So You Wanna Go to Med School?

Four years of hard work lead up to the medical school application process. Applying for medical school can be, as one would assume, a strenuous and long process. 

The steps to applying to med school include gathering recommendation letters, filling out applications,  interviews, taking the MCAT and sometimes an additional test called the CASPer test. Not to mention, setting up physician shadowing opportunities early on in your undergrad career, so you have that all under your belt when it comes time for the application process.

The University offers many resources for pre-health students. The Health Professions Organization (HPO) sponsors weekly events during the year to help pre-health students navigate through the process, such as mentor hours to assist students with study strategies, finding summer programs, reviewing personal statements and understanding the application process.

Dr. Mary Engel, who is director of Pre-Medical and Pre-Health Professions Advising, expanded on what HPO offers as well as other resources pre-health students have access to at the University.

Katie Donnelly

Among the resources available to pre-health students are dozens of programs sponsored each year by the HPO, volunteer opportunities in the Leahy Community Health and Family Center and an annual retreat with students and medical alumni focused on Medicine as Service. The Medical Alumni Council sponsors two events on campus each year and, every other year, students will have a chance to participate alongside professional alumni in a MAC-sponsored Medical Education Symposium,” Dr. Engel said.

We spoke with two Scranton students who have been admitted to multiple med schools to discuss the process itself and any words of wisdom they have to offer. Below, find their answers to some common questions about applying to medical school. 

What is the hardest part (or parts) of the process?

Katie Donnelly: I personally struggled studying for the MCAT. It takes a lot of daily work, and you have to constantly keep yourself motivated. You have to persevere through bad practice test scores and days you don’t feel like studying. You just really have to work up the confidence to know you can tackle an exam of this caliber. I definitely felt really relieved when it was all over!

Kate Musto: The process itself can be demoralizing because you work so hard for four years and medical schools can just never respond and never formally reject you. The spring semester of junior year is the most mentally challenging because you have to balance biochem and physics with MCAT prep and writing application essays. It takes a lot of organization to stay on top of the process while also giving yourself time to have fun and enjoy college.

How did you prepare for interviews?

Katie Donnelly: I would research the school’s mission statement, research and service opportunities, or other aspects that interested me and I may want to bring up in my interview. I would be very familiar with my resume and try to have different examples of questions. If someone asked a time you experienced a new environment and a time in which you failed, I wouldn’t use the same example for both. Also, if you’re applying to a DO school, you should definitely have an idea of the distinguishing factors of an osteopathic doctor and what Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy is. 

Kate Musto

Kate Musto

Kate Musto: The best prep for interviews is the on-campus HPEC interview because they will critique what you need to work on right after the interview (and they are very honest). There are also questions you can Google online to prepare such as “Why do you want to be a physician?” “What is your favorite community service project and how will it help you in your career?” and other generic questions. In my opinion, you should have answers to the basic questions so that you don’t blank on interview day due to nerves. A question I received at every interview was “What do you do for fun?” so making sure you pursue your passions outside of school will help you in the interview process.

What types of work or service did you do that you included in your application/resume?

Katie Donnelly: There are a couple of categories of stuff that are great to have on your application/resume. That includes clinical exposure, academic achievements, research, community service, teaching experience, leadership experience and other extracurricular activities that make you unique. For clinical exposure, I wrote about the three different medical practices that I had shadowed extensively. For academic achievement, I wrote about my experience in SJLA and joining multiple honors programs. For research, I wrote about working with a faculty member on campus. For community service, I wrote about the service trips I have attended and also my weekly volunteer hours at the Leahy Clinic. For teaching experience, I wrote about being a TA, a tutor and working my breaks as a teacher’s assistant at a language development preschool. For leadership, I wrote about being a peer facilitator, a club officer in multiple clubs and training to be an RA. For extracurricular, I wrote about my involvement with a cappella, the philosophy club and HPO.

