Applying to Med/PA School
How I Got Accepted to University of Arizona College of Medicine
Francisco Romo is from Douglas, Arizona, which is a small border town in southeast Arizona. He attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, for his undergraduate degree. Francisco is a rising MS1 at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. Francisco went to Toledo, Spain with Atlantis in the summer of 2018 for a five-week Fellowship. Francisco's long-term goals include providing quality healthcare for rural areas, such as the community where he was raised. Francisco is interested in becoming involved with a distinction track at the University of Arizona College of Medicine which focuses on rural health and combating the unique challenges faced by border communities and other underserved areas.
This is just one in a series of blog posts that will feature medical students telling their stories of how they got accepted into medical school. Today, Francisco Romo shares with us the story of his acceptance to the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Francisco, give us a peek into your life. What initially attracted you to pursue medicine?
My grandfather’s influence was actually what initially attracted me to medicine, as he was one of my biggest role models growing up. He was a physician that practiced for many years in Mexico. I would go with him at times and saw him as the professional that he was, which greatly inspired me. I was able to see firsthand how he worked with people, how he cared about his patients, and how he always tried to do what was best for them. He genuinely seemed to enjoy his job, and he had a long rewarding career, which initially gave me that interest. Then In high school, I mostly focused on the science of how the body worked, which led me to study physiology at the university level.
Why did you choose to apply to the University of Arizona College of Medicine?
I applied to a couple of schools, but I think the University of Arizona was one of my top choices because I was familiar with the location, the campus, and I was comfortable there. I was confident that I had the strong support system that I would need to rely on throughout these four years of medical school. I currently live with my older brother, who I’m very close to, so I had a place that I felt at home.
Also, I was still close to family; It was just a two-hour drive back home where I could visit my parents and extended family. I liked Arizona, and didn’t feel the need to leave right away. If I do leave at some other point after med school, I think that’s fine, but I thought this was a good location for me. Aside from the programs and the distinction tracks that UA has, I was interested in the immense value they put on the community and the emphasis on giving back to the area.
What are three reasons why you think you were accepted?
I thought I was a strong candidate, but I knew that one of the things that I wasn’t as great as I would’ve hoped it to be was my MCAT score. So, I wanted the rest of my application– my GPA, my extracurriculars, my personal statement– to pick up on that. I felt that those areas were definitely stronger points of my application.
For my personal statement, I went through seven or eight drafts by sending it to someone– a professor or a friend that knew me well– and I would ask: “Does this sound like me? Does this sound genuine? Is it interesting enough to read? Does this show who I am?” Sometimes they would have many changes, other times they would not make any changes, but I felt the end result was something that demonstrated why I wanted to pursue medicine. I am greatly appreciative of every person that helped me out with that process.
My extracurriculars were another strong point because they showed a wide range of interests and experiences that would apply both directly and indirectly to my future as a physician.
How do you think the Atlantis Fellowship influenced or impacted your acceptance?
I was applying to medical school when I was in Spain, so I was sending out applications on my Fellowship. I wasn’t able to put too much detail about Atlantis in my primary applications, which I was upset about. But that changed once I got the secondaries, and I was able to add to it.
When the interview came along– the University of Arizona has MMIs or Multiple Mini Interviews— I could bring up relevant experiences with Atlantis through the different stations. I felt that Atlantis worked as a perfect example, not just as shadowing, but as an experience that brought me out of my comfort zone and into an area where I was forced to learn and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances. I felt that the experience showed a lot about me as a person and as a future health professional.
“I felt that Atlantis worked as a perfect example, not just as shadowing, but as an experience that brought me out of my comfort zone and into an area where I was forced to learn and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances.”
How did you feel after the interview?
I had initially been put on a waitlist for an interview. Once I got it, I was excited because at that point I knew I would be in front of someone and have the opportunity to speak about my experiences and share who I am. I thought that would be easier for me than having to write about them and put them on paper, so I was excited to get in front of someone and speak to them about why I’m pursuing this. After the interview, I felt confident that most of the stations went well, and I knew there wasn’t much to do other than wait. I was partly anxious and partly relieved that there wasn’t anything else that I could do except wait, which was one of the hardest parts.
Walk us through the moment you found out you got accepted.
It still puts a big smile on my face; It probably will for a while. I had a pretty long wait time in between my interview and when I was accepted. I was actually at school and was waiting for a class, and I had my phone on do not disturb mode since I had just gotten out of work. I was going into class, and I was scrolling through social media. Once I got out to my homepage, I had a missed call from an unknown number. I didn’t recognize the number, and I wasn’t even going to call back, but then I saw that they left a voicemail (which I still have saved actually), and it was from the University of Arizona offering me a seat!
I was absolutely in disbelief. I ran outside because I couldn’t contain my excitement and had to call my brother. As I said before, he’s my roommate and my best friend, so I needed to call him immediately. Then I FaceTimed my parents and texted others important to me who knew that I had been waiting to hear back from the UA. The application process had been a year-long project, and I wanted to thank them for their support.
I had class 20 minutes afterward with a lot of friends who were either applying this cycle or planning on applying in a later cycle, and everyone was thrilled. My friends told me, “What are you still doing in class?”, but I said I had to finish off the semester, “Come on everyone, we’ll celebrate later.” It was a great moment for me and for those people who had been alongside me throughout the entire process.
Last question: How can others imitate your success?
I think branching out and finding those opportunities that speak to you, that you feel passionate about, is important. Whether it was a research lab or a volunteer experience that I went through, I stuck with it for a while, and if it didn’t feel right for me, I looked for other places where I did get that feeling that I was doing something very meaningful. Once I did that, I truly grew as a candidate for medical school because I was gaining these experiences that I could write and speak about with passion. I think that shows through in the interview when you’re interested in these projects that you undertake. It shows through when you speak about them: there’s the look in your eyes, your voice, as opposed to just having points on a resume.
I think the last piece of advice I would give is to be patient. Applying for medical school is a very long process, and it is important to not get discouraged. This is something that most applicants have been working on for many years, and it will take time, but we all take our own paths to get to where we’re going.
“Applying for medical school is a very long process, and it is important to not get discouraged. This is something that most applicants have been working on for many years, and it will take time, but we all take our own paths to get to where we’re going.”
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