Unexpecting the Unexpected

The medical field attracts courageous people who embrace challenges and transcend boundaries. People depend on you to perform at your best, and hence being prepared is vital to your success as a physician. Thus, I prepared myself, maybe even over-prepared myself, for the long path towards becoming a physician. I composed a detailed two-year gap plan that would allow me to standout as an applicant for medical school.

I was off to a great start. After graduating from Colby College in May 2010, I landed a position as a bilingual (Spanish/English) domestic violence advocate at Casa Myrna in Boston, MA. I worked in the emergency shelter, where I was able to tackle the problems surrounding domestic violence and deliver solutions. I helped families become self-sufficient and obtain a healthier and more positive perspective on life. This job opened my eyes to the social barriers, such as inability to find housing, that people face—complex problems that are pervasive and limit access to healthcare. I began to gain a better view of the medical field, realizing that it is a dynamic field that requires physicians to be more than healers. They are also advocates, ready to help others overcome the challenges that prevent them from leading a healthy life.

With my new and improved outlook on the medical field, I felt unstoppable. I was ecstatic that I had arrived at such a matured view (a view that I conveyed in my personal statement) and just knew that I was ready to begin medical school. Furthermore, I was meeting all the deadlines I had placed for myself thus far. By June 2011, I submitted my application for medical school and anxiously waited to hear back from schools. Days and then months passed until I received my first interview invitation in December 2011. Hopeful that this was the only shot I needed to prove that I deserved to be a physician, I prepared many interview questions and answers and selected the perfect suit to complement my “yes, I am going to be a doctor” mentality.

On the big interview day, I felt confident. This was the start of my future; my dream was becoming a reality. The interview began exceptionally well; the interviewer and I first discussed our views on healthcare disparities. Then, we shared childhood memories and exchanged a few laughs. I was nailing the interview. As the interview came to an end, the interviewer said, “Jessica, you are an amazing woman, and it is great to meet such an intuitive and passionate person. However, I must be honest with you. I think the admissions committee will decide to waitlist you. You should really consider taking more advanced science courses to give yourself a competitive edge.”

I could not believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. I tried to conceal my feelings of shock and despair, and I quickly thanked him for his honesty. The remainder of the interview day was a blur; I could only think about the word “waitlist.” My dream of becoming a doctor seemed unattainable. It did not help that one month later, I received an email from the school stating that I was placed on the waitlist. I also did not receive any more interview invitations and eventually was not accepted into the only school that interviewed me.

I did not imagine myself to be in such a horrible position. Yes, I felt like a failure, and yes, I wanted to give up. But I did not. I picked myself up and started over because I knew that there was nothing else in the world that I was more passionate about — medicine was my calling.

My first step was to find someone in Boston to help me carefully re-evaluate my application. I wanted physical guidance and support. My health professions advisor connected me with an expert in the medical school admissions process, Charles Terrell. His brutally honesty and unbiased opinion was exactly what I needed. We discovered the weak areas in my application—my MCAT score and science GPA—and discussed ways to make my application more unique. I applied to more medically related jobs in Boston and accepted a position as a medical assistant at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. There, I learned how to take vital signs and perform various tests, such as electrocardiograms and spirometry. Furthermore, I was selected to be a part of groundbreaking clinical research at Boston Medical Center, where my team and I studied how psycho-social stressors, such as family violence, affects the growth and development of young African-American girls, ages four to seven.

On top of working full-time and participating in an internship five hours per week, I enrolled in two sciences courses per semester and re-studied for the MCAT. From Fall 2012 to Spring 2013, my life was hectic, but I enjoyed it because I was involved in things that were helping me reach my goal. By June 2013, I was a completely different applicant. My MCAT score and science GPA improved, and I had more significant experiences in the medical field. My application reflected my growth and highlighted the wealth of knowledge that I had obtained due to having more clinical exposure. This time around, I truly believed in myself and was finally aware of my full potential.

I had overcome so much in just one year and as a result gained a new sense of self. It was empowering and exhilarating. I stopped relying on a checklist and rehearsed interview answers to prove that I am worthy of becoming a doctor. I realized that I am worthy simply because I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others through medicine. This newfound confidence allowed me to embrace the application process instead of fearing that I would fail again.

As you can imagine, the second time around I had much more success. I received many interview invitations and even had the opportunity to decline a few. It took four years to get to the place where I am today, but I would not change it for the world. Because of this unexpected path, I am more prepared for a career in medicine than I ever intended. And to top it all off, I will be attending a medical school that truly believes in my success as a future physician. University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville was my first choice, and I am still in shock over my acceptance.

I cannot wait to begin my journey at the USCSOM-Greenville and to be done with the long Boston winters (trust me, they are cruel). I feel blessed and am glad that I never stopped believing that I could achieve what was previously seen as the impossible.

I dedicate this post to the people who are struggling with accomplishing their goal. To you all, I say please be patient and never stop believing in yourselves. Things do not always work out as planned so embrace the challenges ahead and expect the unexpected. You will be glad you did.


Jessica Williams head shotI am a nontraditional student from Chattanooga, Tennessee. I attended Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where I majored in Spanish. I currently reside in Boston, Massachusetts, where I work as a Medical Assistant at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and intern at Boston Medical Center. I love to travel and speak Spanish when I can. I am thrilled and anxious to start medical school at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville and cannot wait to meet my future classmates.

Abby Edwards

Join the conversation

  • Charles Terrell - 5 years ago

    Outstanding post, Jessica. I am impressed by the extraordinary work you did in pursuing your dream and am very proud of you. Charles Terrell

  • Olisa Okoh - 5 years ago

    Lovely post, Jessica. I’m so proud of you!!

  • Katherine Perez - 5 years ago

    Jessica, this is so wonderful. I can’t wait to call you Dr. Williams. 🙂

  • jeronimo. - 5 years ago

    Wonderful post, homie! I’m so happy for you, future Dr. Williams.

  • Yanica Faustin - 5 years ago

    What a wonderful post. I am so happy for you!

  • David Cothran - 5 years ago

    Outstanding post, hard work pays off!

  • Isadora Alteon - 5 years ago

    Jessica, This was a truly inspiring post! You are a wonderful example of perseverance, grit, and success. All the best!!

  • Pranay - 5 years ago

    Great post Jessica! All the hard work paid off. Keep the posts coming as I know many students will find them inspiring

  • Katie L - 5 years ago

    Jessica, you continue to inspire me each and every day. This post truly reflects your unwavering commitment to medicine and healthcare, for all the RIGHT reasons. You will be an incredibly asset to your patients. I cannot wait to watch you grow as a person and professional and to hopefully be able to partner with you as a healthcare team one day! love you chica!!!!

  • Erica Johnson - 5 years ago

    Great post Jessica! Very inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging!