MSHQ 108 : Overcoming a DUI and More on His Way to Med School

Session 108

Session 108

In this episode, I will be talking with Ryan who has a very interesting story which I think a lot of you will be able to pick lessons from. Especially when you’re a med school applicant who is concerned about having some red flags that the admission committee might be looking over, wait till you hear about Ryan’s story!

Ryan is a premed student who now has an acceptance to medical school. His path was filled with tons of speed bumps. A nontraditional student in all sense of the word, Ryan started his path coming to college in order to play football, leaving school to join the military, and then just deciding to be premed until his last semester of college. During his undergrad years, Ryan is the typical college student who has probably done all sorts of terrible things imaginable coming from a premed standpoint – having had issues involving drinking tickets, vandalism, jumping in elevators, and getting a DUI (he got a little lucky there! Thanks to Wisconsin!)

Truly, these are huge issues for any admissions committee looking for altruistic people when you see a student making those stupid mistakes. But how did he get all past these?

Learn from Ryan as talks about his bad decisions and most importantly, how he was able to rise above all these and be the change that he has become to fully realize his dream of becoming a doctor.

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

Ryan's undergrad years:

  • Attending college just to play football
  • Leaving school and joining the military
  • Doing lab work to pursue grad school
  • Deciding to be premed in his last semester of college

What made him decide to go into premed

The first steps he took to apply to medical school

Preparing for the MCAT:

  • MCAS practice: easier than the actual test
  • The Princeton Review practice test (and Kaplan too): much harder than the actual exams

What red flags were raised in his application:

  • Getting kicked out of his dorm (first semester of college)
  • Alcohol issues, vandalism, jumping in elevators, bar fights, getting a DUI

Seeking out advice to advance with his applications:

  • Working at a lab for their school's premed advisor and having great resource

The biggest piece of advice he got:

  • To be really honest and not withholding anything throughout the application process
  • To be honest and forthcoming with what changed

Going about with the application and his personal statement to lay out for the admissions committee:

  • Choosing not to address it in his personal statement
  • Addressing it in the secondary applications
  • His letters of recommendation played an enormous role in his application

Addressing his issues during the application process

Submitting 16 MD applications and 12 DO applications:

  • Getting 4 MD interview requests and 6 DO interview requests
  • Going through 4 interviews

What came up during his interviews considering his stack of bad decisions

What the admissions committee needs to hear for them to give you consideration: What changed?

He focused on how he is different now and why he is different now than he was before

Preparing for the interview:

  • Typed out his answers
  • Practiced giving the presentation extemporaneously so he wouldn't sound rehearsed

Key things he wanted to bring up to the admissions committee during the interview:

  • Not giving excuses for why it happened but providing a little context
  • Talking about his spiritual experience and how his priorities changed
  • Talking about how he demonstrated that change

The most convoluted part of the application process:

  • Doing the primary application
  • MD vs. DO application

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

  • For those who are taking the MCAT, do not spend time with the calculations.
  • Own your mistakes and make sure you know you're very much responsible for what you've done but afterwards you've changed.
  • Do what you're really passionate about and make sure you do it very well.
  • Start early enough to give yourself that time to do well. (MCAT, personal statement, essays, etc.)
  • Be able to communicate how you're different and what you can add to the class through your past experiences.

Links and Other Resources:

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MSHQ Episode 19: Interview with a Medical School Interview and Admissions Expert


Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 108.

Hello and welcome back to the Medical School Headquarters Podcast; where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. I am your host, Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.

If you haven't done so yet, go to and download our thirty plus page report with tips and tricks all about the MCAT. It also includes some discount codes for MCAT prep as well. Go to and download that free report today.

Now today I have a very interesting guest. Somebody that emailed me thanking the podcast and thanking Allison and myself for what we provide on the show. And he gave a little bit of his back story, and I immediately turned around and emailed him back and said, ‘I want you to be on the podcast because your story is what we need to share.' And so Ryan is the guest's name today, as my name is, so it might get a little confusing. But Ryan is a premed student who now has an acceptance to medical school, and his path was filled with a lot of speedbumps. Speedbumps that if you went on to certain websites and said, ‘Here is my history,' the majority of people out there would say, ‘Don't bother applying to medical school because there's no way an admissions committee member or an admissions committee will look at your application and accept you, because you have too many red flags. But luckily Ryan had great premed advising from somebody he was doing research with who really didn't know his back story of some alcohol issues and some other stuff, and kind of was surprised when she found out about it, which you'll hear in the interview, and kind of took him under her wing it sounds like and guided him and really showed him what he needed to do. And obviously he turned it around and was able to get that acceptance to medical school.

