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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

The Application Cycle by Melis A. '08

Your MIT application is just the beginning

You don’t need me to tell you that the college application process is rough, and can sometimes leave you feeling as if you’re trapped in a sick game that is like a scavenger hunt and therapy session rolled into one (“You’ve landed on the ‘Guidance Counselors’ Office.’ Collect your letters of recommendation and proceed to your personal statement, where you will divulge your greatest disappointments and accomplishments to strangers.”) Have no fear; there is light at the end of the tunnel. Second semester senior year will rear its head shortly, bringing with it stress-relief and (hopefully) a mailbox stuffed with acceptance letters. These letters will validate years of hard work and sacrifice, and set you on a new and exciting path.

The choice to go to college right after high school was probably an easy decision for you (at least it was for me.) Hopefully you have received assistance from your teachers, guidance counselors, parents, and maybe even these blogs, so the decision to apply was not a daunting one.

In four years, you will be in a completely different situation. As “crusty’ seniors, my classmates and I are at a point where we have to make a lot of decisions- big, complicated, and sometimes expensive decisions. The options are endless: go to more school (graduate, medical, law, business), get a “real” job, take a year off to figure things out, work for a non-profit organization (Teach for America, Peace Corps), work in a lab, etc. It can be a very confusing and frustrating time, since these decisions will make a profound impact on the rest of our lives. My classmates and I must think long and hard about what our next step will be. Suddenly, high school looks so easy, since almost everyone knew the next step was college, it was a just a matter of choosing which one.

But, I’m happy to report that this can also be a very exciting time for college seniors. Just like you will undoubtedly receive a college acceptance letter, many of us are receiving job and graduate school offers. It’s with a bit of trepidation that I say that the next 9-10 years of my life are essentially planned. I will be spending the next two years at Oxford University thanks to the Rhodes Scholarship, followed by 7-8 years in an MD/PhD program. Some of the details are still fuzzy, for example I still need to apply for degree programs at Oxford (I’m hoping to studying Integrated Immunology and Global Health Science), and I haven’t committed to a specific MD/PhD program yet, but the general plan is in place.

So how did this all happen? I’m still trying to figure that out myself, actually. The easy answer is that I made a decision about what I want my life to be like and how I will try to make a difference in the world within my field. Then I applied to programs that seemed like they would help me to accomplish these goals. The rest of this entry is a brief summary of the admissions processes for medical school and the Rhodes Scholarship.

Medical School:
Most people don’t realize that the medical school admissions process starts early; the primary application (equivalent to the college Common Application) is released in the beginning of June. So if you want to enter medical school right after college, you have to make that decision by the middle of your sophomore year, to allow time to get a pre-medical advisor and get letters of recommendation. (By the way…I’m writing this on the train and it just broke down!!! Ahh, Amtrak, you are the bane of my existence.) I had all of my secondary applications submitted by the beginning of September, and I began getting interview invitations shortly afterwards. (Unlike the college application process, med school interviews require you to travel to the school itself. MD-only programs have one day of interviews, MD/PhD programs generally have two.). The traveling is both a perk and a fault. Because of one of my interviews, I got to go to California for the first time. The interviews are always scheduled on a weekday, which meant that I’ve had to miss classes and devise creative strategies to complete all of my schoolwork remotely. But hey, I’m not complaining.

Rhodes Scholarship: Studying at Oxford has been something that I’ve wanted to do since I spent a week there through a program I was involved with in high school called Youth Leaders International. So far I hadn’t gotten to study abroad (there were too many neat things to do at MIT) so it seemed like a great opportunity to get a different perspective on the practice of medicine and research process. When it came time to seriously considering applying, I checked out the bios of the past scholars and found them to be quite intimidating, as everyone seemed to have accomplished supernatural feats. Even so, I applied with the encouragement and support of the MIT Distinguished Scholarship Office.

