In this last episode of 2016, Ryan discusses 5 things that premed students should be thinking about as the new year is coming.
Now is the time.
If you still haven’t committed to being a premed or going back on this journey, then 2017 is the time to do that. You have no excuses anymore to stop being premed or to not be a premed if your heart tells you that you should be a physician. No excuses. Do it! Now is the time to start down this path. It’s never too late to start down this path.
If you’re in this journey and delaying some parts of it, stop and ask yourself. Why are you delaying? What are you scared of? Are you scared of failing? Are you scared of succeeding? Being scared of taking those next steps whether you’re already on this path or still thinking about going on this journey, fear should not hold you back in 2017. Because, for the most part, it’s just all in your head so you need to rewire your brain that fear should not hold you back and make that leap.
Ask for help.
Most students struggle because they don’t ask for help or they don’t know where to ask for help. Your job as premed students is to ask the right questions that will prepare you for being a great person and physician. It’s impossible to know everything but if you start to ask the right questions, you start to get the best picture and you can then start to look for the right answers. Whatever it is you’re struggling with, know that there is always somebody out there to help you. Reach out to your advisors, mentors, or anybody in the school and start asking questions. Seek the right help because there are programs out there to help you. It’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to ask for help. If you don’t know where to find help, ask Ryan at email@example.com.
Track your goals.
Several studies actually show the benefits of writing down your goals and tracking them. As you’re preparing for 2017, sit down and think about what you want to accomplish. Write SMART goals. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) Once you have those goals then you can start working backwards to see what you need to do to accomplish those goals. To help you track your goals, use this custom premed planning calendar.
Be realistic about your chances.
It’s never too late to apply to medical school. Don’t think about age or time as an issue in applying to medical school. Your grades are going to be the biggest issue. So do not rush the application even if you have poor grades or you don’t have enough clinical experience because this will only hurt your application. Everyone’s application is unique but just be realistic about it.
Timeline for Applying to Medical School:
January – Start your personal statement.
February or March – Start asking for letters of recommendation.
March-April – Take the MCAT.
May – Get your school list done.
June – Start submitting your applications.
* Check with your premed advisors to have a better picture of your timeline.
You can course correct even when you’re successful. You have to know where you are to know where you’re going. This is why tracking your goals is so important because you need to reevaluate where you are and figure out if where you are is going to get you to where you want to go. If not, then you need to course-correct. Don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing to meet those goals.
Links and Other Resources:
Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 214.
Hello and welcome to the two-time Academy Award nominated podcast, The Premed Years, where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your 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.
This is the last episode of 2016. Don’t worry, it’s not the last episode ever. I’ve played that trick on you once before for an April Fool’s joke but not this time. This is the last episode of 2016 so I hope you are all having a happy and safe holiday season, whatever you are celebrating out there.
For this podcast because it’s the end of the year, thinking about 2017 and what’s coming next year, I wanted to discuss five things that you should be thinking about as the New Year is upon us, and where the New Year should take you. And I wanted to start with something that comes up a lot. As you may or may not know, I also run www.OldPremeds.org, a site for nontraditional premed and medical students, and as I was preparing the Old Premeds Podcast for today, as this podcast goes out, there was a post- the www.OldPremeds.org website has a forum where you can go and ask questions kind of like that other website that we don’t talk about, although Old Premeds is a much more collaborative environment, taking the motto from The Premed Years of collaboration not competition, and living that over at Old Premeds. So if you don’t have an account, go sign up for one. But one of the- as I was preparing and I was looking through questions, because that’s what I do on the Old Premeds Podcast, I answer questions that students post over in the forums. And one of the questions was from a nurse practitioner. She had been I think an RN for three years, and a nurse practitioner for seven, she doesn’t have any kids, has a great lifestyle according to her living in a city, great work life balance, but there’s just something nagging at her, telling her to go back and be a physician. So she’s kind of wondering- I don’t know if it’s too late, or wondering if she should do it, if she’s crazy. There was also a post in our Facebook group which if you’re not a member of, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/group. Somebody posted about a- I think it was Michigan State University I believe, their college of osteopathic medicine, they had a graduate that was in the news, they graduated at 61 years old. Started school at 57, graduated at 61. They posted that this past week, it had come out- I had to do some digging but the original article that they had linked to was written in 2004. So it was a while ago, but it was still relevant to what I wanted to talk about today with the New Year and how you should be thinking about what’s coming up for you.
