Battling Self Doubt and Obstacles On Her Path To Med School

Session 340

Erica has been on this premed path for about ten years now. Follow along as she shares with us her undergrad challenges including keeping her scholarship and overcoming depression and self-doubt.

She took a Master’s degree in Public Health in the hope of fixing his path. But this didn’t really help her. Plus, she talks about having to deal with being a mom and a military spouse.

She talks about the application process and how she ended up advocating for herself that landed her an interview invite the very next day.

Also, be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media to help you along this premed path!

[01:50] Interest in Medicine and Candy Striping

Erica had gone through a traumatic situation at 7 years old when she saw a family friend who got shot in the head during an armed robbery. She didn’t exactly know she was going to be a doctor at that time. But the thought of how she was able to survive really got her interested.

At 13, she started candy-striping. This was when her decision to become a physician started to solidify in her mind. She remembers walking into the neonatal intensive care unit and she felt so drawn to both the mom and the baby.

Then she began to shadow different doctors and realized that this was the field for her. Although she didn’t know exactly what field she was getting into.

[04:30] The First Obstacle: GPA

The first challenge was to get her GPA back up so she can keep her $40,000 scholarship. Things started to fall apart for her at this time.

She was taking the typical 17 credit hours in college but she was also working and doing telemarketing at the same time. She was working too much. She was more concerned with money than her grades. She was just spreading herself all over the place.

'I was doing way too much, not a lot of self-reflection. I was going a thousand miles a minute and at that time, I really didn't realize it.'Click To Tweet

She wasn’t putting in as much time as she should have been putting. She studied for the science classes like she studied for English.

Her first option was to quit the telemarketing job. She had to cut down her hours from working 30 hours a week to 10 hours a week.

'I had this sense of pride about what I was doing which made no sense.'Click To Tweet

She also went to her professors to let them know she was having trouble retaining the information. She was studying but she wasn’t studying effectively. You can do something for hours the wrong way.

She had to change her study habits. It was very hard to do since she had been studying that way since high school. Additionally, she learned how to say no. She had to say no to school activities and friends.

Fortunately, she didn’t lose her scholarship. She graduated in four years. During the last couple of semesters, she did fine but her GPA didn’t move much.

[08:25] The Second Obstacle: Depression

During the same time she was studying in college, she was having family issues that had put a lot of pressure on her. She went into depression without her even knowing it. She was putting on this face for everyone. She was so good at hiding it that nobody knew about it.

So she had to overcome her depression, self-doubt, negative thoughts, and worrying a lot. She actually isolated herself from everyone. For her, dealing with depression was much harder for her than actually raising her GPA.

Coming out of depression was very hard because you’re around so many people but you feel alone.

She remembers being in the dorm sleeping. Then wrote down on a piece of paper all the things she was angry about. She found it a good thing to get it out of her mind so then she could identify what was really going on. She had to talk herself out of it. She didn’t seek any help which she now acknowledges as something very crucial.

'Don't waste any time. Go to a counselor. Talk to a trusted friend. Write it out on paper and give it to someone if you don't feel comfortable saying the words out of your mouth.'Click To Tweet

Erica didn’t apply to medical school after college. She was still coming out of depression and self-doubt. She was so negative about herself, thinking she could never get in.

As a result, she chose to take a Master’s degree. Every summer in college, she went into an internship program. She got exposed to Infectious Diseases and got interested in learning more about public health. So she applied to the master’s program on a whim.

[14:20] The Third Obstacle: Master’s Program in Public Health and Poor MCAT Score

Medical school has always been in her mind and heart. But she just felt she couldn’t do it. She thought you have to have the perfect application to apply. So decided not to apply.

That being said, she appreciated her master’s program as it taught her how to study the right way for her classes. During those two years, she didn’t talk a lot with her family. She was too focused that she ended up graduating at the top of the class.

'I was always considering medical school but I felt like I had to have a perfect application to apply.'Click To Tweet

She thought medical schools would love it, not realizing that a master’s in public health is not considered hard sciences. Hence, it’s not going to wow admissions committees.

[16:30]  The Fourth Obstacle: Poor MCAT Score

Erica then took the old MCAT and got a poor score. She took it again and got the same result. She didn’t give the MCAT the respect it deserved. She studied for it like she was studying for a college class.

Erica enrolled in two different prep courses at two different times. She wasn’t getting it so she ended up studying on her own. Then she increased her score by only a couple of points.

'I didn't give the MCAT the respect it deserved. I studied for it like I was studying for a college class.'Click To Tweet

She took one course online and did another in-class on the weekends. But her schedule was just a hot mess with her work involved. At this point, she took a break from taking the MCAT because it just wasn’t working.

She even got more frustrated by all the money and time she wasted. She ignored her family’s calls because she was trying to study. She couldn’t go to events. Again, she got down again.

Erica eventually got a private tutor who worked with her. She also gave her valuable feedback. She just completely flipped everything for her.

'Don't feel like getting a tutor means you're not smart. It just means you need a little extra help.'Click To Tweet

[22:05] Overcoming Self-Doubt

Erica and I worked together on her medical school application. I was telling her about rising above her negativity. She was actually encouraging everyone but not to herself. She was just focused on her weaknesses. After self-reflection and a series of sessions with her, she began to correct her path. Eventually, she came out of the whole self-doubt and turned things around.

'Stop looking at your weaknesses. They're there. Acknowledge them. But don't focus on your weaknesses.'Click To Tweet

When Erica had her daughter, she even got inspired to get into medical school even more. She wanted to show her that even if you can get knocked down 20 times, what matters is you get up the 21st time.

At that time, she had a kid and her husband was military so they had to move around. But that didn’t really matter to her. She just knew that she was going to do it. She didn’t know how or when but it was going to happen. Nothing was going to get in the way of it.

Erica took a lot of undergrad classes. Her husband got permission to get out of the military early. She quit her job and they moved to another state. She immediately started taking classes and she had been taking them since she graduated. She was then able to increase her GPA for undergrad.

[26:00] The Application Cycle

Erica was initially worried about her personal statement. We actually had to do several revisions. She began listing her activities. One of the things I advised her was to think about what she really wanted to say in her story instead of what she did.

She had a beautiful, well-written story. In fact, some members of the admissions committee actually gave a nice comment about it.

Being nontraditional with a lot of activities, Erica didn’t really know how to put it all together. It wasn’t fun for her initially until I helped her. Then came submission time, and she was happy about it.

Erica is a Texas resident so she submitted through TMDSAS. She didn’t get anything. She was waiting and was just sitting on her application.

She was almost certain that this was because of her MCAT score at 499. Not getting anything at all, she began studying again for the MCAT.

[32:15] Applying to a Brand New School

Looking at the school, she wanted to know more about their mission and core values. She met with staff so she went to every event open to the public. She wanted them to meet who she was. She expressed her interest in the school. She even attended their accreditation announcement.

She didn’t have any concerns about going to a new school. However, other people were negative about a new school having a residency spot. But she knew every school was going to have spots upon creation.

'Every school is a new school at one point.'Click To Tweet

She didn’t hear anything until February. I checked in with him and gave her a suggestion. I told her to send an email to one of the schools she was waiting on. The next day, she got an interview.

She had been connecting with the school. She went to their basketball game. She went over to one of the deans and talked to her. She was so excited and was telling everyone she was going to be one of the premeds. At that point, she realized the importance of networking.

So she sent the email and told the school about how her application may have been overlooked due to her MCAT score. And she just gave the breakdown of her score and presented the highlights of her journey. The school responded.

The next day, she went to an event for Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for Women in Medicine. One of their admissions dean was there but didn’t get to talk to her. But when she got home and checked her email, she got an interview invitation.

[38:45] Trust the Process

Erica has been on this journey for ten years. It was heavy for her getting rejection after rejection. And finally going through the interview just didn’t feel real for her. Sitting there on interview day, she was willing to go through everything she went through again (except for taking the MCAT countless times).

'Trust the process because, in the end, it will be worth it. And if you don't give up, you will make it.'Click To Tweet

Erica is happy with the school she’s going to because they tell students on the same day whether they get in or not. It was literally two weeks after her interview day that the dean of admissions called her. The self-doubt initially crept in. But she finally got in! And by the way, her MCAT score was never actually been brought up. The thing she was most worried about didn’t even get asked about.

[42:43] Final Words of Wisdom

Stop what you’re doing and become aware of everything you’re spending your time doing. Look at your days and what are you doing. Make decisions closer to your goal.

Break your days down and focus on that day. Don’t worry about 4 years from now. Just focus on what you can do right now. Keep making those small steps and you’ll have a seat in the class eventually. You will get there but you can’t get there if you keep doubting yourself.

Erica’s Update Email

Dear Admissions Committee,

My name is Erica [last name redacted] and I am a current applicant to the [name redacted] School of Medicine. I have not received an interview invitation.

I believe because of my MCAT score of 499 (123,124,124,128). I
understand my score is just below average which may have caused other
areas of my application to be overlooked. In addition to earning a 4.0
GPA in the pre-requisite courses required for your program (Anatomy
and Physiology pending), my journey as a non-traditional student and
military spouse has afforded me the opportunity to understand how to
work with diverse groups of people. In the workforce as a patient
safety manager, medical scribe and standardized patient I’ve learned
the importance of communication, compassion, and empathy. Last year, I
joined the [name redacted] Medical Reserve Corps which has been
rewarding and allowed me to utilize these skills through my ongoing
community service to the [name redacted] area.

I am very excited about the mission, vision and core values of the
school and would be grateful for a review of my application.

Thank you,
Erica [name redacted]

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