The Rhodes application is (dare I say) even more rigorous than the medical school application, in some respects: eight letters of recommendation, 1,000 word personal essay, list of activities and honors, and transcript. First, the application materials have to be turned in to MIT. Next, there are several interviews with graduate students, alumni, and faculty, and then MIT chooses a group of students to give institutional endorsements to. These students formally submit their applications to a Rhodes district. There are 16 districts in the country, and you can apply to either the district where you went to college, or where your permanent residence is. A month or so later, each district invites 12-14 students for interviews, which usually consists of an informal cocktail party on Friday night and a formal panel interview on Saturday. Finally, each district chooses 2 students to win the award, and the winners are announced in person on Saturday evening.

As you can see, the applications don’t end when you get to college. Try to enjoy the process, and remember that you will be fine no matter what. Best of luck to you all! We’ve all been in your shoes, and we’re living proof that there is life after the college admissions process. Feel free to post any questions and I’ll try to address them in my next entry.

And finally, I’d like to extend a big, BIG thank you to everyone who responded so positively to Matt’s entry about me (and of course to Matt for writing it.) I really appreciate it!!!

28 responses to “The Application Cycle”

  1. Kevin says:

    FIRST Robotics!

  2. raphael says:

    smart ppl on the interview board…trying to get the applicants drunk b4 the interview..that’s a prt of the selection procedure i guess!!!!!!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    wow, congratulations on the rhodes! that’s awesome! so are still doing all your medical school applications now even though you’ll be doing the rhodes scholarship for two years?

  4. Ben says:

    So I have to know…

    Under “list of activities and honors” for the Rhodes app, did you write “admissions blogging?” wink

  5. Anonymous says:

    I love to see women being put on the map in complicated medicine and science-related Represent girl!

  6. Carolina says:

    Congratulations =) You should be proud.

    Thank you for the words of wisdom, and good luck!

  7. Paul says:

    Great entry, Melis. Your advice is as valuable for current college students as it is for prospectives!

    @ Ben: I’ve wondered that myself. It’s certainly on my resume. wink

    As an aside, I actually didn’t have a formal resume until I came to college, so if you don’t have one (yet), don’t stress out. I probably still wouldn’t have one if not for this great program called F/ASIP. But more on that later. :D

  8. Melis says:

    Of course I wrote that I was an admissions blogger! =)

  9. Samuel R. says:

    Wow, It is a much more complicated process than I imagined to apply for a Rhodes Scholar. CONGRATULATIONS!!! I feel very much under pressure just applying for college but this is still just one of the early steps in life. Im just sooo excited of awaits for me in the future. What you tell us, comforts us very much, yet it makes us brothers and sisters in the path to following our dreams.
    Thank You.

  10. Edgar says:

    First of all, congratulations again, Melis, you are such an accomplished person and certainly an invaluable inspiration to everyone! smile Also, I have a question that has been sitting in my mind ever since I started reading your entries: I always wonder, what is the number one thing that inspires you (sorry to sound like an admissions questioner, I’m sure you have heard this question a million times)? You certainly have a determination that is so difficult for the majority of people to hold throughout their high school/college careers, but you seem to always be determined. Finally, on the application process, I know you have to work with an advisor at your school when applying to the Rhodes scholarship, to what extent do you work with them, and how much influence do they make on the entire process? How are the medical school interviews compared to the Rhodes Scholars’? Thanks in advanced and best wishes in all your decisions and future years. =)

  11. Melis says:

    Anonymous: I don’t know much about the new SAT score system (I took it when it was still out of 1600), but 2020 sounds good to me. I would ask one of the admissions people for more detailed advice about what to do. Just know that MIT cares about scores, but it’s not the more important thing to them. If you could be spending your time doing something cool and useful, instead of studying for the SATs again, then I would say to go with that option. But again, I’m not on the admissions committee!

    Anonymous: I haven’t decided on a medical school yet.

    Mw: I sent in my application in mid-October, but I had been working on it since the end of August.

    Edgar: I mostly worked with a woman from the MIT Distinguished Scholarship office. She answered all my questions on the process, kept me on the ball in terms of getting the applications done on time, encouraged me to apply to other scholarships as well, read over my essays, trained me for the interviews, etc. As the interview grew closer, I ended up seeing her pretty much every day!

