This music major premed is very busy. They want to know what they can possibly do to squeeze in clinical hours during the school year.
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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[00:27] Question of the Day
“I’m a premed student, but I’m actually a music major at Indiana University. My question kind of revolves around extracurricular activities. Because I’m a music major, also pursuing premed classes, I have a very dense academic schedule.
I spent a lot of time studying. And I’m just super busy with school during the school year. And I should also add that I’m an out-of-state student. How should I go about pursuing extracurricular activities, primarily clinical opportunities, amidst this very busy schedule that I have during the school year?“
A: If you don’t think from a bandwidth perspective, that you will have the ability to commit to something and keep up your grades and everything, then maybe the answer is don’t get any clinical experience. If you think you can, then see what you can do. Maybe find something more flexible where it doesn’t have to be a job. Try volunteering like hospice volunteering.
[01:48] Worried Over Consistency
Q: “I just wrapped up my freshman year and I’m going to be a sophomore. I’m currently working full-time as a caregiver at a memory care facility in the summer. So I’ve accrued some hours and like the clinical realm. I just know that you preach consistency is key, especially with clinical opportunities.”
A: It’s very common for students to put in their summer activities, which appear on their application as May through August. Now, it’s not ideal. But if that’s all you can do, then that’s all you can do to maintain sanity with everything else going on.“There's no perfect way to do this.”Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, you have to do whatever works best for you. You have your school schedule plus your MCAT prep and your activities. And so, adding things to your application can really be hard.
[04:15] One Semester at a Time
Q: “I feel like sometimes I will try to be doing as much as I possibly can from getting clinical experience and maintaining good grades to having a social life. But then I just want to keep adding stuff on. Then I also have this fear that I’m stretching myself too thin. I’m kind of getting into that checking boxes mentality, which I’m trying to avoid at all costs. So how should I balance that?”
A: Start with the highest priority thing and the highest priority. And your highest priority is that you’re a student. Then figure out the next thing you need to do to take care of yourself. But there’s no balance.
And so, everything is waxing and waning in terms of your school schedule, and the requirements for your time for school stuff.
Maybe during the beginning of the year, there would be less homework, fewer quizzes, less whatever, and you have a little bit more flexibility. Then you get to midterms and then you find that you don’t have time for anything. And then after midterms, you’re cool again for a few weeks or a month until you need to start ramping up for finals.“It's just a constant flow, where you're constantly checking in with yourself going, where am I at? Am I good? Am I not good? Where can I add? What do I need to remove?”Click To Tweet
Ultimately, show up where you can show up at a certain time of your life. Try to figure out which things can give you the flexibility you need as you go through a semester.
[06:17] No Time for Research
Q: “Something that does stress me out a bit is research. It sounds really fun. But I think with the time commitment, it doesn’t really work with what I’ve got going on already. I’m happy with what I have and I don’t really want to sacrifice, like changing degrees or really anything that I’ve got going on right now.”
A: It’s fine that you don’t want to do research and you don’t have the time to do research or can’t fit in your schedule, or don’t want to sacrifice to do research. That’s okay.
There are plenty of medical schools out there that will accept students with zero research.'You don't need to change your life to fit a narrative that you think you have to fit to apply to medical school.'Click To Tweet
[07:55] Check In with Yourself
Q: “Taking into consideration everything that I’ve done thus far, what should I do next, in order to best prepare myself for taking the MCAT or doing another semester of classes and getting ready to apply to medical school?”
A: Just do everything that you’re doing now. You’re asking the right questions of, what should I be doing? What can I add? What can I take away? What am I missing? You’re asking all the right questions that most students aren’t asking.
[10:38] Diversifying Clinical Experience Portfolio
The student is asking if it will be viewed negatively if he chooses to transition to becoming a scribe or EMT in order to diversify his clinical experience portfolio?
Explore. It is acceptable to diversify experiences. If an activity is pursued for a few months during the summer, it can be clearly indicated as a seasonal job in the activity section. Transitioning to a different role or experience for another summer job is perfectly fine.
[11:45] Caregiver VS EMT Clinical Experience
When application committees review experiences as a caregiver compared to being an EMT, how do they differentiate the level of patient interaction and do they perceive the caregiver role as a lesser form of clinical experience?
While taking care of a loved one is commendable, it may not provide the same level of insight into the experience of caring for individuals outside of one’s family. The dynamics and treatment between family members differ, which can affect the caregiver’s perspective and the patient’s behavior. Understanding this distinction adds important context to evaluating caregiving experiences.
[15:47] How to Approach an Interview
The student is asking how to approach an interview.
Three key points to emphasize. First, understanding the purpose of the interview, which is primarily to get to know the applicant better. Second, being well-versed in your own application, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and being able to discuss any aspect mentioned in the application. Thirdly, it is very important to research the specific school and understand why the applicant is applying and interviewing there. Do not mention convenience or location as the sole reason for wanting to attend a particular school.
Applicants should have a genuine interest and knowledge about the medical school beyond its location.“Specialty focuses at the hospital, not the medical school. Focus on the medical school as much as possible.”Click To Tweet
[20:27] On Upward Trend
The student is asking about the upward trend.
An upward trend is particularly beneficial for individuals with a lower GPA, around 3.2 to 3.4. In such cases, achieving higher grades, closer to a 4.0, demonstrates improvement. However, if an applicant already has a GPA of 3.8 or higher, there is no need for an upward trend as their GPA is already considered good. A slight decrease from a 4.0 to a 3.9 or 3.7 would not significantly impact the overall GPA strength.
[20:57] Recommended Credit Hours per Semester
What is the recommended number of credit hours per semester or per year for a pre-med student? The student started with one five-credit hour chemistry class in the first semester and has been following the traditional pre-med sequence since then.
Last semester, he took 11 credit hours for 12 credit hours’ worth of science classes, totaling 17 credit hours. Should the student aim for this kind of credit load, or does it not matter? Should he be following a specific guideline or making this up as he goes along?
It is important to plan your academic timeline and schedule when preparing for medical school. Tailor your schedule to fit your own timeline and preferences. If you choose to follow a traditional timeline, it is ideal to have most of your core science courses completed before taking the MCAT.
It is important that the necessary science classes are done before matriculating to medical school. However, if you plan to take a gap year and apply to medical school later, it extends the timeline for completing these classes.
Many students apply to medical school without completing all of their prerequisites, but it is crucial to finish them before starting medical school. The primary consideration is when you plan to take the MCAT and what your schedule looks like leading up to that point. School advisors can be helpful in determining the best course sequences for pre-med students.
In terms of the overall picture, the ideal situation is being a full-time student during the pre-med period, taking classes in a rigorous manner rather than just taking one class per semester over an extended period of time.
[23:41] Important Subjects to Study for MCAT
Should a student be concerned about taking physics, psychology, or sociology classes before the MCAT, considering that some physics content is covered on the exam?
Physics may not be necessary for the MCAT, but Gen Chem, Physics, and Biochemistry are definitely important subjects to study. Check out Blueprint MCAT and use their free study planner tool to help plan and determine which subjects need to be studied, taking into account one’s school schedule.
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