This student is wondering if his experience as a medical interpreter counts as clinical experience, and if he needs to obtain additional clinical hours. How would medical schools also look upon a drop in one class and her potential downward grade trend?
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.
Question of the Day:
Q: “I’m about to begin my junior year in college and I’m preparing for the upcoming application cycle. One question that I often ponder is whether my experiences are classified as clinical or not. Upon discovering your content, I realized that I lacked clinical experience.
So, I sought to rectify this by utilizing my multilingual skills. I recently acquired my interpreting certification and have been working as a medical interpreter throughout the summer. Would this be considered as clinical experience?”
A: I would consider it clinical there. There may be some medical schools out there that that differ in that opinion, but I would mark it as clinical on your on your application.
Evaluating the Importance of Clinical Experience Hours for Medical School Applications
Q: “Given that I speak both Arabic and French, which are not commonly spoken in my state, my hours working as a medical interpreter are limited. While I do experience a wide range of scenarios within the hospital setting, the role does not provide me with the opportunity to accumulate a significant number of hours. Should I consider seeking additional clinical experiences to supplement my application, or would it suffice to continue with the current flow of work?”
No Specific Benchmark for Clinical Experience Hours
Answering your question is challenging because there isn’t a specific benchmark to meet when it comes to clinical experience hours.
Most medical schools do not provide data suggesting a certain number of hours they expect from applicants. The University of Utah is an exception, as they do provide some guidance on their website. However, there isn’t a universally accepted number, such as 100, 500, or even 4323 hours, that you should aim for.
Consistency and Recency Matter
What matters more than the total number of hours is the consistency and recency of your clinical experiences. If you’ve accumulated 1000 hours over the past decade, it’s not as valuable as having 100 recent hours spread consistently over the past 10 months. This indicates your ongoing interest and active involvement in gaining clinical experience.“Consistency and recency – if you've got 1,000 hours, but it's 10 years ago – that is much less valuable to me than 100 hours that you're consistently getting 10 hours a month over the last 10 months.” Click To Tweet
Exploring Additional Clinical Experience Opportunities
Given that your current role as an interpreter is somewhat hands-off, it could be beneficial to seek additional, more hands-on clinical experiences. For example, you might consider volunteering at a free clinic associated with your university or a nearby medical school.
Roles where you’re checking patients in, taking vitals, and interacting more directly with patients can be valuable.
The Value of Hospice Experience
Hospice experience, especially when combined with your language skills, can be incredibly valuable. End-of-life care is challenging, and if you can provide comfort and understanding to patients who speak your languages, it can make a significant difference. While this may not involve hands-on medical tasks, the emotional support you provide is a crucial aspect of patient care.
Incorporating Personal Conversations with Physicians in Your Application
Q: “In my shadowing experience, I’ve had the opportunity to converse with physicians about medical school and their life as doctors when we weren’t in the room with patients. Should I include these discussions in my application description, or should I limit the details to dates and names of the physicians I shadowed? I feel these conversations were highly valuable to me.”
A: Absolutely, if those experiences were meaningful to you, then by all means, include them in your application. The beauty of the application process is that there are no hard and fast rules about what you can and cannot discuss. In my application guidebook, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process, I offer some general advice, but ultimately, it’s your application and your story to tell.
However, a word of caution: many students often describe these experiences as ‘valuable’ because they supposedly learned generic lessons like the importance of empathy in medicine. But ask yourself, did you really need a one-on-one conversation with a physician to understand that?“There are no rules when it comes to what you can or can't talk about.”Click To Tweet
So, while I encourage you to write about your experiences, try to avoid such clichés. Be genuine and reflective about what you learned and how it influenced your perspective on medicine.
Does One Bad Semester Indicate a Downward Trend?
Q: “Can a single subpar semester be considered a downward trend? I’ve always maintained good grades, but my last semester wasn’t as strong as the first three. My GPA was 3.93 in the first year, 3.72 in the second, and I took only one course worth five credits in the third year during which I got a D. Does this appear as a significant drop or is it excusable since it’s just one class?”
A: When evaluating your academic performance on Mappd, the first thing I consider is your overall GPA, which stands at a solid 3.73. At this level, most reviewers won’t be overly concerned about minor fluctuations in your grades.
