Am I Ready to Apply to Medical School? A NEW Series

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PMY 396: Am I Ready to Apply to Medical School? A NEW Series

Session 396

How do you know you’re ready to apply to medical school? Join me for the NEW Mappd podcast and YouTube series focused on helping YOU figure out if you’re ready.

This is going to be a new series which I’m going to play today. I’m doing it with Dr. Scott Wright, the VP of academic advising at It’s a new technology platform that I’m building and co-founding with Rachel Grubbs who has almost 20 years of experience in the test prep world who formerly worked with Next Step Test Prep and Blueprint.

Scott is the former director of admissions at UT Southwestern Medical School and former executive director of TMDSAS. He was in charge of the whole application service and had intimate knowledge and connections with all of the medical schools through TMDSAS.

Scott and I are going to do “Am I Ready?” a new podcast and new YouTube series that’s going to be on the Mappd YouTube channel, which you can find at

For more podcast resources to help you along your journey to medical school and beyond, check out Meded Media.

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

[02:52] Am I Ready?

Am I Ready is going to be a new series that we’re going to put on with Mappd that you’re going to be able to watch and maybe be even be able to participate in and you’re going to hear the first episode today again from National Premed Day which we held on 5/28.

If you are interested in applying potentially for this year or starting off for next year. Whether you’re ready to apply for this next cycle, or you want to get a headstart or questioning whether or not you’re going to be ready to apply, go to Then we will redirect you to a Google form that you can fill out and let us know that you are interested in applying to be on Am I Ready.

[05:37] What You Should Be Asking Yourself

Students are so apt to think about things in terms of spreadsheets and data and scientific analysis, etc. But Scott is a real advocate for having that gut feeling that it’s time. You have to be honest with yourself to say that you’re not ready or you’re not confident to say you’re ready.

'Often we don't want to ask questions because we don't really want to know the answers.'Click To Tweet

If you’re talking to your advisor or if you’re talking to another student, or others you trust. And you’re not really interested in what they’re going to say, or you’re afraid of what they’re going to say, that may be a good indication that maybe this isn’t the right timing for you. Think about taking an extra year or taking an extra stab at it when you are in a position where you feel ready.

So the first question to ask yourself would be is it the right timing for me?

[08:49] Low GPA, No MCAT Score Yet, and ESL Immigrant from the Philippines

Our first student is an immigrant from the Philippines who’s a nurse. She hasn’t had the MCAT yet and is taking it in September. She worked as a nurse in the Philippines and then as a hemodialysis technician in the U.S. She’s obviously in a clinical setting and she’s also a martial artist for five years. Her science GPA is only 3.0 and her cumulative GPA is 3.13.

'The trend matters.'Click To Tweet

Just based on that limited information as a nurse and a hemodialysis technician, what kind of stands out as a big question mark is without knowing the MCAT score.

Scott spots several issues that might suggest she’s not ready to apply. One is the lateness of the MCAT. Timing is thrown out the window right now because of the COVID and those things are affecting the application timeline. Why is this student waiting so late to take the MCAT?

The second concern is the student’s low GPA, particularly in the science courses. This is not unusual. When we talk about applicants that are coming from different cultural settings or from a different model of education, there can be some issues with regard to the transition into an American system of education.

Another issue is the English-speaking ability of someone coming from a non-English background. Coming from the Philippines, our student is probably not a native English speaker. And this can cause significant problems in a lot of ways, but most specifically on the MCAT where it’s heavily reading-intensive, and it’s timed.

One of the questions that she needs to ask herself if that’s the case about this issue of language is, what language does she think in? Is she thinking in her original language? Or is she thinking in English?

If she’s still thinking and translating in her head, this is a big problem because of the nature of the MCAT. 

This can cause some significant issues with comprehension and finishing the exam. So in this particular case, Scott thinks this student is probably not ready until maybe another year to really focus on the MCAT and to really focus on some additional upper-level science courses. So she can really show to a medical school that she can do this and at a high level with the upper-level science courses.

[13:45] Excavated a 2-Million-Year-Old Rhinoceros Remains and Now Wanting to Become a Physician


Our next student is planning on getting at least a 510 on their MCAT score, and they’re testing on September 11. It doesn’t look like they’re applying this cycle. Practice scores are about 506 and they range potentially with that score that they want.

GPA Scores and Trends

They have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and science GPA of 3.2, but with an upward trend.

First semester cumulative was a 2.9. Last semester was a 3.8. They transferred schools. The first two years at one school is 3.3, and the last three years at a an “esteemed” school, as they put it, is at 3.65. But they’re showing a less upward trend in the sciences. 3.0 in the first year and 3.3 in the last two years (still struggling a little bit with those sciences.)

Shadowing/Volunteering/Research Experience

They have some good shadowing hours of about 100 hours in GI, Peds, Oncology, and most recently in the ER back in February 2020. The student is a scribe at a pediatric unit that they’re currently doing 3 years of primate research. 500 volunteering hours at a children’s blood and cancer clinic. And they’re also a volunteer researcher on the twin brain study.

It looks like they’re interested in Texas and the University of Washington. The student’s mom lives in Texas or in Washington. So she has some good ties to that state.

Possible Red Flags 

The student says they had 3 Q-drops. It basically means she withdrew. She was enrolled in the course and then withdrew from the course for some reason.

Three withdrawals is actually not a red flag for me unless there’s any significant pattern. But it looks like they have reasons for each of those.

Reason for Applying

The student provides a brief explanation of wanting to be a doctor. They started off as a biological anthropology student. So it makes sense to that primate research. Then they started volunteering at the blood cancer clinic and became a premed student.

Additional Experiences

She has some experiences that may help her stand out. She’s also a seamstress of reusable coffee filters for seven years. Again, this biological anthropology student excavated a 2-million-year-old rhinoceros remains in another country. So it’s an interesting little journey here.

[17:43] Is This Student Ready?

Scott thinks this is promising especially with the upward trajectory on the GPA scores. It sounds like switching schools was a good thing for her which can sometimes happen especially if you need a new start or scenery.

This is the kind of applicant whom Scott thinks he would want to get to know more about. And this is exactly what you want a reviewer to think. All this being said, Scott says this student can go for it given a lot of good stuff in her background.

There are some strong contact experiences and clinical experiences and some real broadness in her. And medical schools love that kind of stuff. It diversifies the class. It gives breadth and interest.

'What you want to do is you want to plan for the worst and hope for the best.'Click To Tweet

[20:25] Improved MCAT Scores for this Reapplicant

Our student here has their last MCAT score of 494 and is planning on retaking in July. They’re currently scoring at a 505 and hopes to score a 510 and realistically, a 508.

GPA 3.447 for AMCAS and 3.440 for AACOMAS, cumulative GPA 3.564, and then a postbac (10 hours at this point) at 3.73. So it looks like a nice upward trend there.

The student has 3,000 hours of clinical experience as a medical laboratory scientist, tutoring underserved kids for a couple of years. They also worked as a CNA for 600 hours. Other experiences: crisis counselor, lots of shadowing, weightlifting. The student has a long school list, mostly osteopathic medical schools.

Scott thinks this sounds promising. The MCAT sounds like it’s in a good area. It’s huge improvement going from 494. It sounds like she’s got a plan to move forward with that and to improve on that. The numbers look good and the activities are outstanding.

In this case, Scott wouldn’t delay an application for that student because there’s really no reason to hold back.

'A reapplicant is not punished for simply being a reapplicant.'Click To Tweet

What you have to show is that you recognized what the problems were in the previous application. Or you work to improve on what you’ve been doing. But otherwise, put yourself out there.

There are not very many absolutes in the medical school admissions process. And one of them is that if you do not apply, you will not get in.


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