As a nontraditional student when you have more responsibilities than the average premed out there, is it a good enough reason to not get any experience at all? Here’s why you need to get shadowing and clinical experience when you’re applying to medical school!
Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at premedforums.com. Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community.
Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:08] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
It’s such a common question that comes across all the time is “What score do I need to get into medical school?” And this usually comes in the frame of what their GPA looks like.
Blueprint is our official MCAT partner over at Mappd. There’s this theory that the MCAT and GPA are on opposite sides of a scale. That you can get a certain MCAT score if you have a good enough GPA. Or you need a higher MCAT score if you have a lower GPA.But there’s just no algorithm out there that can tell you that. Too many students perpetuate this myth that one fixes the other.
Now, there are schools out there that use rubrics in terms of evaluating an application. If you use a rubric, then a MCAT score is going to be converted into a score in the rubric. The GPA is going to be converted into a score in a rubric. Therefore, you would assume that a higher MCAT score means a higher score in a rubric. A higher GPA means a higher score in a rubric. And the higher point is what matters.“Theoretically, you could say that a higher MCAT score fixes a low GPA, but that's just not the case because they're independent variables.”Click To Tweet
Ultimately, the answer is you need as high of an MCAT score as you can get. Go check out Blueprint MCAT and see how they can help you maximize your MCAT score.
[03:11] OldPreMeds Question of the Week
“I am in my senior year as an out-of-state undergraduate student and I have not had a car while I have been in college to travel to clinical and volunteer.
I have shadowed and gotten as much clinical and volunteering as I could in the times I was home but that means I don’t have a lot of hours.
How do I present this on my application and will they be understanding about it?”
[03:37] The Goal of Your Medical School Application
As a nontrad, when you have family or a job, you don’t have as much time for clinical hours. This is a very common struggle that nontraditional students have.
Now, think of this situation. If you want to be a baseball player, but you don’t have time to practice and really be good, will the coaches understand that? Will they still pick you? Probably not.“At the end of the day, the goal of your application is to prove academic capability and to prove that you understand what you're getting yourself into.”Click To Tweet
As you’re applying to medical school, you need to prove academic capability and that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It comes from you putting yourself around physicians and patients. That’s where that experience comes from. So then you talk about it in your personal statement, your activity descriptions, and your secondaries. Medical schools will ask you to talk about your most meaningful clinical experience.
And so, the clinical experience is a huge deal not just to have hours on an application that you can just write off because you didn’t have a car.We live in a day and age where we have Uber, Lyft, taxis, buses, trains, planes, or whatever means. We have the ability to get to where we can go if you have the resources.
[05:36] Get More Clinical Experience
Ultimately, even if you have less hours, you can still make it work. Only having things during the summer because that’s the only time you have access to a car is not a good enough excuse.
Now, you could still get into medical school. But I recommend that you go home, get access to vehicles and whatever else you need, and then work on getting the experience. It’s not just more hours, but getting the experience that you need to prove to yourself and to prove to the medical schools that you understand what you’re getting yourself into.
The goal of the medical school application is to get that experience, reflect on it, and then talk about it in your personal statement. Write about it in your extracurricular descriptions, your activity descriptions, and then talk about it in your secondaries. Write about it in your secondaries, and talk about it in your medical school interviews.
Plenty of students have gotten in without clinical experience. And I would love to pick the brain of the admissions committee member who accepted those without any clinical experience.
I would love to do some long-term studies on how happy you are as a physician after 5, 10, 15 years without any clinical experience. Because I really want to make sure you are getting yourself into something you are going to enjoy. You’re going to go into a lot of debt. You’re going to go into a stressful career that a lot of people just aren’t suited for.'There are a lot of you out there chasing down the stream, going back to school without any understanding of what it's like to be a physician.'Click To Tweet
And so, as a nontraditional student, don’t try to use the excuse of being a nontrad as to why you don’t have clinical experience and shadowing. And don’t use COVID as an excuse as to why you don’t have these things.
[08:27] How Many Hours Do You Need?
You need to go out and get these experiences. You need to go out and get these experiences. I don’t know how many hours you need. The admissions committees have their own thresholds and numbers that they’re looking for.
I hate throwing out numbers because it’s not just the number that matters. A lot of students could get all of the hours they “need” freshman year, and then what are they doing the other several years before they apply to medical school? It’s the same thing with GPA. If you have a 3.3 GPA, I don’t know what that means.'What's the story behind that number? Consistency and recency is very important when it comes to activity hours.'Click To Tweet
So when you are in this process as a nontraditional student, as someone who has other responsibilities outside of medicine. Understand that it doesn’t give you free rein to not get anything. You will likely have less hours than someone else, but having no hours or only doing things during the summers is probably not good enough.
Understand the importance of clinical experience and why even as a nontraditional student with how busy your life is, you still need to go get something.
Try to be consistent even once a month. Go out there and get something that fits your schedule, your lifestyle, and everything else to prove to yourself that this is truly what you want. Prove to yourself that you’re not just chasing some pipe dream that you thought about a long time ago.