Medical schools have access to every data point and can analyze the information as they see fit. They might notice the dip in your performance, but upon further investigation, they’ll see it’s only for four credits. This indicates that you received a lower grade in just one class, which isn’t a significant concern.
You also had a semester with 16 credits and a 3.38 GPA, followed by 15 credits with a 3.78 GPA, and then 21 credits with a 3.84 GPA. These are good results! Even though there was a slight drop in your grades, you quickly bounced back.
Your task for the next couple of semesters, especially if you’re applying as a traditional student at the end of your junior year, is to maintain your GPA in the 3.7-3.8 range. A small blip for a few credits won’t draw much attention. Focus on keeping your grades up and continue performing at your current level.
The Relevance of Short-term Jobs in College Applications
Q: “During my first two years of college, I held various short-term jobs on campus to support myself. These positions, although not all directly related to my field of study, took up a substantial amount of my time. Should I include these jobs in my resume or application even though they were only for one or two semesters? Some of them were significant and provided valuable learning experiences. Would it be beneficial to document these roles?”
A: Again, when it comes to the activity section of your application, there are no definitive rules. The fact that you managed multiple jobs while maintaining a strong GPA paints a picture of a person who can effectively juggle multiple responsibilities. This is a positive attribute.'The fact that you were working at especially multiple jobs and maintaining that good GPA is going to paint a really strong picture for you of someone who can balance a lot of things.”Click To Tweet
The main challenge with applications, particularly with AMCAS, is the limit of 15 activities. If you have several smaller activities, including them all might be difficult.
Suppose you have about 20 activities; in this case, you could possibly group some of the less impactful ones under one heading, such as “Various Jobs.” This method provides clarity to the reader about your various roles. For example, you could write, “From the spring of my freshman year to the fall of my junior year, I held various jobs around campus including X, Y, and Z.”
This approach accounts for the time spent on these jobs, which could have otherwise been used for academics or gaining clinical experience, research, shadowing, etc. By doing so, you provide valuable context to the reviewer about how you utilized your time during those years. This approach is one way to effectively present your activities and experiences, especially when you have more than the application allows.
Expanding Medical School Options: Exploring Midwestern Opportunities
Q: “In my state, there’s only one DO school, which means my local options are quite limited. To increase my chances, I’m considering applying to out-of-state schools, specifically targeting MD and DO programs.
My general plan is to apply to schools in the Midwest region, as I’ve been living here and appreciate the lifestyle, including the weather. However, beyond geographical preference, I don’t have strong connections to these out-of-state schools. Should this lack of strong ties be a concern when applying to these medical schools in the Midwest?”
No Strong Ties? No Problem!
That’s perfectly alright. If you look at your situation, being in Indiana, and consider the neighboring state of Illinois, you’ll find several schools in Chicago. Most of these schools such as Rush, Northwestern, Pritzker, etc., are private institutions that typically don’t prioritize residency status.
Private vs Public Schools: A Balance in Bias
Therefore, not having strong ties to a particular state shouldn’t be a significant concern, especially when applying to private schools. Even University of Michigan, a public institution just north of Indiana, doesn’t have a strong in-state bias, typically maintaining a 50/50 balance between in-state and out-of-state students.'I wouldn't stress too much about in state versus out of state, or ties to a state unless you're applying to a public school that has strong in-state bias.'Click To Tweet
When State Ties Matter
The issue of state ties usually becomes relevant when applying to public schools with a clear in-state preference. In these cases, they might question why an out-of-state applicant wants to attend their school. This is where ties to the area could come into play, such as having family in the state or a history of regular visits.
However, in general, I would advise not to worry too much about in-state versus out-of-state or having strong ties to a particular state. Focus on finding the right fit for your medical education journey.
Maintaining Contact with Prospective Medical Schools
Q: I’ve taken the advice of reaching out to prospective medical schools and trying to establish a connection, which has been beneficial so far. For instance, as a prospective applicant at Indiana, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many interviews with admissions and discuss my progress, which I found very helpful.
During these conversations, they suggested ways for me to improve my application, which I appreciated. This advice was given back in February, and I don’t want to wait until I apply to reconnect with them.
