How Do You Show Schools You Don’t Have Commitment Issues


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ADG 144: How Do You Show Schools You Don't Have Commitment Issues

Session 144

This student has a 3.9 undergrad GPA in music but has been hopping around with her postdocs. How can she prove to medical schools that she doesn’t have commitment issues? And with the way our conversation is going, we get to the core of her problem – self-doubt!

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[00:32] Question of the Day

“I went to two different high schools, two different colleges. I studied violin performance in my undergrad. And then I decided that I wanted to become a doctor. So I went to postbac in New York. And then I transferred postbacs as well.

I’ve been going back and forth. I’ve been doing music during this whole process until COVID hit. And when COVID had hit, I really just wanted to do medicine. But that’s been rocky. And so I freaked out. I started my master’s. I was scribing. And my doctor advised me to try informatics. I was in the middle of that program, but I just can’t let go of wanting to become a doctor. So now I’m studying for my app but I don’t know how to show med school that I don’t have commitment issues.

I was working as a scribe at an Orthopedic Clinic, and our EHR system got hacked. And so we had to basically transfer all of our patient documents from one thing to another manually. I was in the clinic from 6am to 12am to get everything in order and prepare for the next day. And I was taking OChem 2, Biochem, and Cancer Bio. 

My body just fell apart. I got really sick, I couldn’t handle it, and I couldn’t get out of bed. It was not because of COVID. But because my body just collapsed. And I couldn’t go to work for a week. I just needed to recover. And then I freaked out because if this is what residency is going to be like, clearly, I’m not smart enough to handle all this.”

[03:08] 3.9 Undergrad GPA

Our student goes on to say that she dropped Cancer Bio. and her biochem she passed-failed so she’s done with the prereqs. At least in California, most schools don’t require biochem. But she’s realizing now as she’s doing more research that biochem is actually very important. And a lot of schools require it, and it’s especially for the MCAT.

Hence, she pivoted at the last minute, and started this semester. She has a decent postbac GPA of 3.96. Not a lot of credits for her postbac. She has a 3.9 undergrad GPA in music.

And so, her GPA is not a concern. She has done all of the gen chem series, the whole bio series, the whole physics series. But some of them are pass-fail so that’s potentially why some of those credits aren’t counting towards her GPA.

[04:49] The Reason for Hopping Around Postbacs

The concern here is her commitment issues hopping around different postbacs. And our student couldn’t think of a good reason why she changed her postbac. And this was her biggest struggle.

At that time, she was burned out. She went straight from undergrad to postbac so she didn’t have a break. And going from music to science courses was also a switch. Then she was also doing music at the same time.

She also wanted to be back home in LA. She felt New York is a tough city, and she’s going against the smartest kids in the U.S. She felt jaded in the cutthroat world in Columbia where grades are everything and competition is everything. 

Lots of students change undergrads – that’s not an issue. The current question would be, why did you hop around your postbac as well?

Simply put, she felt it wasn’t the kind of environment she wanted to be in. Then going to USC, she realized any kind of premed world is brutal because you have to fight for every point, unfortunately.

Now, nobody cares if you’re hopping, unless you’re withdrawing every other class, and your pass failing every other class pre-COVID.

'There are 1,000,001 reasons why students transfer programs or stop one program and start another regardless of transferring.'Click To Tweet

Especially during COVID, there are lots of reasons why. Lots of people don’t want to pay outrageous rent for New York City, and they’re going to go back and move in with their parents, whatever that looks like.

[07:23] How She Could Better Explain It

Our student could better explain her reason for hopping around by not talking about the pressure and the competition getting to her. Because medical school is going to be just as brutal.

Hopefully, you go to a good school where your classmates are great and there’s not a lot of competition. But in reality, you’re all competing for that next thing. Lots of students think it’s a big competition again in medical school. But there’s no harm in being collaborative.

'Don't give the medical schools any sort of fear that you're going to burn out in medical school because of that competition level again.'Click To Tweet

Now, our student expresses her concern of being burned out in medical school. And it comes from a lot of deep reflection trying to figure out what has triggered her in the past to burnout. 

