Michael struggled through his undergrad with a 2.75 GPA and realized afterwards that he wanted to be a physician. Listen to his journey and what he learned.
A couple of weeks ago who went through her undergrad as a premed with a 2.7 GPA and is now a first year medical student. This week, we have a very similar story of an undergrad with 2.75 GPA and is now a first year medical student.
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Now, let’s go back to our episode today as I talk to Michael.
[01:17] Meant to Be a Physician
Michael was out of college by the time he realized he wanted to be a physician. He was around 24-25 years old. But he has always been interested in nutrition and the health and performance aspects of physiology. He studied Biology in college and had some struggles.
When he got out of college, he started working as a trainor, thinking it was going to lead him to the path he wanted to take. But he started to question that path. At that time, he’d be working with clients who had a lot of medical problems. And he was struck by how little he knew and how little he was able to help them. He thought he had known so much. He had taken certification and studied biology in college. But he still realized how little he knew about the human body.
This was the first moment he thought he wanted something more intellectually. But he also wanted a career that was going to be centered around people. So he thought medicine may be right for him. But he was still hesitant at that time given the struggles he had back in college and having had poor grades. He wasn’t sure medicine was going to be available as option.
Michael studied science since that was what he found interesting in high school. However, he really didn’t have a plan. He had interests and hobbies but the academic part didn’t go the way that he had really planned.
So his thought process after college was just going back to what he was interested in and hoping he was going to find something that would push his interests further.
[04:20] Exploring the Medical Field
Michael explains that you can google any condition but these are very complex processes. He had a biology background and he understood how complex the body was. He was struck by how much he missed the academic studying part and how much there was still left for him to learn.
However, the thought of having those academic struggles held him back. He didn’t know where to go from there. But he knew working with these clients that he wasn’t as intellectually challenged.
He knew that if he were to extend and extrapolate such career into the future, it wasn’t going to provide him with the level of intellectual challenge that he wanted. That being said, he was enjoying the interactions he had with his clients which is why he found the job so much satisfying. But he also knew personal training was not in his future.
Then Michael had a client who was a PA, which was the first time he ever heard about. He assumed the entrance requirements to getting to PA school but he was wrong too.
So he thought he wanted to explore medicine. But since he didn’t have the grades to do it, he considered getting into PA school.
He also knew about a scribe job back in college. His mom was a nurse who worked at an emergency room that had scribes. So he applied to a scribe company and got the job. He thought if he could jump in there, then maybe somebody can give him the mentorship he needed at that time.
[09:30] The Biggest Mistake and Resources to Figure Things Out
Michael was in a Biology program as an undergrad, many of which were premed students. And was under the impression that if you weren’t a perfect student that there was no opportunities available to you. So he didn’t even ask the question oftentimes. He had a 2.7 GPA in college in the science curriculum so he just thought he had no other way in.
Even when he was already working in the emergency room, he wasn’t completely honest with the physicians and his co-workers. He was ashamed of it for having done so poorly. That was the mistake. Because it wasn’t until he started to open up that he got so much support from people. They were so encouraging about him to pursue it. But they were also so honest to him that he had to perform.
To figure out how to get things done, he did a lot of reading and research on the internet. He talked to physicians and scribes he was working with. He had several friends who went to medical school so he somehow had the general idea of what he needed to do. But he had no clue about DO grade replacement. Thankfully, he got it just before it ended.
So he did a lot of research on his own and formulated his own plan. Maybe not the smart thing to do, but he wanted to build some credibility before going to his advisor telling them he’s serious about it.
[11:05] Grade Replacement and Grade-Enhancing Formal Postbac
His total GPA when he applied to medical school had gone up by almost six-tenths, which is a big jump. He retook several classes.
Michael reckons that if he had to go through all this without any grade replacement now, he would almost have to do a formal postbac. Now he thinks he could have done this in the first place but he chose the grade replacement route anyway.
When he was looking at the process, the first thing he did was take the MCAT. He thought that if he took the test and did really well then it could boost his confidence. And it could allow him to apply to a grade-enhancing postbac program. And a lot of those programs require an MCAT score as a screening method to get in.
It’s actually confusing as to why postbac programs have this requirement. But Michael thinks maybe they want to know how competitive you are.
[15:14] Preparing for the MCAT, Staying Motivated, and Getting Support
So he decided to do the MCAT first. And without a solid foundation, he actually scored so high. He self-studied for it. He used a program on the Student Doctor Network, a four-month plan that you review, and Examkrackers.
He was already studying the content and he felt like there were concepts he was just learning the first time. So he took the time to really go back and understand the concepts. It was trial and error in terms of finding the strategies and the things he had to incorporate, which was a great learning experience for him.
To stay motivated the entire time, Michael made sure everybody around him knew what he was doing. He was very open about it and he was talking about the path and the struggles. Once he did this, other people started to open up too.
Secondly, he was just so motivated to prove himself to everyone around him who were surprised how he struggled so academically. He felt like if he could do well in the exam, that it was going to be the first step he needed to get the ball rolling.
