Kayla was just accepted to med school at 33! Find out how she balanced being a mom, taking prereqs, studying for the MCAT, and applying while working full-time.
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[01:30] Interest in Becoming a Physician
Kayla initially wanted to be a psychiatrist. She loves talking about mental health as well as talking to people. She loves problem-solving. Kayla was the only person in their family to go to college so the idea of going to medical school as a kid was so intimidating for her.
She didn’t have a lot of guidance in the area of education. And she didn’t like science at that time. Instead, she pursued a career in social work. Once she got into it and started working with doctors, it began to carve out an interest for her in medicine.
She was so fascinated with the way a doctor can pair medication and therapy and seeing patients that have been using drugs for years to being all clean and sober.
[Related episode: Is Working in a Physical Therapy Clinic Good for Med School]
[04:20] Being a Single Mom
After she got her bachelor’s in social work, she became a mother – a single mother specifically. There were so many times along the lines that she wished she could have gone back and done it differently. But once she had her son, she felt medical school wasn’t going to happen for her.'I really didn't think you could be a parent and go to medical school. I didn't think I could have both.'Click To Tweet
Kayla also thought she could no longer get her Master’s in social work and even regretted it why she had not done it earlier. She thought she was too old and she didn’t have the time to commit to it.
[Related episode: Medical School Mom – Prioritizing Family, School and More]
[05:23] Showing Up to Work Not Feeling Satisfied
It was very heartbreaking for Kayla to show up for work and not getting that kind of satisfaction she was looking for. She loved her career in social work but she was just listless with it all.
She felt a bit of hopelessness that she was stuck in a career she wouldn’t be totally satisfied with for the rest of her life.
[06:00] Getting the Help and Encouragement
Kayla got married. She’s blessed to have a supportive husband. But then her passion kept growing and growing the more she encountered physicians. Her physician friend also encouraged her to go for it and that she could do this.
She then decided to take a chemistry class to see if she liked it and she fell in love with it. She couldn’t believe she had missed out on 30 years with this subject because she loved it. She found herself obsessed with finding other moms and parents going through this. Until she came upon this podcast, which was what actually helped her to keep going.'Time is going to come and go, regardless. You might as well do something you love with that time.'Click To Tweet
Kayla is simply happy to be where she is today. In fact, she’s grateful for this journey that if she died today she’d be so happy she spent the past two years preparing for medical school. At that point, he was 7 years old.
[Related episode: Overcoming Organic Chemistry On Her Path To Medical School]
[10:13] Becoming a Student Again and Getting Some Push Back'The biggest struggle sometimes can be the isolation of it all.'Click To Tweet
For her, school doesn’t bother her at all. But it’s feeling that nobody actually understands the journey she was on.
She initially didn’t tell anybody what she was up to because she was nervous it wouldn’t work out. She was too scared to tell people that she might just eventually quit. So for the first three to five months, nobody really knew. And now, she has started to tell friends and everybody knows that she’ll be gone by the end of the year.
Having known about her plans, her physician actually tried to comfort her telling her not to get upset in case she doesn’t get accepted the first few cycles. Although she meant well, Kayla didn’t find it very helpful.
Not having taken classes, for the most part, she had to change everything about the way she studied. She learned to do pre-reading which was really a huge help in studying well. She also just had to set aside the time to do it. This was something she has never really done before.'I've also learned to be flexible. Each subject required me to study a little bit differently. But pre-reading has been huge.'Click To Tweet
Pre-reading means reading the chapter before the lecture. This way, when she gets into the lecture, it’s not new information she’s having to spend time thinking about. It’s already making sense to her. Then her brain can focus on building on it and making different connections.
She found that it usually takes at least three times going through the material before it sticks. First is the pre-reading. Then during the lecture, she writes down question marks on the different topics she has questions about. And third, she goes through her notes after the lecture to answer those questions.
[16:00] Why Change Careers
In this podcast, we repeatedly say not to bash your former career when writing your personal statement.
Kayla had a wonderful former career. Even though she said it was tempting to tell all the reasons she didn’t like it, she tried to focus on how her career was an amazing opportunity. It added to her skillset that strengthened her now as a future physician.
She explained on her personal statement that it’s not she wanted to get away from social work, but her desire grew to provide a greater depth of care to her patients.'It's not that I want to get away from social work, but my desire grew to provide a greater depth of care to my patients.'Click To Tweet
Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the basic healthcare needs weren’t met and that’s where she found the desire to help them most. So she focused on not getting out of social work, but she wanted to deepen the way that she can provide care particularly to underserved populations.
Kayla recalls having these conversations come up in her interviews. She had two interviews so far. The first one honed in on why she wanted to switch careers. She understands admissions committees don’t want people to be career-hopping. They want to make sure you want to get into it for the right reasons.
[18:27] Taking the MCAT
You don’t want to self-study for more than one subject. But Kayla took the MCAT and at that point, she had not finished Biology 2, Organic Chemistry 2, Physics 2, and Biochemistry. She did okay with a 507 but she knew she could have done so much better.
