Jackie is @jackieplans on Instagram. She has a following watching her journey through medical school as she creates beautiful notes that you can buy.
So we actually did an Instagram Live but I decided to put this here on the podcast. We talked about everything from her journey to premed, her struggles, financial concerns, doing the FAP and getting it when she doesn’t have a relationship with her parents. For some reason, even if you’re already 40 years old or married and have kids, the FAP still requires your parents’ financial statements. She also talks about the process so you won’t have to go through that.
We’re also answering some questions from the audience.
[03:50] Who is Jackie?
Jackie is a second-year medical student at UC San Diego. She started out at a community college and then did two years at UC Irvine. She took a gap year and worked multiple jobs.
[05:12] The Story Behind Her IG Account
Jackie has always had a planner, needing to see her life on paper to get anything done. So she got into a bullet journaling. It started as a way to show her artsy stuff and it grew from there. Then she began writing her notes the way she likes to make them and sharing those. Recently, she’s selling them too.
[07:33] What Are Your Chances?
“I didn’t do well in my prereqs courses because I wasn’t studying and trying like I should have. I took Orgo 4 times. I didn’t finish my prereqs and I’m about to graduate. I have evaluated what I did wrong and I still really want to become a doctor. Do you think I still have a chance?”
Jackie says she got a C in Physics. Then she got a B and an A as the quarters went on. So she showed improvement and managed to get into medical school.
Kain, a 43-year-old medical student now, went to undergrad many years ago and was academically dismissed. He thought school wasn’t for him and he went on his life and ended up having some life experiences that made him reevaluate what he wanted to do. He decided that he wanted and needed to become a physician. He explored the idea and was told to be too old or not smart enough.
So he started back at a community college, taking classes with his son until working his way up to a four-year university and eventually, medical school. He’s now at the University of Florida as a third-year student.
Therefore, you always have a chance to get into medical school. It may take some time. or you may have to take a lot of classes. You may even have to go to the Caribbean.
[11:15] Jackie’s Medical Application Process
She decided to wait until she graduated to apply, knowing she was going to take one gap year because she wasn’t ready yet. She has not taken the MCAT yet and she had a paper she was working on that was nearing publication. Then based on her MCAT score, she picked where to apply. She started working on it before the application cycle opened so she could apply right when it opened. This made her less anxious going through the process knowing she’s done it as soon as she could.
She then started working on her secondaries as soon as she had submitted. She has prewritten those that were generic and she knew would come up so she could turn them around quickly and get them in. She picked out schools from a broad range of places and not get just get set into one particular place. This being said, location wasn’t so important to her. She’s from Southern California but she’s willing to go wherever.
Picking out schools based on your MCAT score is something I actually discourage students from doing. Although it’s one of the more popular ways to pick out schools, instead of looking at the MSAR because it’s discouraging for students who may be a few points below the median. When that median just tells you that half of the students are below that score. Hence, I highly discourage people from doing it because they may be leaving off schools that are looking for something specific that one student has in their application. Moreover, applying broadly is a really good, smart thing to do.
[15:33] The Hardest Thing About the Application Process
The hardest thing about the application process for Jackie was being patient. She used AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program but she didn’t have a relationship with her parents. So she had to have a doctor, a therapist, and a third party in her life – all write letter – so she can be emancipated (even though she’s married and they paid for school without her parents’ help). So this was very frustrating for her. When she started medical school, she was worried she’d have to do it again. She talked to the Financial Aid Office they got the stuff from the AAMC and so she never had to look at the FAP stuff again. Nevertheless, this was the worst part for her.
The FAP is so time-consuming and such a headache and they only have a limited amount of funds every year. If you’re taking the time to gather all this paperwork, you may apply and they won’t have any left for you. Luckily, this didn’t happen to Jackie. Once she got it, it was all good.
[17:25] Getting Letters of Recommendation
“As a transfer from community college to university, should we have a LOR for both sides or is it okay to have most of them from a community college?
Jackie got one from community college because she had a good relationship with the teacher and she felt like she knew her. The rest came from a different school where she did her research fellowship and a job that turned into a publication.
She had the teacher from the community college write her letters for scholarships in the past while she was still in community college and was transferring. At that time, she asked her if she could ask her for another one in the future when it’s time for medical school and she was okay with it. So she reached back out to her and got it.
