In this episode, I’m playing a session I had on Instagram and Tiktok Live answering all of your premed questions and talking about application timeline, for-profit medical schools, and more!
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.
The episodes in this podcast are recordings of our Facebook Live that we do at 3 pm Eastern on most weekdays. Check out our Facebook page and like the page to be notified. Also, listen to our other podcasts on MedEd Media. If you have any questions, call me at 617-410-6747.
[02:45] Dealing with Insecurity and Withdrawals
Q: How do you limit human error on exams?
A: Most tests are going to challenge your ability to trust yourself. And so, it’s just something you have to learn along the way.
Q: I’m a nontrad student who’s insecure about applying as an undocumented student. Any words of encouragement?
A: Insecurity is a normal, valid feeling. But it’s also just tough being an undocumented student. I’m working with a student right now who’s undocumented applying to medical school. And she’s very limited with the number of schools that she can apply to and how they will treat her.
Q: I’ve had a rough semester debating withdrawing from all my classes. How bad would this be?
A: It’s not that bad. If someone sees you have a whole semester of withdrawals, they’ll think something happened, and you will just have to explain it. Explain what happened and why you chose to withdraw from your courses.'Withdrawals are not a huge issue.'Click To Tweet
[04:44] Take the MCAT Early!
Q: I’m senior studying biology. I wasn’t set on the whole premed thing until mid junior year. So I’m behind with most of the activities. I’m taking the MCAT sometime in the spring. I was thinking of doing either March or April. But knowing myself, I would prefer having at least two or three weeks of full-time studying.
The other option to fulfill that would be either late May or early June. Trying to balance those, which would outweigh: being early versus being not early, but potentially having a better MCAT prep? How does that tie into the whole timeline?
A: In the grand scheme of things, a June 4 MCAT is not an issue because you’ll get your score back in a month. The big picture timeline is applications open up at the beginning of May. That’s back to back.
TMDSAS, AACOMAS, and AMCAS all open up, usually within days of each other. AACOMAS is the only one right now where you can submit it immediately. TMDSAS had a two-week delay last year. And for AMCAS, you’re able to submit your application on June 1, although it had a month delay last year.“When you submit your application, it goes through a verification process.”Click To Tweet
The Verification Process
What a lot of students don’t know is that applications don’t go out to schools until a very specified day. The application services hold the applications until they’re ready to push them on to the schools and let the schools pull them. That is typically mid-June for AACOMAS and June third week or plus for AMCAS.
After that, medical schools do their thing. They start sending out secondary essays, and they wait for those. Then you add a couple of weeks onto that. And so, you’re looking at late June through the first week or two of July before medical schools even start to get the secondaries back to do anything with an application. What’s also happening at the same time is they’re finalizing their class for the last cycle.
Historically, the end of July through the beginning of August is when you start to see a lot of action in terms of interview invites.
Taking the MCAT Early
A June 4 MCAT with a July 4 score release doesn’t do anything to delay your application. However, it gets in the way of everything, whether you’re taking classes or working on the primary application, personal statement, activity descriptions, clinical experience, research, or MCAT prep.
Hence, I highly recommend taking the MCAT early to get it out of the way so that you can focus on applications.
[11:11] Choosing Med School, Applying to PA School, & Personal Statements
Q: A physician suggested applying to PA school, if I don’t get in the cycle, then going to medical school.
A: That is the worst advice in the world. It’s like you’re saying you want to get into debt for PA school so that you can go get into more debt for medical school.
Q: How would we go about having you review my personal statement?
A: Kindly check out Mappd for more resources. At the end of the day, when writing personal statements, focus on how do you tell your story. It’s all about storytelling.
Q: I already have two acceptances. I’m waiting for another interview and I have another two more interviews coming up. I don’t know if it’s better to have just one school accepted, then you don’t have to worry about making a choice. DO schools have a $2,000 deposit and we can’t really afford anything for schools. How do I narrow it down to only choosing one DO school?
A not-for-profit doesn’t make a company evil or good. A lot of Caribbean medical schools are for-profit medical schools. Then people immediately think of the shady Caribbean medical schools. Not all of them are shady, but a lot of them are.
Think MD and DO because it doesn’t determine the quality of the education or anything. Ultimately, you’ve got to ask yourself the hard questions, which is: do I want to go through this pain of preparing for another interview? Because you could already turn down interviews at this point now that you already have acceptances.
I just wanted to mention that some students are commenting and asking about this student’s stats. But then again, just because you have a 3.7 and a 510, doesn’t mean you’ll get into the same schools that she did. That’s just not how this process works.'Just because you have a 3.7 and a 510 doesn't mean you'll get into the same schools that she did. That's just not how this process works.'Click To Tweet
[21:41] This Student is Worried About Her Trend and Coursework
Q: I decided at the end of my undergrad to go to medical school. I have over 150 hours and three years of my senior credits. I have an upward trend after I decided to go to medical school. But it still doesn’t show how great of an upward trend I had for my senior class?
A: This is one of the biggest misconceptions that students have about how medical schools see data.
Medical schools may ask for only the last 20 credit hours or the last 50 credit hours, not the senior year. They can manipulate their filter however they want because they get every single data point. They don’t just get a PDF to look at.
Q: The one-year degree is for molecular diagnostics and my advisor recommended it to me. I don’t know if it’s the best choice that I could have done for helping me demonstrate that I can do the coursework. Currently, I’m taking pathophysiology, molecular genetics, applied molecular techniques, which is an eight-hour lab course where we’re working with gels and PCR.
A: It sounds like hard sciences so that’s good. And it doesn’t matter even if that’s considered an SMP. The only concerning part would be if the courses themselves are not “hard” science courses. Students will go do an MPH thinking it’s a master’s degree. They think it’s going to help them prove they’re academically capable. But that’s not the case.
[27:34] Best Use of a Gap Year
Q: I’m applying next cycle. Is there one thing that medical schools prefer – doing a gap year or we can do anything? I got a job at Epic Systems, which is basically healthcare IT. So it’s a different side of healthcare that I would be looking at. But they’re questioning how it’s going to help me in any way.
A: Don’t look at things in terms of whether it’s going to help your application. Think about what your application looks like now and what your actions show over time.
If you don’t have any clinical experience and shadowing, and you spend your gap year working at an EMR place, then you are going to be questioned. Why do you want to be a physician when none of your actions support that?
However, if you have lots of clinical experience, continue to get clinical experience even while working. Sprinkle that throughout, whether that’s once a week or once a month. So think about what you should be filling your time with, especially in gap years.“There's no right or wrong typically for gap years, but just keep your foot in the door in the medical world in terms of clinical experience and shadowing.”Click To Tweet
[31:38] Postbac, Activities, & Research
Q: Are 20 postbac credits enough to show an upward trend?
A: It depends.
Q: Is phlebotomy in a hospital good clinical experience?
A: It is.
Q: Is a publication necessary when fulfilling research hours?
A: No, they’re not necessary.
[35:20] Clinical Experience From Years Back
Q: I’m moving every year and a half or every two years and I have four-year old twins. I’m a super busy husband. And it’s been hard for me to find a place to shadow or do clinical hours. I had a good amount of clinical hours a long time ago doing surgical tech. How would that affect my application for next year?
A: How can you say you want to be a doctor if you haven’t really done anything to show that you want to be a doctor. You have to show that you like being around patients and physicians to show that you understand what it’s like to be a doctor.'Your medical school application is your declaration of 'I want to be a doctor.' And if your actions don't speak to that, there's a huge disconnect there.'Click To Tweet
Having hours in the past would make the adcoms think that you only did that just to check off the box. So you’re in this catch 22 situation have where you’ve done some stuff but you haven’t done anything recently. And that’s because your life situation doesn’t allow you to do those, but you still want to go to medical school.
There are two options here. First, apply with what you have, and hope that medical schools will understand that you still want to go to medical school. Even though you don’t have the time and opportunities to do what you can do. Although with COVID, you have a virtual shadowing that you can put on your application.
The other option is you delay a year or two so that your kids are older they go to preschool. Then that puts you in a situation where you can start to get your foot back in the door of the clinical world.
Our student says they got a lot of clinical experience six years ago, and then went back to school with kids and all. And they’re concerned about where they want to live in the next five or six years.“There are plenty of people applying to medical school who have no idea what the world of medicine is like.”Click To Tweet
A lot of people have this mindset that they can’t do anything until everything is perfect, and that’s just not reality. Ultimately, just live your life how you want to live your life.
[43:35] Understanding the Business of Medicine
Q: I feel like I truly want to serve and I don’t want to do a business side of health care. Is being a flight doctor going to be better?
A: Even in the military, there’s a business side of medicine. There will always be headaches related to healthcare, insurance, or a boss telling you to do something you don’t want to do. But behind closed doors, when you are taking care of that patient, that is what drives you to be a physician.“At the end of the day, when you are a physician, what happens behind closed doors is iwhat should be motivating you to be a physician.”Click To Tweet
[50:04] Scribing and Research
Q: Is scribing a good alternative to shadowing if I only have 30 hours of shadowing?
A: A lot of schools consider scribing and shadowing as the same thing so it’s all good.
Q: What are your thoughts on research?
A: Research is great, if you are interested in research. And if you’re not interested in research, there are better things to do with your time.“Research is one of the most overrated parts of the application from a premed perspective.”Click To Tweet
Now, if you’re doing research, the quality of research is not determined by whether or not you get a publication or a research, poster presentation, etc. The quality of the research is determined by how well you understand it, how well you can talk about it, and how well you can write about it.
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