So if you are on your journey, and you have what you think are some red flags in your past, take a listen to this interview, figure out what you can do similar to what Ryan did to help you overcome those red flags, and prove to the admissions committee members that you belong in that medical school. Let's hear from Ryan.

Ryan, welcome to the show, thanks for joining us.

Premed Ryan: Absolutely, thanks for having me.

Path with Speedbumps

Dr. Ryan Gray: So I want to talk about how we were first introduced. You sent an email or a comment basically, a contact information through our website, basically thanking us for the podcast and the encouragement we gave you because your path to medical school- and you have an acceptance now to medical school, was a little bit- I wouldn't say nontraditional but you had a lot of speedbumps in the way that a lot of people would probably say, ‘You're not going to be able to get into medical school with your record.'

Premed Ryan: Very large speedbumps, yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So I want to talk about that, because I think your path and others listening to your path are going to get a lot of encouragement that you got from listening to other people.

Premed Ryan: Yeah, absolutely and that's one of the things that I think is so cool about the podcast. So absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright. Why don't we talk about where you did your undergrad and if you were premed the whole time.

Premed Ryan: Yeah, I was definitely not premed. I actually did my undergrad at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. I originally- believe it or not, only came to college to play football. So I played football for two seasons and then ended up joining the military, so I left school for a little bit. Then when I came back I was a kinesiology major; that's when I really got interested in biology, was originally actually planning to go to grad school so I applied to neuroscience programs, was going to go to the University of Wisconsin for their neuroscience training program, and that's actually when I jumped ship and really headed into medicine. So I actually didn't declare- I shouldn't say I declared a premed, but I didn't actually decide to be premed until my last semester of college, so I was a pretty late bloomer.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And how old were you at that point?

Premed Ryan: Would have been 23.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay so you are a very nontraditional student in all sense of the word.

Premed Ryan: Absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What did you do in the military?

Premed Ryan: So infantryman. So I actually joined the National Guard, so I took one semester off of school to go to infantry training, then I went to Airborne School and then came back to school and right now I'm in a unit about 45 minutes away from me.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So you're still in the Guard?

Premed Ryan: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome, thank you for your service.

Premed Ryan: Thank you for your service.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So let's talk about your path. Once you said, ‘Wow I want to be premed,' what made you decide that?

Deciding on Medical School

Premed Ryan: Sure. Yeah, and that kind of ducktails very nicely with some of the other things that were going on in my life and when I was getting into all this trouble prior to my deciding to go into premed; really when I kind of became more of a faith-based person, and was really involved with my church and really kind of turned my life over to a higher power, that's really when I started to become more altruistic I guess you could say. And so one of my goals and the reason why I actually went into medicine was I wanted to be able to tangibly impact peoples' lives and so that was kind of what predicated my path, my switch, from going to grad school into actually going into medicine.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So you can- and we talk about this a lot, you can tangibly affect peoples' lives in a lot of things, right?

Premed Ryan: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Why medicine? Obviously with the kinesiology background, that kind of ducktails nicely into medicine. But what specifically about medicine? Did you have any exposures to healthcare as a kid, or in this time period?

Premed Ryan: Sure. You know, not as much. And I know this is as cliché as it can possibly get, but I like I said I was originally interested in more the grad school, basic sciences realm. So I absolutely love science, I do enjoy reading the primary literature, I enjoy the scientific process. What was missing when I was interested in that, when I was doing lab work, what was missing from the science arena was really that chance to interact with patients, and the chance to interact with human beings, and more tangibly impact their lives. And then I realized that science- science certainly impacts peoples' lives and everything that we do in medicine necessarily derives from the basic sciences, but I really missed the- I missed the opportunity to really meet somebody at their point of most need, and help them that day or over the course of a year, whatever, and impact their lives in that way.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, that makes sense. So as a kinesiology major and wanting to go and get your Masters and do some graduate level stuff, you obviously had a lot of those pre-req's for medical school under your belt. What were those first steps that you took that you're like, ‘Okay I want to go to medical school, what do I do now?'

