By Zainab Iqbal
Published: April 26th, 2017
Chelsea Batista, a Macaulay Honors student, hoped she’d make at least one of the eighteen medical school she applied to. Then she received her first acceptance, then her second, then another. All of the sudden, she had eleven.
“It’s funny that people think that the number I applied to is an extremely high number, but that’s not really true,” Batista said. “The average number of med schools people apply to is about 15 to 25. So I did apply above the minimum. But, there’s no such thing as a safety school for medical schools, so I played all the cards I could, because I wasn’t sure where I’d end up.”
The next step was make a choice among her options. Two days ago, she finally decided: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“Getting accepted into so many great programs made it really hard to decide, but it was a combination of where I felt comfortable, what I loved about the school, the location—I wanted to be close to my family—and financial aid,” Batista said. “Columbia is where I felt most comfortable and most welcomed.”
Batista, who is majoring in Biology and minoring in Neuroscience, wants to be a pediatric oncologist. She has been interested in medicine for a long time, and is “fascinated by the mechanics of it,” she said.
“I also like the fulfillment you could get out of a career like that,” Batista said. “I think everybody’s meant to do something to contribute to the world, and when I realized medicine was a possibility, I realized that this was something that could fulfill me and also help me help others.”
There has been a lot of talk of Batista getting into medical schools because of affirmative action, to which she replied, “When people say those things I don’t say they’re wrong, I just look inward and say, ‘Is that what I believe?’”
“If you remove my race, my gender; if I was a completely anonymous applicant, I’m confident that I still would’ve gotten into at least one of the medical schools that I’ve gotten into,” Batista responded. “I think the issue is that if it were a traditional applicant, a white male applicant applying to med school, they would’ve never questioned whether he was qualified, they would’ve never thought to attribute his acceptance to whether he was a legacy, or whether his parents donated to the school.”
In fact, Batista’s success is largely due to the variety of activities she participated in, which showed her to be a well-rounded applicant. She works on campus as a BC Navigator, giving tours and working with admissions, and is also a part of a sorority where she held plenty of executive positions. In her sorority, she had been the head of the philanthropy committee where she worked to host breast cancer awareness workshops, fundraisers, and walks. She worked to push awareness workshops because she believed, “in preventative health care [you] teach people how to take care of themselves and they won’t need you to take care of them.”
Batista has also gained a lot of media attention from outlets such as Pix 11, WNBC, and Univision—a Spanish network. She credits being on Pix 11 as one of the most amazing experiences of her life, though she believed it was both terrifying and exciting at the same time.
The process of applying to medical schools is rather a tedious one. And it was no different for Batista. Out of the 18 schools she applied to, all 18 offered her interviews—though she was only able to schedule 16. Going to interviews, checking out medical schools, and attending events took up a lot of her time which caused her to take days off from classes—something all applicants go through during the process.
“The whole process is this year-long adventure that you go on, and if you let it get to you it can be really, really stressful,” Batista said. “But at the end, the process was absolutely worth it. It was worth the investment, the ridiculous credit card debt I put myself in; and at the end I made an excellent decision for myself.”
Because the process is stressful, Batista believes that receiving emotional and mental health support is necessary—it was what got her through it. She also received support from faculty members such as her pre-health advisor Dr. Steven Silbering, and credits the honors program for successfully preparing her.
“The Macaulay Honors program gave me a lot of resources I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Batista said. “It offered very unique classes, an Opportunities Fund to study abroad; and I’m graduating debt free, going into med school where I have a scholarship.”
Batista’s current goals? To enjoy the free time she has left, prepare for medical school, and “take the first step into the rest of [her] life,” she said.