Study Habits and Tips for the Premed Student

Session 90

The Premed Years

In today's episode, Ryan talks with Lea, a premed student at Pitzer College in California. She has a blog called and today she shares with us things about developing study habits, preparing for the MCAT, the 7-year BA/MD program that she’s currently attending, the tools and resources she used along the journey, and just about a little bit of everything.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Lea:

When Lea knew she wanted to be a doctor:

  • Promised herself to do healthcare delivery
  • Wanting to be a neonatologist
  • Rather be a “no doctor” than be a mediocre doctor
  • The importance of being informed especially about the healthcare changes

Finding a mentor:

Lea found her mentor and developed a natural relationship that placed great impact on her career and journey to becoming a doctor. She also found three other mentors through social media.

  • Take initiative.
  • Reach out to them.
  • Ask and be denied than rather not ask at all and not know what could have been.

Narrowing down her majors:

At her high school, they get to choose their majors by the time they finish freshmen

Her current medical program:

  • 7 years BA and DO linkage program
  • 3 years of undergrad, 4 years medical school
  • Applying for the medical program prior to undergrad application
  • Narrowing down applicants from around 200 to 20
  • Going through an undergrad interview and a medical school interview (4 hours in total) at 17 years old

Other programs don't even require you to take an MCAT

On developing study habits transitioning from easy high school to a more challenging environment in college:

  • Don't give up.
  • Save the homework problems you couldn't do by yourself and do them on office hours.
  • Study habits are personal to everyone.
  • Find the method or environment that works the best for you.

Resources she used:

Evernote – note-taking app useful during reporting or take pictures of diagrams that get planted in your notes

YouTube – especially for organic chemistry and biology; find out how you can make the video go faster

Website recommendations:

College Info Geek from Thomas Frank

Study Hacks Blog from Cal Newport and his book How to Win at College

Preparing for the MCAT:

  • Why Lea chose Kaplan
  • Take a lot of practice exams.
  • Do a postmortem of the practice test to find out why you missed what you missed and why you got right on what you got right on each practice test.
  • Learn different tricks and strategies to boost your score.

On her blog:

  • Started as a means to express herself and find a way to turn negative into a positive

Go-to tips for premed students who are struggling everyday:

  • Collect yourself and talk to your advisor, mentors, or upperclassmen to see what you can change.
  • Understand the importance of knowing what kind of study habit works for you.
  • Download the app called Study Time, a Google chrome app that blocks Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and all other sites that would distract you from studying.
  • Turn off your phone while studying.
  • Keep informed and understand what's happening right now with healthcare
  • Visit her blog Fresh Progress Geek
  • Listen to this podcast.

Links and Other Resources:

Fresh Progress Geek

Pitzer College

College Info Geek from Thomas Frank

Study Hacks Blog from Cal Newport

MSHQ Session 016: Interview with Mount Sinai – All About FlexMed

Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out

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Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 90.

Lea: Understanding the importance of knowing what works for you, and you know at my school there’s Starbucks, there’s- you know all these little coffee shops and I see groups studying but they’re talking about other things, their book is open but they’re not studying.

Intro: Hey, this is Z-Dog MD; rapper, physician, legendary turntable health revolutionary, and part-time gardener. And you’re listening to the Medical School HQ Podcast, hosted by the irredeemably awesome, Ryan Gray.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Welcome back, I am your host as always Dr. Ryan Gray, and I believe that competition amongst your premed and medical student peers is detrimental to becoming a great physician. In this podcast we show you how collaboration, hard work and honesty are critical to becoming a superior physician in today’s healthcare environment.

As always I want to thank you for joining me here for episode ninety. 9-0. I remember when I was excited about episode ten, and now we’re at ninety. We’ve been going at this every week for ninety weeks, and we do that because of you. And we do that because of all of the amazing reviews that we get and emails that we get from you guys, telling us that we’re helping you on your path, and it’s a great feeling. So thank you for listening as always.

