This week, Austin shares an amazing story of how he pushed through a poor MCAT score that ultimately landed him an acceptance. Back on Episode 261, Nneka got a 2.7 undergrad GPA and is now in medical school.
[01:25] Interest in Becoming a Physician
Austin’s parents were both in healthcare. He initially thought he wanted to be a PA so he shadowed a PA. But by the end of the night, he actually ended up shadowing two emergency physicians more than the PA. From that point on, he was convinced that becoming a physician is what he really wanted to do. Basically, it was his mom who talked him into being a PA, sowing some seeds of doubt in him. Her mom was supportive of everything, but maybe it was just coming from a sense of looking out for him.
When he was shadowing a PA, they were going to different rooms. But the PA said he couldn’t see one patient due to lack of expertise. And at that point, he just didn’t get it. So he ended up shadowing the physician. He got turned off by the fact that PAs lack clinical training. He wants to be the one in charge, especially in emergency situations.
[07:50] Seeking Out Research and Challenges as a Premed
After his freshman year, he took some classes in his hometown. Then he volunteered at a hospital as well as doing research the following year. Research was just something he wanted to try. And with the opportunity presented to him by a professor, he tried it out. He didn’t really know what he was doing at first so he decided to take organic chemistry. Ultimately, he found that he didn’t like research that much. Instead, he volunteered at a lot of clubs.
For Austin, the hardest part about being a premed was trying to put everything together and be perfect in the classes. But just this idea of trying to be perfect just drained him. But this is not what schools are looking for.“We all get this idea that you need to get an A in every test you take but it really doesn’t need to be like that. Everybody is not perfect.”Click To Tweet
[11:55] Underestimating the MCAT and Taking a Gap Year
The first time Austin took the MCAT, he just finished the finals and moved back home to study for the MCAT. He decided to study for a couple of months. But he admits, he underestimated the MCAT. Obviously, he got a poor score, even lower than his practice tests.“I totally underestimated the MCAT. It’s a beast. It’s a marathon to study for. It is something that you cannot take it lightly.”Click To Tweet
Austin actually delayed taking the MCAT until after he graduated. In hindsight, he wished he could have studied way before and took it in January. Indeed, it was a brutal awakening for him. Then he decided to wait for another year to study the test. He thought his grades were fine. His goal was to get an average score so he can make a solid application.
He also wanted to gain more clinical experience during that gap year. He wanted a hands-on experience although it was nothing compared to what he’s doing now. Currently, Austin is a nurse tech at a cardiothoracic post-surgical progressive care unit. They take care of heart and lung transplant patients coming from the ICU and surgery.
[18:00] Taking The MCAT for the 2nd Time
Austin was working 12-hour shifts so he knew he had to plan his study time for the MCAT. He had 4 days off a week. And on each day, he would have a section allotted for study time. He slowly developed a plan and he found the AAMC material to be very helpful. He apparently took 10-12 practice tests.
This time, his scores were getting better. At some point, he was in the 490s and he knew he needed to increase the store. So he worked double time two months before exam day. This helped improve his score at where he wanted it to be, with 504 as the highest score he received. Test day came and he got the score back but it wasn’t where he wanted to be. It was such a devastating experience for him. In hindsight, he thought he should have really pushed back study time to 1-2 months earlier than when he studied. Additionally, his nerves just killed him during the exam.
For some students, taking the exam the second time would be less stressful to them having experienced what the exam was like the first time. But for many others, retaking the exam is all the more stressful. You’ve basically taken it once so everything is just on the line now, especially if you’re already turned in your application. So Austin got a 496. The science sections helped him but the non-science sections hurt him
At that point, Austin was just so down about it thinking of all the wasted money. He thought about retaking it several months later. He decided to apply anyway and complete all the secondaries. On another note, Austin advises strongly against looking at the average MCAT scores of schools. The school he got into had an average score of 504. But he applied anyway. He looked at what medical schools were looking for in an applicant – clinical exposure, research, and letters of recommendation – which he had plenty of. Overall, he thought his application was well put together. Ultimately, he got waitlisted to both schools and finally, got an acceptance.“I knew that some of these DO schools were looking holistically and they took pride in that”Click To Tweet
[26:30] The Interview Process
During the interview, he noticed medical schools just really wanted to know him. They were interested in his hearing about his clinical experiences. The second interview went a lot better than the first since he was already exposed to it. His MCAT score came up in his first interview and he was asked why he took it twice. He explained to them how he underestimated it and how he tried to redeem himself.
What the admissions committees really care about is whether you have that self-awareness to acknowledge your mistake and that you learned from that.
Austin thought he was going to get in the first school but he was put on the waitlist. So he prepared for the second one. The second interview had multiple mini interviews which he liked. Again, he was put on the waitlist. He was at work one day and got a phone call and received the news that he got accepted – just when he was actually thinking of getting ready to take the MCAT again.
He actually reached out to both schools as he tried to ask for feedback. The feedback he got for his interview was that he was so laidback in his interview. Plus, he had a poor MCAT score so they wanted to see it higher. Ultimately, he got into the school that had the MMIs.“If you’re interviewing, be excited.”Click To Tweet
His clinical experience has really helped him a lot for the MMIs because it’s something that he has been doing with his work day in and day out. Only now, it’s in an interview setting.
As he prepares for medical school, Austin is reading a lot as he prepares for medical school. He tries to stay in a routine schedule and enjoying life while he still has it.
[35:53] Final Words of Wisdom
Don’t let a test score define you. If you think you have a shot and your application is best prepared as you possibly can and everything else is worked out, then give it a shot. Let the medical schools tell you no.
The biggest takeaway from this episode is that your MCAT is only one part of your application. You have your GPA and your clinical experiences. So you have to be doing everything to have a well-rounded application. Otherwise, if you solely focus on your MCAT and GPA, it’s not going to be that easy once you’re in medical school. You have to stand out enough for the admissions committees to notice you.“Just try, and let the medical schools tell you no.”Click To Tweet