Should I Apply to Med School Without Many Extracurriculars?


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OPM 19

Session 19

Your questions, answered here on the OldPreMeds Podcast. Ryan and Rich again dive into the forums over at OldPreMeds.org where they pull a question and deliver the answers right on to you.

This is a common question for non traditional students who have to juggle time taking care of family, test prep, classes, and so many other things that some of them might even get left out.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

Finished undergrad with a double major in English Literature and Spanish Language; decent GPA; struggled in the Science prerequisites; not getting a lot of volunteering and shadowing done. Should you apply with such little experience? Or should you take some time and get the experience you need under your belt before applying?

Here are the insights from Ryan & Rich:

A common assumption that the more you do as an undergrad in terms of academia, the better candidate you are – that’s not always the case.

All your grades for allopathic medical schools will count whether you retake them or not.

Medical school want to see:

  • Motivation
  • Commitment
  • Achievement

Commitment must be shown through extracurriculars that you’ve committed to for some time

You want to be the strongest applicant on your first application you can be. Not having sufficient volunteering, shadowing, extracurriculars will make you a weaker candidate.

Consider taking time until you have those experiences under the belt to become a stronger, more competitive candidate.

Shadowing vs. volunteering:

  • Volunteering is when you’re doing something for others (clinic, nursing home, geriatric care, etc.)
  • Shadowing is something you do for yourself (following a doctor around)

Links and Other Resources:

The Premed Years podcast session 171 – Reapplying to Med School – What You Need to Know to Improve

The Premed Years podcast session 75 – What Are My Chances of Getting into Med School?

If you have questions you want answered here on the OldPremeds Podcast, go to oldpremeds.org and register for an account. Go into the forums and ask a question.

Listen to our first episode at OPMPodcast.com/1 to find out more about who we are.

Also check out the Premed Years Podcast at www.medicalschoolhq.net.

Find us on iTunes and go to opmpodcast.com/itunes and leave us a rating and review.

Check out MedEdMedia.com for all the shows that we produce including The Premed Years and the OldPreMeds Podcast. We will soon be launching a medical school podcast as well so stay tuned!

Email Dr. Ryan Gray at [email protected] or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq.

Transcript

Introduction

Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast, session number 19.

You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, or you’re changing careers, you’re now ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your journey to
Welcome back to The Old Premeds Podcast. I hope you have had a wonderful week since our last visit, or it might have been just a couple seconds if you are batch listening to this podcast. I have an awesome question today, something that is very common for nontraditional students when they have so little time because they’re taking care of family, taking care of their test prep, taking care of classes, sometimes things might get left out, and some of those things might be important. Let’s go ahead and dive into the question and welcome Rich to the show.
Rich, welcome back to The Old Premeds Podcast. How are you doing today?

Richard Levy: I’m just typically spectacular.

Question on Application Timing

Dr. Ryan Gray: Typically spectacular, I like that. I like that. Instead of a typically spectacular. That’s good. Alright the question today- I wonder if the banter gets- if you listening like this banter, let us know, let me know.

The question today from www.OldPremeds.org is a question about application timing, and if this poster should apply to medical school or not. This person’s a nontraditional student, they’re 24, they finished undergrad with a double major in English Lit and Spanish Language; don’t ask me how you double major in two different languages, that’s fine. Decent GPA, but struggled in the science pre-req’s. So it sounds like they were premed, but decided to double major in the liberal arts. As soon as they graduated, went back and did a do-it-yourself postbac at the same school, did well focusing just on those pre-req’s, but along that course, taking those courses and probably working, they didn’t get a lot of shadowing and volunteering done. And so they’re questioning whether or not they should apply with such little experience, or take some time, get the experience that they need under their belt, and then apply following that.Richard Levy: This particular poster raises a series of questions that go beyond just the internship and job opportunities they’re looking at. Just noticing, which I see many applicants make the assumption which is incorrect, that the more they do as an undergraduate in terms of academia, the better they’ll look as a candidate. And that is not necessarily the case. You need to be able to do well in what you pick. If you take on too much such as a double major, a minor in something, and try to do

Richard Levy: This particular poster raises a series of questions that go beyond just the internship and job opportunities they’re looking at. Just noticing, which I see many applicants make the assumption which is incorrect, that the more they do as an undergraduate in terms of academia, the better they’ll look as a candidate. And that is not necessarily the case. You need to be able to do well in what you pick. If you take on too much such as a double major, a minor in something, and try to do pre-req’s, you risk not doing well, and that may be part of the problem here. Because all your grades for the allopathic medical schools will count no matter if you retake them or not. The second thing is that medical schools want to see motivation, commitment and achievement. Commitment is not something I think can be shown by just having a semester or two of shadowing and volunteering, but has to show that you have extracurriculars involved that you’ve had some sort of commitment to for some time, and that really helps the adcom get a mindset of who you are. Med school is a long commitment and they want to see that you’re committed to certain things that will add to that med school for you completing med school.