Premed Ryan: Yeah, sure. And actually- and I don't think was a coincidence at all. Throughout my kinesiology major and then switching to cellular molecular biology which I was taking a course to go to grad school, I did. I had all the pre-req's from anatomy, physiology, calculus; everything that I would need to apply to medical school. And so really the first thing that I knew I had to do when I was applying to medical school is study for the MCAT. I had a lot of baggage- like I said I got into a lot of trouble in my undergrad, and so I knew that to get consideration from an admissions committee, that I was going to have to be better than somebody else in my situation. So I knew I had to kill the MCAT, I knew I had to get excellent grades, had to get some excellent letters. And so I came into my premed path knowing that I had to really ace those parts of the application.

Preparing for the MCAT

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright before we get into your past that you've mentioned a couple times now, what did you do to prepare for the MCAT knowing that you had to crush it?

Premed Ryan: Sure. I think- I got the Kaplan books. I started out, got five of the Kaplan books, I used a couple other ones but really- and I think I kind of stepped into actually one of the pitfalls that you talk about a lot on the podcast. This was before I discovered your podcast here, and I spent a lot of time looking at the calculations and the physics and [Inaudible 00:09:08] were probably my two toughest subjects so I spent a lot of time learning those, like I said I spent a lot of time learning the math. And really I just learned the content. My plan was to learn the content first, and then jump into the practice tests. But as I think you've mentioned a few times, my advice for students that are studying for the MCAT now, is to not spend time with the calculations because when you actually take the MCAT, you will have no time to work through those problems. And I think it's unfortunate that some of the books really emphasize the calculations and how to actually work through the problems when that's not comparable to what you're going to be doing on the test.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, they wouldn't have anything to sell though, if they didn't teach you the content in the books.

Premed Ryan: That's very true, that's very true. And another comment about that too, is again for students that are listening to this, is the tests that are sold on the MCAT's website I found to be not very useful. All of them I think were much easier than the actual exam itself, whereas the Princeton Review practice tests were much harder than the actual exam. So I don't know where to find a happy medium, but I wouldn't spend my money on the MCAT's practice tests again.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, the AAMC ones you mean?

Premed Ryan: Yes, yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah it's interesting. I think- I think the Princeton Review ones and the Kaplan ones, they obviously want you to have that sense of getting a huge gain once you take the real test, so they're going to probably tend to be harder; and so when you go and take the real one, you're like, ‘Wow I crushed that. Thank you Princeton Review, or thank you Kaplan.' Yeah. So I think it's- I would recommend doing as many as you can because that's where you learn how to take the test, even with the new 2015 MCAT, it's going to be the same. It's going to be how well you can take a test with some extra content in there. Alright so how well did you do on the test?

Premed Ryan: I didn't do as well as I thought I was going to do. Again like I said, the practice tests that I took were much easier, but I got a 33 so it wasn't going to hold me back certainly in any application.

Red Flags in Applications

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that will open up a lot of doors, that's great. Alright. Now let’s go back and talk about why in your mind you had to crush the MCAT, why you thought or you knew there were some red flags in your applications? What happened in your past that would raise some red flags on an application?

Premed Ryan: Sure. So like I said before, I really came to college to play football, and so along with the football team there was a lot of drinking, a lot of partying. In my first semester of college- excuse me, yes it was my first semester, I got kicked out of my dorm, got into a lot of drinking tickets, some vandalism, jumping in elevators and whatnot. We ended up breaking an elevator so got kicked out of my dorm, all sorts of different things that of course look terrible from a premed standpoint. And so that kind of carried on through about my first two and a half years of college between other drinking tickets, bar fights, as I mentioned before I got a DUI so huge issues from an admissions committee who's looking to find sensible altruistic people; when you see a student making very selfish, very stupid mistakes like that.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And kind of ongoing mistakes it sounds like from it.

Premed Ryan: Absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright. So a history of these bad decisions we'll say, a lot of people would say college kids being college kids. The DUI maybe steps that up a little bit. What advice did you get, or did you seek out any advice about what to do with that for your applications and moving forward?

Premed Ryan: Sure. So I actually- again I don't think this was a coincidence at all, but I worked in the lab of the professor who was the premed advisor for our school. So I had a huge resource right there, we not only have a great professional relationship but she is also a very good friend. And so when I decided to go into medicine and I initially talked to her I kind of divulged all this information. And she was really blown away and she had no idea any of this had went on before we met. And so really the biggest piece of advice I got is you have to be just really honest. You have to make sure that you're not withholdinganything throughout the application process, because that is going to spell absolute doom for your application. And so I definitely really took that to heart. And beyond that- beyond just being honest with what had happened, you have to be very honest and very forthcoming with what changed. And so that's something that I think that I did very well throughout the interview process and throughout my application materials.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And I think that's awesome advice. Did she at any point doubt your ability to get into medical school because of your history?

Premed Ryan: Absolutely not. She had worked with me prior, I worked extremely hard in her lab, we ended up getting some very good results. She knew me fairly well as a person, and again as I said before, we were very good friends, she again knew who I am since we have met. And so she was very surprised when she found out about all those other things. But she definitely never doubted that I'd be able to do it.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, awesome. So I think there was some bias there on her part because she knew you as the new Ryan- the new and improved Ryan. But an admissions committee is going to see everything all at once. They're going to see new and improved Ryan, and lots of alcohol incidents Ryan at the same time.

Premed Ryan: Absolutely.

Addressing Red Flags During Process

Dr. Ryan Gray: How did you go about with your applications and with your personal statement to lay all that out for them?

Premed Ryan: I actually chose not to address it in my personal statement; and I don't know if that reflected poorly on me for particular schools or not. I actually chose to address it in the secondary applications, so that's when I really laid it out and explained how the change took place. I think one of the other big things that played an enormous role for me was my letters of recommendation; I think I had excellent letters, authors of my letters I developed very good- again personal and professional relationships with, and so I think they felt very comfortable writing very good recommendations for me to get into school. But I really think that's what clinched it for me, honestly.

Dr. Ryan Gray: With your letters of recommendation, do you know specifically if your letter writers talked about the fact that they knew about this past with you, and that they know you now when you're professional and you've overcome those?

Premed Ryan: I don't.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.

Premed Ryan: Sorry, you cut out there for a second. I did not though, I have no idea to be completely honest.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. Yeah, and so if you're listening to this as an applicant, you are not allowed to know or read what goes into a personal statement, but I was just wondering maybe if they mentioned, ‘By the way Ryan, I did talk about your past,' or whatever. So you don't know.

Premed Ryan: Okay.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay, interesting. So I want to go back to the application. You didn't write about it in your personal statement, what part of the application for those that don't know what's involved with the applications. Is there a section in there where you talk about a DUI and other issues?

Premed Ryan: There is a section in the primary application where you address incidents with the school. So incidents that are on your school record, if there was any academic issues, where you were on probation, or if there was any issues in the residence hall like there was for me. And so I initially addressed the things that went on in my school in that section of the application and wrote a brief blurb about it in there. There's a section also that has you address if you have any misdemeanors or felonies which I do not, so I just answered those questions ‘no' and talked about those in the secondary applications.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. So you had a DUI, how did you get out of a misdemeanor or felony there?

Premed Ryan: Well Wisconsin is actually- I think probably the only state in the US that doesn't- the first DUI is not criminal. And so I think that really partly saved me there as well.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, you hear that all you high school students? Go to Wisconsin for undergrad.

Premed Ryan: Yes. It's looking back now and some of the obviously the enormous health consequences that result from people driving drunk, I don't know if that's quite the right policy. But in my particular case it worked out well for me.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Wow, okay. So you got- maybe I would dare say you got a little lucky there.

Premed Ryan: Yes.

Secondary Applications

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. So I'm interested now, did you talk about a DUI at any point?

Premed Ryan: Yes, the secondary applications is really where I addressed those kinds of things. Usually in the secondary application they'll give you another opportunity to address any sort of issues, or basically kind of free write whatever you want to talk about. And so I certainly made sure that I addressed kind of all those issues in total in my secondary application.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. Now let's talk about before you get some interview requests and stuff, I'm sure you went online and you were Googling DUI and medical school.

Premed Ryan: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What did you find, and what were you thinking when you saw what people will say in forums and other resources online?

Premed Ryan: Don't waste your time is pretty much the overarching message. Some of the- a lot of them didn't address DUIs specifically, like a lot of them would just address criminal records or otherwise. And really what the general consensus was, is if there is an ongoing record of poor decisions, or ongoing record of reckless behavior, that that's going to be nearly impossible for an admissions committee to look past. And so it was- there was times that I certainly considered kind of scrapping the process; obviously which was pretty heart-wrenching because this was my dream. But I decided to keep pushing forward and it paid off.

Medical School Interviews

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that's awesome. Alright, so applications, you applied to medical school. How many applications did you submit? How many interviews did you get?

Premed Ryan: I submitted probably sixteen MD applications and another twelve DO applications; and I think I got interview requests for- well they're not all back yet, but I probably got four MD interview requests so far, and probably six DO interview requests.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. Good job. What was your undergrad GPA by the way? I didn't ask that.

Premed Ryan: About 3.9 something- pretty close to 4.0.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So rockstar grades, great MCAT, so really if I'm glancing and ranking you just from your MCAT and your GPA, you're going to be high up on my list if you didn't talk about any of your issues and your personal statement, so when I glance over that as an admissions committee member I'm not seeing any of those red flags. But you do talk about it in your secondaries. So if an admissions committee is going to look at your secondaries before offering interviews, then that's where they may put you in the ‘no interview' pile.

Premed Ryan: Sure.

Dr. Ryan Gray: But you obviously got at least ten interviews or so, right?

Premed Ryan: Sure, yup.

Dr. Ryan Gray: How many interviews have you been on so far?

Premed Ryan: I have went to four total; and I think that's all I am going to go to. I'm pretty burnt out at this point, I think. With the admission to Penn State, I only have to really go to the schools that I want to go to more than Penn State so that narrows the list significantly.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Burnt out and broke, probably with how expensive the process is.

Premed Ryan: Yes, oh my goodness. I got married this summer and yeah, the cash situation is not awesome. But we're doing fine, we're doing fine.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Good, that's awesome. Let's talk about what came up during your interviews with your record.

Premed Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So certainly obviously the interviewers always addressed it; I think just about every interviewer even in schools where I had more than one, they all brought it up. One interviewer actually said to me, ‘I can't believe you got an interview.' So that was interesting. I ended up getting into that school too though, so that's good. But yeah, so they definitely always asked it. I think the most interesting one I got out of there was where the interviewer themselves said, ‘Well there's a lot here. How do you want me to represent you to the admissions committee?' And I think really what they want to hear, what they need to hear to be able to give you consideration while looking at that stack of bad decisions, is what changed? And so I really focused my answer for those questions on how am I different now, and why am I different now than I was before? I think it helped that I haven't gotten any tickets or anything probably in the last couple years. And so I think the time distance between my last infraction certainly helped as well.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So you've been able to separate yourself from your bad behavior in the past, which definitely helps. How did you prepare to answer those questions? Did you go through some mock interviewing with anybody?

Premed Ryan: No I actually did not. Basically what I did- and this might not be the advised method for all students. But for that particular question, because it was something that I knew I had to answer very well, and it was something that I wanted to make sure that I addressed all of the points that I wanted to address. I actually just typed it out. I typed out the entire thing and then kind of practiced giving it- or giving the presentation extemporaneously so I was able to sound like it wasn't rehearsed. So again, and I'm not sure that would work for all students, but that definitely worked for me and I think that it comes off much better when you have a difficult answer to give like that, to practice it again and again and to actually have it written out ahead of time.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, I like how you said that you practiced it and almost memorized it but you want to come off like it's not rehearsed. That's a big part of it.

Premed Ryan: Absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So what were some of the key things that you wanted to bring up to the admissions committee during the interview when they're asking you, ‘why did you do this? What have you learned?' What were some of those key things that you were able to bring up?

