What’s Happening in the Premed World, According to Premeds

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PMY 391: What's Happening in the Premed World, According to Premeds

Session 391

What’s going on in the premed world? I chat live on Instagram with students and gave tips on navigating the med school app process, writing essays, choosing schools, and more!

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:30] Schools Accepting Students w/o MCAT

There will likely be some schools this year that will accept students without the MCAT

[02:38] Military Medical Experience

John has six years of military medical experience with two deployments overseas. He’s wondering how much should he put on his application.

The application is the story of you and who you are.

A reviewer will look at your military experience and immediately know a lot about you if you’re not discharged dishonorably. For the most part, if you’re in the military, you’re probably a pretty cool person. You have some leadership skills and communication skills, all of that stuff.

'The personal statement itself is why do you want to be a physician?'Click To Tweet

With your military medical experience, you probably will have a lot of that that leads to why do you want to be a physician so put that on there. And then for your activity list, that’s where it gets a little crazy because, in the military, you have so many jobs. You wear a lot of hats. So you put all of those on there. Focus on the most impactful ones to you personally and go from there. 

[03:59] Choosing Schools to Apply To

The process really comes down to what schools do you want to go to. At the end of the day, what schools do you want to go to?

A lot of where most students go wrong is they use the standard function of looking at the MSAR. They look at GPA, MCAT score, and median score. Remember, it’s median. It’s not the mean, not the average.

'What perpetuates those stats for the school is because students are applying based on the numbers.'Click To Tweet

Students think they should apply at the halfway point. That’s how most students apply to medical school. Then the schools are accepting those students, therefore the numbers continue to show that that’s who they accept.

[05:20] Why Schools Aren’t Very Transparent

First, schools know they don’t want to be completely transparent because they want to leave it open. They want to accept the students who they want to accept. And they don’t want to be handcuffed to say that their guidelines will only accept students with greater than the MCAT score and you were one point below that.

“Those numbers do not tell a full story.”Click To Tweet

I’ve personally seen admissions committee members telling this student who got a 499 that they only interview students with a 500 or above. And this was an amazing student who ended up getting multiple acceptance to a school. So that’s one reason.

AAMC is a company. And if you look over the last several years, the average number of schools that a student has applied to has gone up. It used to be 14 a couple years ago, then it was 15. Then it was 16. And the last time I saw it was 17.

Let’s assume that students are applying to three more schools on average. And per school costs $36 on average. So for three schools, that’s $108. But then you have to multiply that by 50,000 students. That’s an extra $4.5 million that the AAMC just made.

Students are applying to more schools because the MSAR is a little bit fuzzy with numbers and they don’t want to be super-specific. Students may be able to hone their school list a little bit more if they’re using GPA and MCAT only. But I don’t think you should be using GPA and MCAT to apply to medical schools.

[08:00] Factors for Your School Choice

Obviously, you need good enough stats to get into medical school. If you were looking at MCAT and GPA and your MCAT and GPA are below the median for school, yet you love that school. The mission and vision are amazing. The research there fits what you want. They have all the specialties that you’re really interested in. Then apply to that school.

There’s something potentially in your application that medical school wants to see and you cannot control that if you do not apply to that school. 

“Choose a school based on the mission and fit and everything else. That includes school size, location curriculum, lots of stuff like that to see if you will be a good fit.”Click To Tweet

If you grew up in Southern California, and you hate the cold, don’t apply to Buffalo. You’re not going to be happy if you don’t like the cold. Even if buffalo is within your stat range, you want to be happy at a location. A lot of students don’t care. They’d apply to as many schools as they can hoping that somebody will accept them.

[10:39] How to Get Out of Motivation Ruts During MCAT Prep

Make sure that you stay out of a rut and get out of a rut by continually remembering why you are doing this right. Nobody is studying for the MCAT because they want to take the MCAT. People are studying for the MCAT because they need to take the MCAT. So they can get into medical school, get a medical degree, and go take care of patients.

'The more that you can think mentally about that end goal, the better you'll be because you're remembering why you're doing this.'Click To Tweet

Right now, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s hard because you can’t go out to most places and shadow. You’re not getting the clinical experience that you used to get. And so it’s hard to continually do that.

[11:24] Get Clinical Experience as COVID Sitters!

What are some things we could be doing during quarantine that could compensate for the lack of shadowing, volunteering, and clinical hours?

Search for COVID sitters on Google, they have a bunch of different chapters throughout the country. Maybe you could think about trying to set one up in your area. Go to Medalita.com/covidsitter.

They are hosting the COVID Sitter. It was started by some medical students trying to help things like suicide hotlines, text hotlines, potentially virtual scribing, which normally we wouldn’t consider clinical experience. But right now, if you can get it, then you can get it.

[05:27] How to Get an Interview Invite

“The MCAT and GPA are the two biggest factors when it comes to determining whether or not you're going to get an interview invite.”Click To Tweet

It doesn’t matter if you have amazing extracurriculars. If you don’t have the stats to get through filters to make it on the desk of an interviewer or a reviewer to be invited for an interview, then it doesn’t matter what your extracurriculars are.

Unfortunately, for most people, that’s the process, because medical school is hard. Just because you have awesome extracurriculars and you know in your heart you’re going to be an amazing physician, that’s not going to get you through medical school.

If you have a low GPA, then maybe the thought process is you shouldn’t apply this year. And you need to fix that GPA through a Do It Yourself postbac, a formal postbac, a special masters program, or another hard science master’s program. Not an MPH. So fix your GPA, and then take the MCAT.