The other issue with this particular student is just noticing that they also happen to have a C- in one of the classes they didn’t retake. Some med schools will not accept that grade. You may have to consider retaking that class, solely if you’re just making the grade that’s going to be acceptable as a prerequisite. So in the ultimate answer for this applicant, you want to be the strongest applicant on your first application as you can be. Not having sufficient volunteering, shadowing, extracurriculars are going to make you a weaker candidate and therefore should strongly consider putting off a cycle until they have those under their belt and can look like a much stronger competitive candidate.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah I think in The Premed Years Podcast, session 171 I think it is, is an interview with a former Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine, she’s now doing curriculum stuff at Keck School of Medicine. But I had a great conversation with her about reapplicants, and we talked about why first time applicants don’t get into school, and she said one of the biggest mistakes that first time applicants make is applying without the proper clinical experience specifically. They’re not getting enough hands-on clinical experience to show to the schools that they know what they’re getting into.

Richard Levy: It’s interesting that I’ve also heard in some ways the opposite, where you see students who say have tried to just build up the hours of shadowing to the point that they’re almost meaningless. And some admissions directors think students rely too much on too many hours as somehow enhancing other weaknesses in their application.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah I think in The Premed Years Podcast, session 171 I think it is, is an interview with a former Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine, she’s now doing curriculum stuff at Keck School of Medicine. But I had a great conversation with her about reapplicants, and we talked about why first time applicants don’t get into school, and she said one of the biggest mistakes that first time applicants make is applying without the proper clinical experience specifically. They’re not getting enough hands-on clinical experience to show to the schools that they know what they’re getting into.

Richard Levy: It’s interesting that I’ve also heard in some ways the opposite, where you see students who say have tried to just build up the hours of shadowing to the point that they’re almost meaningless. And some admissions directors think students rely too much on too many hours as somehow enhancing other weaknesses in their application.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah I think in The Premed Years Podcast, session 171 I think it is, is an interview with a former Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine, she’s now doing curriculum stuff at Keck School of Medicine. But I had a great conversation with her about reapplicants, and we talked about why first time applicants don’t get into school, and she said one of the biggest mistakes that first time applicants make is applying without the proper clinical experience specifically. They’re not getting enough hands-on clinical experience to show to the schools that they know what they’re getting into.

Richard Levy: It’s interesting that I’ve also heard in some ways the opposite, where you see students who say have tried to just build up the hours of shadowing to the point that they’re almost meaningless. And some admissions directors think students rely too much on too many hours as somehow enhancing other weaknesses in their application.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Oh without a doubt, yeah. I love those posts on Student Doctor Network about the ‘what are my chances’ posts. They go, ‘I have 3,000 hours of shadowing time, 6,000 hours of soup kitchen work, and I have a 2.6 GPA. What are my chances?’

Richard Levy: I actually have sort of made a personal commitment not to look at the ‘what are my chances’ posts. I do not answer them. I think that it’s almost a- I would think it’s ridiculous for students who are looking at that, they really have to look at themselves and evaluate what they need to do, and you always need the grades. I wanted to point out one other thing from this from the post, and he mentioned shadowing and volunteering, and it’s an important distinction that a lot of students don’t make. Volunteering is when you’re doing something for others. Now you can be volunteering in a clinic, volunteering in a nursing home, volunteering in geriatric care; there’s a lot of places to show volunteering to help others. Shadowing is something you do for yourself. You’re following a doctor around. It’s much more valuable, though not necessary, that if you’ve been a long time volunteer at an organization, and have shown commitment, shown achievement, perhaps you’ve become somehow organizing things for this volunteer association, perhaps conferences, et cetera, having a letter from a supervisor in there would be much more valuable than a letter from some doctor you shadowed for a few hours. Students are somehow under the belief that having a letter from an MD is always going to be looked at better, and that is not the case by the adcoms. They want to show that somebody can talk about who you are. It’s much more important.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. I like it. And for the ‘what are my chances’ questions, I did a podcast episode a while ago, back in session 75 of- at the time it was called the Medical School Headquarters Podcast, now The Premed Years. So if you want to go to www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/75, I have a very big dialogue about ‘what are my chances.’ So hopefully that will help you.

Alright there you have it. I had mentioned the other podcast with Christine, again you can listen to that at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/171. That’s an episode with Christine, and we talk about why students don’t get into medical school their first time applying. And so that kind of pertains to the discussion that we had today.

If you have a great question for us, or maybe a not so great question that we can answer, go to www.OldPremeds.org and leave us a question there. Rich and I will hopefully get to it soon, but I know that sooner other great members of the Old Premeds community will be there to help as well.

Again I hope you join us next week here at the Old Premeds Podcast.

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