End-Of-Summer Q&A: What’s Happening in the Premed World?

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PMY 403: End-Of-Summer Q&A: What's Happening in the Premed World?

Session 403

What’s happening with the MCAT? What is the AAMC VITA? Plus, I give tips for applying to medical school this cycle, essays, interviewing, and more! Join us!

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.

We’re going to jump in and go to the questions. Learn about so much fun stuff happening at Mappd. Be sure to check it out.

[02:34] SEA vs. AAMC

Q: “What are you hearing about the cycle from the medical school side especially with all the work from SEA?”

A: I do know that from some sources that the SEA’s Letter and their threats are being taken seriously and are “a pain in the butt” which is good. I think what the SEA (Students for Ethical Admissions) has done is phenomenal. It’s a nice grassroots organization.

A lot of physicians were on board with not liking it, there were some physicians that say you’re going to be in harm’s way as a physician, which I completely disagree with. It completely lacks empathy.

I think the AAMC has really put their foot in the ground. The letter that they released last week was an abomination, saying that they don’t want to cancel the MCAT because it’s a disservice to underserved and disadvantaged or underrepresented students saying that it helps them.

It is complete baloney directly from the AAMC’s own data that shows that minority students do horrible on the test compared to their white and Asian counterparts.

And then to have another letter, which I haven’t verified. But I saw a potential email from someone inside the AAMC saying the MCAT perpetuates systemic racism etc, which is completely contrary to what the open letter said.

The open letter also states they don’t want to move to a remote MCAT because it’s a disadvantage for students who don’t have access. However many weeks prior, they said they have this new virtual interview platform called VITA. But you also need Internet access as well as a quiet place for this. The AAMC is just completely backward about everything they’re doing right now.

“Not every student lives in a mansion and has three empty rooms to choose from to do VITA.”Click To Tweet

[06:24] Thoughts on the MMI

Q: What do you think of MMI?

A: I love MMI’s! The MMI stands for the Multiple Mini-Interviews. For more information about the interview process, check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.

“The goal of all medical school interviews is to see how well you communicate. That's all.”Click To Tweet

Medical schools already know you’re awesome because you were invited for the interview, to begin with. So if you are worried about proving yourself in an interview, you’re focusing on the wrong thing. Focus on whether the person wants to go on a cross country trip with you. That’s how you want to approach it.

The MMI is scenario-based so you need to think through the scenario. There’s an MMI book out there that teaches a framework. And as soon as I start hearing that framework, I know that the student probably isn’t going to do very well because they’re just rehearsing a framework. Sometimes students using that framework do well, and that’s great. But a lot of times, it adds extra stress because you’re so worried about the framework that you’re actually not thinking about the answer. So you have to be careful with that.

So go in thinking about the scenario. What is it really asking me? What do I need to think about? Remember that there are no right and wrong answers. Most of the time, the question comes down to what your thought process is behind what you are doing. So focus on those things.

[09:06] DIY Postbac at a Community College for Financial Reasons

Q: Good question here. How do you feel about do-it-yourself postbac at a community college for financial reasons and GPA booster? 

A: This is a common question, especially for students who need to fix their undergraduate performance. Community college is much cheaper than going to a four-year institution or doing a formal postbac, or a special master’s program or any other sort of master’s program.

“Community college, for most students, is going to be cheaper than staying at their four-year institution.”Click To Tweet

What you have to think about is if you’ve done all of your courses at a four-year institution and you didn’t do super well and you’re going back. Or maybe you didn’t do any science classes and you’re going back and you’re doing it at community college because that’s what works financially. That’s what works. And if that’s what works with your schedule as a nontrad, then that’s fine.

Just understand that there may be some schools out there that aren’t going to like it. 

Where the red flag for community college really comes into play is when you’re bouncing in between your four-year college and your community college trying to find the best/easiest classes/professors to take.

When you do poorly in your physics class at your four-year university, then you go take physics at a community college and you do well, then there are some questions there. Why did you do that? Is that grade really representative of your potential in medical school?

[10:53] Applying Late in the Cycle

Q: Is there such a thing as applying late in this cycle like late August or early September?

A: If you’re applying late August or early September, you’re probably still fine. I still would try to submit your application as soon as possible. There’s no reason not to submit your application to one school unless that $180 for that one school is going to be a barrier for you.

If you’re waiting for an MCAT score to see if it’s going to be competitive before you click Submit, then potentially wait. I don’t think there’s any reason to not wait in that case. 

