I reached out to our amazing premed community in the Premed Hangout Facebook Group and got on the phone with several of them to answer their questions. What you’re about to hear here are recordings with the premed students.
Please also follow us on Instagram @medicalschoolhq. I’m trying to get 10,000 followers. I’m at almost 8,300. We’re trying to see if I can get to 10,000 by December 31, 2018, This is the deadline for our first quarterly scholarship essay contest, where the winner gets $2,000. Second place gets $750, and third place gets $250. Now, if we can hit 10,000 followers by the deadline, I would double that scholarship entry.
[02:22] Telling Your Story in an Interview
Q: It’s good to be unique in an interview but how “out there” is too out there? Can you be that liberal with jokes in an interview?
A: I would not try to joke in an interview because you have no idea how it’s going to be received. So completely avoid it at all cost. You really just have to tell your story. If the question came up like what’s something that people don’t know about you, then you could work in a story somehow but avoid the joking part of it.
[04:33] A Bad Semester
Q: I had a really bad semester this semester and I’m kind of a nontraditional student starting over. And I’m wondering, is it better to just move on or should I be retaking classes? (Two Cs in Statistics and Chem)
A: You don’t go on typically and take higher level Statistics. But for Chemistry, you’re going to have to take higher level courses. The question is whether you understood the material and didn’t test well, or you didn’t understand the material enough to move on to a higher level course. If it’s the latter, then don’t retake it. Especially for DO schools with grade replacement going away, retaking the course doesn’t really do anything to the original course. It’s still going to be there. Grades are going to be average no matter what. So retaking it isn’t going to make a difference other than on your application, it’s going to be marked as a repeat course so that the admissions committee can see the difference. But I don’t think a C in one chemistry class is going to kill you. Just make sure you don’t make it a habit. Again, there is no grade replacement anywhere, anytime. Texas application has the Texas Academic Fresh Start Program but this is only specific to Texas medical schools.
[07:10] The Best Clinical Experience
Q: I’m trying to get clinical experience in for my medical school application. I was wondering if scribing is the best option or do medical schools doesn’t necessarily care about what clinical experience you get?
A: Technically, there isn’t the best option. Scribing in some admissions committee’s minds isn’t clinical experience, although the majority of schools out there would consider it. As a student, don’t bother figuring out which ones consider it clinical and which ones don’t. It’s just what it is. You’re not going to please every school or admissions committee with everything you’re doing. The best one is the one that you enjoy the most, the one that you’re going to take away the most from. It’s the one that you’re going to be the most passionate writing about and talking about in your interviews.
[08:27] Not Taking a Gap Year
Q: How do I better prepare myself in my application so as not to take a gap year? I’m a sophomore in college and I’m trying to plan it out so I would have enough experiences and all of my prerequisites done, and all of my shadowing done so that I would be able to apply to medical school right away. Right now, there’s a big tendency for people to take gap years but for me, it works out better if I don’t. Speaking from a financial point of view, I don’t have to pay back loans unless I’m working full-time. But from the community I come from, they all push toward not taking a gap year. I’m not burned out or anything like that so I don’t mind starting medical school right away.
A: Most students still go right into medical school from undergrad. It’s still the norm to go straight through. Although the age is creeping up and gap years are becoming more and more common. So in order to prepare to not take a gap year, do exactly everything you’re doing. Get prereqs in. Understand that preparing for the MCAT while you’re taking classes, while also potentially preparing your application is going to be a super crazy busy semester. You just deal with it. But the fact you’re already thinking in advance as a sophomore means that you’re more thane likely going to be fine since you’re planning for it so far in advance.
There are a lot of variables and small pieces to the puzzle when it comes to the application. When you’re done with your shadowing, make sure you’re not racking up 50-100 hours of shadowing by the end of your sophomore year and then you’re done with that and you can now focus on another thing.