Out of college, he was so ashamed he didn’t want to tell anybody about his poor academics. But he went through an evolution out of self-reflection and introspection. He tried to understand how he got to that point.
Michael adds that people are not going to talk about their struggles too unless you’re open about yours. So he took little steps. He began telling his friends and they were just so supportive.
[20:12] Community College vs. Four-Year University
Once he had the MCAT score, he started community college during the first semester. Then he decided to up the difficulty. He took biochemistry among other classes at a four-year university. Then he took a full boat of classes including retakes. He spent two years of classes after the MCAT. After finishing his do-it-yourself postbac, he applied in 2016.
I was asking Michael whether his ability ever came up considering he went to a community college after not doing well in a four-year university. He knew this could have been a red flag. But he clarified that he only took a couple classes during the first semester. The rest, he took at a four-university. And it would have been a different story if he had done all the retakes in a community college.
He actually went back to the same college he had issues before just to prove to himself that he could do it. He had to prove to himself that he had the ability. He wanted to make sure that if he got to medical school, there was no question or doubt that he belonged there academically.
[23:53] Struggles Through the Application: Personal Statement
Michael describes writing his personal statement was one of the biggest challenges. He felt he had done enough academically. He was wondering how he could tie in the fact that he was a 2.7 student and was able to get to 3.9 and a good MCAT score. He needed to explain it. He also knew he had to dig his past which he found uncomfortable.
This was the time I stepped in and worked with him. He describes how I grilled him but it was worth it. He said it made him so confident going into the process. He actually followed my advice to transcribe his thoughts. He felt weird at first. But I tell students to just let it go and don’t hold it back to try to make it sound perfect.
When you’re writing, you’re trying to put the best version of your own thoughts onto paper. But when you’re trying to dictate, you’re just word-vomiting and letting it go. Then try to find a little thread you can pull and follow them.
[26:15] Preparing for the Interview
While preparing for the interview, Michael accused me of grilling him. Kidding aside, he was most concerned about was when he was made to explain what happened in college. He thought that if he took the long route as to why he was doing medicine, he felt he came to it organically. He thought if he just told the story in terms of what he was interested in along with the anxieties, it would just come together. And it did.Again, he had to get to that point since it was initially difficult for him to tell that story.
Although this is something you could do on your own, Michael appreciates the importance of finding other people that you can tell your story to. You’re going to be applying and people are going to evaluate you on a piece of paper. So that needs to come through to them.
Michael stress the importance of having mock interviews and having them read your statement. It’s a great way to get the feedback you need to make sure you’re hitting on the emotional points and other things you need to be effective.
[30:05] Choosing Which Schools to Apply To and Transitioning to Medical School
Location is top of his list when it came to choosing which schools to apply to. He wanted to stay close to family and friends.
So he ended up applying solely to osteopathic schools, primarily because of their grade replacement. Secondly, he thinks there are a lot of things that overlap between his interests in prevention and nutrition with the osteopathic philosophy. And he felt comfortable with this. Last factor is the cost. He got two acceptances and the cost was the deciding factor in his decision.
Michael describes medical school as a whole different animal than undergrad. But it’s not that the contents are hard, but the volume of materials is just overwhelming. That being said, you have to have the discipline in how you approach things.
It’s been hard for Michael, but manageable. He’s still able to exercise, eat well, get sleep, and take care of himself. He credits this to all of those years he took to get to this place. All of those things were invaluable for him in preparation for where he is at now. To him, it was all worth the steps that he took.
[32:40] Time Management Tips
To manage his time, he likes doing the Pomodoro technique in terms of studying. People study for four or five hours but how much of that is spent sending text messages or doing other things.
Michael explains that what’s important is that the time you’re actually studying has to be for studying. You also have to be ruthless in moving past material.
I want to add to what Michael said about taking away distractions. Once you hear a buzz or a ding, it actually takes 20 minutes for your brain to get back to where you were pre-interruption.
Moreover, Michael is in a problem-based learning curriculum so he’s part of a group of students. In the group chat, they’d joke around because he’d be doing the 50/10 thing. So he’s studying for 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break.
[35:22] Final Words of Wisdom and What the Future Holds for Him
Michael’s advice to students who may be suffering from poor GPA but really want to become a doctor so they’re doing a postbac, is to rely on the support of students around you. You’re feeling the same stresses and the same obstacles.
Be ruthless in analyzing what’s holding you back. You can’t be afraid to really analyze what’s holding you back academically, for instance. You have to be honest about where you are falling short. Whether you need someone else to analyze what you’re doing and to help you, or you just do this yourself, you have to be objective about what’s working and not. People can throw at you so many techniques. At the end of the day, use what is useful for you and then discard what doesn’t work.
Currently, Michael is happy with the people he is with and with the problem-based learning they have at their school. So he’s just looking forward to continue to do well. He’s excited about everything and he feels really good about things.
[38:30 Prepare for the MCAT with Next Step Test Prep
Lastly, if you have an amazing story to share, or you know somebody who has a story to share, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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