'The earlier you submit your application, the earlier your application can be verified by AAMC.'Click To Tweet

AAMC is horrible with how long it takes to turn around applications. It’s a lot of work. But the AACOMAS application through Liaison, which is the company that services AACOMAS. They turn around and verify applications within days. So there’s no reason that AMCAS can’t do it. They just choose not to have good systems in place or have the right manpower to do it.

Everything is solvable with money and it takes hiring more people and having better systems. For some reason, AAMC hasn’t done that for verifying applications. And who’s disadvantaged because of that are old students who aren’t as prepared and  who are struggling with the MCAT and waiting to submit application and so on and so forth.

[12:40] Community College vs. A 4-Year Institution

Q: Does getting your premed education really matter if it’s done at a community college versus a university? 

A: It does. There are some schools that are going to question it. But at the end of the day, the question is, what does your whole application look like? There are lots of things to think about when it comes to community college. But the big picture is that a community college is fine. It’s everything else that fits around that as well.

[14:40] Nontrad-Friendly Schools

Q: How can I find out which schools are favorable to nontrads?

A: Personally, I’m not a fan of trying to figure that out because it changes from year to year. It just depends on who’s on the admissions board and the admissions committees and everything else. So I wouldn’t try to figure that out. Don’t keep a list or think about that at all.

[15:09] MCAT-Related Questions

Q: What is your advice for late MCAT takers who were forced to schedule other dates and are also applying this cycle? 

A: Turn in your application now. If you think you’re going to score around where you want to score, turn in your application now to one school. If you’re playing the “one school” game (which I didn’t use to like, but now I understand it and I’m okay with it), submit it to one school and one school only and take care of the MCAT. Then in between those two weeks of taking the MCAT and getting your score, write all the secondary essays as much as you can to all the other schools you’re going to add to your list.

Q: How many times can you take the MCAT? 

A: Seven is the lifetime number you can take?

Q: What are your top MCAT tips for people who are failing to improve their scores? 

A: Everything is about self-reflection. The question is why are you not improving your score? There are a lot of reasons scores aren’t improving.

Maybe they’re focusing too much on practice tests and not reviewing. They’re not reviewing the test to see what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they should study on in between the practice tests. 

Another reason is test anxiety. In this case, you need to work on some mindfulness and breathing exercises and stuff. Or maybe you have some undiagnosed learning disability.

'A very common mistake students make is focusing too much on content and not enough on the strategies behind the MCAT.'Click To Tweet

The MCAT is a test to see how well you do on the MCAT. You have to know all of the material, but if all you do is study the material and you don’t study the MCAT, then you will struggle.

[17:43] Upward Trends

Q: I have an upward trend (3.5, 4.0, 4.0) all science-heavy for my last three semesters, is that enough of an upward trend to attempt to apply? Or should I go for a postbac or SMP? 

A: It’s a great upward trend. The question is what’s the current right? What’s your cumulative and science GPA? Total? How many credits is that? If it’s only five credits every semester, then that’s not a ton. Again, some half-answers for some half-questions because there are lots of things that go into that.

[19:08] Low Score Due to COVID?

Q: Would it be appropriate to talk about the low MCAT score in the COVID essay and how COVID leads to a low score? 

A: It’s understandable that COVID has caused lots of stress and lots of cancellation. It’s like training for a marathon. The students who are successful on the MCAT have a plan laid out in front of them to do well.

Then being told that your MCAT has been canceled could completely throw you off. Mentally, that’s super frustrating. It is stressful for a lot of students. Students could be scoring worse because of it. So you could put it in a COVID essay and lay out what you were doing in your full-length exams prior to the MCAT.

But the question will come down to why your full-length exams before the MCAT didn’t translate to the MCAT. What was missing there? So just be careful with that.

Just make sure it doesn’t sound like an excuse, and it’s just some reasoning. But there can be a fine line there as well.

[21:26] Speech Issues

Q: I stutter. Would it make sense to announce that at the beginning of my interview? Is that a disqualifier?

A: With AAMC’s VITA (Video Interview Tool for Admissions), this increases the risk of implicit and explicit bias because it’s a video interview. This means you will have to show yourself. They can hear your stutter. They can see that you’re overweight. They can see that you’re black or brown. And all of these implicit biases are going to come into play. They may not like the way you talk or the pitch of your voice. In your case, they’re going to see that you stutter.

But that’s what secondary essays are for. Why are they doing a video assessment when they have secondary essays to ask you the same questions? And this is the reason I’m not a big fan of VITA.

Going back to the question about whether it would make sense to announce the stutter, it’s up to you. If you were introduced to a new group of friends, would you go out and tell them you stutter? Just play it out how you normally would play it. Don’t change it up for the interview.

“Treat the interview just like you would treat real life.”Click To Tweet


Meded Media


The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview