Common Pitfalls of Med School Applicant & How to Avoid Them

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PMY 392: Common Pitfalls of Med School Applicant & How to Avoid Them

Session 392

Armin Tadayyon is an MD/MBA candidate and an AdCom at the University of Illinois COM. We talk about common pitfalls of med school applicants and how to avoid them.

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[01:06] A Little Background on Armin

Armin applied to medical school twice and realized the mistakes he was making in his application. Now, he actually interviews students for his medical school. He teaches students the MCAT and USMLE prep at his medical school.

Armin a dual degree MD/MBA student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He was an MCAT tutor for Next Step Test Prep, which has now become Blueprint MCAT where he is now an admissions consultant and sits on his Advisory Council. He also serves on the admissions committee at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.

[02:53] Interest in Becoming a Doctor

Armin majored in biology as he loved science. But as he went through college, he wanted to do more than just influence individuals on a personal level. He wanted to create policies. He wanted to impact communities on a grander scale. So he was struck between going into business administration versus becoming a doctor. 

It wasn’t until Sophomore year that he realized there was such a thing as an MD/MBA. 

He chose to go the MBA route because of the grander scale in terms of impacting communities and creating policies.

“In the management of the MBA portion, you learn more about process and design and more about strategic management and leadership and networking.”Click To Tweet

[07:53] Going Through the Application Process

Armin had to apply twice. His personal statement really focused on the MBA aspect that he wanted to go for an MBA because he wanted to go into leadership. And then maybe an MD can help him. And that was not helpful at all.

In his second application process, he revised his personal statement to focus more on why he wanted to become a physician. 

He briefly mentioned that he have aspirations to go for a dual degree for an MBA. Prior to that, he had done his research as to which schools have this primary focus on medical school first before applying to an MBA.

A lot of students get a little confused because it’s a dual degree, like the MD Ph.D. But it’s a separate application. And like most of the other dual degree stuff, it’s that you apply once you’re accepted.

[10:29] Common Traps Fall Into During Interview

One is the lack of emotional intelligence or self awareness of the reasons why they’re pursuing this. It comes across as someone who is not confident or is unaware of the things around them.

For example, the patient is culturally very different than you. And they look at you and say they don’t want you to treat them. How would you respond? The best responses Armin had heard is that they’ll do their best to figure out if there’s someone better in that position to help them.

“It’s about putting yourself into somebody else's shoes and being able to understand the other person's perspective.”Click To Tweet

What you want is what’s best for the patient. That is the type of response that Armin is looking for or any variation that basically signals that type of communication.

The next trap that he feels like a lot of students are falling into is not being professional enough. 

Professionalism is a huge major role when it comes into medical school admissions and just throughout your journey as a medical student.

Carrying the title of a physician is a major responsibility. It’s a noble role that others will look up to. So you have to be able to carry that type of professionalism and then that goes beyond just being completely like punctual all the time.

It’s about having the correct attitude, the good attitude of wanting to help others and being delighted about where you are.

It also means being aware of what it means to be a medical student, the struggles that are involved, and the bigger reason of why you’re doing this.

Lastly, what Armin wants for students is to open up about themselves and just get away from academic things. Be able to talk about your hobbies that are completely outside of the academia world.

'Stop trying to relate everything to medicine.'Click To Tweet

They want to know that the students coming in are able to still enjoy medical school amidst the rigorous curriculum. What makes a successful medical student is to be able to find a way to stay balanced.

[19:39] Being Involved in the Admissions Committee

Armin got involved into the admissions committee after being invited to join the committee as a student interviewer. He basically responded to a mass email being sent out by his school inviting those interested in becoming student interviewers. So what he does as an interviewer is show up in the interview and writes feedback.

[21:28] Balancing Everything as a Medical Student

This previous year was his MBA year. So if you’ve gone through the first three years of medical school, an MBA is a walk in the park.

Armin worked a wholly good, full time with Blueprint, while simultaneously being in the MBA program.

So he found that he has the ability to have more bandwidth during an MBA year than he did during years two and three of medical school. Now as a rising M4, he has completed Step 2 CK and CS. So theoretically, there’s no more exams that are facing him. Except that he just needs to show up and impress attendings.

Armin hopes to eventually match into emergency medicine. What he likes about it is that it doesn’t really have that continuity of care. It’s shift work. So outside of those working hours, you have the capacity to be working on other projects. He likes the fact of going home and not worry about being called in and he could focus being at home.

[25:30] Red Flags or Things that Would Deter Him from Recommending an Applicant

One of the things that would deter him from recommending an acceptance would be a lack of self confidence.

It’s being aware that this is going to be difficult, but you’ve shown academically that you’re able to handle medical school. You believe in yourself because you’ve worked hard for it. That is the mentality to go in.

“Imagine feeling that impostor’s syndrome on top of already feeling the lack of self-confidence. That would really, really set somebody up for failure in that aspect.”Click To Tweet

Being nervous is completely normal. What he has noticed is a lot of students are visibly nervous. They’re trembling. So he tells them that he’s just a student interviewer. And he’s there because he wants to help them. Then the students feel more relaxed.

With other students, you could really tell their nervousness when they start talking about grades and trying to compensate for maybe like that one wrong low grade.

Armin reminds them that if you’re here for the interview, you pass that criteria, he doesn’t care about their C. He cares about who they are. And he just wants to put a face to this application. He wants to put a face to this story, this personal statement that they wrote, and the reasons of why they want to go here.

When you’ve passed the academic criteria, they want to get to know you. So don’t be fake and just be yourself. Smile. Try your best to remember everyone’s name. Take a deep breath.

“The more comfortable you become, the easier it is that conversation flows like wildfire. And the easier that those 20 minutes just fly by and you realize how quick the interview was.”Click To Tweet

[29:32] You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

For those students who probably had to skip a semester due to whatever circumstances, you just have to show your progress. They want to see your ability to overcome adversity.

Life happens. So just be able to show how it’s impacted you and what you’ve learned from it. Show how you’ve grown from it, how you are a better person today because of that, and how you will be a better student tomorrow because of that. Show how the skills that you have learned to cope with that will allow you to cope with more adversity as you progress in your path forward.

[33:24] His Involvement in the Test Prep World

Armin has been an MCAT instructor for six years. He graduated in December 2013 and took his MCAT in May 31, 2014. And at that time, about six years ago, he was working at Best Buy. Soon, he got hired at Next Step.

He found teaching as something extremely valuable. And it’s something that he kept up throughout his two-year gap years.

After he took USMLE Step 1, he felt that University of Illinois didn’t really prepare their students that well as well as they could have. So he went to Student Affairs and also to the Dean of medical education. He had this crazy proposal that if he’s willing to work his butt off to help create a review course for Step 1.

He’s very grateful for the team that they had we built for this USMLE Step 1 review series that they held for six weeks straight.

USMLE Step 1 is very symptom-based. So that’s how they structured the review series. And it became very successful.

[37:53] MCAT Strategies for the Quick, Easy Wins

“Connecting a lot of things together is very important.”Click To Tweet

As an MCAT student, when you’re learning about physics, ask yourself how is this implemented in chemistry? And how can you further extrapolate this in biology? Or whenever you’re reading about biology, think about the chemistry side of things. And if you’re able to explain the chemistry side of things, well then explain the chemical interactions physically. Think about those type of connections and you’re going to do really well on the MCAT. 

For the CARS section, ask yourself these major questions: what was the point of that? Who would write that? What is the purpose of writing that who would go pick that up and read it and why?

When you think about those like major ideas and such grand view, it helps you get a better understanding of the the the gist of the passage and the author’s tone.

When you go and attack these questions, make sure to reword everything. Once you have things reworded and simplified, it will be easier to answer the questions.

[41:01] Blueprint MCAT Resources

The AAMC had announced the shortened exams and Blueprint was working very hard for this. They recently released the set of all of their exams being shortened down to match the new structure of the new MCAT during this year.

They’ve also developed a new blueprint MCAT course. And this course is very modular-based. They focus on big topics and then incorporate a lot of the smaller topics. So one day you could be learning about physics, chemistry, and biology all in one module.

The module helps track your progress. Test out of some of these modules if you already feel very confident in some of these and focus more on your weak areas.


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