Don’t Let Fears Hold You Back
Now if you’re listening to this podcast and you haven’t committed to being premed, or going back on this journey, or through this journey, 2017 is the time to do that. You have no excuses anymore to stop being premed, or not being premed. If your heart tells you that you should be a physician, then you have no excuses. For the NP that posted in the www.OldPremeds.org, do it. For the 40-year-old, 50-year-old out there thinking about changing careers, do it. Now is the time to start down this path, it’s never too late to start down this path. It reminds me of an old saying, or philosophy, or phrase, whatever you want to call it. When is the best time to plant a tree? The answer is twenty years ago, but when is the second best time? It’s today, do it now. Whatever your reasons are for going on this journey, do it now. And if you’re in this journey, and you’re delaying some parts of it, stop. You’ve got to ask yourself why are you delaying? Are you scared? What are you scared of? Are you scared of failing? What’s going to happen? Are you scared of succeeding? That’s the best scenario. A lot of people are scared of succeeding. But being scared of taking those next steps whether you are in this path already, or thinking about going on this journey and joining the premed path, being scared should not hold you back in 2017.
That little part of our brain, the amygdala that controls fear, that lizard part of the brain. There’s an amazing author called- named Seth Godin and he talks about the lizard brain, and how that fear there keeps us from doing so many great things that we’re destined to do. And it’s all in our head for the most part because of the fear that we have is not true fear, shouldn’t be true fear. We’re experiencing it as fear, but we need to retrain our brain, that old lizard brain, and tell ourselves that this fear that we are having of moving forward, it’s not fear of a saber tooth tiger chasing us down and killing us, or a dinosaur chasing us down and killing us. It’s fear of maybe humiliation, of being scared of failing at our aspirations and our dreams, and those are fears but they shouldn’t be fears that hold you back in this New Year. So make that leap. I get so many emails from students that talk about how they wanted to make the leap so much earlier, and they listened to this podcast, and they finally do make that leap and leave their prior career, go back to school, whatever it is. Are you one of those students that are just holding back? Think about that.
Asking the Right Questions
Another thing to think about in 2017. I talk to so many students as I’m coaching them, or through emails, or through our communications on Facebook, wherever it is. Too many students have struggled in their academic journeys because they don’t ask for help, or they don’t know where to ask for help. Your job as a premed student is to ask the right questions, it’s not to know everything, it’s to ask the right questions that will prepare you for being a great person and a great physician. Asking the right questions is all about being a physician. It’s impossible to know everything as a physician, but when you ask the right questions then you start to get the best picture in your head of who this patient is in front of you. And when you ask the right questions you can start looking for the right answers. And so if you’re struggling, whether it’s your grades, whether it’s finances, whether it’s whatever it is, there is somebody out there to help you. If you’re in a postbac course, or you’re still an undergrad going through this, reach out to your advisors, to your mentors, to anybody in the school and start asking questions.
One of the students that I’ve been coaching this year who recently got his acceptance to medical school started off undergrad and didn’t ask the right questions, didn’t seek out the right help, because in his family situation he was the male parent figure as the older male sibling. And he had to be the one that had all the answers and never any questions, and so when he was a student he never played that role of somebody looking for answers. He thought he should have all the answers, and he struggled, and he didn’t finish his degree the first time around. He left and left with not a very good GPA, and once he figured out that there are people out there, there are programs out there to help him, and once he figured out that it was okay to ask questions and to ask for help, he started doing well. So if you’re struggling, ask for help. If you don’t know where to turn, ask me and I’ll try my best to reply back to you and get you the help that you need whether it’s pointing you in the right direction, or answering a question that you may have, let me know. Ryan@medicalschoolhq.net.
Tracking Your Goals
Another thing that I wanted to talk about for 2017 is something that I struggle with personally, and that’s tracking your goals. Actually writing down your goals and tracking them. There are so many studies out there, psychology studies out there that show the benefits of tracking goals, actually writing down your goals and tracking them, that there’s no excuse. If we want talk about medicine and evidence-based medicine, there’s no excuse for you as a student going through to be an evidence-based practitioner to not practice evidence-based living, I guess you would call it. Evidence-based goal setting and accomplishment achieving life. And so as you are going through preparing for 2017, actually sit down and think about what you want to accomplish. What classes do you want to complete in 2017? What grades do you want to get? Be specific about them and be realistic. If you don’t think you can get straight A’s, that’s okay, you don’t need to put that. If you’re planning to take the MCAT in 2017, when are you taking it? How much are you supposed to study? How much do you want to study? Those are the kinds of things that you need to be thinking about writing down and tracking as you go through this process.
There’s an acronym for goals, and if you haven’t heard it yet, it’s SMART. SMART goals, and SMART is an acronym. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound. Those are the most common ones, there are some other meanings for those letters in there, but those are the more common ones that I’ve always used and have thought of. So Specific, ‘I want to get an A in my organic chemistry class.’ It’s measurable because you know it’s going to be an A. It’s attainable? Sure I’m good at chemistry, I can get an A. Realistic? Yup. And timebound, so obviously your class- maybe you could say, ‘My organic chemistry class, first semester of 2017.’ Then it as a little time thing on there as well. Another one if you’re applying this year, ‘I’m going to write 200 words of my personal statement every week until it’s done.’ ‘I’m going to have my personal statement completed and finished by May 1st.’ ‘I’m going to ask for all of my letter of recommendations by March 1st.’ And if you want to make it even more specific, ‘I’m going to ask teacher one, teacher two, teacher three for letters of recommendation by March 1st.’
Once you have those goals, then you can start working backwards to see what you need to do to accomplish those goals. It’s so powerful. Something that I’ve been using lately is a huge calendar on my door to help me track where things are in the process, and what I have coming up in life. And I love this calendar so much that I reached out to the people that made it, and asked if I could do a custom calendar for premeds. And they came through, and you can now get a custom premed planning calendar for- it’s more if you’re applying this coming year, applying in June of 2017, because it has dates, it has prompts on there that tells you when you should be starting working on your letters of recommendation, working on your personal statement, when you should be taking the MCAT. It has all the dates of the MCAT on there, all the dates the MCAT scores are released as dates when you should be doing mock interviews, and working on secondaries, and so much more. It’s a huge calendar, it comes in portrait or landscape. In the portrait layout you can put it on a door, it fits on the back of a door perfectly. It’s paper so you can write on it, erase it. If we sell enough of these this year, then I can offer a dry erase version next year, and the dry erase one is what I use. I love having the ability to write things down, and erase them, and move things around. So I know this calendar helps me a ton which is why I created one for you. Go check out www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/premedcalendar for more information on that calendar, and let me know what you think. I think it’ll be helpful for your goal setting, it’d be helpful to help you track things as you go through this process.
Start Applications Early
I think if you’re applying next year, I talked about it a little bit already, the things that you need to think about. I talked a couple weeks ago about starting your applications early, and I talked about my premed coaching which I want to mention just one last time here before the new year starts. My rates are going up, I’ve had a lot of people- I’ve been blown away by the amount of people that want to work with me, and have started to work with me. I may- I think I’m up to probably about a dozen or so students, and I’ll probably cap the number of students that I’m working with because I don’t want to be overextended. So if you’re thinking about working with me, I’m raising my rates in January, January 1st. Go check out www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net if you are thinking about doing mock interviews with me next year, personal statement editing, go buy those now and use them later so you don’t- you pay the lower price now. If you’re thinking about using me and having me help you with your applications, go check out everything that I offer there as well.
But I wanted to talk about applications a little bit more today. We talked about in this last one goal setting, right? And being realistic about your goals. I started working with one student already this year to apply next year, and she wasn’t being very realistic. We started the conversation, she wants to apply this coming cycle in 2017, and we started talking about her past, and her grades more specifically, and how she has a downward trend in her grades. And we talk about trends and grades, and we want to see upward trends in grades if you have started off undergrad poorly like a lot of students do, but you figure it out and you start to get good grades, that’s okay. That upward trend is a strong piece of evidence to the admissions committee that you can handle being a medical student. But this student that I was working with had a downward trend in grades, and actually had an F in one of her more recent classes. And the more we talked, the more I realized- and I think she hopefully realized that she was not ready to apply to medical school. I suppose ‘not ready’ is not the right word because anybody is ready to apply to medical school. The question is are your- is your application going to be anywhere near competitive, and we realized and I explained to her that it probably wouldn’t make any sense to apply this year because of everything that was going against her; poor MCAT scores, recent failure, downward trend in grades, and so we talked about it and she’s going to go focus on her grades and come back and talk to me maybe next year to hopefully apply in 2018. So you need to be realistic when you’re applying. Are you applying just because your ‘clock is ticking’ and you think you’re running out of time to apply to medical school and be a physician? Go back and listen to the beginning of this podcast, the 57-year-old that went to medical school, again this was back in 2004, but 57 years old starting medical school and graduating at 61. One of our first episodes here on The Premed Years, we had Kate I think was her name, 53-year-old medical student. It’s never too late so don’t think about your age or time being an issue. Your grades are going to be the biggest issue.
