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


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. 





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