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 California State University, Fullerton

Matthew James

Matthew JamesAbout me:

I suppose I am the stereotypical applicant who claims, “I've always wanted to be a doctor.” While this answer certainly won't help when interviewers ask why you want to be a physician, it helped me in that I entered my first year of college with medical school in mind.

I spent 4 years at CSUF, graduating magna cum laude (3.78 science, 3.84 overall GPA). I majored in Biological Science and minored in Chemistry. I took my MCAT in summer 2009 and received a 29O (9 physical, 11 verbal, 9 bio).

For extracurricular experience, I worked part time at Huntington Surf and Sport in downtown Huntington Beach for my first two years of college. I volunteered about 350 hours as a Clinical Care Extender at Hoag Hospital, and 750+ hours as a member of the leadership team (first as a Department Coordinator, then as an Assistant Director). On several occasions, I volunteered with the homeless outreach at my local church, distributing food and clothing to the homeless in Santa Ana. Additionally, I volunteered with the Life Rolls On Foundation, an organization that helps bring the fun of surfing to people with spinal cord injuries. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to shadow an infectious disease doctor based in Los Angeles, as well as a neurosurgeon in Newport Beach. These activities weren't all completed during my time in college, however. Most were done during my gap year (the year between graduation and actually going to medical school).

My first application cycle wasn't as successful as I had hoped. I applied to about 22 schools and was only offered 1 interview (Creighton University). I interviewed in February, and was waitlisted in March. Though there were obviously multiple factors behind the scarcity of interview offers (few extracurricular activities at the time, a less than stellar MCAT), the biggest issue was my late application. My primary application was not verified by AMCAS until October 1st, which put me at a considerable disadvantage.

My second application cycle was much more successful than the first. I applied to 20 schools and interviewed at 5. Thus far I have been accepted to 2 (Creighton University and Albany Medical College) and am waitlisted at 2 (St. Louis University and University of Vermont). This time, I had completed my application by mid June.

Based on my experience, I would offer the following advice:

1) Apply early! I'm sure this sounds very familiar, but it really does make a difference.

2) Don't spread yourself too thin. It may be tempting to get involved with every club you can, but make sure you don't do so at the expense of your grades. You can always add more activities during a gap year; grades are a bit more permanent.

3) Keep improving! Especially if placed on a wait list or you have a year off, make sure you aren't sitting idly by. Find ways to better yourself and then let the school know what you did! It will show how passionately you want to become a physician, as well as show the school you are still interested in them. After rejection or being wait listed, a lot of schools will even tell you where they think you are weak, so find out and start strengthening those areas.