MSHQ 035 : How to Fix a Medical School Application After Starting Premed Poorly

Session 35

If you start out as premed and don't do quite as well as you want, you have to ask yourself “How badly do I want this?” – Dr. Polites

If you've got a poor grade in any course and you think that it's all over, well, it's not. In today's episode, Ryan welcomes back Dr. Greg Polites for the second time on the show as they talk about how to fix your application after starting off poorly as a premed, the thought process, solutions to some possible scenarios, and red flags in applications and what to avoid. Also learn about the worst AMCAS application photos submitted.

Dr. Polites is affiliated with the Washington University in St. Louis where he serves as a premed advisor, an associate professor of Emergency Medicine, a member of the admissions committee, and a course master for the practice of medicine for 1st and 3rd year medical students. He also runs the premed course at Washington University called MedPrep with 90% of all premed students in WashU-St. Louis taking such course.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Dr. Greg Polites:

Greg's path to medicine:

  • Not having a great start at college
  • Going to business school and getting bored
  • Taking his postbac and getting focused on medicine
  • Running into an emergency physician who didn't start college strongly

Correcting course:

  • How badly do you need this?
  • What do you need to do to really focus and do well?
  • Look at your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Look at your overall academic performance.
  • Have an organized, thoughtful plan
  • Make use of every resource available to you
    • Tutoring services
    • Prehealth advising system

Should you retake the course if you get a C?

  • Move forward and do better in a higher level course in the same discipline
  • Retake the course if you didn't learn the fundamentals well enough
  • Trying to boost up your GPA isn't the only thing you need to demonstrate
  • How well do you know the information?
  • How well did you learn what you need to learn?
  • How are you doing overall?
  • Have a more extensive plan of taking 1 or 2 years as a postbac

Factors for poor grades:

  • Overextending yourself early on in college
  • Underestimation of how difficult the coursework and exams can be
  • Not taking advantage of the resources and help that they can get

Greg recommends:

  • Be a bookworm in the first 6 months of college.
  • Limit what you do in that first 6 months to one activity outside of class time
  • Start out school slowly and ease into it

Possible scenarios:

2 years in and walking the line of a 3.0 GPA, should you move forward with taking the MCAT?

  • Have a very clear understanding of where you're going to be at the time you file your application
  • Take some gap years. Figure out when to take your MCAT and if you're ready to take the MCST
  • Look at a 2-year plan where you look at 2 additional postbac years of serious coursework plus 1 year of doing something while in the application process

Taking Master's program over postbac:

  • Master's degree: will give you strong undergrad GPA
  • Can be pretty costly

DIY postbac at a local community college:

  • Greg recommends taking it at a full four-year university
  • You need to demonstrate that you can handle the coursework for medical school
  • It's important to take a full course load
  • 2-year structured programs are better as you get advising along the way

Taking a June MCAT and wait till they get the score back before applying:

  • Get your application within the first 6 weeks AMCAS opens
  • You should have lodged the application by mid-July (end of July the latest)

Make it as simple as possible:

  • Know the timeline.
  • Plan well.
  • Make sure you have all your letters of recommendation in early.
  • When you're ready to send it, send it.
  • Talk to your prehealth advisors in your junior year

A  re-applicant in the eyes of the admissions committee:

  • They will open your old application and compare it with the current application and see the difference
  • Slow down and really take an honest look of what you need to do to improve your application

The application process can tell a lot about the applicant itself:

  • Applying early
  • Picture submitted
  • Spelling errors

The importance of having a good profile picture to be submitted:

  • Greg shares the worst images submitted in the application
  • Showing respect for the process

Red flags in the application:

  1. Any part that makes the application unbalanced.
  2. Applying late

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

  1. Medicine is a field where not everything is going to go your way all the time. You have to be somebody who stays steadfast and doesn't give up.
  1. You want to go to medical school with a strong foundation. If you didn't do well in your courses early on, build a stronger foundation.

Links and Other Resources:

Session 23 with Dr. Polites – MSHQ 023 : Interview with Dr. Polites of MedPrep at Wash. U.

MedPrep at Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Loius

Save $225 on the Princeton Review's MCAT Ultimate or MCAT Self-Paced Prep Course through March 30th 2016 by going to www.princetonreview.com/podcast

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