When you apply with poor grades, and poor MCAT scores, and not enough clinical experience, and you’re just trying to rush your application because you think you need to apply or else, you’re hurting yourself for future applications because you’re going to have to rewrite your personal statement, you’re going to have to get new letters of recommendations, you’re going to have to expand on what you’ve already done and explain what you’ve improved. And if you don’t apply then you don’t have to improve anything other than what you need to improve because you shouldn’t be applying in the first place. So be realistic about your chances.
I hardly- I hate to talk about chances when applying to medical school, but this example of the student that I was talking to a couple weeks ago is one that I think was the perfect example of your chances are pretty slim, so I wouldn’t apply. Everybody’s application is going to be different, it’s going to be unique, and so you can’t apply general checklists or algorithms to the application to say should you apply or should you not? You just need to be realistic and think about it. If you need help thinking about that, shoot me an email, Ryan@medicalschoolhq.net.
Timeline for Applying to Medical School
The other thing I wanted to just run through quickly, a lot of these things are on the calendar that I mentioned, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/premedcalendar. I want you to know this timeline for applying to medical school because it’s so important, and it’s the biggest mistake that students make when applying to medical schools. You need to take the MCAT in April, March or April ideally. May is fine, June is pushing it but usually still okay assuming you know you’re going to get a good score and aren’t going to need to retake it. Ideally March or April of the year that you are applying is when you should take the MCAT. Start your personal statement in January. It’s funny, I was on Twitter and I often check the premed hashtag, and there was somebody sitting in an airport travelling for the holidays mentioning how he was starting his personal statement already, and I was just overcome with happiness seeing this person write that. I didn’t know this specific person but I thought it was awesome that he was starting his personal statement already at the end of December. Start it in January, that’s the date that I have on the calendar of when you should be starting it. It’s so important.
Letters of recommendation. Get those early. You should start getting your letters of recommendation- probably start asking for them in February or March to start thinking about that. Get your school list done around May. Know what schools you are applying to. May is when the applications open up, when you can submit them starting in June, and ideally that’s when you want to submit them, starting in June. You want to be early. This is not an application where you look at the deadline and go, ‘Okay my application needs to be in by the deadline.’ You want to be there at the beginning.
If you have a premed committee that does a letter for you, your timeline may need to be moved forward to give your committee time to write their letter. Check with your premed club- not your premed club, with your pre-health advisors, your premed advisors, and find out from them what they’re going to need from you to write their committee letter. Some schools may just want a list of what you’ve done and they have access to your grades, and maybe they want a personal statement. Some schools like the University of Colorado here basically make you fill out your whole application separately from the AMCAS application and AACOMAS. It’s like you’re going through the application and they want all of that before they’ll write your committee letter, and they do that to make sure that you have everything ready to go for the regular application. And so you really need to start looking at those things.
Importance of Course Correction
The fifth and last thing that I wanted to talk about here as you move forward into 2017 is a phrase I love to talk about all the time on this podcast, is course correction. I could have easily talked about this with- when we talked about struggling, and looking for help, but course correction is so much more than struggling. You can course correct even when you’re successful. If you think about GPS, when you use your GPS, you open up your phone and you go into Google Maps and you enter your destination, your current location is in there. You have to know where you are to know where you’re going, or for the GPS to know where you’re going in that specific example. And this goes along with tracking your goals as well because you need to know if you’re on track to meet your goals, and that’s why keeping a journal, getting that calendar over at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/premedcalendar, and tracking your goals on there. It’s so important because as you go through this process and you finish a week, or you finish a month, or you finish a semester, or you finish a course, a class, whatever it is, you need to reevaluate where you are and figure out if where you are is going to get you to where you want to go. If it’s not, you need to course correct, and more than likely you’re going to need to course correct whether it’s a little bit or a lot. Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at what you’re doing to see if it’s working or not working. You need to make sure that you meet your goals. You set those goals for a reason. Don’t get those out of your sight. Keep those in your sight, course correct, get back onto it, don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing to be able to meet those goals. You may be comfortable studying one way, doing things certain ways, they just may not be working anymore for whatever reasons. Don’t be afraid to change.
Alright I think that is it for this episode. I hope your 2016 was great, I hope your holiday season was safe and enjoyable, I hope you have a safe and happy New Year. We’ll see you next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and The Premed Years Podcast.