This student has quite a few withdrawals from being deployed and transfers from changing locations. How can they discuss this on their application?
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[00:24] Question of the Day
Q: “I am a medical service corps army officer and I have been on the pre med path for about 10 years. This is due to being in the military for 14 years and moving 10 times.
This question is for other military or veterans that follow the nontraditional path. How do we solidify our applications, showing that we have eight transcripts or multiple withdrawals from deployments that we weren’t told about? Or training exercises that come up unexpectedly, or simply in my case, just having those breaks from not being able to continuously get that premed education? What do we do to tell our story?”
A: In your primary application, you’re going to check that box that you’re a military member. They’re also going to see that your activities are around the military. It typically comes with that understanding that you’re going to have a nontraditional path. So I wouldn’t worry about it.'Just tell your story the best you can.'Click To Tweet
As part of their secondary application process, some schools will have questions where you will have the perfect opportunity to talk about breaks in your education.
[02:53] How to Show Consistency When You’re Moving Around Constantly
Q: Especially as an officer, when you’re moving every two years, you’re not able to show that consistency. Is that frowned upon if they see all these different variations of activities?
A: Again, from a military perspective, you have a reason. And that’s always the biggest thing. The admissions committee will see why you’re jumping around so much and you’ve got eight different transcripts. They’ll see why you’ve got those activities there.
But for AMCAS, combine various activities and just put them into one activity. At the end of the day, it’s not because you’re a terrible person that these institutions don’t want you to be around. But it’s that you’re an awesome person in the military who needs to keep moving around to different places to spread your awesomeness everywhere.
[04:55] What Medical Schools Want From You
Q: “I’ve committed myself to service for almost two decades. I’m in a very rigorous postbac program. So I decided that I needed to prove myself with a stellar GPA. I’m making sure that I get the MCAT score that I need to get into the schools that I’m looking to apply to. So my volunteerism hasn’t been that much, because I decided to take these two years to dedicate myself to that.”
A: If you’re still active duty, you’re in your reserves or whatever, you still have other commitments on top of the postbac program, it’s all understandable.'Medical schools do not need you to be perfect. They need to understand your journey.”Click To Tweet
Medical schools need to understand why you’re doing this. You need to give them the confidence that you’re academically able to do well in medical school. They need to understand you’re academically able to pass the boards the first time you take them. They want to know whether you can communicate, and that you’re compassionate, empathetic, and all these other core competencies they’re looking for.
And so, you are a nontrad who has an amazing experience being in the military. You’re going through a rigorous postbac program to prove academic capability. You’re doing as much clinical experience and volunteering as you can.
Being consistent is not something that is doable for every single person and every single situation, and that’s okay.
[08:18] Don’t Double-Dip the Hours
Q: “I want to make sure my application does not look fallacious. For example, in my last deployment, I was a Ford surgical team XO. It was focused more around logistics. But because I’m on a team with surgeons, I was able to get shadowing hours. On my team, there are no A and B teams. We are the primaries, and we’re doing that for 24 hours a day for nine months. So when I do the hours for that, it looks like I have over 6,000 shadowing hours. I don’t want a medical school to question that. I don’t want it to look like I’m trying to fluff numbers. How does that work with the application?
A: Use an eight-hour day as your math calculation. You don’t need to go crazy there. Be careful as well with the fact that your main job is doing one thing, but it afforded you the ability to also shadow.
Now, those are not the same things. And so, if you have eight hours for your main job, that’s not also eight hours for shadowing. What you can do is to separate the two activities out as much as possible.
For instance, your main job could eat up 9/10 of the time and your shadowing can take up 1/10 of the time. Do some fuzzy math around that, but don’t double-dip the hours.
[11:39] Medical School List
Q: I want to cast my net wide. And I’ve listened to some of your previous podcasts. I don’t think I’m going to apply to 30 schools, but I’m nervous. I see some people with 528s and 4.0s putting in 18 applications and getting accepted to seven. What is your response to that?
A: It’s a game of numbers. At the end of the day, you have to do the research. Find the schools that you’re super interested in going to and applying to.'At the end of the day, it's time and money. It's money to apply to each school to apply for secondary applications.'Click To Tweet
The average of medical schools that students apply to is 18 for the AMCAS and 9 for the DO schools. The numbers have gone up over the years. But it all comes down to time, money, and competence.
[13:56] Taking the MCAT
Our student says she’s applying next year and she’s taking the MCAT in June 2023. I think that’s a bit late. If you can help it, ideally, you’re taking it a little bit earlier, just so you have your scores back so you understand what that score is before you apply.“We recommend taking the MCAT from January to March so that you have time to retake if you need to in June.”Click To Tweet
[14:22] You Don’t Have to Be a 528 or 4.0 Student
Your stats may be less than a 4.0 or a 528. but the rest of your story shows that you really want this. You’ve been working hard for it and you’ve been putting yourself around patients and doctors. You’ve been exploring the healthcare field.
The story that you’re going to put forth through your application through your primaries and secondaries is going to show that you’re a good human being who wants to be a doctor.
That tells me that you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the 4.0 or 528 students applying to medical school.
[16:29] Why The June MCAT Test Date is Not Ideal
Q: You mentioned taking the MCAT early. A lot of medical schools that I plan to apply to allow you to have biochemistry to cover your second semester of organic chemistry. I’ve been a little nervous about that. My program does allow me to take biochemistry in the fall. And I can take my second organic in the spring. I’ve just been a little nervous to try to balance. Is organic chemistry a make or break prerequisite?
That’s why I decided to push the MCAT until June. So that way I can complete my postbac program, which would be in the April timeframe, and then have those two months to focus.”
A: June is not too late. It’s just not ideal. And it’s not ideal for a few reasons. Number one, if this is your first time taking the MCAT, you have no idea how it’s going to go. And so, getting your score back in July, and hopefully still submitting your application before then, is tricky.
A lot of students submit the application to one school, get their score back. And if they’re confident in their score, they’re going to add all the other schools. That’s okay and that’s less of a concern. The bigger concern that I see students run into time and time again, is the fact that MCAT prep gets in the way of application prep.'Get the MCAT out of the way so you can focus on the application. That situation may not work for you, and that's okay. Not every piece of advice fits for every student.'Click To Tweet
[18:56] Resources to Help You on Your Journey
Q: “I have three applications. And by the time I’m finished with my postbac, I have seven transcripts and probably about 140 credits.”
A: If you haven’t already, go sign up for a free Mappd account, where you can start to get your transcripts and enter all of those courses. That way, you start to get a feel of what that’s going to be like for your real application. See if there are any hiccups requesting transcripts, so you can just go through that process.
Then in terms of MCAT prep, Blueprint MCAT offers a lot of free stuff including their half-length diagnostic test and one full-length test, plus more resources!
Join the Application Academy!