You really need to set that expectation. At the beginning of your Physics class or whatever it is, set that expectation from the beginning. Tell the teacher you’re taking their class and you’re hopefully going to ask them for a letter of recommendation. Then you also show up everyday. You’ve already introduced yourself and know you. They’re expecting you to ask for a letter. This makes it much easier to ask for one at the end of the semester.
[20:00] Plans for the Future
Jackie is keeping an open mind although she likes surgery and peds. During her gap year, she worked as a scribe in a pediatric ENT office, which she liked very much. That said, ENT is where she might just end up.
Jackie points out that sometimes when you have a really good mentor, you also feel like going through the same path. But you’ve still got to keep an open mind. In the same manner, a lot of students look at match list for school and look at which is high for a certain specialty. So it kind of pushes students towards that one thing. And if there’s that one really good teacher in that school, then it’s drawing students to that specialty because there’s one awesome personality out there that everybody wants to emulate.
There are so many different things that are causing people to apply to the specialties. Just because Ortho matches high every year doesn’t mean that the school is particularly preparing students well to match in Ortho. There’s just some other stuff out there that are doing that.
[22:11] Planner Apps
Jackie uses the pen and paper for writing stuff as well as Google Keep, where you can put in little pictures and write notes and make a to-do list. She has this synced to her phone and her computer when she’s on the go. She puts in notes to herself on her phone and it will pop up on her computer.
[22:50] Reading LOR and About the Fee Assitance Program
Reading the LOR is a no-no before sending it to the AAMC or TMDSAS. You’re not allowed to and not supposed to.
If you run out of money during the application process, you can apply for the Fee Assistance Program through the AAMC. You get MCAT at half price and some of the MCAT material for free. And one fee for the application where you get to apply to 15 schools. Plus, most schools will waive your secondary or some give discounts at $150. Jackie says it was easy since you only had to forward to them the FAP email when asked for verification
[25:50] The Interview Process
Jackie got two interviews, both in California. She got 516 on the MCAT and her GPA was around 3.85. Anyway, the reason she thinks she only got two interviews because she was just picking schools based on stats alone and not really looking deeper. Again, there are so many variables that go into the application. Nevertheless, Jackie had a ton of research and volunteering. But her clinical experience was lacking. Hence, she decided to work as a scribe during her gap year to give her something to talk about during those interviews. She worked as a scribe at the children’s hospital at a county and at Disneyland!
[28:07] Plan the Finances Around Your Application
It’s important to plan your application so you don’t run out of money. I actually made this calculator to show students how expensive it is to apply to medical school, FAP or not -since FAP is not helping with travel which is something to consider, as well as hotels, buying a suit, deposits, etc. So a lot of students play this credit card game but it’s a dangerous game to play. But they need it just to get through that process. Use the calculator and just estimate and start saving.
[29:20] Extracurricular Activities
Jackie spent four years working on nonprofit that set up surgery and specialty procedures for uninsured and underinsured people. This was her biggest and where she spent the most time. This was also where she thought she got the most benefit. She also ran their social media as well as the free clinic at UCSD.
[30:35] The Process for Getting Financial Aid
Knowing she didn’t have any familial support of any kind, and as soon as she knew where she was going, she got in touch with a financial aid office and laid it out for them. They had a fair number of grants and the rest was loans. They have been great at helping her navigate the process and helping to minimize the amount of debt she will have at the end of this.
Check out The White Coat Investor, which is a great resource for students to help them with planning their finances.
[33:05] What is a Nontrad?
Anybody who has done anything different than a traditional student of going high school to a four-year university right into medical school. This is the technical definition.
This could be someone who purposefully took a gap year so they could study for the MCAT on your time and not be worried about classes and application process all at the same time. This is a smart thing to do actually.
[33:50] When to Apply for the FAP
Jackie took her MCAT the summer between her 3rd and 4th year and her mother-in-law paid for it as a present. So she didn’t use the assistance program for that, also, because she didn’t know it was included. She applied for fee assistance during Winter (Jan-Mar) when she knew she’d be applying by June.
According to the AAMC, if you’re application is approved anywhere between January and December, you’re good until December of the following year.
[35:10] Finances Covering Step Materials
Also, the cost never ends. As a premed, you’d have to prepare for the MCAT and all the prep material. Then when you’re in medical school, the tests keep coming. Step 1 or the boards for the allopathic schools and Level 1 for osteopathic schools. Jackie’s school only covers one practice exam for Step. That being said, they have reps giving them giveaway prep materials. Other than that, you’d have to buy them. They also have group discounts.