[11:04] Ideal Number of Hours for Clinical Experience and Shadowing
Q: Coming from as a student who used to be a pre-PA kid, I used to have this mentality that I have to grab a certain number of clinical hours and volunteer experience. For medical schools, is there a certain amount of hours that I need to do volunteering versus actually having a health care job? Is it better to volunteer or to actually have a job? Or do medical schools even care about that?
A: Pre-PA is much different than medical school. For pre-PA, the emphasis on clinical experience is huge. You need a thousand plus hours for clinical experience and for most people, that means having a job. But for medical school, 100-200 hours is already plenty. It could be a job or volunteering, it doesn’t necessarily matter what it is as long as you’re getting it.
[13:17] Endurance Training for the MCAT
Q: How to better prepare for endurance for the MCAT? I’m starting MCAT prep this winter break. And after taking my first really long test for the EMT certification exam, I found out that I don’t have as much endurance that I thought I’d get in test-taking. So how do I build that up?
A: In marathons, you train. How you prepare for the MCAT is that you sit down and you take lots of full-length practice exams to prepare your body for sitting there. The AAMC has three scored full-length exams and one unscored. Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep) has ten full-length exams so you can do this as well. 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)!
[14:55] Pregnant During Interview
Q: For nontrad women who are thinking about having children before they start medical school. What would they think about being pregnant during interviews?
A: If a medical school is going to judge you on being a female and wanting a family and being pregnant, they suck as a school anyway. But in reality, they could potentially see that as a hindrance and getting in the way of your education as kids can definitely do that. So ask yourself, is it worth the potential of the repercussions of being pregnant? Or would you plan it as strategically as possible to only be 10-12 weeks pregnant during the later part of the interview season so that you have most of your interviews before it starts showing?
[17:15] Shadowing in a Military Medical Facility
Q: I work at a military medical center. I’ve worked here for five years. Now, I’m doing shadowing during lunch break, for example, I’d go to some of the docs. Since I also look to shadow in some civilian facilities because they are run very differently in a lot of ways…
A: Should you go out to the civilian world and shadow? I don’t think you need to. For the purposes of medical school, you are being around patients and physicians. You’re seeing what that interaction is like. Yes, it’s in the military setting but that’s okay.
[18:55] Study Strategies
Q: I’m a nontraditional student. I graduated from college with a degree in Biology in 2011. And then I graduated with a degree in Nutrition in 2014. I just took a look at my prerequisites and finished Physics this semester. I’m focusing on studying for the MCAT and take it on March 15. Do you have any suggestion for people who are so far out from their core classes?
A: Study strategy is so specific to every student. The way one student studies best is different in perception that another student studies. Because the MCAT requires you to have a base level of knowledge. Even though the test is more on critical thinking and analysis), you still have to know that content. For somebody like you who had that content so long ago, make sure you’re planning in and scheduling in more than average content review before you start diving into a lot of the QBanks and full-length exams. Make sure you go back and reteach yourself a lot of the core knowledge you’re going to have to have.
[21:18] Taking a Diagnostic Test
Q: Some of the guests on your show have suggested taking a diagnostic before you start your study process, the time I have from how long it’s been, do you think it’s fair to give myself a chance a full review of the content before? At least I want to make it through all the material before I take my first diagnostic.
A: Take the diagnostic. Just bite the bullet and take it. Understand the score you’re going to get probably isn’t going to be super reflective on your knowledge or your ability to score well on the real thing.
[22:12] Research Prior and During the Application Process
Q: I haven’t ever applied to med school before and so I’m not totally sure what I’ll encounter once I start working on my actual application through AAMC. But I do read a lot about what you’re doing for research and about just reflecting your research to different schools. I’m in the process of basically applying to a research study through my work. I’ve had this study approved by my institution and right now, I’m in the process of applying for IRB and tribal review board approval. And so I’m expecting that when I apply at the beginning of the cycle in June, that will probably be at best, may have just been approved and I’ll be starting the research process. But then hopefully when I actually interview, I’ll be in the progress of research but I won’t actually have anything published or completed. Is that something I can still mention? Is there a room for that?