Premed Ryan: I think the not giving excuses for why it happened, but providing a little context. Again, I think I talked a little bit about coming to the school, being involved with the football team, and some of the things that came along with that involvement. Again, making sure that you don't come off like you're giving an excuse, but providing some context. But then kind of moving forward, again when you talk about the change, I talked about my spiritual experience and how the priorities of your life really change when I basically gave control of my life over to a higher being than myself, and how moving forward I demonstrated that change. And so I think that's really important for them to see afterwards, how you've demonstrated that you moved from position A to position B. And I kind of addressed some specifics; for instance afterwards I was involved with the campus Christian group, I initiated a resume outreach to a local homeless shelter where we help homeless gentlemen write resumes. Things like that I think were good for the admissions committee to see changing from more of a selfish person to somebody who's more altruistic and wants to affect people in their daily work.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. Sounds like you hit all the key things. I think really the biggest thing there, and you've mentioned it a couple times, is just own it. You did it, you've learned from it, and don't make any excuses for it.

Premed Ryan: Absolutely. And I think how you phrase that is very important. I think almost using the word mistakes is you don't want to make it seem like it was accidental. You want to- like you said own it, and make sure that you know you were very much responsible for what you've done, but afterwards you changed.

Helping Others

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. How have you changed and how have you kind of spread this message of, ‘Hey, look at me, I had this pretty rough past but I got into medical school.' Have you been helping others on the path besides this interview, obviously?

Premed Ryan: Not enough, no. And I'm actually in a unique position to do so with this next application cycle. I'm a chief scribe of a medical scribe program at a hospital. So we have probably thirteen, fourteen different scribes that I manage, probably about half of which are going to medical school. So definitely in this upcoming spring, that's something that I certainly want to put myself out there as somebody who's been through the application process before, this enormously convoluted application process. I can give some advice from that.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And along with that advice you're obviously telling them to listen to this podcast.

Premed Ryan: Yes, I do. Honestly, that's one of the first things I tell them, because there's so much more information here than I could possibly give them. Definitely addresses some of the intricacies of the process that you just wouldn't know otherwise. And so absolutely, this podcast has been an awesome resource for me, so I definitely tell other people about it.

Convoluted Process

Dr. Ryan Gray: That's great. You mentioned convoluted process, and that's a great word to describe it. What has been the most convoluted part for you, that you could tell somebody listening that's going to apply next year, or in the future?

Premed Ryan: I think the least understandable part is just doing the primary application. It's not necessarily the most difficult part, but it's the part that you kind of don't understand a lot of what they're actually asking for. So for instance, putting in the classes, how exactly you put in different types of classes. If you're like me and you've had military experiences, you've had AP credits, you've had all these different experiences that could potentially count towards your MCAT or GPA or not; that's something that's kind of hard to work out with and something that definitely takes a little bit of coaching. Whether from somebody that's done it before, or from certainly the website as well. So I found the AMCAS application to be very not enjoyable.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Did you like the DO application better or was it just different and convoluted in its own way?

Premed Ryan: It was almost exactly the same, actually. If you do the AMCAS application, the DO application is a lot of cut and paste. And so I found that to be fairly simple as far as just moving from the AMCAS to the DO application.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Good, okay. So Ryan, before we wrap up, what advice would you have for a premed student beginning their journey, now that you have your application- or your acceptance to Penn State; congratulations on that.

Premed Ryan: Thank you.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Now that you have that acceptance in your hand, and that kind of burden is off your shoulders, what do you have to recommend to a premed student just starting?

Advice to New Premed Students

Premed Ryan: I think one of my big advantages moving into the premed world, is that I never really went through my college experience as a premed. And because of that I kind of just did what I loved and for instance I wanted to- I love football, I started out playing football. Well then I moved into joining the Infantry as a National Guardsman, and so I had military experience. Then I moved into lab work because I really wanted to go into grad school. And so I had all these different experiences that I never really tried to tailor to actually being a premed. And I think that actually really helped me; I had a broad base of experiences, and not necessarily the traditional premed experiences. I think that I really turned that into an asset in my application process. So for people coming into the process, I would just say do what you're really passionate about, but make sure you do it very well so you can get those good letters of recommendation that are people that are willing to write about your passion, and write about your dedication to whatever you do. I also think just starting early. The MCAT- I studied for theMCAT for probably nine months. Again, I knew I had to do well, and so I think that just starting early enough togive yourself that time to do somethingvery well. Same thing with the personal statement. I probably spent two and a half months writing my personal statement. Not that I was constantly working on it, but I wrote a draft, I'd let it sit for a week, come back to it, go over it again, let it sit for a couple weeks, and that's really how you perfect something. And so I really think that getting those things just enough time to do is really helpful. Also along that path I would just say getting the questions for the secondary applications in your hand from Student Doctor Net is actually really, really helpful, and starting those essays early is certainly something that I would do. That's one of the advantages of the Student Doctor Network. It's- again so I would just use that resource as well.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, it's about the only time I recommend that website is to go get the secondary application questions.

