Our guest today, Taylor, took the MCAT six times. She applied to medical school four times but never gave up. She clawed her way to finally get medical school acceptance. She has taken the MCAT six times and done 12 interviews and now, two acceptances.
[02:35] Interest in Becoming a Physician
Taylor’s mom is a doctor and her dad’s a nurse. Watching the discovery health channel fascinated her when she was 6 years old.
All of a sudden, her mom’s not breathing. She grew up knowing her dad could fix everything. Her dad was in the Air Force. So he started doing CPR on her mom. She also had this sinking feeling that there’s no way she wasn’t gonna make it. And the EMTs or paramedics came, and they worked on her and then they told her that she didn’t make it. At that age, she wasn’t bothered because she didn’t really understand death.
It was always, always, always medicine for Taylor even if she had to take the MCAT six times. She still loves dentistry. But she just couldn’t see herself only localized to this one area like the face and whatnot. She did shadow a dentist, and he’s amazing. But she just couldn’t see herself doing it.“I just didn't feel good about letting something go that I'd work so hard for and allowing an exam to stop me from something I've worked towards for the past 25 years or so.”Click To Tweet
[08:04] Undergrad Choices and Premed Struggles
Taylor has always been fascinated with wanting to go to school in California. So she decided to go to Duke University. As a person of color, she didn’t want to make it seem like she was less than her peers and so she didn’t want to ask for help. She also thought that was a sign of weakness.“I was the type of person that just wanted to figure things out myself. And that was detrimental because I was struggling so much. “Click To Tweet
Then it just got to the point where she was over her head and eventually, and she was taking certain prereqs that she should not have taken together. Then one of her classmates told her about a summer medical dental education program. So she applied and had gotten into the program which she found so inspiring.
Their dean wasn’t exactly supportive of students of color and this exacerbated how she was feeling about herself. She thinks that if she had a supportive team and had she known she could have used those credits, her GPA would have been much better those first two years.
[14:02] Applying and Failing the First Time
She then applied to medical school but admits she was too focused on the goal that she was not prepared as a person. She thought she was ready but she wasn’t really ready academically and experience-wise.“I was just used to being in this college bubble that everything’s going to workout.”Click To Tweet
Taylor didn’t really fully consider the magnitude of applying to med school at that time. She applied to 25 MD schools and got to interview and back then she was a South Carolina resident.
She ended up getting wait listed at one school. She was rejected at one school and never got off the waitlist. She had then started applying to postbac and got into one.
She wasn’t ready academically to go to med school so she wanted to seize this opportunity. So she graduated from Duke with a 307 GPA. And her first MCAT (June 2014) was 24 (equivalent to 497 today).
But looking at the averages for Hispanics, for African American, for underrepresented students, their scores are much less so and that’s right around the scores for African American students.
[17:31] Poor Interviewing
Taylor took her second test in August 2015 and applied. Again, she admits of not being as prepared again. She didn’t know how to articulate her experiences well. Her confidence was also low knowing that a lot of her friends were starting medical school.“The last five or six years, all I saw myself was as an MCAT score and GPA.”Click To Tweet
And she would go to her interviews being negative towards everything because of her MCAT score and that she’s not competent. Ultimately, she thinks she messed up her interviews because she had a hard time articulating her passion for medicine.
[20:40] Postbac Struggles
Not wanting to take the prerequisites again, Taylor was just at the point in her life where she wanted to challenge herself to be a better person. So she decided to go do a postbac program in Southern California through the Claremont Colleges.
She was living in a house of five guys in a low income neighborhood. She had her belongings shipped and the majority of her stuff was stolen. Then her computer died the first year. And over winter break, she found that one of the housemates overdosed and passed. Not an ideal living situation for sure.
She was ready to give up but her father pushed her not to give up. So she did well academically, but the whole MCAT thing was always a weight over her.