A: The application is not only what you’ve done but a lot of what you’re planning on doing as well. As long as you have started the process, put it on there. The end date for the activities, you can put out until the anticipated start date of medical school. It’s typically a year and three months or so that you can work your way out towards and work those hours in. The fact that you’ve gone through the process and you’ve had an approved IRB hopefully, shows that you’re working toward this and just talk about what you’re hoping to do. In the future, as you’re going through the application process, you can potentially send some update and update letter to show where you are in the process.
[24:45] Canadian Applying to U.S. Medical School
Q: I’m a Canadian applicant and I was looking into some American med schools. What’s the main thing you would suggest for a Canadian applicant looking to apply to America?
A: As a Canadian applicant applying to U.S. medical schools, the biggest question I’m asked is what medical schools are the most Canadian friendly. It may change from year to year but the only school I know is Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. They actually hold 25 seats for Canadian students (the last time I looked) because they have a relationship with Canada and the Osteopathic Society in Canada to try to boost osteopathic medicine in Canada. But any medical school, potentially, where you have significant ties may be Canadian-friendly. Last year, one Canadian student applied to the University of Kentucky, a public state school where one would assume she wouldn’t have any chance. But when they asked why she’s applying to them, she answered her uncle lives in Kentucky, and as a family, they go and visit Kentucky every year. And she was invited for an interview. She obviously has great stats but because she had ties to the state, she was granted an interview. She got 3-4 interviews in the U.S. and is now at a U.S. medical school.
So just do your homework and see which ones explicitly won’t take Canadian students. Looking at the MSAR helps because it shows you how many international students apply and how many were interviewed. Schools may say that they accept Canadian students but then when you look at how many they interviewed, it’s zero. Some schools may consider Canadian students out of state applicants and not international applicants.
[27:35] Researching for Schools to Apply To
Q: I’m looking to apply in next year’s cycle. When should I start my research into looking at schools? Right now or during Christmas break?
A: It doesn’t hurt to start now if you have time. There’s a lot that goes into the application to be able to apply on time, right around the beginning of June – your personal statement, extracurriculars, and all that fun stuff, and MCAT if you haven’t already taken it. School list for students I’m working within the states is one of the last things we work on because it’s really not that important. But for you, as you’re trying to figure out what schools will actually take a look at your application as a Canadian applicant, there’s no harm in starting to research now and just chip away at it as you go.
[28:23] U.S. Graduates Coming Back to Canada
Q: I hear some people say that it’s needed to come back to Canada and I hear people say the opposite. So is it harder for a U.S. medical student to come back to Canada if you’re from Canada?
A: I don’t know enough about the Canadian medical system post-medical school. Whether they consider U.S.-trained MD international medical graduates. I think they do. But I will put a big asterisk on this.
[29:35] What’s a Good MCAT Score
Q: What’s a good score for the MCAT?
A: The average MCAT score for matriculants, the newest data updated in November 2018 is a 511. If you’re a Canadian looking to go to a Canadian medical school, you know that CARS is a huge section for Canadian medical schools and they want to see 130-131 in the CARS section and “ignore” the other stuff, although since you’re already doing well in your CARS, you’re probably doing well in the other sections as well.
[30:29] Competitive GPA Scores
Q: American schools have that BPCM GPA, like the science GPA. I calculated my GPA at 3.7 and science was about 3.5. Is that a competitive GPA?
A: That’s about average. A competitive GPA is at 3.8 plus. But the application is much more than stats. As long as you can get over the thresholds that schools have, and you end up on the desk of somebody reviewing your application, as long as you have good enough MCAT score and good enough GPA, and you have the story – the personal statement, the extracurriculars, to back up who you are and why you want to be a doctor and you’re a good fit for the school, there’s always a chance of getting in.
Q: Do medical schools want to see that balance sports and clinical stuff for the extracurriculars? Does that matter or you just do something you love?
A: Do what you enjoy.
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