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Photo: Isabella Cuan

The fall season means many hours devoted to reviewing applications for the Office of Admissions at the Perelman School of Medicine. Last year, the school received over 5,700 applications and interviewed 898 candidates, but accepted just 239 — a 4.1 percent acceptance rate.

Admissions staff have been organizing interviews since August, and the interviews will continue into January. Unlike some schools that do not require an interview, Penn Med only considers applicants that it interviews. Applicants spend a day on campus composed of two interviews — one with faculty, one with students — as well as the opportunity to attend lunch, sit in a class and participate in clinical simulations, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Gaye Sheffler said.

Brian Chang , a 2014 College and Wharton graduate, is now a first-year student at the Medical School, after applying to 15 schools. He said the interview process was long and required him to leave class during the day, but he would “absolutely” go through the application process again.

“I love medical school now. I think that the privilege of being a doctor is very unique, because you hold a very valuable and unique position in patient care. It’s worth the time and energy,” Chang said.

Chang’s positive outlook could be attributed to his passion for medicine. His father, who is a doctor, provided Chang his first exposure to a career in medicine. He also worked as a patient care technician and an EMT before coming to Penn. While an undergraduate, Chang said that he was able to develop “a more scientific understanding of medicine” to support his clinical exposure. He became involved in genetic research on aging, as well as research on the Affordable Care Act.

Since Chang knew that he wanted to attend medical school from the time he got to Penn, competition did not distract him from his goal. For the most part, though, he said he tried to get involved in activities that were not medically related so that “it didn’t always seem like [he] was in the thick of the competition.”

Rosaline Zhang , a 2014 College graduate who majored in biology and urban studies, is one of Chang’s classmates. She also avoided the competition of applying to medical school by being involved with urban studies.

“I was much more involved with the urban studies major, which is [in] a very small department,” Zhang said. “I didn’t really feel that bogged down by the pre-med, competitive atmosphere, and so I just decided to do things I was just interested in.”

Zhang applied to about 20 medical schools and ended up accepting 10 interview offers. Her first interview was “very nerve-wracking,” but Zhang said that advice given by upperclassmen helped her to prepare.

“You kind of hit this groove, because [the medical schools] ask the same questions,” and the medical schools are also trying to “sell themselves to you,” Zhang said. The interview process reaffirmed Zhang’s desire to attend medical school, because the interview questions required her to reflect on why she was going into medicine.

The Perelman School of Medicine was the dream school for both Chang and Zhang. Chang was drawn in by the medical students he met during a pre-interview happy hour at New Deck Tavern.

“They were very genuinely enjoying medical school,” Chang said. “[Perelman is] a very good school academically, but they didn’t have an ego about them.”

Four pre-professional advisors are available to undergraduates at Penn’s Career Services to support students who are thinking about applying to medical school.

“We can be helpful at any stage of the process,” Associate Director of Graduate and Professional School A dvising Carol Hagan said.

Hagan said that advisors provide feedback on essays and personal statements, and also write committee letters to complete each student’s application. Career Services also offers mock interviews, which “were very helpful,” Zhang said.

“They would point little things out. Like, ‘You always say ‘um,’ you always say ‘like,’” Zhang said.

Hagan said Career Services has a “very friendly relationship” with the medical school. Over 300 Penn students and alumni applied to medical school during the 2013 cycle, and 25 of those matriculated into the Perelman School of Medicine.

“[Penn undergraduates and alumni] are part of our family and we take a very special look,” Sheffler said. “Penn alums constitute the largest undergraduate college represented in our class.”

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