Premed Ryan: Yeah, and I didn't even know that existed actually until I listened to this podcast. So- and listen to Ryan Gray's podcast because it has great information. I would have never known that those essay questions were on Student Doctor Net if I hadn't listened, so it's definitely a great resource as well.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome. So I think- I love a lot of those points, starting early with the secondaries- or with the secondary essays, starting early with your personal statement and kind of setting it aside, and kind of getting fresh eyes after a couple weeks; those are all great pieces of advice. Nine months for the MCAT is a long time, I'm surprised that you did that long. That's awesome. One of the funny things you said was the fact that you weren't premed, and you think that helped you. And that's funny because that came up a couple weeks ago with an interview back in Session 103 which you can find at And that's what Shay. She kind of did the same thing. She went through her whole undergrad and then- it was like, ‘Oh, I want to be premed,' and then so just kind of switched. And so she was able to use all of her past experiences, but wasn't under that pressure of being premed the whole time. So I wonder if there really is something to this- the fact that don't be premed, but be premed.

Premed Ryan: Sure. I think that being different really- and applications will even communicate to you whether directly or indirectly; they'll say that really the applicant that's often selected for admission is the one that shows how they're different, or what they can actually add to a class. And many times the secondary application is one of their questions will be, ‘What unique talents, abilities, experiences do you bring to this class?' And I think if you're able to communicate that from your past experiences from a diversity past experiences, that's really, really helpful.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that's a big question that most schools will ask either on a secondary application or in an interview they'll ask that, so that's good. Alright Ryan thank you for joining us today. I'm glad that you have your acceptance letter, I'm glad that you were able to push off all of those naysayers that said, ‘Oh you have alcohol problems, or you had a DUI, there's no way you're going to get into medical school.' I'm glad you pushed through that and have shown that you're able to overcome that stuff. Because I think a lot of people are in a similar situation where they run into these problems that again, “typical college issues” and were able to overcome them and now you're proof that you can get into medical school and overcome that.

Premed Ryan: Thank you, I appreciate that.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, again that was Ryan. Congratulations to him for his acceptance to Penn State, and he's really- he has some more interviews lined up, and if he gets an interview for another school that he might want to go to more than Penn State, then he'll go on those. But it's awesome that he has at least that one acceptance under his belt, and I think it's awesome that he was able to overcome everything and still show to the admissions committee members, and prove to them, ‘Look this is how I screwed up,' and he owned it. ‘This is how I screwed up, but this is what I did to make up for that and to prove that I am better than I used to be.' So that's awesome, hopefully you learned a lot from that.

If you did learn a lot, if you like what you learned today or heard today, and you haven't yet go to where you can leave us a rating and review. If you don't listen in iTunes, that's okay you can still leave us a rating review there. That's where the majority of podcast listeners come from, that's why I talk about iTunes a lot. Ratings and reviews help us tremendously in there. We don't have any new five star ratings and reviews to mention today, or this week, so maybe that's a hint that if you've been on the fence, go do it.

Go check out Premed Life Magazine, our partner magazine. They recently re-did Session 19 that we had where we interviewed Dr. Wagner from the University of Colorado Medical School; all about the medical school interview. She was the Dean of Admissions at three different medical schools, and she took a lot of time to talk to us about the medical school interview, and Premed Life Magazine took that interview and turned it into an article for their most recent issue. So that's a great article, go read that and go learn again from that in a little bit of a different format.

If you have any questions for us, you can email me, I am You can say hello to me on Twitter, am

As always I hope you learned a lot in today's podcast, and I hope you join us next time here at the Medical School Headquarters.

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