  12. Bassil T says:

    Oh man…
    I figured by the end of December, I would be relaxing, but this blog shed light on an otherwise darkened tunnel. grin
    Regardless, it has given me a burst of energy knowing that I have it easier than many people, and also a reminder to have my priorities in check and to STOP PROCRASTINATING, as it could catch up and bite me in the rear when applying to competitive programs.

  13. Mw says:

    Wow! Congratulations on becoming a Rhodes Scholar! Now your description is going to be on their website, scaring another generation of applicants out of their wits. =)When do you apply for the scholarship? I haven’t even finished all of my college apps yet.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Which medical school have you decided to go to after your stint at Oxford ?

  15. nishanth says:

    congrats and after all you have made a decesion and is successfull in doing it ………it is something a lot of people are not able to do

  16. Victor Hugo says:

    Hello Melis. Congratulations!
    I think i can imagine how you worked hard to have your applications accepted.
    Well, I hope see you there next year! uheuheuhuee

  17. Anonymous says:

    I wrote the SAT for the first time in november ( couldnt do it earlier because i didnt have a passport….dont ask…) and i fell deathly ill on the day and only managed to get a 2020. I really want to do the SAT in jan again because i KNOW i can do better.On what basis does MIT accept jan SAT scores?

    i do think that i am academically competent and while my academic record proves that i dont want SAT scores to seem to exhibit the contrary. I absolutely love MIT , have done the alumni interview and i’m now working on the application in earnest… This is the ONE place i want to go to and i’m perfectly miserable that my SAT scores might in any way ruin my chances…

    what do i do?


  18. Cooper says:

    And thank you for your wise words! I’m a high school senior and I was just freaking out about applications a minute ago. I’m glad you put it in perspective, it calmed me down a bit smile

  19. HSN says:

    Hello Melis,
    I’m just wondering… Have many students at MIT done extensive scientific research during their high school years? Research as in conducting experiments by themselves…

  20. Anonymous says:


    You are such an inspiration to me!

    After you finish the Rhode Scholar program, if you still want to go to medical school here in the USA, do you need to repeat the medical school application process all over again?

    Kathy N

  21. E Rosser says:

    WOW. It doesn’t end, does it? Any sort of application process is a blessing in a (good) disguise, I suppose. On one hand, there’s the major stressing out and late-night writing sessions factor. On the other hand, what would life be without the next level, the higher challenge, the new goal? We’d better get used to the idea of applying places, because it seems to be king in the realms of the intellectual world.
    But the first ones are STILL killers wink

    Btw, @ Anonymous w/ an SAT of 2020: If that’s your capability with a “deathly illness”, don’t worry about making the cut at MIT! Like they say, scores aren’t everything, and a 2020 is quite admirable, especially considering the circumstances.

  22. Sophie says:

    BETHESDA! Hometown!

  23. Anonymous says:

    @E Rosser : well…but MIT doesnt know i fell ill on the day i did the SAT ! and really i dont want it to seem like i’m making excuses :(

  24. Karen says:

    @Anonymous: I’d e-mail the admissions office if you haven’t already and ask them if they think that you should retake the SAT. I would guess that if the rest of your application is strong, it probably won’t be a huge deal, especially if your SAT IIs are good and the like. It seems to be emphasized over and over again that the SAT is just another number! smile

    With that said, it does say that January scores are accepted on a case-by-case basis. I remember someone (I think that it might’ve been Matt) saying in a previous blog post that they’ll accept any scores that arrive before they review your application (I’d imagine that it’s a bigger deal for EA applicants because there just isn’t that much time to review all of the applications). So, if you e-mail them and ask them, I can’t imagine why they’d say no, especially if you ask nicely and offer to rush them smile

    Good luck with everything, I’m sorry that you got sick! I had an ear infection and had to take a Calculus test, medication and integrals did NOT mix as well as I had hoped smile

  25. Anonymous says:

    @karen : thankyou!you might just have made my day! I’ll definitely mail them and ask
    *fingers crossed*

  26. Anonymous says:

    oh question. who exactly do i mail ? i’m a little bit confused

  27. Inshaf says:

    I am taking the TOEFL in January.I wish to know whether January TOEFL scores are considered without any penalty imposed on the applicant.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’m way proud of my big smile