First-Year Med Student, med_kat28, Talks about Her Journey

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Session 267

Katherine is a first-year med student and popular premed Instagrammer. We talk about her struggles, social media for premeds, and more. Take a listen & subscribe.

Find Katherine on Instagram @med_kat28 and engage with her. She has over 19,000 followers right now! Also check out @medicalschoolhq.

[02:00] Desire to Become a Physician

Katherine wanted to become a physician at 10, after having watched the House. And the idea just stuck with her. But looking back now, she can barely watch it realizing how ridiculous it was.

The defining year for her was during her junior year of high school. Her dad had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), which is basically a mini stroke. Being her first time witnessing an emergency, it was traumatizing for her. Later that year, she saw an open heart surgery for an anatomy class she took. And she loved it. In fact, she wrote her college essay on that open heart surgery. It took 7 hours and the entire time, she couldn’t take her eyes off the surgery. She thought it was the coolest thing she had ever seen.

Right after that, her dad had a surgery and two days after, he had a heart attack. He’s fine now though. But this was one of the first times that Katherine had a knowledge base and had an experience earlier with a TIA so she was able to handle this differently than the first time. She called 911 and was calm the whole time. But the only part she was not comfortable with having zero control over the situation. This is when she realized she wanted to be a doctor. She was 17 years old at that point.

[07:00] Telling Her Story in Her Personal Statement

In writing her personal statement,s he actually embraced this story. A good part of it was the defining moment when her dad had a heart attack. It was a crucial part of her story and so she had to tell it for them to know who she was.

Katherine noticed that most personal statements she has read were not really personal and it’s the same basic thing without any personal story to them. Ryan’s book on writing personal statements is going to be out soon so watch out for it.

[09:20] Choosing Her Schools

Not having great experience at high school, Katherine knew she was going out of state. She wanted to go to the University of Pittsburgh because of their neuroscience program. She knew she wanted to do something with neuroscience. But she did apply at random schools UConn was one of them. She got in and got a scholarship. Ultimately, she fell in love with the school. Katherine says that money actually is more important than the name of the school. She adds that you want to feel home in college.

Many students look at the prestige so they think they need to go to a more prestigious institution. What Ryan tells students too is to go wherever you want to go. Katherine adds to go where you’re going to be happy, otherwise you’re not going to do well.

[12:20] Dealing with Premed and Application Struggles

Katherine was dealing with the pressure of it with so many things to do. But what she loves about medical school is a lot less pressure because you’re already in med school. Whereas being a premed, you have to be a volunteer and join clubs and be in leadership positions, research, do well in school and so on. So she had to get all of that without being overly stressed.

Katherine was very involved with their premed society and so she got a lot of help from it in terms of seeking out resources. She admits being horrible at seeking out help for figuring things out.

And considering the premed could be a cutthroat environment, it’s about finding the right people. Another good thing probably is that majority of her friends were not premed so she never really experienced the cutthroat environment.

When she was applying to medical school, the hardest thing for her was the waiting game. She was done by July, there was nothing much to do but just waiting and hoping to get an interview and get into a school. She got four interviews and went to three. She turned down one since they had compulsory research which she didn’t want to do. She also got wait-listed in the two schools. So the five-month period was hard for her.

From not being her first choice of school to now being happy with where she ended up, she went back to the school for a second look day. And she found everybody was so welcoming and helpful. She realized it was the environment she wanted to be in. People would stop her in a hallway and give her tips.

[18:55] Transition Into Being a Medical Student: Figuring Out Studying Techniques

For Katherine, she has been struggling with her transition since she has to overcome some habits she has had from undergrad. One of them is figuring out how to study. Studying in medical school is completely different in undergrad because of the sheer volume you get in medical school.


Also, she had to get out of the habit of not asking people for help. She has been trying to not continue to do this. For instance, she struggled at one class and realized she needed to talk to the dean, who was a “mom” at their school. She adds that it’s not having to be smart at medical school but it’s all about the work that you put into it. The problem is either mental health or studying habits, but it’s not that you’re not smart enough. She knew it was just her studying technique that was not working. The way she was learning was just not compatible with her brain.

