Mappd is Coming! A Special Ask the Dean Q&A Episode

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

PMY 404: Mappd is Coming! A Special Ask the Dean Q&A Episode

Session 402

Ask the Dean is a special Q&A that the Mappd team does for Mappd users. You can be one at starting on 8/24! You can also still preorder for a bonus.

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.

[01:06] Be a Part of Mappd!

Today, I’m playing a special episode of Ask the Dean, a Facebook Live series that we do inside of our Mappd group for students who use Mappd. We do it live for them in there. It’s also available on and we actually release the audio as a podcast as well. So if you aren’t subscribed to Ask the Dean yet, please do! It’s a great series with a ton of Q&A.

Joining me on Ask the Dean is Rachel Grubbs who has about 20 years of experience in the test prep world and student world. We also have Dr. Scott Wright who’s the VP of Academic Advising. He’s the former director of admissions at UT Southwestern and the former executive director of TMDSAS.

We are currently offering a 14-day free trial so please do take advantage of it and see if we’re the right fit for you on your premed journey!

[08:29] Patient Hours at a Dentist’s Office

Q: Would taking temperatures and blood pressures at a dentist’s office count for patient contact hours for medical school?

A: The first question here is whether the student is thinking about going into dentistry and switching over to medicine. So it’s very important that you’re able to explain this within the context of a description of the experience in the medical school application.

Now, having said that, it is patient contact. These are patients in a healthcare setting and you are being active with them. So it’s plausible that it would count for clinical hours in the medical school application.

Whether you’re a physical therapy assistant or something similar to a therapy assistant in a chiropractic office, at the heart of all of it, it’s patient care. Although not necessarily in a hospital, it’s patient care. You’re interacting with patients in some sort of clinical way. The biggest takeaway here is to make sure that this is not the majority of your main clinical experience for the application.

[11:30] Getting College Credits

Q: I recently just got an unpaid internship, volunteering for a local nonprofit with a physician. I have to decide whether I would like college credit as a postbac student. I don’t need credits to graduate. Do medical schools consider this as volunteer hours if I also receive college credit? Or will I need to do the zero-credit option to receive volunteer hours?

A: Unless you pointed it out, many on an admissions committee would not even notice that. They’re not looking at the extracurricular list and then looking if it lines up to your courses.

'Particularly on the first review of an application, they're usually fairly quick. They're not going to deep dive into an application.'Click To Tweet

Initially, the reviewer looks for certain data points that they want to concentrate on for deciding whether or not they’re going to take them. But even once it gets to the admissions committee level after an interview, it would take a pretty savvy admissions committee member to even connect those two dots. If you don’t need the credit hours, then why even do it for credit? So you don’t have to worry about that.

What the admissions committee members are looking for is what do you get out of this? What’s the value of this experience? What did you get out of it? Whether you got credit for it or not? Dive deep into why this was important to you. Whether or not you got credit for it, the key to all of it is the meaning part. And you wouldn’t have to do a bunch of mental gymnastics to try to figure out.

[14:56] Nursing Level Classes for Medical School Application

Q: I took human anatomy, clinical physiology and microbiology, psychology, and sociology from a nursing degree a long time ago, will they still be considered good for medical school admission?

A: A lot of times, these nursing level classes don’t count. But the foreign institution is the bigger issue here.

“Most medical schools are going to require that prerequisites be taken in the U.S. or a U.S.-accredited institution.”Click To Tweet

Consequently, there are U.S. medical schools that particularly want the prerequisites to be recent, not 7-10 years ago. 

Secondly, if those courses were taken as a part of your nursing curriculum, it’s likely that the medical schools are not going to count those because they’re not for science majors. They were for a professional program in nursing or some allied health program of some sort.

Then there’s this myth going around the premed world that prerequisites expire. Not to say, there aren’t a few schools out there that do have expiration dates. The issue here is not about the expiration in a bureaucratic way. But the idea is if you’re far away from the material, what does it mean about your ability to perform in the classroom?

“The first six to nine weeks in medical school is crucial because it's setting a good time for establishing study habits. And if you're playing catch up from day one, you're done.”Click To Tweet

There’s also this Pancakes Every Day video on YouTube. Basically, the gist is that every day you have to eat 10 pancakes. And that is your goal in medical school. But some days, you’re not very hungry and you don’t want to eat 10 pancakes, so you only have five. But guess that’s what that means for tomorrow? Now, you’ve got to eat 15 pancakes. But you can only eat 10 and so you only eat 10 and then it’s 15 the next day. So you’re always behind at the end of the day.

It’s like this metaphor of drinking from a firehose, but eating pancakes is definitely a great analogy as well.

[20:49] CNA as Clinical Experience

Q: Does working as a CNA in a skilled nursing facility/rehab but not in a hospital considered a clinical setting?

A: That’s clinical experience. Again, clinical experience is interacting with patients. Now, there’s a difference between a skilled nursing facility and a dentist’s office. A skilled nursing facility is a clinical setting similar to a hospital outpatient setting. 

“Students get very caught up with hospital equals clinical experience. And that's not always the case.”Click To Tweet

Taking temperature, taking blood pressure, changing their sheets, whatever it is you’re doing – these are the mechanical elements of it. What many admissions committees are more interested in are the personal qualities that you gain from patient interaction. Are you experiencing these patient interactions? And are there things coming from that such as your ability to think about and reflect on what all that meant to you?

Somebody that has absolutely no personality and someone who patients hate can still do those same things. They might not be as good a doctor, but they can still take a temperature and empty a bedpan. So an admissions officer is more interested in what they got out of this and what their relationship was with these patients.

