AMCAS, AACOMAS, MCAT Motivation and Other Premed Q&A

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Session 237

Allison and I tackle several questions from the Hangout, our private Facebook group. We cover everything from motivation to residency status.

As we’re recording this, my book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview is officially released today. I appreciate those who pre-ordered it. To those who haven’t pre-ordered yet and wanted to wait and look at it at the bookstores, I’m going to announce something soon.

[03:37] Be Careful What You Post Online

A story came out about ten undergrad students had their admissions withdrawn by Harvard after it came to light that there was this private Facebook group they were a part of that all of the new acceptances for the Class of 2021 formed this super private and raunchy Facebook group sharing memes of lots of bad stuff. Somebody turned them in. The administration looked at it and whoever turned them in obviously let them see their Facebook account to see what was going on that led to these students having their acceptances withdrawn.

The moral of the story is do not put anything out there on the internet that you wouldn’t want your grandma seeing. Allison adds that social media has become a part of life and when you interview for a job, people look at your Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts. Part of the article was about how many admissions officers now look through someone’s social media profile to get more information on them. Be very careful. A lot of people change their name on social media when they apply to a school.

[Tweet “Do not put anything out there on the internet that you wouldn’t want your grandma seeing.”]

But just don’t be a bad human. There is dark humor but the kind of stuff they were joking about were just beyond dark humor. Talk with your friends in person but don’t post things that are despicable online. Also, if you’re not using your real name on Facebook, you’re actually breaking Facebook’s Terms of Service and if you had an issue with your account, you will probably never get your account back because you can’t verify your name and they won’t give you access to your account.

[06:22] Staying Motivated to Study for the MCAT

Back to our questions, a student who recently joined the Hangout said she was having problems staying motivated to study for the MCAT while also working full-time.

For Allison, she always enjoyed school and although she doesn’t like the MCAT, she has always been a future thinker and always thinking about what she’s doing is in service of her future goal. She thinks about her future and the future she’s living into and this gives her excitement, drive, and ambition to put herself into what she’s doing 150% so she can get to that future and live in that future.

Moreover, I posted something on Instagram about you’re not studying for the MCAT. You’re training yourself how to be a lifelong learner for your future patients. So don’t just think of this  as just studying for this one test. Go in and think about it as preparing yourself for the future and for that patient that you’re going to be treating.

[Tweet “You’re not studying for the MCAT. You’re training yourself how to be a lifelong learner for your future patients.”]

[08:25] Shadowing and Clinical Experience to Stay Motivated

Working full time is hard when you’re studying for the MCAT but if that’s what you need to do, fine. However, you also need to find time to shadow, do clinical experience. You need to stay involved in some way, as much as you can, so you can see what you’re working towards. When you’re faced down and working full time then you come home and put the kids to bed and then you crack open the MCAT books and that’s your life, you forget what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

When you’re struggling with your studying and not improving your scores and you’re pulling your hair out, you have to maintain some sort of clinical experience so that you can be around patients and you understand why it is that you’re doing it.

[Tweet “You have to maintain some sort of clinical experience so that you can be around patients and you understand why it is that you’re doing it.”]

Allison agrees with this because when she studied for the MCAT. She did a gap year between college and med school to apply and do the MCAT, she was involved in patient care and was involved in two different internships, one of them being in patient care. That gave her the drive because she got to think about the patient’s’ experiences and apply them. It helped build that excitement, ambition, and drive to keep her going.

Do this even during medical school. As a premed, you assume that once you’re in medical school you stop shadowing but that’s not the case at all. You can continue to shadow as a medical student and be involved in whatever specialty or hospital you’re interested in. Shadow  even when you’re a resident. Shadow for as long as it takes until you get to the specialty or whatever career you’re going to do. It’s about lifelong learning.

[Tweet “As a premed, you assume that once you’re in medical school you stop shadowing but that’s not the case at all.”]

[11:00] Applying Based on Your MCAT Score

This next question is from a student getting ready to submit their AMCAS application, hasn’t taken their MCAT yet and wants to play this game I hear a lot, which is applying to just one school to get verified. Then when they get their MCAT score back, they’ll submit the rest of their applications if they like their score.

Allison and I don’t think this is not a good idea. Logically, yes, this makes a lot of sense. But the problem with this kind of thinking goes along with the thinking that you’re going to apply to schools based on your MCAT score. And I don’t agree with that.

Additionally, if we break the timeline, you submit your applications mid-June and taking a June 29th date, your MCAT score isn’t coming out until August 1st. You’re going to look at your MCAT score and you’re okay with a 505 or 507 or whatever it is. Then you’re going to look through the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) website that the AAMC gives you and based on your score, here are the school you want to apply to now then you’ll add those schools. The schools will get notified basically immediately that the student has applied to them assuming everything else is done. The school is going to see that as an application and they’re going to most likely send a secondary application or request for secondary essays. Most schools will send those automatically.

When you do this, you’re delaying your ability to pre-write those secondary essays. From June 29th to August 1st, when you select the schools you’re applying to, there’s a month there where you could be writing secondary applications, but you don’t know what schools you’re applying to yet so you’re creating this dead space where you’re not getting anything done. It’s going to be late anyway since that’s when your application is complete with that MCAT score on the beginning of August. And it’s delaying even a couple more weeks because of those secondary applications.

[14:15] Picking Only One School

Moreover, when you pick only one school, you’re giving yourself psychologically an out. Then you’re okay if you don’t do good on the MCAT since you applied to only one school anyway. Whereas, if you applied to 20 schools and it cost you a ton of money so you’re going to get a great MCAT score. And if it doesn’t work out, you course correct and figure out from there. But don’t go in with a Plan B going, “It’s okay, I can always cancel my applications.”

[Tweet “When you pick one school, you’re giving yourself psychologically an out.”]

And if on July 1st, you already know the school you’re applying to then you can start writing your secondary applications and essays. Come August 1st, when your score hits, your done. It’s then just a matter of the schools looking at your complete application because they’re ready for it.

Again, logically, it makes sense, But when you factor in everything else, it doesn’t make sense and it’s not a game I’d like to play.

[15:48] AACOMAS Application

Question 1: Does that mean the medical school programs can view the application as soon as it’s verified?

The answer is yes and no. At the very beginning of the application cycle, the application services delay sending off the first batch of applications until a set date. After that date, as soon as you’re verified, the school gets it.

I forgot the date this year for AACOMAS but for AMCAS, the date is June 30th. So if you apply early and you get verified, your applications are not getting out to the schools until June 30th. After that, they will get it immediately.

Question 2: Should I contact the programs individually if I had more letters of recommendation and more extracurricular activities?

You can’t add extracurricular activities at least for the AMCAS, which is fifteen. But if you only put thirteen and you want to add another one later, AMCAS only lets you six or seven different things you can change on an AMCAS application after you submit it. But extracurricular activities are not one of those. But I am not sure for AACOMAS.

Letters of recommendation will get added and the schools will see that so you don’t need to contact them individually.

[17:57] Shadowing a Military Doc

Question: Is shadowing a military physician on base viewed the same as shadowing a regular hospital?

Answer: Yes, a clinic is a clinic no matter where it is. A physician is a physician. Medicine is medicine. Patient care is patient care. The only aspects that I would put on this having been a military physician is it’s really hard to shadow a military doctor if you don’t have access to the base already. Even when you do have access to the base, it’s up to the chief medical officer to decide what their rules are for shadowing. It’s like any other hospital setting that shadowing rules are different everywhere. For a military hospital or clinic, it’s harder because you would need access to the base as well. Given our heightened level of security these days, access to the base typically isn’t given unless it’s really needed.

A student I’m working with this application cycle is in the military applying to medical school and she shadows physicians at her base.

[19:35] A Dilemma About Residency

This student is from California and still has the option to become a resident of California but currently a resident of Florida. She’s applying next year to medical and is asking about changing residency in order to have a better chance of getting in back home in California. Or should she keep her residency status in Florida?

