Growth Year Chronicles – Ashlea Hendrickson M.S. – Part 2

April 6, 2018

grad pic1

Part 2 of Ashlea’s interview.

HealthOU: How did you get shadowing experience? 

I looked at the hospital’s website and searched the department I was interested in. Then I sent out emails to see if any of the physicians were accepting new students to shadow them (because I also wanted to do research, I narrowed my search to physicians who also had ongoing research projects.)


HealthOU: How did you go about getting letters of recommendation from faculty after you graduated?

I made sure to take the time and form relationships with my professors. I became a TA at Oakwood and that helped me develop a wonderful relationship with one of my future recommenders. I also made sure to ask for my recommendation letters EARLY. I know that professors have their own, busy lives and so if I needed my recommendation letter by June, I began putting in my requests in JANUARY. Of course they didn’t write them as early as January (because I didn’t want to ask anyone last minute and risk them saying “no” or not having the time to write an absolutely beautiful one) and so I continued to send out email reminders for those who agreed to send letters on my behalf. This method ensured that by the time I needed to send my application off, all of my letters were in! (Note: I ONLY asked professors who I knew, knew about my character/ work ethic well enough to send out brilliant, non-generic letters on my behalf)


HealthOU:What did you learn from your gap year experiences?

Man, what DIDN’T I learn? I learned about patience, perseverance, and what it meant to stand up for what you believe in, even if you’re the only one doing so. I was also able to push through MANY failures and develop new cultural sensitivities thanks to the many new friendships I formed.


HealthOU:What were some of the benefits to taking some time off between undergrad and professional school?

Although I don’t really consider my gap year as “time off.” I can see the benefits of taking a year off from school completely and just giving yourself a chance to “breathe” and re-focus on what you consider to be important. Many of my friends who took gap years went abroad and widened their knowledge and appreciation for the world as a whole. I think that travelling during one’s gap year is an amazing thing! However, It also doesn’t hurt to simply get a job and begin paying off those student loans (if you have them), or begin saving to invest in your future.


HealthOU: How do you plan to utilize your MS degree?  

I believe that attaining my MS had a huge impact on my acceptances into various medical schools. My Master’s degree program was developed to serve as a bridge between students and various professional schools. Although I don’t plan on utilizing my degree on its own, I do plan on using the lessons I learned from completing my MS, to become a well-rounded MD!


HealthOU:What advice do you have for current premeds hoping to enter professional school? 

I’ll make these bullet points because I feel like everyone loves bullet points!

  1. Build your relationship with God upon a ROCK not sand. (For those who may not understand this analogy, this means that your relationship with God should be firm enough to withstand the test of time. Trials WILL come. Trust me, they will. And there may be times when God is the only “person” you can lean on and the only one to bring you through to the other side of the trial. Thus, it is important to develop a relationship with God like you would a best friend. Maintain a healthy prayer life and find like minded friends who will PRAY FOR/WITH YOU especially during the times when you feel like you can’t pray for yourself.

2. Stay FOCUSED! (Don’t let the thrills of college life keep you for focusing in your studies! Take the required classes for the professional school you intend to enter and do WELL in those classes. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get tutors if needed. The goal is to show these professional schools that you’re up to the challenge that will be presented to you!)

3. Develop a relationship with your PROFESSORS (Especially those in the field that you intend to pursue. For example: Science professors, for those interested in medicine. Decide which ones you would love to have recommendation letters from and invest in a relationship with those professors! Take your studies seriously so that they have nothing but great things to say about you.

4. VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER!!! (I cannot stress how important it is that you give back to your community in SOME way. As a future physician, your goal is to help those in need of your services. How will it look if you claim to want to be a physician, and yet you’ve never taken the time to help with the needs of your own community?! Although medical-related volunteer work looks great, there are many other volunteer opportunities around you as well. There are TONS of ways, both big and small, to get involved with your community and make a difference

5. Get involved with RESEARCH! (Spend the summers, and even school years, enhancing yourself as a student by learning about the scientific world! Whether it’s wet-lab or clinical research, get involved! There are PLENTY of PAID summer research internships at your disposal. Not only are these GREAT experiences but they also make a huge and POSITIVE impact on your medical school application! Just saying.)

6. If you know what type of medicine interests you, SHADOW a physician/surgeon in that field! (Even if you’re not sure, it’s still great to immerse yourself in some type of medical shadowing. Now only does this open your eyes to future possibilities/give you a glimpse of your future responsibilities as a physician, but it also gives you wonderful networking access! In fact, one of my recommenders for medical school was a physician that I had researched with/shadowed and I believe that positively reflected on my application.)

7. Get involved with campus organizations! (This includes not only pre-med clubs like the Minority Association of Premedical Students aka MAPS, but also other organizations that catch your interest. Although I was a pre-med student, I was also involved in non-medical organizations like the Aeolians, the Spreading Oaks newspaper team, Alpha-Chi honors society and I even held a leadership position as Social-VP of my class for two years! Although these clubs weren’t medical-oriented, they still shaped me into the person I am today, which I believe made me a well-rounded applicant!)

8. Enjoy your journey! (You’re a future medical professional! Do you know how AMAZING that is? Stay true to your goals and enjoy yourself knowing that this is what you want and through God, this is what will come into fruition. YOU ARE A STAR, and God has great plans for your future!)




Ashlea is a Georgia-born and raised graduate of Oakwood University. She completed her Master of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Health Science at Drexel University in the spring of 2017.  Her hobbies include cooking, singing, writing, watching Korean dramas and painting. She is nearing the end of her first year at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. 

Growth Year Chronicles – Ashlea Hendrickson M.S. – Part 1

April 6, 2018


grad pic1I love love love a good growth year story! For several reasons:

1. Most students will not be accepted to medical school on their first attempt, so the growth year story is the actually the story of the majority.

2. I consider myself a very hopeful person, and I’m definitely hopeful when it comes to encouraging prehealth students that despite challenges or setbacks, God will work things out for them.  I spend a large part of my time doing that.

3.  It helps to have a couple witnesses that can testify that the encouragement I give isn’t bogus lol. So if a recent graduate who students saw, remember, and maybe even knew has a growth year story, it helps them to see that if God did it for so and so, He’ll do it for them as well.

I’m excited to share the growth year story of Ashlea!  Ashlea is completing her first year of medical school. I am excited for her journey thus far and the journey ahead.

HealthOU: When did you graduate from Oakwood?

  • In 2015! (whoot whoot!)


HealthOU: Describe your activities post Oakwood?

  • Post Oakwood, I 1) moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2) enrolled in a 2-year Master’s degree program 3) graduated with a Master of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences and 4) re-applied for and got accepted into medical school!


 HealthOU: Did you apply to medical school while you were at Oakwood? What factors do you think contributed to not being accepted that first go around?

  • Yes I applied in 2014. I believe that my MCAT score as well as lack of shadowing contributed to not being accepted my first go around.


HealthOU: What did you do differently when you reapplied?

  • I focused on improving myself as an applicant. I shadowed a physician and was able to get a recommendation letter from her as well! I improved my MCAT score as well by taking classes that fixed my weak subject areas.


HealthOU: When did you take the MCAT? How did you study?

  • [I took the MCAT twice]. The first time (as far as I can remember), I studied during the summer after my junior year of undergrad. I attended a Princeton Review program and spent the summer (May to July) attending classes from 8am-3pm (Mon-Fri) and then self study until like 9-10pm. (I’d say about ~12-15 hours a day depending on my focus/schedule for the day) But I also didn’t focus as much as I should have and enjoyed a lot of outings  with my friends. That was also a very emotional summer for me and so I think overall, a lot of factors contributed to my lower score the first time.


 HealthOU: What did you do differently the second time you took the MCAT?

[The second time around], I took the MCAT on June 2, 2016. I studied for the test by attending evening Princeton Review MCAT classes (offered by my graduate school), and then studying on my own using textbook and online resources (including completing MAAAAANY practice tests).


HealthOU: How long did you study the second time? 

I’d say overall I studied for about 7 months (vs the 2-3 months I studied the first time). I tried to study at least 3 hours a day on top of studying for my graduate classes but that varied depending on how much work I had in my class/if a test was coming up. Some weeks I’d dedicate Sundays to studying only for the MCAT.


HealthOU: How did you juggle applying to medical school while you were in a master’s program? How did you find time to study for the MCAT, work on personal statement,  etc

  • It was difficult I can’t lie. But I made a schedule and did my best to stick with it. I believe that scheduling out my day was the key to finding that balance and making sure I made time for what I wanted to accomplish. This wasn’t a perfect method and there were times when I’d ignore the schedule in order to get a few more hours of studying for my classes or to go out to eat with friends etc, but I tried my best to stick to it and I believe it paid off!


HealthOU: Did you plan on taking a gap year prior to graduating?

  • Prior to graduating, I did NOT plan on taking a gap year. I knew that the path I had ahead of me was going to be a tedious one and I wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. Although my original “plan” (going straight into medical school after undergrad) didn’t come into fruition, I decided to continue my education via graduate school in order to keep my mind sharp and not become complacent with my situation. The goal of getting into medical school was still on the front burners!


HealthOU:Students often have a timeline in their heads and it can be discouraging to find yourself taking a gap year if you didn’t initially plan do.  Did you experience any of these feelings?

  • YES! When I was still in high school, I had an entire future mapped out in my head. This future did NOT include: an unsatisfactory MCAT score resulting in an initial round of medical school rejections and a May 2015 graduation with NO idea what the future had in store. So when I found myself in that exact situation, I was at a loss, both emotionally and spiritually. I found myself asking God, “Why?” Why did I work so hard during undergrad to keep my GPA above a 3.5? Why did I choose to spend most Saturday nights studying instead of thoroughly enjoying what the college social-life had to offer? Why did I sacrifice so MUCH, and still not end up where I wanted to be? The summer after graduating college was an incredibly difficult one where I had to regain the faith in my journey and understand that this was simply a “comma” not a “period” in my life. Depression and discouragement are REAL. Especially when you feel like your longtime dreams are slipping away. But once I came to the full understanding that God himself orchestrates my future and that God makes no mistakes, I began to re-build confidence in myself and grow not only as a person, but also as a Christian. When I think back to the years following that initial disappointment, I now understand EXACTLY why my path diverged the way it did. So much growth happened in these past two years and I will forever cherish my journey.



Ashlea is a Georgia-born and raised graduate of Oakwood University. She completed her Master of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Health Science at Drexel University in the spring of 2017.  Her hobbies include cooking, singing, writing, watching Korean dramas and painting. She is nearing the end of her first year at Loma Linda University School of Medicine.