Jennifer Rodriguez '04
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Coming to Mount Holyoke, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. I had always had an aptitude and interest in the sciences, especially human biology, and I wanted to find a way to use that talent and interest in a career of service. I decided to major in neuroscience and behavior, in part because of its focus on a specific aspect of human anatomy and physiology. Throughout college, I pursued opportunities that would allow me to learn more about a career as a physician. I shadowed pediatricians at local hospitals, participated in a summer enrichment program at UMass Medical School, and worked as a summer research assistant in an emergency department. These experiences helped me to understand more about what it was like to be a physician, and also gave me opportunities to talk with doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and medical students about their paths to medicine, and the pros and cons of their careers. I also found it important to develop my skills in basic science research, because I knew that an understanding of basic science and research techniques were important for a physician to have. I did research over two summers while at MHC, and took advantage of the opportunity to write an honors thesis during my senior year. Following graduation, I spent a year working as a research assistant at Massachusetts General Hospital.
All of these opportunities helped me to gain a more complete understanding of the basic sciences, and also helped me to clarify what kind of research, if any, I may want to pursue as part of my career. It was also important to me that I pursue my non-medically related interests. I sang in Glee Club, Chamber Singers, and the Abbey Singers, and studied piano at MHC, and sang in Chorus pro Musica during my year in Boston following graduation. Music was not only an outlet for stress while I was in school, but was also a way to keep some balance in my life during the long application process.
I made the decision to take a year off after college during my junior year at MHC, and I am very thankful for it. The year off from school let me clear my head after college. It was also very convenient to go through the application and interview process while I was working. I attended 13 interviews, which required at least 13 days off from work. Using my vacation days was something I could do easily; however, taking so many days off from classes during my senior year would have been much more complicated. Also, an important factor of the application process is the enormous cost. Having a full-time job at the time made the cost of applications and interviews much less daunting.
I used a few factors to decide which schools to apply to. Geography was a big factor, including proximity to home as well as size of the city. Also, the curriculum of schools was very important to me. I wanted a school with a less traditional curriculum, which taught the basic sciences in an integrated, systems-based way. I also wanted an opportunity for patient contact during my first year, as opposed to waiting until my third year. I only applied to schools that met these requirements. I found that Mount Holyoke prepared me very well for the application process, and I was fortunate enough to gain multiple acceptances to medical schools. After comparing the “feel” of each school, which I was able to assess during my interview trips and revisit weekends, as well as more practical aspects such as financial aid packages, I decided to attend Weill Medical College of Cornell University, in New York City. I have found myself to be very prepared for medical school course work, as well as the overall transition to life as a medical student, thanks in no small part to my years at Mount Holyoke.
The best advice I can give to an applicant is to be honest. It is crucial for an applicant to be honest with herself, about her motivations behind going to medical school, about what she wants out of medical school and an eventual career as a physician, and about her strengths and weaknesses. It is also important to be honest during the application and interview process. Admissions committees can easily see through a scripted “line”; however, when an applicant is direct and honest, she is more likely to be successful.