If you’re getting ready to take the MCAT, or you are taking it next year, or whenever you’re getting ready to take it, go to and download our thirty plus page report, all about the MCAT and some tips and tricks that you might not have thought of. That’s

I also want to remind you that our partner magazine, Premed Life can be found at It’s a bimonthly magazine where you can get tons of great articles all about the premed path. Again that’s

In today’s interview, I talk to Lea, a premed student at Pitzer out in California. She has a blog called, that’s a Tumblr blog. And she contacted us and said, “Hey I love your show, I listen to it, I would be an interesting guest possibly because of X, Y, Z,” and I called her and we talked for a little while and I said, “You know what? I’m going to hit record, let’s record this conversation.” So we’re going to talk about some study habits, some MCAT stuff, we’re going to talk about her program that she’s in. It’s a BA/MD program, and so kind of the dual degree program, seven year program which is awesome. And yeah, we talk about a little bit of everything, and just some mindset stuff, and stuff that I think will help you on your journey to becoming a physician.

Lea, thanks for joining us. Why don’t we start by talking about when you first knew that you wanted to be a doctor?

Deciding on Medicine

Lea: I don’t think it was at any particular moment. I had many family members / people who I would even say were my mentors, who were already in medicine, and I already like you know, visited hospital and get to talk to the nurses and the doctors. And I would say probably just like getting into high school, and with my high school you kind of- there was like majors. Oh, okay so I think this is the moment I kind of- I kind of knew. But there was like different majors, and my mom really wanted me to do the nursing major because it’s- you know you graduate- you don’t graduate as like a full like CRN but you graduate like I think as like an LPN and then there’s like different programs you could go to from there that you can just like go on to get other degrees in nursing. And my mom and my family really wanted me to do that. My family is West Indian, so it’s just a very cultural like- nurses is such a huge thing and everyone is a nurse. And there’s a lot of doctors, but a lot of people like nurses. And so she wanted me to do that, and my guidance counselor, Miss Finn, who I will say her name because like she’s amazing, and I really hope she listens to this, she’s amazing. And she was the one who like sat my mother down and she was like, “I just- I really would like to see her as a doctor, you know?” And you know at the time I couldn’t really contextualize you know, nurses to girls, or anything of that sort. But she was just like an amazing mentor and she pushed me, I ended up being in Honors of ranking number three out of my school that was 700. And I just- I ended up doing so well in the Honors program with my AP classes, I did awesome with the sciences, and history surprisingly. And I don’t know, I just- I never really had that like ‘ah-ha’ moment that like I want to be a doctor, but I always promised myself that I wanted to do healthcare delivery. I admired doctors and if I could be a doctor I would want to be a neonatologist and work with premature infants because I love neonatology and my mentor’s a neonatologist and I just- I love it. And I always just promised myself too I’d rather be no doctor than be a mediocre doctor, and I just think it’s so important to be informed and you know, read like the New York Times or the Atlantic and see what’s going on with like the healthcare changes. And you know, not just being a doctor with like you know the scientific biomedical lens, but also being a doctor that understands the psychosocial aspect and the privilege that you have compared to your patients. And are you understanding that when you’re talking with a patient and you’re trying to learn more about the patient. And narrative medicine- I don’t want to get too much into it, but yeah I just always kind of had an interest in medicine I guess you could say.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Let’s go back to your mentor.

Lea: Okay.

Finding Mentors

Dr. Ryan Gray: And we’ve had a podcast about mentoring and how important that is. How did you find your mentor?

Lea: Well my mentor- I found him when I was visiting the hospital that my grandmother works at, and I knew the nurses pretty well, and I knew a couple of the doctors pretty well. But the doctors kind of- the way they kind of treated me was like, “Oh, you’re a little kid, hey,” you know like, “You’re not a med student.” You know like, “Hey, this is the machine,” they’re just like showing me different things. And then my mentor, he was actually in his office and my grandmother had like walked me over to meet him. And like we- honestly we just clicked. Like that’s the best way I can describe it. And we didn’t even talk about like medicine or anything really. I mean at the time I was taking like AP Chem, and I really couldn’t even have an intellectual conversation about medicine at that point in my life. But I mean it just- it was very natural, and I don’t know. Yeah it was just like very natural and I guess- I had met him through my grandmother I guess.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.

Lea: That was the best thing- he’s a neonatologist and he’s been so impactful on my career and- well my journey into you know becoming a doctor I would say.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s awesome.

