In this episode, Ryan takes a question directly from the OldPreMeds.org forums and delivers the answer right here to you. Today’s scenario is a perfect example of why grades can’t get you an acceptance to medical school.
OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
The poster is 32 years old dropped out of high school when he was 18; developed weird health issues in his 20’s that got him obsessed with biochemistry and medicine; went back to school at 26 and graduated from a community college with 4.0 GPA.; about to graduate from the University of Michigan with BS in Biochemistry with 3.97 GPA.
The poster originally wanted to get a PhD in Biochemistry but decided to go for an MD. He spent the summer studying for the MCAT and took it on August 20 and got a 515. His biggest issue is his extracurricular with not a lot of volunteer experience but did quite a bit for a nonprofit donating free pet food to animal rescue groups, zero research experience, and very few shadowing hours.
He has not been rejected from all of the schools he applied to but in the event he gets rejected, what should be done? Poster is afraid he’ll be too old to make medical school financially worth it.
Here are the insights from Ryan:
From PhD to MD:
Why? You have to figure out a story about why the shift from wanting to be a PhD to an MD.
Taking the MCAT on August 20:
This is a big red flag because this means you didn’t get your score back until late September. 515 is a great score but not getting your MCAT in until late September would mean your application was not complete until that time.
By that point, several schools have already looked at all the applications and saving a few spots for the last few that come in which are stellar applications.
One of the major reasons students are rejected is the lack of clinical experience.
When you combine this lack of clinical experience with not telling your story well enough about why you just randomly decided to switch to an MD, schools may be concerned about your desires and motives to be a physician.
Major takeaway from this episode:
You need to do a better job at telling your story. You need to get more clinical experience and be around sick patients. They need to truly understand why you switched from wanting to get a PhD to an MD. Tell that story. Get that experience. Then reapply next year. Your MCAT score will still be good and you won’t be as old.
Links and Other Resources:
The Premed Years Podcast Session 217
Dr. Ryan Gray: Are you interested to know how medical schools view your MCAT score? Go check out our latest Premed Years Podcast at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/217 where I have a discussion with the Executive Director of Kaplan’s pre-health programs, and we talk about exactly that. We talk about Kaplan’s newest survey that surveyed medical schools on how they view the new MCAT, and what you can do about that, as well as many other topics. Again that’s The Premed Years Podcast at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net.
This is the Old Premeds Podcast, session number 57.
You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, but now 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 nontraditional journey to becoming a physician.
Now if you’ve ever wondered if I read that, or say that every time, you now know because I just had a hiccup when I said ‘hiccup,’ and I laughed, and I just kept going. I course corrected and just kept going. Anyway welcome to the Old Premeds Podcast where we take your questions directly from the www.OldPremeds.org forums. Old Premeds, if you are new to us, is the site for the National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students. You may be old in age, or old as far as somebody that would typically be applying to medical school, although as Rich likes to say the nontraditional is the new traditional. So you are in a great place to be learning about how to get into medical school as a nontraditional student.
Rejected at 32 Years Old
Today’s question is an interesting one, and one that I think many, many students fall into the trap of. So let’s go ahead and read this one and we’ll talk about it after.
It says- the title of it is ’32 years old and rejected during this application cycle.’
‘My situation is weird. I’m currently 32 years old, I dropped out of high school when I was 18, I developed some weird health issues in my early twenties that caused me to become obsessed with biochemistry and medicine. I went back to school at 26, graduated from a community college with a 4.0, and am about to graduate from the University of Michigan with a BS in biochemistry with a 3.97 GPA,’ which is fantastic. ‘Originally I wanted to just get a PhD in biochemistry,’ I don’t know if that’s just a ‘just,’ ‘but late last year I decided I wanted to go for an MD instead. I spent the summer studying for the MCAT and took it on August 20th and got a 515.’ Remember that date, August 20th. ‘My extracurriculars are my biggest issue. I was an assistant manager for Eckerd Drugs which became CVS for about six years, I also worked as an assistant manager at a music store for several years, particularly helping to introduce music to young children. I don’t have a lot of volunteer experience, but I did volunteer quite a bit for a nonprofit called Rescue Bank. This organization donates free pet food to animal rescue groups who can’t afford to feed their animals. But I have zero research experience and very few shadowing hours. I am shadowing an endocrinologist as much as I can, but my schedule is so packed that it’s difficult to get in a lot of hours. I have not officially been rejected from all of my schools, however in the event that I am rejected, what should I do? I am considering going for a Master’s in biochemistry, and possibly a PhD, and then reapplying two to four years down the road. However I will be 35 to 37 years old by then and will also have to re-take the MCAT. I’m afraid I will be too old to make medical school financially worth it at that point. Does anybody have any advice? Thanks.’
I have some advice. So let’s just break this down one by one here. So going to community college, graduating from University of Michigan with a BS in biochemistry with a 3.97, fantastic after dropping out of school. Awesome. Originally wanted to get a PhD but later decided that you wanted to go for an MD instead. I’m interested to know why. I think that may have a big part in why this student was rejected, or hasn’t been accepted at this point, and I’m assuming hasn’t been invited for interviews at this point. So I’m interested to know why, and I bet you- and this is one of the reasons I love working with nontraditional students, and helping them form their applications and prepare their applications, is because it’s much harder as a nontraditional student. There are many moving parts, it’s harder to tell your story, and I have a feeling that this student didn’t tell their story properly which is why they probably didn’t get any interviews.
Here’s another big red flag, or another big issue in their application. They took the MCAT on August 20th which means they didn’t get their score back until September- late September. Now a 515 is a great score, but not getting your MCAT in until late September means your application wasn’t complete until late September, and by that point many schools have already looked at all of the applications that they’re going to look at, they’re saving a few spots for those last few that come in that are stellar applications, which yours is but you still didn’t get an interview. So there’s still something wrong with the application. And I think you hit it in the next paragraph by talking about the extracurriculars. It doesn’t sound like you have any clinical experience and you have a little bit of shadowing experience. If you go and listen to The Premed Years at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/171, that’s session number 171, if you go and listen to that episode, it’s with a former Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine, and we talked about re-applicants, and in her view the number one reason students are rejected is a lack of clinical experience. And so when you combine the lack of your experience with probably not telling your story well enough about why you just randomly decided last year to switch to an MD, schools are concerned about your desires to be a physician, your motives to be a physician, they don’t care anymore that you’re almost a 4.0 student with a stellar MCAT score. You are the perfect example of how grades can’t get you an acceptance to medical school. That doesn’t mean you can’t get accepted to medical school, it just means you need to do a better job at telling your story, it means you need to get more clinical experience, being around sick patients and truly understanding why it is that you switched from wanting a PhD to getting an MD.
Tell that story, get that experience, and re-apply. You won’t be too late in two to four years down the road, but if you truly don’t want a PhD and you want to be an MD, then I would fix your stuff now and re-apply maybe in one year. Give yourself one year buffer to get the clinical experience, and get the shadowing under control, figure out how to tell your story, re-apply next year, your MCAT score will still be good, and you won’t be as old.
So I hope that helped. I think you have a great shot just solely based on your stats, just make sure you understand why it is you want to be a physician so that you can tell your story. Just a plug for what I do day in and day out, I don’t just sit here and podcast all day, but I am working with about twenty students right now with their applications for the 2017 application cycle to start school in 2018. If that’s something you are interested in, you can go to www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net and you can see all of the services we have to offer at the top there of the page.
I hope you have a great week and I hope to catch you next week here at the Old Premeds Podcast and the Medical School Headquarters.