She has maxed out on her resources because there were so many different things being thrown at them everyday. So she’s resisting to buy every type of material. In addition, they have a lending library in their student lounge where all the 2nd-4th-year students leave their old books there.
Ultimately, it’s worth it if this is what you want. But what this really comes down to, is are you really sure this is what you want?
[39:25] Clinical Experience and Best Age to Start Medical School
If you’re working as a phlebotomist to pay for school, yes, medical schools count this a clinical experience. Jackie’s bulk of her clinical experience came from scribing.
In terms of age range, their school’s average was 23, but some of her classmates are in their 30s. It’s a wide range actually. Some of them already have kids or went and did PhDs and other work and came back. So there is no one best age. Just jump in!
[41:30] How to Relax During Medical School
Jackie reads something nonmedical every morning at 630 am. Then she sits on the bed for 15 minutes to read a chapter of a book while drinking her coffee. Their classes usually start at 8 so it gives her enough time to wake up and get ready for school. She also takes her dog for a couple of walks everyday.
[42:50] Jackie’s Typical Week
Their schedule changes but they would usually have lectures on weekdays from 8-12. Then they have the practice of medicine one day a week in the afternoons. She’s also involved in the free clinic, where she runs two clinics. She’s also in the process of handing this off to the first year students. Additionally, they do apprenticeship where they set you up with one doctor for the first two years and you go every other week to see patients. Jackie was assigned to a pediatric endocrinologist’s office. If she doesn’t have a class in the afternoon, she goes there. And one or two afternoon or nights a week, she does more clinical stuff. She loves this as this makes her want to study. In the afternoons, she comes home to take care of the dog and study.
[44:44] Writing Notes
Jackie writes her beautiful notes during class because she learns better by writing. She also had a professor at the community college who taught them how to filter things out and only write down what was really important. So doing it in real time helps her not get overwhelmed.
Additionally, there’s so much information out there about actually physically writing your notes versus typing on a computer. We highly encourage students to physically write notes. All their lectures are podcasts but she prefers to be in class and spread her pens out everywhere. All their lectures are podcasts but she prefers to be in class and spread her pens out everywhere.
[46:25] Most Memorable Experience in First Year
Jackie watched a kidney transplant during her first year. She saw the harvest from a living donor, which was something cool.
[47:25] Pre-Studying before Lectures
Jackie strolls through her lectures the night before. She read somewhere that the way she was studying wasn’t working. So she spent five minutes scrolling through and come up with five questions that she wanted to be answered during the lecture. But she dropped this real quick because she didn’t feel like it was paying off. So now she scrolls through what’s coming and this helps her space her notes.
Making those notes actually helps her concentrate. There’s actually even a study about doodling your notes, which is actually now becoming a popular thing. When you’re doodling, you’re writing words and drawing pictures describing situations. This seems to help a lot more. Doodling is just like storytelling just in picture form.
[49:50] Studying for the Step 1
Jackie picked out the end of April for her Step 1. They have from the end of March through the first week of May. This has been set by their school. She’s planning to take it ten days early so she can have a break. As of now, she’s been just studying stuff they’ve covered so far. So she’s just trying to learn well during the blocks, the first time through, so there would be less to review.
[51:27] Describing Medical School and Family Support
Jackie would describe medical school as like high school. The class has 134 students, all of them with big backpacks, moving from one classroom to another. She finds the intermingling fun! She’s part of the group, the called the Married Ladies Club – though they’re not all married.
Jackie gives a shoutout to her husband for helping her out with everything. She takes care of everything around the house and through the tough times whenever she’s being cranky and neurotic about things.
[53:45] Jackie’s Final Words of Wisdom
The only way through it is to just keep doing it. Therapy is great, too. The only person you can limit what we do is ourselves.
[56:10] Join Our Scholarship!
In October, we launched a scholarship through an essay contest. Find all the information on the website. This is open to all premeds in the United States only. The deadline is December 31st so there is no need to rush. This will happen every quarter where we will have new topics and you have the ability to enter the contest to win some money. The first place is $2000, second place is $750 and third place is $250. Follow me on @medicalschoolhq. If we get above 10k followers on Instagram by the deadline, I will double the scholarship for the first quarter.
Follow me on @medicalschoolhq
Follow Jackie @jackieplans on Instagram.
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