Their school supports their students. They have educational specialists come in and give them an outline of things to work on. Katherine recommends taking a step back and looking at it from an objective standpoint. What are you doing? What are the habits? What could change? So just being able to recognize is the first step. Then take that to somebody else who could help you and who knows more about this than you do.

Being in social media, Katherine doesn’t really think this affects the way she studies. So she intends to not make it a distraction and she just puts it away. Good thing, she’s able to handle it well. Ryan adds that there’s study that shows that the it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get back to the level of focus you had before the distraction.

[25:00] How to Stay Motivated

Katherine says she’s not always motivated. She worked a desk job full time over the summer. And she didn’t like the job. It doesn’t mean she should stop showing up. You just have to go and do it. So when she’s not motivated, she gets out of bed. She turns off the TV and study. She says you don’t have to be motivated to do something, you just do it.

For instance, if she’s been studying for several hours, and she feels she’s not motivated, sometimes she will take it as a sign that she needs a break.

Ryan adds a quote on motivation, where you don’t smile because you’re happy, you’re happy because you smile. So you’re not always going to have the motivation. But once you take that first step and go and study even if you’re not motivated, you hopefully get more momentum. You get a little bit more motivated to continue down that path.

Katherine’s strategy is if she doesn’t feel motivated, she will try to study one lecture that she felt was really interesting and then it would help her get into the groove. Ryan also shares this fun exercise. Do one push up. And if you’re already down, there, you’re not going to do just one and you’re going to do a couple, So if you’re stuck in the motivation thing, just do one and you’ll find you would want to do a couple more and you’re good.

[28:33] What If You’re Not Doing Well in School?

Motivation and doing well kind of go hand in hand. You feel super happy and extra motivated if you’re doing well. But if you’re not doing well in the class, Katherine’s advice is to not give up. A C is not the end of the world. You will eventually be taking higher level science classes and that’s where you can make up for it.

Katherine got a Cumulative GPA of 3.48 and his science was a 3.4. A lot of students may think to take a postbac when they get this but Katherine didn’t even consider this. Ryan advises students to let the medical schools tell you no. You can’t assume that you’re not going to get in.

Additionally, Katherine hates the tier system of medical schools since it says nothing about the school. It’s based on research and people don’t realize it based on how much they publish. The same thing with that stigma of going to DO school. There’s no problem with it since you’re going to be a doctor anyway.

[31:45] The Tiered System

Ryan explains the tier system is a premed thing. Everything is anecdotal once you’re in medical school. You can’t prove anything from where somebody went to school. They have to still work their butt off to get great grades and be AOA and get great board scores. And you can do that at any school.

And Katherine proudly says that the quality of education at her “low tiered” school is just as good as it’s going to be at Harvard. In fact, one of their deans wrote Step 2 CS. So just because they’re ranked doesn’t mean it says about the quality of education as well as the matching. Residencies are objective too so there are so many factors to it than just name.

[33:55] You’re Don’t Have to Be Perfect

Katherine considers that the biggest myth around being a premed and getting into medical school is the idea that you have to be perfect. Do things you love to do. Don’t just sacrifice something just because you don’t have the time for it.

The best premed extracurricular Katherine did was field hockey during her junior year. And she did it for her own enjoyment. This actually came up in one of her interviews. One of the three was a traditional interview while the rest are MMIs. For the traditional one, the things the interviewer asked her was about the non medical stuff on her application.

Katherine had a job for three years before starting medical school. She was doing tech support. So you don’t have to have a job in the medical field.

[36:30] The Role of Social Media

Katherine says that keeping a social media account in terms of journaling your journey could be a lot of hard work. If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. But if you have the heart and you’re willing to put your soul into it, then do it.

There’s this crap talking about Instagrammers saying that you do posts to get sponsorships. But Katherine only does it for the things she believes in. And she doesn’t get paid. She only gets the product for free.  So this should not be your reasons for doing social media.

Through social media, Katherine has had the opportunity to engage with other people and being able to share more with more people. She’s able to share her wisdom which she loves doing.

Finally, Katherine recommends to students who are interested in this premed  journey to get more experience in the field. In the end, it’s worth it. Don’t talk yourself out of anything. Just never give up and just do it.


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