Lea: But yeah, also now that as I’m getting older and you know, Twitter and all the social media things are coming about, my school really encouraged that I made a LinkedIn, and you know started to get social branding and all this stuff. And I actually found three other mentors through social media, and that’s also been amazing. So I would also recommend, if you don’t have a person that can be that bridge for you and your mentor, sometimes you know, create a profile and just reach out to you know the people who are the movers and shakers in whatever field that you’re interested in. And I was surprised when people were like answering back, and they’re like, “Email me,” and, “This sounds interesting,” and you know and everything like that. And yeah, so honestly I can tell you I’ve met three other mentors over the summer who are like awesome and we email each other like at least every two weeks or so, and it’s been really, really great to find those mentors on social media. Because the mentors are actually not- they’re not even in like LA or whatever, they’re like different states completely. But you know, we all share the love of medicine and healthcare, and you know digital health and all this different stuff.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Good.

Lea: And yeah, so I would tell students take initiative. That’s also a really big thing. I would say if you don’t ask the question, you’ll never know the answer, you know? Like some are afraid, “Oh I might look- you know I don’t want the person to look down on me.” But I don’t know, taking initiative- you can’t go wrong. I’d rather ask and be denied than not ask at all and not know what could have been.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s get back to your high school days.

Lea: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: How do you go from- and it’s kind of interesting how your high school had majors.

Lea: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: How do you go from the nursing to the doctoring, and you had your mentor. How did you as a young high school student start narrowing down- if you were interested in going to medical school eventually and being premed. How did you go from the east coast, finding a school on the west coast, and then we can talk about some of the advantages of the school that you’re at in a minute. But how did you start going through that process?

Starting the Premed Journey

Lea: Well I never really got into the nursing. So when- by the time you finish freshman year, that’s when you start choosing your majors and stuff in my high school. And my mom wanted me to go into nursing, but my guidance counselor kind of retracted that, so I kind of stayed in Honors and that went about. And then my friend group throughout high school, we were all really interested in medicine too, and we were all kind of like somewhat kind of geeks, and were all like in the premed club, and- what was the name of my premed club? But I was in this really cool premed club, and they would take us- we visited John Hopkins, we visited like three different other states, we visited medical schools, we went to conferences, it was all for free, it was really awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome.

Lea: So that kind of- I mean before I even applied to colleges, like having that like already drummed into my memory I was always like kind of like, “Yeah, I definitely want to go into medicine.”

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.

Lea: And then another good thing that helped me a lot- I have so much mentors. I had another mentor at Pace University, and he is amazing, amazing. He’s a college counselor, and he was the one who actually helped me find Pitzer, and I owe it all to him. I tell people this story all the time, he gets mad, he’s like, “No, you found it,” and I’m like, “No, you helped me a lot.” But his daughter had went to my brother- the sister school of the school I go to now, and he was like, “Yeah, I really think you’ll fit in at Pitzer.” And then I met the admissions counselor, we talked, and the admissions counselor was the one who told me to apply to the medical program. So that was kind of funny. I didn’t want to apply to it at first too, I was kind of like- I was very, you know. Because the whole- you know I never heard of DO, and that’s a whole other-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Hold on a second, you’re getting ahead here. Let’s talk about this medical program, and what that means.

Lea: Okay. So the one I’m in right now?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Linkage Programs

Lea: Okay. So the medical program I’m in is seven years, and it’s a BA, which is Bachelor of Arts and DO, Doctor of Osteopathy Linkage Program. And you basically do three years of undergrad, and then four years of medical school. And the process was that before you even apply for undergrad, you apply for the medical program, and I think in the beginning they end up having like around 200 or 100 or so applicants, and then they narrow it down to like 20 so you get to like the second round, and you have to interview at the school and the medical school. So I flew up there, and I interviewed at my college which is Pitzer, and then I interviewed at the medical school which is Western University. And it was very long; I think it ended up being like four hours in total, and you know just being like seventeen years old, like you’re used to these like thirty minute to an hour college interviews. Like, “Tell me about your life. Why do you like this school?” But it was actually very much in depth, and they expected you to, you know understand a little few things about medicine. And after the medical school one they actually did give you even like- I don’t know if I can say this, but they actually you know, they made it seem like you were really a doctor, you had to kind of think on your feet with some of the answers that you ended up coming to say.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Wow. So you’re going through a medical school interview at seventeen years old.

