Instagram Q&A: Deferring, Nursing Majors, LORs and More!

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Session 305

I had so much fun the last time we did an Instagram Q&A, that I decided to bring it back! We had a ton of great questions, and hopefully some good answers!

And if you’re looking for more resources to help you on your medical school journey, check out MedEd Media Network to listen to all our other episodes. Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A follows a question and answer format taken from Facebook Live and I’m trying to figure out where I can use these IG Q&As and integrate those into this podcast.

The OldPreMeds Podcast is another Q&A type of podcast for nontrad premeds where the questions are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum.

The MCAT Podcast is something I do with Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep). If you’re looking to get into the MCAT and getting study materials, tutoring, or an MCAT course, check them out and use the promo code MSHQ to save some money.

Specialty Stories is an interview type podcast where we feature physicians from every specialty to help you give an idea of specialties are currently available.

New podcasts coming up! Stay tuned for the Step 1 / Level 1 podcast for medical students. So here, we’re taking you from your premed to your med school years. Plus, another MCAT-related podcast that we will be releasing soon.

So this week, we’re bringing in questions from Instagram. And if you haven’t yet, follow me on Instagram @medicalschoolhq or send me an email at

[04:27] MCAT Questions

Q: Where can I find a good source of practice questions for the MCAT?

A: Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) is where you want to go. They have QBanks and full-length exams. In fact, the feedback I usually get from students is that it’s the second best, next to the AAMC materials. Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!

Q: When should I take the MCAT? Junior year?

A: Taking the MCAT is a tricky proposition. It’s usually the year before you plan to start med school. Ideally, you take it in March or April of the year you’re going to apply so you have enough time to get your score back then you know what you’re applying with. Taking it later may delay your application and may ruin your chances of getting in because you didn’t get the score you want. So this is usually the year before you start medical school.

[06:20] Keeping in the Know

Q: If you could tell a student to research one current health topic or interviews, what would it be?

A: You need to be aware of everything that’s going on. You need to be aware of what’s going on right now with Judge Kavanaugh and his nomination for the Supreme Court because that affects Roe v Wade and abortion. You need to be aware of what’s going on with euthanasia and marijuana laws. The student in California was just allowed to go to school with epilepsy with her marijuana. So you need to know it all.

[Tweet “”I wouldn’t recommend just knowing one thing. I would recommend knowing it all. So stay in contact with all of the news sites with what’s going on in the world.””]

[07:12] Reaching Out to Medical Schools

Q: Tips on reaching out, making connection with schools before one applies in May?

A: Reach out to med schools before you apply. However, don’t reach out with stupid questions but with thoughtful things. Tell them who you are and ask them what they think. Make sure you have a thought-out question and ask for a specific advice on something. Reaching out to med schools is very important. Don’t do it after you’ve applied as it may be a bit too late. Really be thoughtful and reach out to schools you want to go to, especially if you’re struggling with something. Ask them what they recommend to help you become more competitive at their school.

[Tweet “”Reach out to med schools before you apply.””]

[08:20] A Question on Self-Awareness

Q: At what point do I have to realize that premed is not for me if I can’t do well in 100 level classes?

A: The question is why are you not doing well? Are you doing poorly because you’re not studying properly? Or because you’re bored or because you don’t like it? You have to figure out what is the problem and from that point forward, figure out if this is something you still want to do. If this is what you want to do, you figure it out. Ask for help. Get a tutor. Exhaust all of your resources – again, only if this is what you want to do. If you’re not sure, then move on.

[09:14] Don’t Play It Safe

Q: What are your thoughts on taking bio electives that interest me vs. not risking taking a hit to the science GPA?

A: Take the classes that you enjoy and do well in them. If you do poorly in them, then it’s going to obviously take a hit to your science GPA. But take the classes you want to hear and don’t play it safe.

[09:40] Different Kinds of Curriculum

Q: Please go over the different kinds of curriculum.

A: When it comes to medical school curriculums, there’s the traditional curriculum, which is all of the individual courses. There’s also the systems-based curriculum where you learn the cardiovascular system and anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology – all in one. Or there are problem-based learnings and lots of other curriculums. So just go out there and look at the different schools you’re interested in to see what kind of curriculums they have.

[10:20] Letters of Recommendation

Q: How early should you request a letter of recommendation? For example, I asked a professor last semester and they want to send in through TMDSAS or AMCAS, but you’re not applying until 2019. What do you do with those letters of recommendation that you get early? I don’t trust to wait until the application season opens. They act like they don’t want to hand you the letter of recommendation personally.

A: You can’t ask for a letter of recommendation too early especially if they’re going to send it in directly to the application services. You can only send to the application services the year you’re applying. You can use a service like Interfolio and have the letter stored there. But it’s always ideal to have those letters dated the year that you’re applying. So talk to the professor and let him/her know that you’re going to want a letter of recommendation and you stay in touch with them. Keep them updated on what you’re doing. Then when you’re ready, ask for that letter.

[Tweet “”You can’t ask for a letter of recommendation too early especially if they’re going to send it in directly to the application services.””]

[11:30] Secondary Applications

Q: More detailed advice for secondary applications?

A: Secondary applications are pretty easy. You just have to answer the question being asked of you. There’s a lot of questions and essays to write, but just answer the question and don’t overthink it.

[12:00] Prereqs, Deferring a Year, and Favorite Color

Q: How hard would medical school prereqs be coming from a recently graduated nursing degree?

A: It all depends on who you are. Every student is going to be different. Your prereqs are going to be different. It just depends on your level of comfort with those science classes and how well you did in your nursing degree to determine how well you’re going to do in your prereqs.

Q: What do medical schools think about deferring for a year?

A: Every school is going to be different, you just have to have a good reason why.

Q: What’s your favorite color?

A: My favorite color is blue. What’s yours?

[13:00] Medical Assisting: Shadowing or Clinical Experience?

Q: Is a medical assisting a good job for a gap year and doesn’t count as shadowing hours?

A: Medical assisting does not count as shadowing hours. While you are working, you may potentially get shadowing hours in there. But the actual work of medical assisting is a clinical experience. And yes, it’s a great job!

[13:20] Chronic Illnesses and Disability

Q: For someone with chronic illness who’s applying to med school, how should they approach this topic in their applications?

A: Avoid talking about it as much as possible. You don’t want to give medical schools any easy reason to automatically reject you to put your application in the “do not interview” pile. So tread lightly.

[13:50] Personal Statement

Q: What do I do if I feel like I don’t have a compelling story for my personal statement?

A: Step one, go buy The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement and get that out of your head that you don’t have a compelling story. Because ultimately, your job is to not have a compelling story, but just to talk about why you want to be a physician.

[Tweet “”Your job is to not have a compelling story, but just to talk about why you want to be a physician.””]

[14:25] Long Undergrad Years

Q: Does it matter if you graduate in more than four years and how to make up for that?

A: There’s really nothing to make up for. Take as much time as you want and need. There is no right answer to how long it takes to finish your undergrad.


MedEd Media Network

OldPreMeds Podcast

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A

Nontrad Premed Forum

The MCAT Podcast

Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!

Specialty Stories

Follow me on Instagram @medicalschoolhq


The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview

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