We’re excited to kick off our Spotlight Series on Recent Medical School Admits by introducing Nikhil Kokkapuni, who attended the University of Texas at Dallas and majored in Biology and Criminology. He was recently accepted at Texas A&M University College of Medicine. Read Nikhil’s interview with us to get first-hand advice on applying to medical school, making the most of your college years and much more!
Why did you decide to pursue a career in medicine?
Since my dad was a doctor, I have always been exposed to the field just by watching him from a young age. However, the reason I want to become a doctor was born around 6th grade when I received news from my parents that my grandma had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I knew a bit about cancer through reading and I knew that chemotherapy was one of the main methods of treatment. I learned that direct chemotherapy was probably not the best course of action and a different route must be taken to help my grandmother.
The doctors in India along with my dad helped form a personalized plan of action that would help my grandmother overcome her illness. This is the reason that made me want to be a doctor. People generally come to doctors when they are at their lowest of lows and place enormous trust in the work a doctor does. I want to be able to justify this trust and come up with a plan that eventually cures the patient of their condition. Seeing the joy and gratitude in a patient’s face as well as their family’s when you cure them of their illness is one of the best feelings that I hope to one day feel.
What type of physician do you want to be and what are your career goals?
Since I have not had a chance to see all the different specialties during my shadowing experience, I do not have a firm interest in an area. However, I do think that I want to stay on the non-surgical side of medicine. This side of medicine allows for the most patient interaction as well as a more favorable work-life balance, which is very important to me.
Research is an area that I involved myself in while in college, but it was not something I was super interested in. However, I would like to be involved in research in my particular field since I think that it would interest me more, but also because it is important to stay up to date on the most cutting-edge advancements in the field.
What’s your advice for premeds in terms of making the most of their college years?
My advice for premeds would be to take advantage of their time in college before medical school because it is a time in their life like no other. Classes should not be taken lightly, and effort must be put into each class. However, while grades are important and classes come first, they are meaningless if you do not branch out and explore new things.
I would encourage them to get very involved in at least one or two clubs because not only does it look good for your medical school applications but is a great way to network and socialize as well as learn valuable leadership skills. College is a time when you will have the most free time for a long time so it is the perfect time to try new things. If you don’t like the activity, you can simple switch over to something else or focus more on the things you enjoy doing. This way you can find a couple of things that you can continue to focus on and enjoy during the limited free time in medical school.
Additionally, make time out of your schedule to hang out with your friends and socialize with others outside of the academic environment. The friends you make in college are going to be the ones that you stay in touch with for life and the ones you will rely on as a support system during medical school. Having a group of close friends who I know I can go to talk to for advice or just to relax and destress is going to be invaluable to me during medical school.
What surprised you most about the medical school application process?
The most surprising part of the medical school application process was how much longer it was than I thought it would be. The process technically starts at least a year or two before when you are preparing to take your prerequisite classes and the MCAT and culminates in interviews and acceptances. Even after submitting my applications, waiting for interviews and results was a stressful process since there was little to no communication with the schools as to the progress of my application and if it was under review or not.
When I did not get in the first time, I was a little surprised since I had no idea why I got rejected since there was no reasoning provided by the schools, so I did not know which areas to work on. Fortunately, a couple of schools responded to my emails and gave me some guidance as to how to strengthen my application.
Why did you decide to work with MedSchoolCoach?
I decided to use MedSchoolCoach since I had not gotten into medical school the first time, so I was looking for some additional guidance during the application process. I looked up some of the reviews and was impressed by the resources they provided and the success stories of students who had used the program. As a result, I purchased the gold package since I was mainly interested in the help on my primary and secondary essays and my interviews.
How did MedSchoolCoach help you?
MedSchoolCoach helped me feel more confident throughout my application process my second time through. Since I had not gotten in the first time, I had many doubts and I was hesitant about how to approach the process this time around. Fortunately, my advisor Ryan was extremely helpful in making me feel more relaxed and guiding me through the process again. My advisor was very accessible, and I was able to text or call him about any quick questions that I had which I liked a lot. My advisor also provided great feedback on my personal statement and secondary essays which I believe helped strengthen them from what they were the year before.
When it came time for interviews, the mock interview session gave me a great way to prepare for the actual interview. I had thought I was ready for the interview before, but I realized that I needed to be able to think quicker on my feet for certain questions that I would not be able to predict. Overall, MedSchoolCoach gave me expert guidance and the tools and resources to succeed with my medical school application.
What’s your advice for medical school applicants in terms of the application process?
The main theme that I noticed about the whole process for applying to medical school is to start early. Once you know that medicine is something you are interested in, do not waste any time in gaining information about the steps you need to take to make it happen. Ask seniors who are going through the process or especially people who are currently in medical school since they have successfully gone through the whole thing. There are so many requirements and little things that you need to have in order to have a strong application, so it is important to create a gameplan as early as possible. This is especially true for the MCAT since you must have a solid study plan in order to do well.
Talk to your professors, go to their office hours, and develop a good relationship with a couple of your professors because strong letters of recommendations are important for medical school. I wish that I had started talking to my professors earlier on in my college career so I could have had a couple of stronger letters.
In terms of essays, make sure that you start writing them as early as possible for both your personal statement and your secondary essays and get them turned in quickly to maximize your chances. This allows you to show these essays to your advisors or peers and have them critique your essay on how to improve it. You want to have the best product you can before you submit it rather than being rushed to submit it before the deadline.
What has been your most interesting, challenging and/or unexpected interview question so far?
The most challenging interview question I have received was a patient scenario that I was placed in as part of the interview. We were given a scenario to read for about 30 seconds and then we had to go into a room with an actor. The scenario I was given was that I had to meet a member of my group for a group project who had not being doing any of their work and wanted to meet with me.
I had to talk to the other member for 5 minutes about the situation. The other student told me that her mom had been admitted to the hospital and she had been caught up in that, so she was not able to focus on school for the past couple of weeks. The difficult part of this exercise was that the reason for why she was not doing any of the work was much different from what I had expected when I walked in.
I had formulated a gameplan for points I wanted to make when talking to the other student, but I suddenly drew a blank when she told me about her mom. It was challenging to think quickly on my feet but I drew upon some of my previous experiences when I had things going on in my family so I could relate to what she was going through. I told her that the other members of the group would help her out and take some of the load off so she could get through her tough time.
What about medical school are you most looking forward to?
I am looking forward most to the fact that I will be learning about things that are actually interesting to me. During college and high school, I was forced to take courses to fulfill certain requirements, but sometimes these courses would not be something I was interested in and I did not enjoy them. However, I have always enjoyed learning about the human body and interacting with people so medical school will teach me about these concepts and how to become a good doctor. The experience will be extremely rigorous, but the material is fascinating and the end result is very rewarding.
By: Ziggy Yoediono MD MBA