Kate Musto: I volunteered weekly at the Leahy Clinic and Food Pantry since my first year of college. This was a great experience because it opened up my eyes to the issues with access to medical care in my home community. I also am involved with the Center for Service and Social Justice Domestic Outreach Service Program, which also exposed me to different needs within our country. Lastly, through my American Sign Language classes, I get to volunteer with students from the Scranton School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing through outreach events. Community service is so important. Medicine is a service field so it is important to make sure you love service before you commit to a career in medicine. I recommend finding a long-term service commitment freshman year and sticking with it.

What did you learn through the process? 

Katie Donnelly: I learned to not compare myself to others. I think everyone has to work on the timeline and apply to the amount/types of schools that make the most sense for them personally. Every person is on their own journey with this process, and while it helps to get feedback and vent with others going through the process, it doesn’t help to try and mirror others’ actions. I also learned that having a support system is so crucial. My mom was my rock through this whole endeavor. She helped me by proofreading my essays, reminding me of things I forgot to put on my resume and was always there to cheer me up and comfort me. Without her, I wouldn’t be as successful or happy now. 

Kate Musto: It is a long, draining process but when you get your first acceptance letter to medical school it all is worth it. I learned that you really have to want to be a doctor or else it is not worth all the sacrifices you have to make in college for it. Also, don’t sign up for stuff just because you think medical schools want to see it. All of my friends are completely different, and we have received interviews at many of the same schools. Med schools want to diversify their classes, so just be yourself!

Overall, what is the biggest piece(s) of advice you can offer about the process?

Katie Donnelly: Get things in early! Timing matters more than you think, and it will be a confidence boost if you can get interviews early rather than wait. I also think that it helps a lot to have friends who are going through what you’re going through. It helps to talk things out sometimes with someone who truly gets it. Also, be proud of yourself at every step of the way. This process is not for the faint of heart; you put in so much work along the way from freshman year to now, and you should be proud of all you’ve done no matter how many acceptances there are. You’re a hard worker and will soon enough have the career of your dreams! 

Also, I prepped for the MCAT by studying a different portion of the exam on a certain day of the week. I would consistently take a practice exam on the same day I was planning on taking my actual exam, Friday. I kept a running Google Doc with concepts that I consistently struggled with. I made index cards and Quizlets and took those on walks in order to just get a change of scenery. I would try and draw on whiteboards as often as possible because I am a very visual learner. 

Kate Musto: Build a support system of other pre-meds! Your other friends won’t understand why you can’t go out every weekend when it is MCAT study time. It is refreshing to talk to other people who get you. Also, schedule meetings with Dr. Engel at least once a semester. She was my biggest support system on campus and made sure I was prepared at every stage of my journey.

February 8

Each week, our campus correspondents are out and about taking photos and collecting stories for Campus Corner. Read their articles and highlights below! Browse photos on Flickr.

Winter Club Fair 2017

By: Kayla Johnson

winter club fair '17If someone happened to make their way to the DeNaples Ballroom last Friday, they could see the endless amount of clubs the university provides to a campus full of students.

The University of Scranton’s Center for Student Engagement hosted the Winter Club Fair, which was filled with a variety of special clubs and organizations. The event promoted the chance for the students to come and discover the clubs offered at the University. Students who love to write could join The Aquinas, the official newspaper of the school, or if someone wanted to promote sustainable practices at the University through various events such as the Earth Day Fair and the Night of Environmental Science, they checked out the Sustainability Club table, and if a student was intersted in serving the local — or global — community, they could join Circle K, which “follows in the footsteps of Mother Theresa.”

And, that’s just the beginning of the list of clubs that appeared the fair. Others included: Campus Ministry, Student Government, USPB, Women’s Rugby, Her Campus, and so much more. No matter what a student’s interest is there was a club for it. The Winter Club Fair was the perfect place to discover a new hobby, a new passion or even new friends.

Miss the Winter Club Fair? Check out the full lists of clubs on campus, here.

Social Media Ambassadors

By: Kayla Johnson

Anyone who has stepped onto The University of Scranton’s campus agree it is unique and beautiful in its own way. What better way to capture this beauty than with some amazing student photographers? Our newest members of the Marketing Communications team are our Royal Social Media Ambassadors. These students are out and about, capturing campus through their lens. So, who are they?

deferenza-portraitMeet Matthew DeFrenza, a senior English literature major from Brooklyn with quite the eye for photography, a talent reinforced by the 28,000 followers on his Instagram account. Check it out: the_sunday_photographer.

“I joined the University’s marketing team as a Social Media Ambassador because it gave me the opportunity to share my photography and to become more involved within the University community… I picked up photography about two years ago and it has been the craziest, most exciting adventure of my life.”

Here’s his favorite campus shot so far:


Next is Elise Molleur, a first-year environmental science major from Summit, New Jersey, who loves drumming, acting, writing and ultimate frisbee and is a part of Royal Harmony and in SJLA. On top of it all, she’s a great photographer.


“I joined the Royal Social Media Ambassador program because I have a passion for photography but wanted to balance that out with my academics; this position allows me to do that by encouraging me — but not pressuring me — to carry my camera around for opportunities to take pictures around campus. I’ve been into photography for a few years and hope to follow my passion as a hobby.”

Here’s Elise’s favorite University shot, so far:


gabe-portraitAnd, last but not least, is Gabe Azevedo, a psychology major from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who loves playing and watching soccer (the World Cup is his Superbowl). He has a passion for music; he plays the guitar, ukulele, drums, and sings. He likes to write songs and enjoys watching “mind-bending” movies like InceptionInterstellar and most recently Split.

“Today, everything we do involves technology and social media. Being that our generation experienced the transition into a world where technology is the foundation of our society, we are now integrated in this system. Social media is now the means by which we communicate with our friends and the rest of the world and it’s a very powerful medium that, when utilized correctly, can serve as a great way to connect and expand.”

Here’s his favorite picture of our wonderful campus:


See more of the Social Media Ambassadors’ photos, here.

Chat with Dean Rivera

By: Robert Bauer

You’ll see her at home games, campus events and even on Twitter. She is all over campus, but who is she?  Meet Dean Rivera, an important leader on campus and an integral part of The University’s administration.

RN: Who are you, and what do you do at The University of Scranton?

dean-riveraLR: Most people find it interesting that I pursued a joint degree in law and student affairs; in fact, I created the program at Penn State! The most important part of my role as the associate vice provost for Student Formation & Campus Life is serving as a student advocate for individuals and groups of students. More detail on my responsibilities can be found here:

RN: How do you stay conneced to student life on campus, and what do you like to keep up-to-date with?

LR: Given my role as a student advocate, I do my best to be present on campus at student meetings, programs, and competitions whether related to clubs and organizations, Athletics, theatre and arts, etc. Each week, I select a few different events to attend – last week I attended Student Government, stopped by the Clubs and Organizations Fair, spoke at Orientation Assistant Training, and stopped by a Late Night Program! I’ll be at Late Night Bingo on Saturday Night; you should come out!

RN: Where can students find you?

LR: Students can find me on Twitter or Instagram @lscottrivera, in my office 201 DeNaples, or milling around campus! Sometimes, I’m tough to track down which is one reason I hold weekly drop in hours, a time when students can drop in to share a success or a challenge, seek advice, or simply say hello.

Dean Rivera’s bio:

February 1

Each week, our campus correspondents are out and about taking photos and collecting stories for Campus Corner. Read their articles and highlights below! Browse photos on Flickr.

Looking Ahead: Spring Semester

By: Kayla Johnson

A new semester means new beginnings, new chances and even new changes. Coming back to school for the spring semester may never appear to be more than reuniting with your friends and jumping back into classes but so much can change and happen within these coming three months — you can make new friends, learn more about yourself and about the University community. The University of Scranton means so much more than classes and grades (though that is a large part of it), it’s about the people on campus and what they do for the school. The semester ahead holds many exciting events, both on and off campus, sponsored by many different clubs and programs, some new and some old.