The other thing that potentially could go wrong, is you have a low GPA, which potentially means that you don’t have the study skills required to do well on the MCAT, either. If you have a low GPA, a low MCAT, and you’re applying to medical school, it’s going to be a waste of money.

AAMC has data showing charts and percentages based on the last three years of what students are getting based on the MCAT and GPA.

Now, obviously, that’s historical data. So that doesn’t mean that is what your chances are. And we don’t know a lot of the story behind those numbers, what the trends look like in the GPA, what if it’s multiple MCAT scores, whatever that looks like. But that’s potentially a good place to start. 

[15:20] How to Write the 700 vs 1350 Character

When you enter an extracurricular you put the total number of hours so you don’t need hours in there, but I would focus on story. The answer to everything is stories.

'Humans love stories.' Click To Tweet

As humans, we are just attracted to stories. Stories are memorable for us. So stories all the time. 

[17:40] Applying with Good GPA and No MCAT Yet

You can still apply. Medical schools will see that you don’t have an MCAT score.

It’s a little different this year because a lot of medical schools are going to be reviewing applications without an MCAT score. This typically doesn’t happen because they’ll usually wait to review an application until your application is complete.

There are many students who play the “apply to one school” game. And that means you put one school on your list and some people recommend putting like a “safety” school. 

So they applied to a big school and that it’s long-shot anyway. That way when you do reapply, you’re now a reapplicant if something goes wrong. But being a reapplicant isn’t a big deal so that’s just silly. 

What you potentially can do is select one school on your application, you submit your application as soon as you are ready. You don’t need to rush in so it’s ready on day one. As soon as everything opens, you can submit it a week after or whatever.

“You submit to one school so that your application gets verified.”Click To Tweet

Once you click Submit, AMCAS and AACOMAS will then look at your information. They make sure that your transcripts are in. Once your transcripts are in, somebody actually verifies all of those data points for schools and courses that you have entered.

Somebody is looking line by line by line at your official transcripts and what you entered to make sure everything was okay. And then it gets verified. It gets that stamp of approval put on it. And then the application goes out to the school this year for AMCAS not until July 10. Typically, it’s that second or third week in June for AACOMAS.

So you can apply to one school and then get your MCAT score back. The MCAT has a two-week turnaround. Right now, with COVID they’re expediting scores two weeks through the August 1 date. 

The other benefit of this is if you get a score that you don’t like, you can save money by not applying to other schools.

[22:52] Great MCAT score vs Weak GPA

They’re always going to look at your GPA. And so if your GPA isn’t very strong, then that may be an issue no matter what MCAT score you get. But a good MCAT score always wins. You always want as good of an MCAT score as possible. But if it’s just like one class that you struggled with, or general chemistry that you struggled with organic chemistry, it’s not that big of an issue.

Every medical school will have its own way of evaluating scores and courses and MCAT and whatever else. 

'Don't get micro in your evaluation of what you should do.'Click To Tweet

[25:50] Upward Trend

Schools just get a bunch of data and they manipulate the data, show the data, filter the data however they want. Just make sure that your trend is amazing and your story is amazing. 

“At the end of the day, the goal is always an upward trend as much as possible to show that you're prepared.”Click To Tweet

[33:11] Putting Together Activities

You could put a general volunteering activity. And then try to tie together some stories and highlighting different things that you’ve done that’s completely positive. Or if you want you could also go in-depth on one of them.

The majority of people applying are filling out all 15 spots. They probably have other stuff they’ve cut out. Nontrads especially have a lot of life experiences and careers and everything else. So things don’t make the list and they end up on the cutting room floor.

“You don't have to squeeze everything in. Just highlight the ones that you want to talk or write about the most and that you're most passionate about.”Click To Tweet

Remember what the personal statement is about. Why do you want to go to medical school? 

[40:11] Early Assurance Program

Look at what the requirements are and what does it actually assure? The other thing to think about is the contractual requirement of that assurance.

When you sign up to say, you want to be considered for early assurance, are you contractually saying you won’t apply anywhere else this cycle?

'Early assurance is will give you an interview, some early assurance is will give you an acceptance, it depends on what the assurance is.'Click To Tweet

Double-check that if there’s no harm in doing it. If so, then you have a seat at a medical school, assuming you maintain the GPA and get whatever MCAT score they want. And then it still leaves you open to go to apply to other schools in the future.

[43:36] Mappd.com

Sign up to be notified of when Mapped goes live with our amazing technology platform. A lot of your questions will be resolved using this amazing platform.

For example, you can have a contact list for your letters of recommendation. And when you put that their title as a PA or NP, it’ll raise up a flag to say, hey, you probably shouldn’t get a letter of recommendation from an NP or PA.

You can also put in your courses, and it’ll automatically calculate all of your GPAs. It’ll show you all the trends. It’ll give you feedback on potentially what you should do.

[48:08] Expedited MCAT Scores for August 1

Don’t take the August 1 date just because it has the expedited score. Take it when you’re ready. But when do you know you’re ready, right? So you really need to use as much objective data as possible. Use your Qbank scores, your full-length scores, whatever data that you’re getting to determine when you’re ready for the test.

“Take the MCAT when you're ready. Now the problem is that most people never think that they're ready.”Click To Tweet

With the MCAT and the AAMC waiving all the rescheduling fees and everything else for this year, that makes it easier. You can go a little bit later to determine if you’re going to take August 1 or not.


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AAMC historical data on GPA and MCAT scores of applicants and matriculants



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