Lea: Yeah, at seventeen years old.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s crazy. And so if you’re listening to this, I think one of the biggest things to understand for somebody listening to this who may be in a similar situation to where you were as a high school student, is to understand that there are these programs out here. There are seven year combined programs, there are eight year combined programs. Some of them you apply at the beginning, like you did, you apply to both schools and you have to get accepted. Some of them you apply afterwards, after you’re in college, you apply early as a freshman or a sophomore for these seven year programs. So that’s just something I think that a lot of- a lot more people need to understand that there are these programs out here to take a year off of your studying and your whole school life; which isn’t a bad thing, and maybe a bad thing, and I’ve talked a lot about the benefits of taking some time off after college. And when you do this track that you’re on, you don’t get that opportunity. But it’s just- it’s just different.

Lea: Well some students- some students have taken a gap year at my program.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.

Lea: And actually one of my friends who when I entered Pitzer, she was leaving to go to medical school. She ended up doing a gap year of like a health internship in a different country.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Oh that’s cool.

Lea: And then now this year she’s going to medical school, and she’s like very relaxed, she says loves it, she needed that break, you know?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Definitely.

Lea: So I agree with you, it’s important to- and it’s just good to know about it and there’s also programs kind of like what you said. So you do freshman year and then if you have a certain GPA, you can apply to other programs that will accept you early. Like one of my friends did it actually and like you apply and you don’t have to take the MCAT, and they just accept you, and you do your other two years and take whatever you want and it’s actually very interesting. But yeah, they have other really interesting programs that they should look up if they’re interested.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So one of the things that you’re big into is studying, and study habits, and helping increase your ability to study. Let’s talk about that for a little bit. How did you get interested in that?

Study Habits

Lea: I would say I’ve always kind of been interested in learning and just education as a whole. High school, studying was easy, getting good grades was easy- and I was in Honors and I was taking very hard classes, but I don’t know, I just felt like it was just a lot- it was just I never really- there was really ever moments where I felt like, “Wow I don’t know what to do,” or no matter how hard I tried, I’m not improving.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So let me stop you there, because I think some students may listen to that and go, “You’re just being arrogant.” But I think that’s a very typical scenario for high achievers like people that want to go to medical school.

Lea: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Is high school’s relatively easy, and it was for me as well. I don’t remember ever studying a lot in high school, but I think as you move on, it gets increasingly hard and I know we’ll talk about that as you went from high school to college.

Lea: But yeah, speaking of the arrogance part. So I- something similar actually happened. But I entered freshman year, and then after my first semester I didn’t do as well as I wanted to. And I emailed- she was like another college counselor of mine, and I’d emailed her and I was like, “Oh, I don’t know why I’m not doing well,” and I think it was chemistry- it was chemistry, it was Gen Chem, and I was like, “I took AP Chemistry, and I don’t know what-” you know I was just very like kind of like angry and she kind of felt it through reading the email and she was just like- it was just a really a moment of like teaching me how to be humble, you know, and basically in her message she was kind of just telling me to chill out and, you know like what I’m experiencing is what students in my high school who weren’t in Honors, or who weren’t like in the top 1% were experiencing. And you know, sometimes you take for granted things that come easy to you, you know? Or things that did come easy to you, and I think it was at definitely that moment I kind of like- it really brought me back down to earth.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Good. So you went from easy high school, which a lot of us do, to okay college is a little bit different. So what did you do to help improve that situation?

Lea: What helped me a lot was going to tutoring. I entered kind of on a better note than a lot of other students did. Like I knew like I was supposed to go to office hours, I understood tutoring was great to go to. But I feel like it was just my studying methods, and the problem for me a lot was not that, you know I didn’t review the work or whatever, but it was more or less application. So you know I would know it, but then when the professor gives it to me, and they are like- they’re not saying what is AB, and CD, but instead they’re asking use AB and CD to solve for something else I never taught you; that’s- you know that’s just what you have to learn from how you study for the class, you know? So I guess the thing that helped me a lot was I really liked Khan Academy using the videos and my advisor for Pitzer actually told me like pause the video, see the problem, and then solve the problem, and then complete the video. And that helped me so much because I would just watch the video and be like, “Yeah, I understand this,” but then when I pause and I do the problem on my own, I’m like getting it wrong and I’m like, “Whoa. This is where I need to- this is where I need to think.”

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s a good piece of advice.

Lea: It helped a lot, yeah it helped a lot. And what I would tell students is just you’re coming into like a new environment, and just a new level of education. And you know even if high school did come easy to you and you come in to college and it’s not that easy; don’t give up and definitely try a lot of different things. And another thing that helped me a lot, especially with these like sciences that are like sciences, but they have a bit of math in them, and you know that can be a little tricky. I would just save all the homework problems I couldn’t do by myself and do them at office hours. And I had really good professors who would just like talk me through the problem, and then I would complete the problem and the professor would be like, “Okay let’s do the next one,” and I’m like- he’s like, “Do it by yourself on the whiteboard,” and I’m like- And I would do it you know, and like that’s good, you need that. Like at least for me. Like it helped me so much when I have like a little pressure.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, and I think that’s a good thing that you added there, ‘for you.’ Study habits are a very personal thing.

Lea: Exactly.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And so what worked for you might not work for the person listening. And so it’s something we talk about a lot as well, is finding the method that works best for you.

Lea: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And don’t get stuck in studying with a group of friends in a coffee shop because that’s what everybody wants to do, if that’s not the environment that works for you; or studying with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Do what you need to do.

Lea: Yeah I think that’s so important. This is kind of funny. My friend, she was like, “Yeah, I study when I exercise, and it helps me so much,” and you know being the premed I am I was like, “Oh wow, I’m going to do that now every day.” And it just- it didn’t work for me. Like I would find myself like jogging and like I couldn’t really like focus on like the paper that’s in front of me. And like it was- and then even then when I would like listen to the audio it was still kind of like- I don’t know, I wasn’t like retaining it too well. So kind of like what you said, like just because someone else does something and it works really good for them doesn’t mean it will work for you, you know? And then also play around with it because in the end audio was great for me, but it was when I was walking to class that helped me, so I probably had like a ten or twenty minute walk to class, let me listen to the lecture again, you know? Or like resave a lecture, save it as audio on my phone, and then replay it during the day and that helps me a lot, too.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, good. Are there- what kind of resources have you used for studying?

Helpful Studying Resources

Lea: I actually have a post about this. But one of them I really started using- software that helped me a lot was Evernote. And it’s basically like a note-taking app, you can use it on your desktop, Android, iPhone; basically all the smartphones. And it’s really great because if you ask your professor’s permission, you can record the lecture, you can also type notes while recording, you can take pictures of diagrams and it plants it in your notes. And then if you take a picture, and say the picture has like- say like it’s a picture of like the professor writing like down like a theorem or something, Evernote can actually code the picture and find the words so when you type it up for like on the search engine, it will actually show the picture which is pretty cool.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That is cool.

Lea: Yeah, yeah. So I really like Evernote. I love YouTube a lot, especially for Organic Chemistry, YouTube was like amazing for me. And Biology because I just like seeing things, sometimes it helps me a lot because you’re so much like on paper or book and it’s like very like 2D; it’s really interesting and like fun, I just think a lot more fun when you could see it like 3D and like add to your notes, you know? I’m a big believer in like- I have my one set of notes but then when I rewrite them, and I add different things, I can get them from different sources, and I think students- that helps a lot too.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So there’s a feature of YouTube that I don’t think a lot of people know, and I’ll mention it here just because you mentioned YouTube. But most browsers now are hooked up with this. But if you go to YouTube and you watch a video- I’m just pulling up YouTube so I can give you specifically what to do. You pull up a video and on the little settings, like the little cogwheel, you can change the speed of the video so that you can watch it faster than one time speed. So you can through more material faster, it’s awesome.

Lea: Oh wow, that’s cool.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Not every type of video is good for this, but if you’re watching some kind of lectures or something online, you can speed it up. I listen to all my podcasts, most of them, sped up. You just get through more-

Lea: Oh me too, me too. When I listen to like your podcast, and another one- Health Crossroads, I just like put it a little faster, it helps.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I tried to do this with TV shows but it didn’t work very well. It was very weird.

Lea: Sometimes you need the pauses.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. Okay so what other- are there websites that you like to use? We were talking about a little, a few of them before we started recording.

Lea: Yeah, so I love Cal Newport, and he has a website, StudyHacks, and it’s amazing. Any person who is a study skills blogger pretty much knows about Cal Newport. He also has books, and some of them- I haven’t read the newest one, but one that I did read before entering college that helped me a lot was ‘How to Win at College’ by Cal Newport, and that book was amazing because- I mean now I look back on it, like I was kind of down on myself but I mean chemistry was my only pretty much bad class. But I mean that book helped me a lot, I feel if I didn’t read that book I kind of would have been like way more all over the place, you know I really wouldn’t have like known what type of resources I should be utilizing to my advantage.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s- yeah, his is a good blog and I’ve reached out to him and maybe we’ll have him on the podcast, maybe eventually. His website is is his study habits blog.

Lea: Yeah. Another blog I’d recommend is CollegeInfoGeek-, yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah by Thomas Frank.

Lea: Yeah, he’s amazing. I actually have been following him since he was in college, and now he’s graduated so it’s nice to see that development. I would hope that would happen to me, like you know? Like readers can read it but also find a development within the blogger, you know?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.

Lea: That’s powerful stuff.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, so let’s talk about what you’re doing right now. What were you doing right before you jumped on this call?


Lea: I was actually taking a practice MCAT.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s exciting.

Lea: I’m taking the MCAT early September, and I’ve been in an MCAT prep course and I’ve also been self-studying for like the past like six- five months.

Dr. Ryan Gray: A long time.

Lea: Yeah, yeah which has been really good.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So you mentioned you were taking Kaplan to me earlier.

Lea: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Why did you choose Kaplan?

Lea: No specific reason. At first I wasn’t even going to take the class because I kind of wanted to self-study the first time, and then take it and see, and then you know. And then like I’ve read so many other bloggers who self-studied and they’re like, “Yeah, you don’t need the classes,” and I was- but then my mom was like, “You know, take the class.” And I just typed in Kaplan, honestly. But- oh no I didn’t just type in Kaplan, I did research and I looked for the test company that actually had all the exams, all the AMC exams plus extra exams. And I think Kaplan- Kaplan and there was another one that was like the only ones that had all the exams. So I really like that, and my friends who are also in the Linkage program, and who have taken the MCAT, they’ve given me so much advice like- some advice I would tell you guys would be take a lot of practice exams. A big mistake, a lot of-

Dr. Ryan Gray: That is key.

Lea: Yeah, a lot of my friends told me- who had to take it over again, or who didn’t feel prepared, they were like, “I didn’t take enough practice exams, I focused too much on content and then when it came time for the exam I didn’t know how to apply it.” So-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Lea: Practice exams are your best friend.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, and I’ll reiterate for the listener who hasn’t listened to us before, the podcast before. The MCAT is a test that tests how well you can take the MCAT. It doesn’t- it’s not a test about content, it’s a test on how you can comprehend and use some analysis in what they’re asking. And the best way to study for that is to take lots of practice tests.

Lea: Exactly.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And you obviously need to have your base of information from doing well in your undergrad classes, and you can learn more material as you go through these prep courses, or books, or however you’re going to study, but practice tests. And not just taking them, but actually doing what you call post-mortem of the practice tests and actually find out why you missed what you missed, and why you got right what you got right on each practice test.

Lea: It’s awesome that you brought up post-mortem, because I’m obsessed with that. But yeah, that’s important, I do that for every question that I do.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, and a lot of people skip the ones they got right, they’re like, “Oh, I got that one right, I don’t need to look at it.” But who’s to say you got it right for a good reason?

Lea: Yeah for me, what I’ve started doing is I circle- I circle and then I think I put like a checkmark on the ones that I got right but I guessed, you know? Or I got right but it was- you know it wasn’t the best way to go about solving it.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Good, yeah perfect.

Lea: That’s good to do too.

Linkage Program Requirements

Dr. Ryan Gray: So your program at Pitzer, it has a Linkage so you are ‘guaranteed’ a spot if you choose it, but you need a minimum on your MCAT, correct?

