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This non-traditional student wants to know what she needs to focus on after experiencing several unsuccessful application cycles.
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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[00:24] Question of the Day
“I’m a nontraditional applicant and have not been in the medical field within the past year and a half just because of some life changes. I’m actively seeking to apply next year in preparing myself to retake my MCAT. I’m currently in a master’s program in something that I’m passionate about, which is a master’s in medical nutrition.
I’ve applied three times in the past but had a lot of life stuff going on. And I couldn’t focus that energy on applying. What are some things that I should focus on going into this next application season?”
[02:09] Stats Matter Too
When asked about why she didn’t get in, she says she didn’t try to hone in too much on her stats. Then she adds it was a time where it seemed that medical schools are trying to focus more on a diverse candidate.
Now, stats still matter. And a lot of students have that kind of mindset where they think it’s going to be a holistic review so they’re not going to care about stats. But they do. First and foremost, the school has to be confident that you’re going to get through medical school. That’s always the first question they’re asking.“Stats do matter and everything else matters too.”Click To Tweet
[03:44] Your Story Matters Too
Our student got a 3.6 GPA and her first MCAT hindered her in applying. She says she also has to sell herself to the admissions committee to be competitive. She feels there has to be something that sets you apart from everyone else.
Focus on Your Story
She wants to be unique but we’re all unique. You’re unique because of your parents and your family. It’s not unique in the sense that you have to cure cancer or you’re the most dedicated and the most hard working. The only thing that you can do is tell your story. Someone’s either going to like it or not. At the end of the day, just tell your story.
Focus on your specific journey, not how you’re better than anyone else. You can only control yourself, not anyone else. Put the application out there talking about who you are and they either take it or leave it.
How You Should Write Your Essays
Your personal statement has to be about why you want to be a doctor, not that you’re going to be the best doctor or that you’re the most hardworking person.
Your activities should focus on the things that you’ve done and how they’ve impacted you. It’s not how they’ve taught you these skills, or that they prepared you in this way because everyone can say those same things. But the personal impact, that either you’ve had on an experience, or that that experience had on you, is the uniqueness that you’re trying to draw upon.“Focus on your own journey. Don't try to focus on standing out or selling yourself, just tell your story.”Click To Tweet
Your story is what connects human to human. Your passion for medical nutrition is going to come through not because you’re selling yourself, but probably because you have activities around those things. And you have your transcript that’s going to show you’re taking these courses. Your passion is just going to come through about why you love nutrition, how it’s impacted your life, how you’ve seen it impact other people’s lives.
[08:30] What She Did Differently the Second Time
Apparently, this student applied for the second time the following year. When asked about what she did differently to improve, she said she took the MCAT again. It was about six points higher but not where she wanted it to be. She also tweaked her personal statement and sought feedback from her cousins who are physicians and writers in her family. She also did the same for most of her secondaries. And still, no interviews.
She then decided to take a couple of years off. She also worked in health care as a respite and habilitation provider for a couple of years. Then during the second application, she started working at a juice bar where she got a managerial position. She also worked as a scribe at her local children’s hospital for three years. So during the third application, she was working at the juice bar, and at the same time heavily working as a scribe.
Applying the Third Time
At the time, her mom had relapsed breast cancer for the third time. She didn’t really know if she had the time and the commitment to apply with everything going on at home. But her mom urged her to apply, and so she did and it went a little better.
She got in touch with a dean at one of the medical schools in her area who ended up rejecting her without even hearing her story. Sadly, her mom died months after that. Now, she’s thinking of taking the MCAT again and gearing up for that.
She just has to remember that she only got feedback from one school, and it was just from one person at that school. Her stats may not be competitive with their averages but that potentially doesn’t mean they wouldn’t give her a chance for her application to be reviewed.
Once you’re ‘good enough’ to pass through filters and get on someone’s desk and be reviewed, then everything else comes out – your journey, your passions, your impact, etc.
[14:32] Why Stats Matter'You have to prove that you can do well in medical school because it reflects back on them.'Click To Tweet
If medical schools have a higher than average attrition rate where students are dropping out, the accreditation body may question it. That’s why medical schools start with stats.
This student has a 3.6 GPA, and she says she has an upward trend. Students don’t like to hear that they’re just a number, but they have to prove they are good enough to get into medical school. That’s what they’re looking for. Her master’s program is not hard sciences. Nutrition may be there, some physiology, biochemistry stuff, maybe in there. But it’s not proving academics and hard sciences.
Ultimately, her 3.6 GPA is not that the final number, it’s the story behind the number that really matters.
[17:41] Next Steps Moving Forward
She needs to do some deep soul searching and figure out why she hasn’t been successful. And with the GPA, maybe it means she still doesn’t have the core science foundation to build upon to do well. She has to do some self-reflection.
Maybe she needs to study for a little bit longer and dive into the content. Then focus on full-length exams, Q-banks, etc.
She can sign up for a free Blueprint MCAT account so she can get free access to a half-length diagnostic just to dip her toes in the water with a half-length again. She can also take their full-length exam and create a study plan to help her figure it all out to make sure she comes prepared.
Then on the application, she has to write a good personal statement and activity descriptions. She can use The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process as a guide.'Don't sell yourself, just tell your story. And let YOU come out in your application.'Click To Tweet
Plus, if she’s not applying until the next year, then she has another year to do her clinical activities. Then she could also include her experience in taking care of her mom as a caregiver and use that as a clinical experience.
[21:03] It’s Not the Number, It’s Your Story
This student was also concerned about how medical schools would look upon her as an applicant given that she did two years of community college because she was an athlete. But she finished it at a four-year institution, which could tell a better story if she struggled earlier on and then did well.
Number one, she was an athlete. And we all know that student athletes are never students first, they’re athletes first. She could talk about how busy she was as an athlete that she never got to focus on her studies. And so, when she moved to a four-year institution, the athletics part went away so she was able to focus on school. Her grades got better at a university versus community college. And that tells its own story itself.“It's not just the number. It's the story behind the number.”Click To Tweet
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The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement
The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process
The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview