“More Inspired Than Ever”: Cornell Students Begin Their Paths to Law and Medical School

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Although the COVID-19 pandemic – combined with a boom in the number of applicants – made this year’s cycle an exceptionally competitive cycle for students applying to medical and law schools, Cornell students managed to navigate the cycle. the process and head to some of the best vocational schools in the country. publication date.

Sukhmani Kaur ’21 knows exactly what she will be majoring in at Harvard Law School.

“My parents were born and raised in India and both survived the genocide of the Sikh population,” said Kaur, whose mother and father ultimately fled India for South Africa. “What it has done to them as people and what we all carry through intergenerational trauma, I have never forgotten.”

After completing basic courses in his first year, Kaur wishes to study human rights and international criminal law, in the hopes of “one day bringing justice and healing to communities affected by these crimes and atrocities. international, ”she said. With a degree in history and public administration, Kaur said her parents’ experience was something she focused on in her law school application essay. “They want to see clearly why you want to go to law school and why right now is the right time for you to go. I wrote about what it means to come from a community where you have been shattered by genocide and also shattered by a lack of justice.

Kaur working during an internship with Khalsa Aid.

Kaur is one of many Cornell undergraduates heading to medical or law school who navigated at least part of the process during the COVID outbreak. The pandemic has caused multiple disruptions to the process over the past 18 months. In 2020, law school applicants took an abbreviated law school admission test (LSAT) virtually, while medical school applicants took a short medical school admission test in person. (MCAT). Schools have also moved the entire interview process online.

Statistics from the Law School Admission Council show a 35% increase in the number of applicants for this year’s class over last year, while the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that the number of students applying for entering medical school in 2021 is up 18% from the same period last year. .

“These candidates have been preparing for this career goal for years, and like all of us, their plans have been turned upside down by the pandemic,” said Ana Adinolfi, senior career associate and pre-health advisor in the career development office. from the College of Arts and Sciences. . “The candidates showed tremendous resilience in changing their plans from week to week as MCAT dates were canceled and interviews moved online.”

For Kaur, the pandemic meant she was taking LSAT online from her home in South Africa with an unreliable internet connection, unstable diet, two siblings, two puppies and her parents at home.

“Plus, this cycle was so competitive which added a lot of pressure and anxiety,” she said, adding that she was trying to stay away from social media, where people were reporting their feedback. results and interviewed successes and failures.

Calvin Schuster ’19, was able to take the shortened version of MCATs in person, but he went through the interview process virtually. Schuster took a two-year sabbatical after graduation before enrolling in Johns Hopkins University Medical School this fall. During those sabbaticals, he did research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

“I loved my years at Cornell so much and wanted my senior year to focus on being a student 100% of the time,” said Schuster, who majored in Biosciences and minor in Creative Writing. . “In addition, I wanted these sabbaticals to be immersed in research and they helped me clarify my own interests. I know for sure that I want to work in a teaching hospital.

Schuster worked in the Kotlikoff lab as an undergraduate student.

While some would speculate that the pandemic could make students wary of choosing medicine, Schuster said working at a research hospital for the past two years inspired him even more. “I watched the real-time response from medical scientists as the global pandemic unfolded,” he said. “I got to see how they were putting their regular plans on hold to rally to work related to COVID-19. The collaboration was incredible.

Pratik Vadlamudi ’21 feels the same commitment to medicine as Schuster, having worked at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca during the pandemic. A graduate in biological sciences, he begins his medical studies at the University of Michigan this fall.

“The people I met were proud to be doctors and nurses during COVID,” said Vadlamudi, although he believes healthcare workers deserve better benefits for putting themselves at risk on a daily basis. “These people are heroes.”

Vadlamudi graduated a semester earlier and decided to go to medical school this fall rather than take a year off, although he found out that most of his classmates are 23 or 24 years old. He was happy with his MCAT scores and the pandemic made it impossible to seek clinical work in person anyway.

Vadlamudi at Ithaca Falls

“My request was complete; I didn’t feel the need to add anything, ”he said, adding that Ana Adinolfi, senior career associate at the College of Arts and Sciences, suggested he apply in her twenties. of schools.

For Stephanie Huang ’16, there were not 20 applications to fill out. Her choices for law school were more limited as she retained her full-time job as a patent agent at Unilever while attending Fordham Law School that fall evening.

“I was in Biosciences and a double major in French, so I was more on my way to medical school than law school,” Huang said of his undergraduate time at Cornell. But after joining Unilever as a formulation chemist after graduation, she slowly moved into product development, then patents and found the job enjoyable and interesting. She will be studying patent law, as well as other types of business law, at Fordham.

Huang said her liberal arts training has served her well in her career, as she is sure she will be in law school.

“A lot of the patents are global so I can browse a patent written in French and it’s actually very useful,” she said. “And having to do all of this unscientific reading at Cornell and being holistic in my education has helped me prepare for both LSAT and law school.”

Ronni Mok ’19, a statistical science and economics student, also began his studies this fall for a double law degree and an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I’ve always been interested in law, but I’ve also enjoyed the time I spent at McKinsey working with technology clients on their business challenges,” she said. “I thought law from a technological point of view was an interesting and unique way to bring all of my interests together. “

Coming to Cornell undecided on her specialty, Mok said she had always been someone with broad interests – taking a wide variety of courses, landing internships in finance, law and marketing and joining clubs such as Cornell International. Affairs Review and the Cornell Design & Tech Initiative. engineering project team.

“My essay was about how all of these pieces fit together and I think that made me a more interesting candidate because schools value that kind of diverse experience,” she said.

All graduates say they took advantage of pre-health and pre-law counselors at the College of Arts and Sciences and Cornell Careers Services central office.

Many former students don’t realize that career guidance services offices can help young people up to five years after school, Huang said. “Fortunately, I reached out to Diane (Miller, Associate Director of A&S Career Development.) She definitely helped me structure my story in a more cohesive way.”

“Take advantage of all the great resources Cornell has to offer,” said Schuster, adding that his work at the Carl Becker House and with the Intergroup Dialogue Project has helped him connect and learn from people of different backgrounds and specializations, experiences which he said will benefit him as a doctor.

Vadlamudi agreed that it was important to spend time with people who applied – and people who were not – to keep perspective. “Some of my friends urged me to do some research, but others told me to come play cards and eat pizza. It was good to take time for both.

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