[26:30] Virtual Shadowing

Q: What are your thoughts on virtual shadowing during the pandemic? How will outcomes view virtual shadowing?

A: Go put in some efforts and get into a doctor’s office right call calling those connections, if you have them. Reach out to friends family, cold call, email, all of that stuff. It’s still very hard for a lot of students to find shadowing experience.

But obviously this year with the pandemic, shadowing is almost non-existent. So, virtual shadowing is the next best thing and it’s better than nothing.

As to how will admissions committees view virtual shadowing, they’re having to deal with virtual or online courses. They are having to virtually interview students. So why would they be looking differently at virtual shadowing when everything is virtual right now?

'Everything is virtual right now.'Click To Tweet

Therefore, admissions committees are going to recognize this. They don’t have a choice. They’re going to have to see things differently this year. And at least virtual shadowing is something, so do it. Put it on your application and let the admissions committee members do what they will do with it.

[28:55] Low CARS Score

Q: I am scoring low in the CARS section of the MCAT but doing well in the other sections. I believe it’s due to the fact that I started learning English when I was a teenager, which is why my reading speed is pretty low and my vocabulary is not as rich as a native speaker. Is this something medical schools will acknowledge? Or is this simply not a good enough reason for a low CARS score? (This student says she’s getting a 124.)

A: I did a video called Mission Accepted with a student who had a 121 in CARS and was admitted to an MD school and DO schools. And she was an ESL student as well.

One of the premed myths is that if you score less than a 125, you can’t get into medical school in a section. So this is about, the micro versus macro of what’s your total score? So having a 124 is not going to be an issue.

Scott adds that this is not an unusual circumstance for an admissions committee to see these kinds of things. Particularly when students do well at their university and have a strong grade point average, they seem to be doing well the MCAT.

What this points out is a huge degree of work ethic that the student is putting in. The student is making the transition into a new culture, into a new language. It shows resilience, it shows perseverance. There’s a lot of personal things that come from that. And admissions committees are drawn to those qualities.

“Those personal qualities of perseverance, work ethic, and motivation to just show up and get it done, are the kinds of things that admissions committees really center in.”Click To Tweet

[31:26] Overcoming the Negative Self-Talk

If you listened to The MCAT CARS Podcast, where I break down passages with Jack Westin, he doesn’t believe that reading speed is a huge issue. In fact, it’s an excuse students use.

When an ESL student says they do well in the other sections, that’s a clue that this student can do perfectly fine in the CARS section. Their reading comprehension is good enough to do well in the other sections so it’s probably good enough for the CARS section.

But we have this mental barrier that an ESL student shouldn’t do well in the CARS section. They need to read faster because they don’t have the vocabulary. So they fill their brain with this negative self-talk.

They think they’re too slow to read the passages. The brain can only hold a certain amount of information at any given point in time. It’s called your working memory. It’s like RAM in a computer. And if you’re filling your working memory with this negative self-talk that you’re too slow. Or that being an ESL is a detriment to this. You don’t know what that word is, or that your vocabulary is not good enough. You’re going to do badly in CARS. All of that negative self-talk is just from a mentality standpoint, knowing that you do well in those other sections. 

'You're good enough to do well in the CARS section, you just need to allow yourself to.'Click To Tweet

Try this envisioning exercise of going to the MCAT testing center. Envision what’s going to happen, sitting in that chair, taking the MCAT, and then doing well. You’re actually putting it out there to the universe so it manifests the vision of what’s going to happen.

[34:35] Updating Grades and Classes

Q: Should I update schools regarding my grades and classes taken in summer and fall after having submitted my primary?

A: For TMDSAS, they will ask you to update the medical schools with your updated GPA. If you’re applying in Texas, you’ll communicate that through the application service in Texas. And they’ll communicate it to the schools. AMCAS and AACOMAS won’t allow you to change grades after you submit them. But you can add courses with TMDSAS.

From the admissions committee’s side of it, if a student was borderline and those grades could have helped, Scott again says that those summer grades or fall grades could make the difference. The admissions committee may very well say they’d like to know that fall grade. Because that would make them much more comfortable. Hence, Scott thinks it can make a difference.

“Think about the big picture. What does your whole academic record show? Because one semester is not going to bail you out.”Click To Tweet

It’s more of a long haul over the period of time and looking at those trends. And this is something that the Mappd software is doing, and will help you envision it. That’s why it’s really nice. And it’s a visual for you to see what those trends look like. Because that’s often what admissions committee members are really going to be looking at.

[38:06] Virtual Interviewing

Q: What are your thoughts about virtual interviewing?

A: This year is going to teach a lot of medical schools a lot of different things about the process. Some medical schools are going to say that virtual interviewing went really well. It gave them all the input they wanted and needed, so they’ll stick with it. So there are going to be some medical schools that will go with it.

But remember there are different agenda for the interview. It’s not just about the medical school where they get to know you and decide if you’re a good fit for the medical school. There’s also that other side of you getting to know that medical school and evaluating whether you want to be at that institution or not.

And doing it virtually doesn’t do it all. It doesn’t hit that part of the agenda for medical schools. They want you on their campus and show you what they’ve got. They want you to feel it and see it. They want you to talk to the students they want. But that’s not going to work virtually for them. There may be schools that will go virtual and others that will not. And there will be some hybrid in some ways perhaps. 

The admissions committees are in the middle of the boat just as students are. They’re not in some vacuum somewhere outside of the mainstream of everything that they don’t have a clue what’s happening.

'Breathe and calm down about this virtual shadowing thing and just let things happen the way they can happen.'Click To Tweet


Meded Media


Mission Accepted

The MCAT CARS Podcast

Pancakes Every Day video on YouTube