It sounds like previously, being in the clinic from 6am to 12am would cause anyone to burn out, especially when it’s busy work, and not doing the thing you think you love.

Now, working 18 hours in a hospital, taking care of patients, charting, talking to other team members, doing all that kind of stuff for patient care is very different from busy paperwork. 

So the motivations behind what you’re doing are very different. And the kind of reward that you get from doing it is very different. Hopefully, 18 hours in a hospital actually doing patient care is going to light her up versus draining her down to bare bones in the clinic doing monotonous paperwork.

[10:44] Clinical Experiences

'At the end of the day, you need to make sure that you like being around patients.'Click To Tweet

Scribe work is a great clinical experience but it’s a little bit removed from patient care. It’s a little bit more admin, you’re just doing a lot of typing, and you’re part of the team. It’s great experience. But it doesn’t give you that same satisfaction and joy of actually talking to interacting with and touching a patient. And so if you want to keep scribing, great if you’re still doing it.

Consider adding on something else that gets you a little bit closer to patients. That way, you can interact with them and make sure they light you up the way you hope they’re going to for the rest of your career.

[12:24] Overcoming Self-Doubt

It sounds like our student has a lot of self-doubt. And then again, she just has to go back to the core question of: is it going to help her get the exposure she needs to prove to herself that this is what she wants. Because it sounds like she is doubting whether this is what she really wants.

It sounds like she can do it from an academic standpoint, that’s not a concern. And that’s a big issue for a lot of people where self-doubt comes in. 

But for her, she has doubts since she burned out. And it seems like those are very reasonable situations where anyone would get burnt out in those situations. And, that is going to be very different than medical school and residency

And so, the best thing that you can do for yourself is number one, you have to come first. We have this false kind of narrative in medicine that we have to put the patients first. But that shouldn’t be the case.

“You have to take care of yourself so you can take care of other people.”Click To Tweet

Take care of yourself first – sleep, exercise, eat, hydrate, meditation, or whatever works for you. Then you need to just make sure you enjoy being around patients and that’s what you want. Then the rest will follow.

The burnout potentially will happen and so now it’s all about how do you deal with it? How do you recognize the signs of burnout? And just go from there. But ultimately, it has a lot to do with self-care.

[17:10] Stop Playing the Comparison Game

Our student is also trying to compare herself with other students who got in who’s got everything. But this is a reminder to all students out there. You cannot play the comparison game.

'You cannot play the comparison game because you do not have full context on who that person is.'Click To Tweet

If you’ve watched any of my Application Renovation videos, they’re 3.8, 3.9, and 522 students out there. And they’re not getting any interviews and acceptances because they’re horrible at either recognizing why they want to be a doctor, and telling their story. Or they completely misunderstand what the application process is, and that’s telling your story.

The mistake that students make is they get super arrogant with the skills that they learned and how it’s going to prepare them to be a great doctor. And that’s where students with great stats and great experiences lose in this application game.

At the end of the day, humans are humans. And humans have to interact with other humans. And this comes out to the forefront for residency interviews more than any other part of this journey.

[21:51] Be Careful with Arrogance

When you’re applying for residency interviews, you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. And really the question they’re asking themselves is not – are you smart enough? Or do you know enough. Because you will learn a lot of it there.

Medical school doesn’t teach you how to be a doctor, medical school teaches you how to learn things. Residency teaches you how to learn more things very specific to the field that you want to go into. And then you’re working on your skills for that specific field.

But the biggest question that residency program directors are asking themselves is – do I want to hang out with you for the next three, four, or five years? 

Are you going to be that arrogant twat who comes across in an application as being the best? Or are you going to be someone who could grab some drinks after work. Because work sucks. And it’s really hard. People are a little burnt out, and they need to talk about it.

Residency programs look more on whether you’re a fit to their program. They want to be with someone who understands why they’re on this journey and they can see them fitting in there, and not because they’re the best.

'You should be showing not that you're the best but you're a normal human being and you know how to tell your story... because that's what life is – it's relating to other people.'Click To Tweet

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