What’s one of the biggest mistakes made by medical school applicants? Let’s take a hard look at clinical experience and your motivations for med school.
Check out Application Renovation, a YouTube video series where I break down a student’s full application. They get feedback from the perspective of an admissions committee of what went wrong. Listen or watch it and learn about the different mistakes out there. Or you may also apply to be on the next series of applications being reviewed.
Before we proceed, let’s do a fun experiment. Kindly go to Twitter and use #premedmistake. Tweet what you think is the biggest mistake students are making.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[04:00] Mistake #1: Lack of Clinical Experience
You may have great MCAT and GPA scores. But if you’re not backing that up with your actions and time commitment to do clinical experience then it’s going to be hard for the admissions committee to believe you.
One of the most cliche things that can come across in an application is when you say you want to be a doctor because your parent is a doctor. And your application screams that you don’t know what your motivations are behind becoming a physician other than, of course, you love science and you want to help people,'Shadowing is not clinical experience.'Click To Tweet
The biggest misconception is that shadowing is clinical because it takes place in a clinical environment. When you’re shadowing a physician, you’re typically shadowing him/her when they’re in a clinical environment seeing patients. So you assume that shadowing is clinical, but it’s not.
Just the same as working as a janitor in a hospital, while this is important, is not clinical experience. The environment does not dictate whether or not something is clinical, but your activities do.
[Related episode: How Much Clinical Experience Do I Need for Med School Apps?]
[09:25] What Makes a Clinical Experience
In most emergency departments, the patients go back to the room before anything else and a registration person will come bringing along an iPad and will ask a ton of questions. Sure, you could be interacting with the patient. But this is not clinical experience. It’s administrative work.'If you're interacting with patients in some caveat of some clinical way except for administration then it's clinical experience.'Click To Tweet
Volunteering in an emergency department where you’re stocking shelves is not clinical experience. Again, you’re in a clinical environment but it’s not clinical experience.
Use your brain to figure out what you can do to get clinical experience because lack of clinical experience is the biggest mistake at least in terms of extracurriculars.
A lot of students make this mistake because they don’t think they need it. They’ve already shadowed and they thought that was all they need. A lot also don’t do it because they don’t have time for it because they’re focusing on their grades and MCAT score.
[Related episode: What is the Best Paid Clinical Experience for Med School?]
[11:22] Why You Need Clinical Experience
Clinical experience is a must. It’s not a checklist item but it’s still a must. There are stories of students getting in without clinical experience.
The majority of students that I’ve talked with who haven’t gotten interviews but have amazing stats is were not able to verbalize why they want to be a doctor. When you can’t do that, it’s almost always because you lack clinical experience.
So you don’t know what it’s like to be around patients. You don’t know what it’s like to see their lives impacted.'You can't get that emotion from watching Grey's Anatomy.'Click To Tweet
It’s only by being around patients and interacting with them that you will be able to formalize why it is that you want to be a doctor. Wanting science and wanting to help people are not enough.
Check out the AAMC Applicant and Matriculant Data and you’d see their students with great GPAs and MCAT scores who are not getting in.
[Related episode: Can I Get in Enough Shadowing and Clinical Experience?]
[14:58] Third Application Cycle was a Charm
Back in Session 241, Natalie’s first application wasn’t very good and her stats needed to be improved a bit. On her second application, she got six interviews and 6 waitlists. On her third application cycle, she got six interviews and six acceptances.
She did well on her second application cycle but the interview wasn’t good. I did some mock interviews with her and she improved the angle she was taking when it comes to answering questions. She crushed it and now she’s a third-year medical student.
[Related episode: Discussing the Application Cycle With an Admissions Expert]
[16:00] Figure Out Where You’re At
Listen to Episode 171 about reappyling to medical school. I had Christine Crispen, former Dean of Admissions at UC Irvine and current Director in the Office of Curriculum at the Keck School of Medicine at USC.
She explained that the main reason students weren’t accepted at UC Irvine is because of lack of clinical experience. So if you’re not getting accepted and you need to reapply, you better start getting clinical experience.'Become self-aware of your weaknesses.'Click To Tweet
Stay tuned for my fourth book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to Medical School Application. It actually includes a pre-application checklist to give you a rundown of where you stand and a post-application checklist if you didn’t get in so you can try to figure out where you’re at.
Soon, we have a website called Premed Assessment to help students figure out where they’re at.
[17:22] You Have to Be Good Enough'Your stats have to be good enough to get through the digital shredders.'Click To Tweet
If your stats are good enough and you’re not getting any interviews, it’s most likely because you have a lack of clinical experience.
A bad personal statement may also prove that students lack clinical experience because they don’t really understand what medicine is. If you need more help with your personal statements, check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement.
[18:45] Final Thoughts
You need clinical experience – hospice, EMT, phlebotomy, medical assistant, volunteering in a hospital that involves real patient interaction – whatever you can do to get yourself around patients.
The AAMC has a good article called Five Ways to Gain Clinical Experience Without Shadowing.
Look into your state. In some states, you don’t have to have a license to be a medical assistant. If that’s the case, find a small family practice or internal medicine clinic and ask if you could volunteer to check their patients and do their vitals. That’s amazing clinical experience!'All of this is to prove to yourself why you want to be a doctor. All of this is to prove to yourself that this is why you want to be a doctor.'Click To Tweet
Ultimately, you need to prove to yourself why you’re doing this and that you like doing this. Until you can prove to yourself that this is what you want, you will never prove to an admissions committee that this is what you want.
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