She also took the MCAT while studying two classes at a time. In hindsight, she should have waited to take it. It is what it is. But it was a whole lot considering she was working, taking classes, studying for the MCAT, and taking care of her kid altogether. For some students, studying for the MCAT is even a full-time job.'A lot of students do okay with self-studying. But looking at it for the first time while studying for the MCAT and also trying to learn the MCAT is a lot to ask for.'Click To Tweet
[21:10] Balancing Studying and Family Time
Kayla had to figure out how to balance things out and figure out better schedules. At first, it was very overwhelming she felt she was spread so thin that she wasn’t giving the best of herself to everything.
Kayla had to make sure that she spent quality time with her family. She had set a certain designated time for studying and for family time. She also tried to pair things together.
For example, if her husband was doing 30 minutes of reading, she’d do 30 minutes of reading as well. That way, they could make the most of their time together.
Kayla recommends a version of the Pomodoro timer where your study time is uninterrupted – no cellphones, no Apple watches, notifications are off. Also, being a parent helps her with this because you know you don’t have any extra time to be tending to all those distractions.'You can make the most of your time with no distractions. You are more productive in that time.'Click To Tweet
[23:32] Mistakes Along the Way During Application
Kayla says that if she had to look back on it, she thought she got so ready for it to be done with it. She really underestimated how time-consuming the secondaries were. She wished she could have pre-written some of her secondaries. (Check out SecondaryApps.com)
She felt that she didn’t check them enough. Even going back to her AMCAS submission, she saw so many silly typo errors. She wished she had used the EC editing service for the extracurriculars as well.
[25:00] Getting Her First Interview Invite
She applied really early in June and didn’t get an interview invite until mid-September. She felt like it was a very long wait. She found herself checking her email often. Until she saw the invite and she just jumped out of excitement. It was a surreal feeling for her.
With her MCAT score at 507, it’s a good score but not amazing. So it’s pretty much a standard time to start getting interview invites around that time, especially when you apply early. And it’s right in September it seems that the 507’s and 508’s start to get those interview invites once they start looking at the rest of your application. Kayla’s GPA was solid at 3.95'A lot of schools will take all of their applications and then they'll sort them from the highest MCAT score and GPA to the lowest.' Click To Tweet
[26:35] Choosing Which Schools to Apply to
Kayla and her husband pretty much agreed that they can just go pretty much anywhere. He was very open to the adventure. But she tried to focus on applying where they had families. So she applied to schools within Ohio, New York, and Florida.
That way, she knew they had a support system close by. They also looked at the state where they thought they could potentially stay and they’d like to live in.
She also tried to focus on the positives while talking to her son that got him excited too. His biological dad in Florida had terminal brain cancer so this was the one thing that was going to be a challenge for them as well. They were certain they had to get back to Florida pretty frequently for them to see each other.
One of the schools she got accepted at was only an hour and a half away from where they currently are. So they could come back to him easily twice or thrice a month.
[29:10] Getting the Acceptance
Kayla walked out of the interview pretty hard on herself so she was actually surprised she got the acceptance. And then she got waitlisted at the schools she thought she really did well in the interview. But the acceptance felt amazing. It was just everything she could ever have imagined in the past two years.'You just never know how you do and how you're stacking up against other interviewees.'Click To Tweet
Interestingly, she doesn’t want to be a psychiatrist anymore now that she had gone through being a social worker. She thinks she had gotten so used to the chaos of social work and working with diverse populations and different scenarios. That being said, she’s considering getting into Emergency Medicine. She likes the novelty and action.
But she’s going into it open-minded and see what she’d ended up being most interested in during rotations.
[30:55] Her Major Concerns in Medical School
She’s concerned about having time with her son. She just hopes she could be there for him and be as supportive as she had been over the past two years. She knows it’s going to be a lot more demanding. She also knows that her focus will be spread so thinly between work and school.'I don't want him to ever feel like he's not the most important thing in my life because he is.'Click To Tweet
[32:20] Final Words of Wisdom to Fellow Parents
Be resourceful. If you want it bad enough, do it! It’s difficult and you have to be really resourceful. Ask for help anywhere you can get. Find out what you need to do. And if you want it bad enough, you can do it. You just have to be resourceful enough.
Be goal-oriented. It can get overwhelming at times. What has helped her really energized and focused is setting a small goal everyday. Sometimes, for instance, when you’re in the thick of physics or math, you forget why you’re doing what you’re doing.
So every day, she’d try to do something that reminded her of why she was doing what she was doing. Tie it to that greater goal because it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re doing if you’re not shadowing at the moment and you’re stuck in classes all day long.'Try to do something every day that reminds you of why you're doing it.'Click To Tweet
Be grateful. Practice gratitude It’s easy to complain when you get overwhelmed. Just remember to stay really grateful for having this opportunity.
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