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Admission Application Suggestions (Part XI)

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Uncle Cecil, an insurance salesman, once told me that much of my future lifetime interactions with people would involve selling some idea, some product, or some aspect of my character and personality.

He said that no matter what I was selling, the buyers’ first inclination toward being favorably or unfavorably influenced would be based on my appearance, personality, attitude, and presentation. He recommended taking every opportunity to practice salesmanship as, for example, meeting a stranger in an elevator. He said that a typical shy person would be tongue-tied upon trying to start up a conversation. The way to break out of this mental block, he continued, is to practice at home an “elevator speech.” Such a speech consists of pleasant “small talk” -- like an amusing comment about the weather. One could be for a rainy day, another for a hot day; and still another for a cold day. It will not matter if you “mess up” the first few times you try your “rap” on a stranger because you will never see that person again. Nevertheless, it is good practice in learning how to say something interesting in a clear, concise, powerful, and “smooth” way. These four are keys to favorably influencing people who will interview you.
The purpose of an interview is to sell yourself and showcase what you have done with your life. To perform well requires much planning, preparation, and practice. In order to get past your nervousness and perhaps embarrassment about selling yourself, consider using a familiar model to jog your memory. I particularly like the “apple tree” model because, as a boy, I had the opportunity to plant apple seeds and watch each develop into roots, a trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit. For example, when an interviewer says “Tell Me About Yourself,” a place to start is with “the seed.” The “seed” could represent your Purpose in Life. Your purpose is formed around your talent(s) and your reason for applying to this institution is the proper development of your talent. Show your passion for using your eventually developed talent(s) in order to build your Legacy (your gift to the world that can be built upon even after you die). The “roots” are what you have done in planning and preparation up to this point. When I was seven, Mother told me she would provide what I needed but I would have to provide what I wanted. To get what I wanted, I always had at least four jobs at one time -- selling newspapers, shining shoes, cleaning people’s homes, washing cars, planting neighbors vegetable and flower gardens, etc. Mother insisted that I saved all earned monies and apply toward a college education.
The “trunk” of my pre-college life centered around education -- taking advantage of all educational opportunities in school and away from school (e.g. The Boy Scouts, the community center fieldtrips, volunteer work in the community). The “branches” resulting from working hard, saving money, and educating myself in many areas enabled me to get into top educational institutions (e.g. University of Michigan, Morehouse College, Meharry medical school). The “leaves” pertained to the various problems I encountered along the way and had to overcome -- both of a racial and non-racial nature. The determination to stay focused, to overcome problems, and to continue going straight ahead meant giving up a lot of fun social things and learning how to make the best use of every second of every day. The “apples” were my achievements -- things completed (becoming an Eagle Scout twice), strengths developed (why and how I was able to accomplish things), and experiences in benefiting others. Regardless of the model you use, Plan and Prepare what you want to say. Practice saying it in a clear, concise, powerful, and “smooth” way -- all within five minutes. Remember to maintain pleasant eye contact with the interviewer.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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