Lea: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What’s that minimum?

Lea: You have to get at least a seven on each section.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.

Lea: And that’s the problem that a lot of students- at least in my program. It could be hard, you know, for some students to get. Because sometimes you get above the score but you don’t get a seven in every single- at least a seven in every single section, and that could mess you up, too.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Do they tell you what section most students have a problem with, or is it kind of mixed?

Lea: It’s kind of mixed. My advisor tells me a lot of students have problems with verbal.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that’s- I got a seven in verbal.

Lea: Okay.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, I took the MCAT once, got tens in the sciences and got a seven in verbal, and that was strictly because I never read as a kid.

Lea: Oh.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Through college, I never read. So reading comprehension I was terrible at, and so when I came to the MCAT it showed.

Lea: Well, especially because when I took my diagnostic for the MCAT, verbal was my worst and I was shocked. I was like, “What? Like I’m the verbal queen.” Like I love to read, like I love reading, I’ve taken you know sociology and I’ve taken classes where like you’re reading like, you know, twenty chapters, like tons and tons of reading.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Lea: So I was kind of, you know, sad. But-

Dr. Ryan Gray: But reading and taking the MCAT are two different things.

Lea: Yeah, exactly. Like when you start to learn like- you know some of the little tricks, and you know just different strategies, it really can boost your score. And then I took a practice exam on Saturday, and my verbal went up by a lot. I think I went from a six on the verbal to a ten, so that’s really good.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Good.

Lea: And that’s just me like- I just started learning like strategies, and you know, so that helps a lot.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. So yeah, so we had talked about the minimum and a lot of schools have that if you’re doing a combined seven year or eight year BS or BA/MD program. They will have a minimum on the MCAT; if you don’t get that minimum, you lose that linkage or that guarantee of a medical school spot which can be a bummer if you just killed yourself for a couple years.

Lea: Yeah. And also students, there’s programs that do not require them.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yes, there are programs.

Lea: There are.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Like FlexMed is one of them, we interviewed Dr. Muller from FlexMed back in episode sixteen.

Lea: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Great program.

Lea: Great program.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, let’s talk about your blog and why you started your blog.

Lea’s Blog – Fresh Progress Geek

Lea: So I started my blog as a means to- at first I kind of started as just I want to express this weird feeling that I have that I’m in college, and every other aspect of my life is amazing in terms of- you know I was making friends, I joined yoga- like the yoga club, you know I wasn’t really having home sickness. I don’t know I was just like- it was a very good time, everything was right except the academic part, you know? And I kind of just felt the stance to like- oh like I didn’t even feel like who can I talk to, I had a lot of people I could talk to, but I was like, ‘Uh, I feel like I should share this. I feel like I should find some way to turn this negative into a positive.’ So I started making this blog and I said I want to make this blog study skills because in the program we just end up being like a small core group who ended up studying a lot, and you kind of learn like quirks and what works for some people, what doesn’t work for other people. My school has a lot of different lecturers who come and I started listening about like metacognition and like learning, and all these different things, so I was like let me just start a study skills blog. And I feel like it kind of just took off from there. Just you know trying every- like I would have my Sunday ritual, if you read Cal Newport’s blog you know how important that is to have a Sunday ritual where you wake up early, you do a little light cleaning, you go for a walk in the morning, clear your head. If you have a journal it’s good to write in a journal I guess. And I would do is just Sunday morning I would wake up, you know do my little ritual, and then during brunch when I’m eating I would just like write up a blog about like a study tip that I liked or you know something of that sort. But I feel like now that I’ve gotten older, my blog’s been ever evolving so it went from study tips but now it’s very interesting, it’s like podcasts I like to study too, or concentration tips, you know? So it’s just getting quite- actually have to add this podcast on my favorite podcasts list because that’s like my number three most reblogged post. But yeah, it’s-

Dr. Ryan Gray: We’re not on your favorite podcasts list yet?

Lea: I made it a long time ago, actually. A long, long time ago.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, that’s a good excuse. I feel hurt now.

Lea: No, no. After we end it’s going to be added right away.

Advice to the Struggling Premed

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, good. Alright. So let’s end with your go-to tip for a premed student out there struggling, kind of kicking themselves every day, not sure if they’re fit for this journey?

