally have a chance to treat patients.

Furthermore, I was able to understand how a research laboratory works as a result of the funding. I was able to attend weekly lab meeting and also participate occasionally as well. I gained the ability to be able to communicate effectively about projects I was assisting with in a professional research setting, which will greatly boost my skills in the time I take working hopefully in a research lab before I apply to medical school. Additionally, I was able to attend the Biomagnetic Imaging Laboratory’s annual retreat, which consisted of an entire day of various primary investigators presenting their current on-going research. I had the opportunity to interact with all the researchers as well as the research staff, and gain insight into all the work necessary for a research project’s completion. I was so lucky and grateful to be able to engage with the researchers as well as their work for that entire day, which would not have been possible without the funding that allowed me to work in the lab for the summer. Before I apply to medical school, I hope to use these skills to contribute to the growing knowledge of various mental disorders and dedicate time to assist in research that will hopefully make diagnosing and treating these individuals easier and more accessible.

I would not have been able to have these amazing experiences without the funding I received! I was able to develop professional skills that will help me in the future after graduation as well as gain confidence in my ability to contribute to a professional research setting. I am confident in that this experience has helped my professional development, and I am excited to apply these skills to help people that need it most in the near future.

Career Lessons from the Great British Baking Show: A Recipe for Professional Success

By Claire Klieger

I could spend hours (and have) binge watching the Great British Baking Show. When the world news gets me down, it’s my go-to avenue for escapism. And, when you have been working in Career Services as long as I have, you also can’t help but see career-related lessons in even your favorite form of distraction. So, here are five my GBBO-inspired career tips:

  1. Be prepared to work with the ingredients you have and limited instructions. Sometimes there just isn’t much of a recipe. Just a like technical challenge, you may often find yourself assigned a task at work with very little in the way of instructions. In some cases you may know exactly what the end product should look like but not how to get there and in others, you may not even know that. In either case, just as on the show, your supervisor will be expecting you to rely on your previous knowledge and experience to fill in some of the gaps yourself or figure things out on your own to get up to speed. That said, unlike on the show, it is okay to proactively seek clarification about expectations for the end product, including deadlines, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • “Keep Calm & Carry On.” There are plenty of times on the show when contestants encounter mishaps with their bakes. In other words, when it is clear that your pie has a “soggy bottom,” you still need to have the persistence to carry on and present the best product that you can.Similarly, on the job, it is important to be resilient. During times when you make mistakes, be able to take responsibility for them, do with you can to correct them in the moment (even if that sometimes means starting over) and move forward to produce the best outcome in the future.
  • “10 more minutes!” –  Know how to work under pressure and time constraints. Most of the bakers who attempted to assess the situation, make a plan, stay organized, prioritize what they were doing, and adapt with the remaining time left were often the most successful. These same strategies work well to remain calm under pressure when you know that you need to finish a project with a tight deadline.
  • Be your own Showstopper! My favorite part of every episode is the showstopper challenge where the constants get to plan out a bake catered around that week’s theme but with the freedom to design something in advance. Typically, the winners week after week demonstrate the same qualities: creativity, thoughtful planning (usually also practicing at home multiple times), the ability to set ambitious but also manageable goals, and, most importantly, chose a design that highlighted their specific skills. In your work, seek out opportunities that set you apart by shining a spotlight on your greatest strengths.   
  • Listen to constructive criticism and feedback – Paul Hollywood may be a tough judge, but he especially values when contestants incorporate his suggestions into future creations. This is, of course, also true of supervisors who greatly appreciate staff members who are willing to hear feedback without getting defensive and apply it to improving their performance on the job.

CS Radio – Episode 86: “Data Viz Whiz”

This week, we are joined by the newest member of the Career Services family, Emily Barrale, the new Associate Director for Data Analysis and Visualization. We get to learn a little about Emily, including the work she was previously doing for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Then we take a look at some of the career outcomes for the Class of 2018, which Emily has just compiled into a report. Enjoy!

Show Notes