This post is based on conversations I had with premed friends of mine, who went through the medical school application and interview process this year. Not only did the connection occur in my own mind during our discussions, but one specific friend even remarked that a particular campus guide actually made an explicit, lengthy reference to the similarities between dating and applying to medical school! The following is a composite of his personal story and bits and pieces I’ve picked up from mealtime table talk I participated in over the last 6-7 months.
In applying to medical school, you must have a formal resume which is submitted to each school you apply to. This part of the official AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) application details your education, extracurricular activities, and specific involvement in job positions, organizations and ideological causes/groups that indicate how suited you are as a candidate for medical school (sound familiar?). Do you volunteer (chesed?), how serious have you pursued your premed studies (learner?), have you participated in clubs relevant to medicine, like a medical ethics society? Every significant point from your personal history that is somehow relevant and worthwhile in terms of characterizing you as suitable aspiring medical student. You also write a “personal statement” (I guess this is kind of akin to the “about me/looking for” part of a profile/resume) that explains why you think you’re fit to become a doctor and what about medicine is so interesting to you.
So after you’ve completed your application/resume and get yourself together, you shift into doing research on the various medical schools out there. You seek to identify which schools would best fit your particular personality and vision for your life as a doctor. You check out their educational philosophy, the lifestyle their students enjoy, the extracurricular activities available (do the students like to work out, play in intramural sports leagues, go to movies?), where the students go on for their residency, internships and how they structure their practices. Does the environment provide for students getting married and having children (appropriate housing, support, babysitting)? Where is the school located: is it in a warm climate, in the cold north? Where do you want to live: is the school located in a large city, or a smaller, quieter town?
Does any of this sound familiar?
Once you’ve figured out your list of schools that might just work, you send off your resume/application (along with a fee) to each school. If they happen to like your resume and personal statement, the schools will send you their secondary application (just to make sure you’re serious) which includes more essays specific to their university. The content of the questions they ask (and what they want to hear) basically include the admission committee wanting to know how much you like them and why you, specifically, are good fit for their school.
Once you submit the secondary (with yet another fee – maybe this is kind of pay-as-you-go shadchanus, or paying for the dating websites?), the school will determine if you’re worth an interview (ie: date). They’ll check into your background, see if you have any criminal record, and call the references for the positions/groups/activities you were involved with to see if you were the real-deal, or just checking off a “requirement” for your resume. They’ll speak to your mentors, former teachers, bosses, etc. Thankfully, they do not call people you've dated ;)
If the medical school likes you enough, you’ll get a call, email, or letter that lets you know they want to meet you face-to-face. Of course, you have to travel to their hometown, and you might have a choice regarding the date and timing of the interview, but the options are usually limited. Other times you’ll just be told to be at the admissions office on a specific day of certain month in the near future. To me, this sounds a lot like what female bloggers have lamented regarding their lack of say in what the guys dictate their dating activities will include...
Of course depending on where you applied, this could end up being an in-town affair, or you’ll have to schlep out somewhere, potentially to a far away destination in another state, which may even include the need for a plane ticket.
Now, once you’ve successfully managed to be approved for an interview and have physically travelled to the predetermined location (which is entirely their choice, and is usually on their campus). You have to “sell” yourself to the medical school by trying to convince them why you are their #1 choice and why they would benefit from having you as a student. You have to dress nicely, most typically in business attire, which requires a suit, a tie (for men), business heels (for women) and a well arranged hairstyle.
As an interviewee, you need to put on your best impression, which means no slouching, speaking clearly (no mumbling or machine gun staccato), and trying to “wow” your interviewer with a handful of notable/remarkable things about you that he/she wouldn’t necessarily have known from your profile and resume. You need to let them see a fuller picture of who you are, what your philosophic perspectives on life and medicine are, and just what drives you in your decision to become a doctor. They want to see how your mind works, how you react to challenging, surprising, or even controversial questions and subjects, and you’ll need to be on your toes, think quickly, and give just the right response at almost every exchange.
In turn, the interviewer will give you an opportunity to ask him/her a few questions to further the conversation and better inform you regarding the experience of attending this particular school. You’ll also get a tour of the campus, which could take place before or after the interview (this is kind of like how the driver may take the scenic route to show off the locale).
After the whole interview “date” is over, you go back home and quickly write a thank you note to follow up, telling your interviewer that you had a good time and how much you enjoyed seeing the school and speaking with him/her about the topics you discussed (specific references are necessary).
Now the wait begins. Will you hear back from them in the not-too-distant future, or will you have to wait on pins and needles for weeks, even months? The school could decide they like you enough to accept you, declare that they see you have potential and wait-list you (which starts a whole additional period of waiting), or simply reject you if they don’t see you fitting in as a student (or perhaps you lacked a certain something in your application or failed to act/respond properly during the interview).
This is a bit different from dating, since it would be almost as though your date decides to marry you after just one meeting. Though perhaps it could be compared to the more Chassidic method, which requires very extensive research into the other person, after which one or two meetings are held and a final decision is made regarding the potentiality of making this a match worthy of spending your life together.
One friend told me that he learned a lot from his dating experiences that greatly helped him prepare for these med school interviews – especially in terms of thinking concisely on his feet, being respectful even in the face of oddball or offensive behavior, and in general expressing himself clearly and effectively.
Maybe we should all apply to med school to get some more experience? :p