From Predental to Premed: It’s Never a Straight Path

Who are you?

I’m originally from Providence, Rhode Island but I will be approaching my 10 year anniversary as a New Yorker in august 2018. I moved to NYC in 2008 to attend New York University. I am a nontraditional medical student who ended medical school by way of a special master’s program at the medical school that I now attend.

What did you major in?

Dental Hygiene (B.S.) I also took premed/predental coursework

Why do you want to be a physician?

My path to medical school is nontraditional and the desire to become a physician certainly didn’t happen overnight. My initial career goal was to become a dentist so I majored in dental hygiene and became a dental hygienist. I worked as a dental hygienist for 3 years until, I realized I did not want to become a dentist but, I actually wanted to do medicine. I’ve done research about the correlation of gum disease and diabetes so I would share these facts with my patients. I also would correlate patients with frequent cavities of hypocalcified teeth to possible nutritional deficiencies and suggest follow up with their physicians. I got really invested in correlating patients oral manifestations with their health history and finding the root cause of their dental problems.

I started to research a profession that would allow me to treat and diagnoses disease with a whole person approach. I wanted the independence to be able to treat and diagnose patients. I stumbled upon osteopathic medicine. I discovered that osteopathic medicine included the usual MD curriculum as well as training in osteopathic medicine that address anatomical dysfunctions and use techniques to treat structural dysfunction harming the body, which functions as unit. This was the perfect combination for the career I set my eyes on.

What was the most challenging part of being a premed student?

My tuition was very expensive and I my mother had to take out a parent plus loan in excess of $50,000 for each year after financial aid and grants. During my second semester of the first year, the bank denied the loan and I applied for a private loan through the school while my mom had to secure the other portion of the loan form her savings. It was in that time that I decided to complete my bachelor degree in 3 years rather than 4. I was in fear of not being able to pay for my final year. In this time, I took 21 credits each semester and took summer courses each year to fulfill my requirements. This took a toll on my prereqs because of the fast paced environment of summer courses and the heavy course load that many of my grades suffered.

Who did you lean on for support?

My family was my biggest support system. I talked to my mother often and told her of all of my worries, triumphs, failures and successes. I also lived on the dorm with my close friends I met freshman year, some who were also premed students and could empathize with the stressful nature. It’s definitely a plus to be friend people who are in the same academic profile as you.

[Looking for a group of collaborative premed students? Check out the Premed Hangout]

If you had a mentor, how did you find him/her?

I did not have a mentor but I did get advice from peers who applied early and took their MCAT early. The most helpful tool I used was reading tons of articles online and becoming informed about the process myself. As stated before, I was a nontraditional student so many of my peers where in a different field. Once, I was closer to matriculating into medical school, I did have some mentors that appeared from my continued shadowing experiences and my friends who became physicians or spouses of my friends.

What was the best general premed resource?

I personally like the Student Doctor Network. Although there can be too much information and it is from peers who may have differing opinions on how to do things, there are many people who have successfully gained admission to medical school and there are many resources like articles, advice and tips and book suggestions that students can direct you to. I liked to hear it from the “horse’s mouth” about specific MCAT study techniques and what worked for most people and what did not. I would say this was just general but It led me to amazing articles and other resources that helped me navigate the premed journey on my own.

[A note from Dr. Gray: The forums on SDN should be read with a grain of salt. There is a lot of misinformation, negativity, and pessimism that doesn’t belong in the premed world. One example is a student who posted in a school specific application thread that he received an acceptance letter on the day he posted. The school, who was telling me this, didn’t send out acceptances that day.]

What was your relationship like with your school’s premed advisor (assuming you had one)

I did not have a premed advisor because of my nontraditional status. My advisor in undergraduate was for my major so it did not pertain to medicine at all. She was not very helpful to me and that is why I sought additional information online.

What was your hardest class?

Organic chemistry is what I would deem the most dreaded class of the premed course load. It’s a class you hear about even before you take it and there’s many warnings and it gets a lot of “bad press”. Because I entered this class already hearing this and knowing this, my attitude towards the class was one of fear and defeat. I think that played a larger role in how I applied myself in the course. Organic chemistry was a new way thinking, it was very spatial but also very heavy on knowing the right reagents to mix and not to mix when it came to the laboratory component.

What was your most impactful extracurricular?

My most impactful extracurricular was Heart to Heart. Heart to Heart is a youth-led venture dedicated to the prevention of high blood pressure in all 5 boroughs of New York City in areas where high risk for hypertension exists, This outreach experience was so impactful because it was hands on as well as a a teaching and learning experience for both myself and the people we informed of their blood pressure status. We also provided educational brochures and health access navigation in their community to follow-up with a primary care doctor. Many of the communities we served were so grateful for our services and it reminded me of why I chose the medical field.

What would you change?

Looking back at my premed journey, I would change how I studied for the MCAT. I would take practice full-length tests. I would apply very early. I would take my MCAT early. I would have allowed myself at least 2 months of dedicated study without full time work for my MCAT. The rest of my journey, I have no regrets.

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How did you prepare for the MCAT?

I only used Kaplan MCAT Advantage which was an independent study plan. This included online lectures and study review material for each MCAT subject. Also included in this was 5 full length exams. I completed 1 full length exam but I did not review my answers. I spent a month reviewing material and watching lectures to reacquaint myself with the premed course material that I had mostly forgotten.

I only used 2 practice tests from AAMC. I took these test the week of the MCAT and probably reviewed half of each exam. I didn’t have time to thoroughly review my exams and I realized late in my studying that practice tests were the most important tools to achieving success on the exam. I reviewed answers that I got wrong and read the explanations and moved on.

I did not study efficiently or effectively for the MCAT but I hoped for the best despite my circumstances. (Do not do this! Be fully prepared and before the exam, you should be scoring in a range of where you’d like to score on your actual exam!)

Roughly how much did you spend on MCAT prep?


[Related Post: MCAT Prep on Any Budget]

What were your top MCAT resources?

Kaplan MCAT Advantage.

I used one practice test from the AAMC.

[Related: For free MCAT prep, check out The MCAT Podcast]

What would you change about your MCAT prep?

I would not work at all while studying for the MCAT. I worked full time while studying for the MCAT and that is a big no-no. I would take more more practice way before the week of the exam. It is important to see as many questions as possible before sitting for the MCAT. I also would have spent less time reviewing concepts and more time doing questions and reviewing questions that I got wrong. I would also study for the verbal section at the same time that I scheduled by test for to build more stamina.

How did you prepare for your applications?

In order to have a Professor write a recommendation, I would wait until I received my grade in that class and a few days or a week after the semester ended, I would email the professor and ask for recommendation. Before that, I would make sure to build good rapport with the professor by answering questions or just seeing them after class at least once or twice so that they remember your face. Just because you are acing their class, does not mean that they will remember who you are! I used Interfolio to collect all of my letters of recommendation. I like this service because you pay about $20 a year to have your files sealed against your viewing and you can use the service to electronically submit to any institution if you need the recommendation used for another application process. I consulted with the internet on building a CV and an epic personal statement by reading different articles. I enjoy writing so my personal statement wasn’t a problem articulating. Every volunteer or internship experience was logged into my world document as I completed them so that I could keep track of things.

[A note from Dr. Gray: Interfolio has changed their fee structure. It’s free to have your letters with them, and you only pay once you submit.]

Roughly how much money did you spend on applications and interviews?


How did you choose what schools you applied to?

I decided to apply to DO schools because the philosophy aligned with my practice goals. I wanted to approach patients with a whole person approach and be as comprehensive as possible. Upon learning that DO physicians have the same practicing privileges as MD physicians, the answer was simple.

How did you prepare for your interviews?

I only had one interview but for this interview, I printed out my entire AACOMAS application and read it thorough. I read my personal statement so that I would be ready to answer the ambiguous non- leading question of ” Tell me about yourself”. I also read articles of typical interview questions and I answered them out loud as well as writing them down. I looked at some of the courses that I had to retake and did poorly in and also wrote down reasons why I did poorly in that course. I evaluated my strengths and weaknesses. Also don’t forget to research the school and their stats so that you can answer the question of “why do you want to go here”.

Why do you think you were a successful applicant?

I think I was a successful applicant because my profile showed that I persisted in my efforts. Even when I got a bad grade in a class, I never gave up and I retook the class, and aced the classes. I even took some higher levels science courses as well and aced those classes as well. At the time of application I was already working in health care and had seen over 10,000 patients. I was a nontraditional applicant and my background in dentistry was an interesting touch to my application. Rejection was never a deterrent for me and I think it showed through my application. I had many extracurriculars that were very valuable and and my personal statement articulated how committed I was to the field of medicine.

Dr. Gray’s Notes

Krystal’s path highlight the story of many students—trying things until they find out where they want to end up. I think it’s crazy that we have to pick our majors as 18-year-old “kids” when we still don’t know how to make a good, healthy breakfast, do our laundry, or pay bills. It’s okay to come to these decisions later—in fact, it’s better. Go explore and figure out what you want to do!

Want to share your story?

If you’ve been accepted to medical school, or are a medical student, share your story with others to encourage, inform, and motivate them to continue down this path! Go here and fill out the form:




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