Lea: Okay. Well this might be kind of lengthy, but I’ll try to keep it concise. I guess the first thing I would say is after your first semester, and you know you’re starting your Biology or your starting your Chemistry, or you know however it goes. And you know you might not be doing too well, or your GPA is not where you would like it to be. Really, you know, collect yourself and talk to your advisor, and speak with your mentor, speak to upper classmen who are like juniors or seniors, because they’re like the best because they already kind of went through what you went through. So they’re like really there to you know, help you. And kind of talk to them to see what you can change, and I would say if you hit the end of freshman year, and you kind of see- you don’t see improvement, I would definitely talk to your advisor concerning maybe another- not another path you can take or not going to medical school, but just kind of seeing like what’s preventing you from, you know, getting- improving in whatever subject, whatever science- probably science, it is. Because actually I had a lecturer who came to my school and he was talking a lot about medicine, how it’s changing, and the medical school application process, and he said when he did a study at his university the students who couldn’t really- who didn’t- weren’t 100%, not 100 but 90% sure of their study habits, by the end of freshman year and kind of like had an idea of like, ‘Okay I know how to understand the basic sciences, and you know how to go about studying for them,’ their chances of getting into medical school were a lot lower than students who were already performing at like a- you know a higher rate. So that’s an important thing to take into account. Also kind of just like what Dr. Gray said is just understanding- understanding the importance of knowing what works for you. And you know at my school there’s Starbucks, there’s you know all these little coffee shops, and I see groups studying but they’re talking about you know other things. Their book is open but they’re not studying, and you know it’s really important to get that study time in because you’re a student, and being a student is a job. So you know try to take it and understand that it is a job. I mean you know, you do want to put your best foot forward, and you know try to balance work and play. I would also download the app called- oh my gosh, what is it called? I think it’s called Study Time or Stop Time. But it’s a Google Chrome app, and it blocks Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, all the horrible websites that will just like make you procrastinate and it allows you- it honestly allows you to study. And it’s so cute, like if I forget that I have the app on, and I type in like Facebook, it will like- it will be a white screen and it will say ‘Shouldn’t you be studying?’ And I’m like, “Oh no!” So it really blocks you out, like there’s no way you can like go on Facebook. So it’s really good to do that, turning off your phone while studying, that’s really good to do. And also you know, you don’t have to join like the premed club but going to a lot of health talks, understanding what’s happening right now with healthcare is really- it’s something good to have underneath your belt. I’ve talked to other like lecturers who have come to my school, even professors and they’re always really impressed I can like hold a conversation, I can talk about the ACA or can talk about The Myth of the Rich Doctor, and all these like different, different aspects of medicine. So it’s really good to just keep informed, you know? Yes you have the biomedical part, but also try to be like well-rounded and find what works for you. And visit my blog, FreshProgressGeek.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, we’ll have a link to that in the show notes which people can find at for episode ninety.

Lea: Yeah, wow, ninety already?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Ninety already. We have to do something big for 100, I haven’t figured it out yet. So if you’re listening to this and you have any ideas on what we can do for session 100, let me know.

Lea: And also share the podcast with your friends, I do that.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Definitely.

Lea: So a lot of my friends- I was telling Dr. Gray, a lot of my friends listen to the podcast and they like it. And you know they wouldn’t- because I don’t know, I just got into podcasts, I’m kind of like new, you know but yeah so if you like something you know, share it with your friends and it just helps- it helps the brand, it helps the movement, the respect, the MCAT- it just helps the movement grow. It’s collaboration, it helps it grow.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, again that was Lea. Her blog if you want to go say hi to her it’s on Tumblr. It’s

Before we get out of here today I want to thank two new five star reviews, or I want to thank the listeners that left us the two new five star reviews.

We have David Enyart, I think is how you pronounce his last name, I know I’ve talked to you David on the phone before. And kkm_2010.

David left an amazing heartfelt review, thank you David for that review. He said, “It’s premed medicine for the soul.” And kkm_2010 said, “Wonderful, the most helpful source I’ve had in my premed journey.”

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I hope you got a ton of great information out of the show today, and as always I hope you join us next time here at the Medical School Headquarters.

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