Applying to Med/PA School, Individual Pre-Health Stories
How I Got Accepted to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
A New Jersey native, Marlee Hirsch graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in biology and a minor in psychology. A current third year at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Marlee is planning to apply to Obstetrics & Gynecology for residency. She is passionate about women’s health, patient education, and volunteering in her community of Newark. In her free time, she likes reading, hiking, enjoying time with friends and family, and traveling. In 2017, Marlee spent two weeks in Spain through the Atlantis Program.
This is just one of a series of blog posts that will feature medical students telling their stories of how they got accepted into medical school. Today, Marlee shares with us the story of how she was accepted to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
Marlee, give us a peek into your life. What initially attracted you to pursue medicine?
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a vet because I loved animals. In high school, I took an online pre-vet class and discovered one glaringly obvious thing I didn’t like about it. I couldn’t ask the animals questions – all I wanted to do was talk to them, but clearly, they couldn’t talk. During my senior year of high school, I made the obvious transition to medicine since I loved biology and science but wanted to work with people.
Why did you choose to apply to Rutgers New Jersey Medical School?
I’m from New Jersey, and since I spent my four undergrad years away from home, I was really looking to come back. It was an obvious choice to apply to New Jersey schools, and New Jersey was where I ended up. I’m happy about it.
What are three reasons why you think you were accepted?
NJMS places a big emphasis on humanism, and my personal statement was really focused on that topic. In my essay, I talked about how the relationships I cultivated through mentoring and leadership positions were a big part of my college experience.
I also shadowed an amazing doctor who ended up being a mentor to me. He was very focused on building relationships, getting to know his patients well and treating them like family. As a doctor, I really want to be like him, to truly focus on my patients and build relationships with them. That’s what humanism at NJMS is all about: emphasizing the doctor-patient relationship, bringing the human side back to medicine. We want to make sure medicine is all about the people and putting patients first. I believe that who I want to be as a doctor really aligned with what NJMS was looking for in their students and emphasizing in their curriculum.
When I got my acceptance call, they also said that one of the reasons they liked me as an applicant was that I had experienced failure and bounced back. During undergrad, there was a class in which I did not do well. There was personal stuff going on at the time, and as a result, I had to take a “W” in that class. It was disappointing and difficult to deal with, especially because this was not the kind of student I was. I hadn’t really failed anything before, and it took some soul-searching to bounce back from that. When you get a “W” in a class, you have to explain it on all your applications. I guess they liked my explanation, and my belief that I could improve myself because of that experience.
That’s what humanism at NJMS is all about: emphasizing the doctor-patient relationship, bringing the human side back to medicine.
How do you think the Atlantis program influenced or impacted your acceptance?
Honestly, I don’t know. I was in Spain while I was applying to med school. I told some schools and not others that I was there; I couldn’t technically write it on my primary application because I hadn’t yet completed the program at the time. Whenever I could bring it up in a secondary application, I did, because I had a great experience that taught me much.
Honestly, I don’t remember if I ever told NJMS about it, but I do know I brought it up in other interviews. If nothing else, my experience impacted me as a med student going forward. It introduced me to language barriers. In Spain, as someone who didn’t understand the language, it was really easy to see how here in America, a patient who doesn’t speak English might be at a disadvantage, and might not understand what is going on.
Generally, understanding medicine in another culture and country was enlightening and really broadened my horizons. The sharing of ideas was really cool. It put me on more of a global health path than I ever expected. NJMS does love global health, so perhaps they noticed that.
How did you feel after the interview?
Rutgers NJMS was my first interview, so I felt a little bit weird about it. I wasn’t sure if what had transpired was bad or good. After the tour, I knew that I loved the school. The atmosphere is student-centered and collaborative. Students are involved, and I loved that. So I was really happy after the interview, although I wasn’t sure if I had nailed it or not. The not knowing might just have been part of first interview nerves.
Walk us through the moment you found out you got accepted.
I had just left a club meeting and said goodbye for the evening to a bunch of my best friends. I was walking to the library because I had a massive philosophy paper due. (I had procrastinated; it was senior year.) I got a call from an unknown number but didn’t answer it. Then on the second call, I answered. The person said: “This is Dr. Heinrich, I’m the Dean of Admissions for NJMS.”
At that point, I knew what was happening, and I jumped up on a bench in excitement. Dr. Heinrich and I had a really nice conversation where he explained why I was a good fit at the school. It was nice to have that connection with the Dean, and he’s a great guy, so it was really amazing.
I called my parents right away. All my friends came from the other side of campus to congratulate me. Then, after an hour or two of celebration, I had to go finish my paper.
Last question: How can others imitate your success?
The most important thing is stay true to yourself and follow your passion. I don’t think you should go into your undergrad experience trying to resume-build just because you want to be a good candidate. Only do things that you love and are passionate about. Those things will shine through on your application. That’s better than joining some activity that you don’t really care about only to move you a couple steps up the ladder.
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