Recently, I received a promotion at a premier global school, and I’m considering hosting them to speak about their medical school – an initiative I believe would be mutually beneficial. I want to maintain contact with them not just for the application process, but also to foster a lasting professional relationship. Is this approach advisable?
A: It just seems like a super organic and not pushy reason why you would want to reach back out so that’d be great.
Clarifying Prerequisite Requirements for Medical Schools
Q: “I’m in the process of mapping out the prerequisite requirements for my target medical schools. I’ve noticed that some of these schools require credits in social and behavioral sciences. I’ve taken psychology and sociology courses, but it seems that they might not be sufficient for this requirement.
I’m considering reaching out to these schools to better understand their prerequisites. Specifically, I would like to know if they expect higher-level courses or if there are particular classes that they recognize for this requirement. Is this a suitable course of action?”
A: It sounds like you’re making excellent use of Mappd to track your progress towards meeting prerequisite requirements for your target medical schools. However, there seems to be some confusion about what constitutes behavioral sciences.
If we look at Marian, for instance, they list behavioral sciences as a requirement with typically six semester hours, equivalent to two semesters. Now, the question is, “What is considered behavioral sciences?”
The Overlap of Social Sciences and Psychology
Many people might consider social sciences and psychology as falling under the umbrella of behavioral sciences. You’ve taken courses in these subjects, but they may not be listed as behavioral sciences in your Mappd account.
One approach you could consider is revisiting your courses tab and examining how you’ve classified your courses. For example, if you have a course like “Principles of Sociology” listed under social sciences, it could potentially be reclassified as a behavioral science. This could then reflect on your prerequisites and show that you’ve met part of the behavioral sciences requirement.
No Definitive Database
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive database that can tell us exactly which class counts for what for every medical school. A lot depends on how you categorize things within Mappd. You can certainly play around with this and see how different classifications affect your prerequisite tracking.
Remember, though, the ultimate source of truth will be the schools themselves. If you’re unsure about anything, it’s always a good idea to reach out to the schools directly for clarification.
The Value of Listing Regular Jobs on Medical School Applications
Q: “In one of the episodes of Mission Accepted, a successful medical school applicant discussed the importance of listing regular jobs held during the semester. Specifically, in this episode, the student mentioned his experience as a manager at Walmart.
Considering this, I’m wondering how much weight do medical school admissions committees place on these types of employment experiences? Is it beneficial to list such jobs on our applications, and if so, how should we present these experiences to highlight their relevance to our pursuit of a career in medicine?”
A: The application process is not solely about your medical activities; it’s a comprehensive presentation of what you’ve been doing with your time. It showcases the diverse roles and responsibilities you’ve held, encapsulating all aspects of your experiences.
Transferrable Skills from Non-Medical Roles
For instance, the role of a manager at Walmart can bring to light several valuable skills. This position suggests that you possess responsibility, time management, organizational skills, leadership, and communication skills. These are essential qualities that you don’t necessarily need to explicitly state in your job description.
Implicit Skills in Job Roles
Your roles implicitly communicate your skills. For example, being a manager inherently suggests you have good communication, management, and leadership skills. Therefore, it’s unnecessary to explicitly state, “In this job, I have good communication skills and management skills,” as these are understood through the nature of the role itself.
Striking a Balance: Interests, Interaction, and Independence in Medicine
This student says he loves cooking but he doesn’t like interacting. Now, if cooking is an important aspect of who you are, it’s not just about the hours dedicated to it, but rather the joy and satisfaction it brings to you. This hobby, even though it’s a solitary activity, plays a significant role in shaping your character.
The Significance of Interaction in Medicine
In medicine, interaction is key – with nurses, doctors, staff, and patients. It’s crucial to not give an impression that you prefer solitude to such interaction. But, it doesn’t mean your solitary hobbies should be omitted.
Instead, you can present cooking as a form of distressing, a way to rejuvenate. This angle won’t raise a red flag about your social skills, but instead, will highlight your ability to manage stress effectively. After all, being able to balance personal time with professional responsibilities is a desirable trait in the medical field.
Join the Application Academy!