Some of my favorite events happen during the spring semester. I especially look forward to Springfest and the Ball Roll on the Commons, they always bring back good memories with great friends. The school is hosting a range of new art exhibits and galleries that I’m excited about. I’ve loved art ever since I was young. I take my chances to find it everywhere, so events like “Where Do Ideas Come From?” a sculpture exhibit by Lisa Fedon is extremely interesting to me. And, the school is even hosting a student exhibition for art pieces.  I also enjoy attending Liva Arts Company’s performances with my friends, this year the will be performing “Spring Awakening”.

And that’s just the beginning.

I know the semester ahead hold many fun, great times with my amazing friends and awesome classes with great professors.

For ideas for more spring events, visit:

November 23

Each week, our campus correspondents are out and about taking photos and collecting stories for Campus Corner. Read their articles and highlights below! Browse photos on Flickr.

Please note that Campus Corner will be on hiatus next week, but we’ll be back on Dec. 7!

Women’s Basketball Team Looks Forward to Season

By: Megan Castaldi

As 2015-16 Landmark Conference Champions, The University of Scranton’s Women’s Basketball team has high hopes for their upcoming season.

To kick off the 2016-17 season, the Lady Royals came out victorious over Mount Union with a score of 70-36 at the Chuck Resler Invitational.

Captain Sarah Payonk is a senior. “We had a great start out of the Rochester tournament 2-0. We have a lot of room for improvement as a team and hope to continue to improve and grow as a team,” she said.

Even though a couple of valuable players graduated, the team still looks to have a successful season.

“We have a good mix of young and old this year,” said Payonk. “We have some very talented freshmen stepping into major roles on the team, and have some incredible, well-accoladed players back. I think that we’re still building chemistry with this team but have a lot of potential this season.”

The team was pleased after the Landmark Conference released its 2016 Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll foreseeing the Lady Royals winning the Conference Championship again.

“Our team goals are to win our conference and to hopefully win a national championship,” said Payonk.

To learn more about the Women’s Basketball Team, click here.

A Sunday in the Life of Professor Strain

By: Kayla Johnson

Jack Strain, Ph.D., leads a busy life – five kids, teaching at The University of Scranton and writing his books (he’s currently working on one). Whether he’s watching his students battle it out during a debate in Logical and Rhetorical Analysis, teaching how to pitch a product in his Art of the Pitch class, working on one of his several books or running errands with his wife and children, he’s on the go. This is why Prof. Strain believes (very strongly) in using Sundays to get some must needed rest, surrounded by his family.

Take a look at how Professor Strain spends a typical Sunday at home:

Rise and Shine:

So, we get up around 8 or so and make a simple breakfast because my wife makes a huge delicious spread on Saturday mornings. Coffee is an absolute must, but not without some fresh bagels or doughnuts. I always like to take a look at the Sunday paper as well and catch up on my current events.

No Days Off:

Afterward, I try to work on some grading or work for an hour or two on my latest novel, Patton’s War, which I am trying to churn out before the summer comes.

Football Fanatics:

I am a big football fan, so during the fall and winter Sunday afternoons are devoted to watching my Philadelphia Eagles with my sons.  My wife, Julie, loves football too, but – sadly – is a huge Steelers fan.

Most Amazing Meal of the Day:

Both my wife and I believe in a big traditional Sunday dinner with the whole family.  Luckily for the kids and me, Julie does most of the cooking.  She is an amazing cook, so Sunday dinners include big roasts, stews and even Turkey dinners that she decides to whip up as a special surprise for everyone.

Prepare for Monday:

Nighttime is spent getting lunches made, kids squared away for school the next morning, then my wife and I like to chill out on the couch and watch an episode or two of whatever TV series we are powering through. This year we finished off “Homeland,” “Billions,” “House of Cards,” “The Americans” and now are working through “Shameless.”

Family Time:

With five kids and two demanding careers, life moves fast during the week but Sundays are about family and making time so my wife and I can relax, recharge our batteries and make “us” time whenever possible.