Last Updated on September 20, 2002 by Paulette Brown-Hinds

The application process is soooo much more than filling in the blanks on the official application form says my cousin Carolyn Bailey Collins, a high school counselor in Alabama.

“Believe me,” she says, “it takes more time than a lot of students and parents realize. The application process should begin at the beginning of the senior year in high school. The student should plan a Full schedule of classes as a senior so as not to experience shock when the first semester freshman years stares him/her in the face. Hopefully, the student has participated in academic and non-academic activities in school and in the community. The student should be well rounded as well as strong academically. Getting the student to this point takes a couple of years and requires the cooperation of the student, parents, and teachers — with the counselor giving direction to help the student stay focused on what his/her primary goal is. This includes looking beyond a four year college degree. Some graduate programs do not accept advance placement courses from high school in lieu of the college course because the lab experience may not be as in depth.” She advises campus visits whenever possible.
Another area of preparation falls under the category of a “Mission Statement” (an expression of one’s background, purpose, resources, and goals). In an institution’s brochure find the formal summary of its aims and values as, for example: “Our aim is to provide our students with experiences that move them forward in a competitive and ever-changing global market.” Does this mesh with your mission statement? In developing yours, keep in mind that it is not how many dreams you have but rather how many you can make happen. Start by realizing that the word “mission” means the act of being sent on some special work. Hence, your success or failure may hinge on how clear, concise, and powerful you convey your mission. It must be informative and short. The shorter it is, the easier it is for you and your decision makers to remember. Focus on your uniqueness and how you are more likely to stand out in contributions. But avoid putting your competitors down and avoid being arrogant. Next, work on brainstorming your “bullet points.” Define your dreams and goals (i.e. where you want to get to). State your purpose (i.e. what you intend to do once you get where you are going). If your purpose is not clear, describe your essence (i.e. who you are, emphasizing your best character qualities). If you have a target population you seek to serve, state why and what brought about that decision.
A method useful for designing and remembering what you want to say and plan to accomplish is to think in terms of building a skyscraper on top of its underground foundation (your essence and character) and the solid base upon which the foundation rests (love). The “ground zero” foundation is your purpose. The frame of the building is your goal. The exterior and interior coverings are your mission statement. Finally, the things put inside the skyscraper are your (anticipated) achievements. If your mission statement is reduced to a 30 word paragraph or one paragraph of 2 or 3 simple sentences, then practice it by speaking into a tape recorder. Repeatedly sharpen your mission statement by selecting the precise words to convey your message until it is perfect to you, your friends, and your enemies. Once memorized and internalized, you can use it to stay on track when writing your admission application as well as to get back on track when flustered by the interviewer’s questions.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D