[23:48] Struggling with the MCAT
The first two times she took the MCAT, her GPA was not great. So she had this obsession to really do well on the MCAT because of that. In fact, she has been obsessed for four years. She did okay on the practice tests but she was just struggling with the actual test. She already had anxiety at that time so the exam just took her to another level.“I was my own worst enemy.”Click To Tweet
The third time she took it she got a 495, fourth was 499, and the fifth time was 501. At that point, she decided to take a break from the whole encounter.
She knew she had to address her anxiety because it was getting into other avenues of her life not only into this test, but different aspects of her life. She started going to a therapist and she found it really insightful and helpful.
[27:11] Dealing with Self-Doubt
Taylor says she has always been hard on herself when she didn’t achieve a goal she wanted. She was having self-deprecating thoughts and feelings. Then she came across this quote that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.
She knows she’s qualified to get into medical school but she always doubted herself. She didn’t believe in herself.
So she took a break from June-October 2018. She had to figure out how to prepare for the MCAT. She also began doing more clinical experience. She had study buddies and she started volunteering.
Her postbac was Applied LIfe Sciences and she thought the content on those helped her with the exam. In grad school, they have Princeton Review which she found content-heavy. Thereafter she got a 495. Then she applied in Summer 2016 for matriculation in Fall 2017.
At that point, she was just desperate to go to school and didn’t really care anything about the school. She just wanted to get in. She did interview prep but still wasn’t confident. She got into two interviews but didn’t get in. Then she started listening to this podcast by Spring of 2018.
[31:52] Listening to This Podcast
When she got her score back but it wasn’t what she wanted, she had been listening to this podcast. She got to listen to the different stories of students who had overcome obstacles and multiple cycles and whatnot.
And she remembers me saying on the podcast that you have to have a good enough GPA and MCAT score but there’s more to those.“You have to have a good story and a personality.”Click To Tweet
This gave her the confidence to keep on. She started doing different volunteer work with vulnerable populations. And started working with incarcerated populations and understanding medicine in that aspect. It was super impactful and enlightening. And she was able to incorporate that in her secondaries.
[33:29] Getting an Interview Invite and Acceptance
Because of listening to the podcast, this gave Taylor the confidence to do better and finally apply to medical school again. Taylor got her first interview for this last cycle in Arizona. But she didn’t only get one, not two, but ten interviews in total.“If anyone wants to believe in me, I have to believe in myself first.”Click To Tweet
She had to believe in herself first and so she did and her first interview was so amazing. Then she had gotten her first acceptance on November 18 thorugh email.
And then that same week, she had gone to the domestic violence shelter that she volunteered at. She had met one of the volunteers who teaches anatomy at Western University in Pomona. He asked about Taylor’s story and even offered to help her get an interview at the school. That gave her even more confidence to just be her natural self and share her story.
She was becoming competent and she was already seeing her life outside of an exam.
[38:55] Final Words of Wisdom
Don’t be afraid to fail. It took Taylor six years to get into med school, and six years of having the MCAT hanging over her head. She wasn’t able to enjoy Thanksgiving or Christmas or her birthday because she was always preparing for the exam.
Failure presents opportunities and experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have experienced, had you not failed. Know that your community needs you. Healthcare needs you.“Learn to have an identity outside of medicine and fall in love with yourself.”Click To Tweet
Be okay with who you are not being a doctor. Fall in love with yourself because that’s who you’re stuck with at the end of the day.
[43:18] Having Parents in Healthcare
Taylor didn’t know how to talk about it and articulate that her journey had nothing to do with her parents. She’s grateful to have parents in healthcare because she learned a lot from them. But it was never her motivation in going to med school or going into medicine.
If anything, it should have made her not want to go because the lifestyle is hard. But this didn’t come up in her interview because they could clearly see her journey is completely different than her parents.
Ultimately, her motivation stems from her experiences and what she saw growing up and how the healthcare system needs to be revamped.
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