Allison thinks that if you want to go to school to California, you should definitely change your residency back to California. It’s very hard to get into California medical schools from out of state. What do you want? There is no safety net anywhere. There is no guarantee. You could move to California and get into a Florida school and now you’re an out-of-state resident.

In this same regard, I’ve talked to a lot of students in the middle of their application cycle on moving. But why are you moving? You’re risking being a non-resident everywhere. If you leave one state, depending on the state rules and laws, you are possibly losing the residency of a state that you’re moving from and it typically takes a year to get residency to a state you’re moving to. So you don’t want to screw yourself and be a resident of nowhere.

One student I’m working with this year is moving from Kentucky to Texas and I advised her not to do it and call the schools and state and find out what their rules are. So she called the University of Kentucky. Her parents still live in Kentucky and still have a house in Kentucky. Based on that fact alone, University of Kentucky still considers her an in-state resident even if she’s living in Texas. She’s a nontrad and out-of-school.

So if you’re planning on moving anytime around applications, talk to schools. talk to states. Figure out what the rules are around that because that’s important.

[Tweet “If you’re planning on moving anytime around applications, talk to schools, talk to states, figure out what the rules are around that.”]

[22:42] UC Davis Pre-Health Conference

I found out today that I’ll be speaking at the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference, probably the world’s largest premed conference every year. I think they’re expecting 4,500 students this year. I will be speaking about nontrads and how nontrads should be able to know their worth as a nontrad, why their stories are important, and how to tell it.

If you’re in the area or you can make the trip, it’s going to be on October 07, 2017 at UC Davis, California. Sacramento is probably the closest place to fly into if you’re flying in. I met some people last year who flew in from other places.

[24:35] Friends and Family Just Don’t Get It

How do you deal with family that doesn’t seem to understand that to have a good grade, you have to study? I did my undergrad away from home so it’s actually a first that I’m studying the entire summer for the MCAT at home.

So the family keeps bothering them and they’re almost two days late into their MCAT studying plan already. They tried explaining to the family and their philosophy is since you’re smart, you’re going to do well. But the student’s philosophy is they can’t do well if they don’t study. Obviously in medical school, you have to explain to friends and family what life is like and how you’re not coming to birthdays and not coming to holidays since you have to study. And this is hard thing.

In medical school in particular, when you’re studying all the time and people don’t understand why you’re not being a good friend and you’re not keeping in touch with people or not making it to different events, there becomes this drift or divide where you just feel separated because people don’t understand why you have to be studying all the time. That does begin as a premed too since you have to study a lot. Allison think you just do the best you can. At the end of the day, if your family loves you, they will let you be and they don’t need to get it. They’re not going to medical school, you are. You’re the one who needs to study. You’re the one who’s going to take the MCAT. So if they love you and support you and let you be, great. If they can’t, go to a library, go to a book shop and just get space. Don’t let your family or friends’ concerns and opinions and feelings get in the way of what you are there to do.

Your goal is to become a physician and the sacrifices you have to make include saying no to family and friends. So you have to go to a coffee shop or library just to set that boundary. And they will get it eventually. It’s a very long journey and this is not normal for most people to have to spend much time with your nose on a book, studying, and working so if they don’t get it that’s okay. That’s probably the beginning of them not getting it for quite a long time so get used to it. Know that there are other people studying just like you who get it so go to the Hangout Group.

[Tweet “Your goal is to become a physician and the sacrifices you have to make include saying no to family and friends.”]

[28:45] Upcoming Events

We got the third nomination for Best Podcast in Science and Medicine. This is happening at the end of August in Anaheim, Southern California. I will be doing a meetup then so stay tuned for that. I will put this event on the Hangout. The conference is on August 23-25 so I will definitely be doing a meetup so I can hang out with you if you live in the area.

Again, I will be at UC Davis in Northern California in October for the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference. In November, I will be in Florida for the Premed Fest.


UC Davis Pre-Health Conference

Premed Fest

Medical School HQ Hangout Facebook Group

Follow me on Instagram @medicalschoolhq

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview