This week, we go on Instagram and answer a ton of great, insightful questions that students have. We’re also making a huge announcement about how you can work with ME!
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:25] Portraying Your Passion
Q: How does an applicant successfully portray their passion for an application pre-interview?
A: A lot of students try too hard to do this on an application. And what typically happens is it comes across that you’re forcing this in an application.“One of the biggest problems comes from students who say they're passionate and yet they don't show they're passionate through their activities and everything they've done.” Click To Tweet
So how do you show your passion? Well, you go out there and live it. Then you reflect on that journey. In your application, talk about how each of those things have affected you as a person, not necessarily how they have affected you as a future physician.
A lot of people think that the whole application is dedicated to showing why a future physician. But working a non-medical related job is still something you can put on your application. Because there are skills that are translatable to being a doctor such as communication skills, organizational skills, or leadership skills. So don’t be afraid of putting lots of stuff on your application.
[04:25] Preparing for CASPer
Q: What advice do you have for CASPer?
A: In The Premed Years Episode 303, I spoke with Dr. Kelly Dore, the founder of CASPer where we talked all about it and how to best prepare for it. A few things have changed though. They’re starting to send out score sheets, which I wasn’t aware of.“CASPer is a situational judgment test so I don't think you have to prepare for it. Except that you just need to understand the process.” Click To Tweet
Just go to casper.com and take their practice test. It’s the same setup that you’re going to see in the future. You just have to type fast and think out loud when you’re typing your answers to really show your work. CASPer really wants to understand your thought process behind what you are going to do.
[06:50] Too Many W’s
Q: What do medical schools think about classes with W’s that have letter grades that have later been taken again and gotten good grades?
A: Too many students worry about W’s. And there’s nothing to worry about unless you have a pattern of withdrawals. For instance, you’re taking a course then you withdraw. Then you’re taking it again and withdrawing. Then you go to a community college and then do well.
[08:00] Applying as a “Practice” Run
Q: Should I apply “early” even though my app feels weaker as a “practice run” to learn the process better or wait?
A: Do not do anything around the application as “a practice run.” That’s a waste of a lot of money and a lot of stress for nothing. You can register and create an account at the AAMC or TMDSAS right now. Play with it without submitting an application and paying for it.
[08:46] MCAT, GPA
Q: Do you think the MCAT might change after this year?
A: No, I don’t think they’re going to do much with that.
Q: Is retaking classes after undergrad alright if your GPA isn’t as high as you want to be?
A: Yes, that’s perfectly normal. It’s called a postbac. Your undergrad is your baccalaureate degree. And once you graduate and you have your baccalaureate degree then you are doing what is known as a postbac. Please check out Mappd.com to help you track everything.
[11:04] Typos, Fees, and Virtual Shadowing
Q: Do typos look bad on the application?
A: Typos happen. Obviously, you don’t want them. And no matter how many times you look at an application, they always pop up after you click Submit. Don’t worry about it. assuming it’s only that one.
Q: Can you submit an application on AAMC for free?
A: No, you cannot submit an application for free.
Q: Would it be wise to apply to medical school with virtual shadowing only?
A: I wouldn’t recommend it. And a lot of students will be doing that. The biggest question that’s going to come up is why did you wait so long to get shadowing? If you knew that you wanted to be a physician? Why did you wait so long? A lot of students do this whole thing backwards. But you have to do this as soon as you think you want to be a physician. Put yourself around patients to see if you like being around patients.“As soon as you think you want to be a physician, you should go out and shadow to see if you want to be a physician. Go out and get clinical experience.”Click To Tweet
The backward thinking is understandable. But it’s probably not wise. Look at other things like scribing. Get a job as a scriber and you can do it during COVID assuming you are healthy enough to go out and you are okay with the risk of going out and being in a hospital or a clinical setting to do that. Try to get a clinical experience job because a lot of the volunteering stuff is just done for now with COVID. I highly recommend scribing. Scribing is basically shadowing with work attached to it.
Also, check out eShadowing.com, it’s an online shadowing platform where we do live shadowing every Monday at 8pm Eastern. Basically, they’re presentations with the physicians talking about their specialties. It’s very similar to my Specialty Stories podcast, but it’s live and students love the cases.
[15:15] Scribing During the Pandemic
Q: Is becoming a medical scribe during COVID-19 pandemic highly valued for medical schools?
A: Scribing is a great job. But do it because you’re interested. And not just because you want to look good on the application. Scribing is not easy. It’s a lot of pressure and a lot of work. You have to understand medical terminologies and understand what the physicians are up to. You have to be prepared to talk about or think about what’s coming, and be prepared to work through that with the patient chart.'During this time, scribing is a great job. But don't do things just because you think they're going to look good on the application.'Click To Tweet
[16:25] Shadowing Specialties
Q: What is the ideal amount of different specialties to shadow before feeling like you have a good grasp of medicine?
A: This is going to vary among students. A lot of students only have access to one type of physician. Don’t worry too much about different specialties. I know there are pre-health advisors out there that recommend a certain amount of hours with subspecialty subspecialists and a certain amount of hours with primary care doctors. You don’t have to go that in-depth.
[16:58] Pharmacy Tech as Clinical Experience
Q: Is being a pharmacy tech a good way to become familiar with the health field? Will it look good on applications?
A: A lot of students become pharmacy techs because it’s a job and it’s available. In my mind, being a pharmacy tech is a retail job. It is not a clinical experience. And yes, you are in and around medicine. You’re interacting with the pharmacist. Sometimes you’re calling the doctor’s office to clarify something. So you can put it on there on your application, but I don’t think it’s a good clinical experience.
[18:00] More Questions
Q: What should my goal be for the MCAT?
A: 528. That should be everyone’s goal. Obviously, you want as high as you can.
Q: How many hours of shadowing are ideal?
A: About 40-50 hours consistently over time is fine.'Shadowing is great, but it's super boring because it's a very passive experience.'Click To Tweet
[18:59] The Future of Applications
Q: Do you think the future application process takes into account COVID in regards to shadowing?
A: The COVID is going to be a part of the application process for years to come. Think about the nontraditional students, the freshmen in college right now. A lot of people who are still years out from applying to medical school.
There are going to have these weird gaps in their application because of COVID in 2020. So it’s just going to be a part of the process. You’re going to have schools that are going to have some flexibility in hours, potentially some flexibility in online courses, and some flexibility in pass-fail. All that stuff is going to be there for years to come.'Don't worry about the future with COVID.'Click To Tweet
[20:07] What’s a Good Clinical Job?
Q: What would you consider a good clinical job?
A: A lot of students get confused about what at least I consider clinical experience. And my definition of clinical experience, which I got from an admissions committee member at Hopkins is that if you are close enough to smell the patients, that is clinical experience.
Now, I always have to add a caveat to that, right, because it has to be in a little bit of a clinical context. That doesn’t mean it has to be in a clinical setting. For example, hospice is not in a true clinical setting but working there is a great clinical experience.“Clinical experience doesn't have to be in a true clinical setting, but it has to be somewhat clinically related.” Click To Tweet
And that’s different from an admin job like as a pharmacy tech or a registration clerk. Because even if you go into the patient’s room, you’re still doing admin stuff. That’s not clinical experience.
Other examples of clinical experiences are EMT and phlebotomy. Child life patient transport is a little bit iffy. Some schools don’t like it, but I think it’s fine. Being an ER volunteer is also good. As long as you’re not just cleaning rooms and changing sheets and stocking shelves, but actually interacting with patients. Pharmaceutical sales is not clinical experience. You’re interacting with doctors, not patients. Again, clinical experience is not being in a hospital.
Virtual scribing is 1,000% clinical. It’s scribing. And in the COVID world, it’s probably not the best, but it is what it is at this point. So I would definitely go for it, if you can’t get something else.
[23:27] Advice for Canadian Applicants
Q: What is your biggest advice for Canadians applying to us medical school?
A: You have to do a lot of research and find out what medical schools are actually Canadian-friendly. That’s the biggest thing. Once you figure that out, then you look into what are some potential ties you may have.
[24:36] Paid vs. Volunteer Clinical Experience
Q: Is it fine if the clinical experience is not paid?
A: This is a big misconception around what is clinical experience. Many students think that clinical experience is more valuable if it’s volunteer versus paid.'Clinical experience is clinical experience, whether it's paid or volunteer. No one is not better than the other.'Click To Tweet
There are some medical schools that value volunteering. It’s not clinical volunteering, but just volunteering in general. Think of Habitat for Humanity, soup kitchen, etc. So clinical experience doesn’t have to be paid.
[25:23] Publication and Research
Q: How important is publication for research?
A: It’s not. Research isn’t that important. A lot of people think research is the end all be all. It’s overrated. And being published is more important for residencies than it is for medical schools.
It’s more of the research of what you did that you learned from it that is important and not necessarily just having that publication.
[26:57] Canceled Internships
Q: What should I do about internships? Both of mine were canceled.
A: You make the best of it. Try to figure something out, do something else. Everyone is going through the same thing.'The worst thing that you can do right now is do nothing.'Click To Tweet
A lot of people are doing nothing right now. They’re moping and saying everything was canceled. But everyone’s internships were also canceled. And everyone isn’t just sitting around doing nothing. So make the best of it. Go and find something else that’s in a virtual setting. Hit the phones, emails, and find something that will work for you.
[28:03] Applicant Who’s a DACA Recipient
I had a DACA recipient on the podcast recently and was accepted to medical school. So if you’re an undocumented immigrant in this country, if you’re a DACA recipient, a lot of medical schools consider DACA as an international kind of student. Go listen to episode 410 for more information.
[30:17] Shadowing If You Have a Clinical Job
Q: How much shadowing do I need if I have a solid clinical job?
A: A lot of people will either think that they don’t need shadowing because they’re a nurse or they don’t need shadowing because they have clinical experience. Again, do 40-50 hours and you’re usually okay.“Shadowing needs to be there standing on its own.”Click To Tweet
[30:40] Computer Science as a Science Course?
Q: Does computer science count as my science GPA boost for postbac in schools like Carle are looking for CS backgrounds?
A: Carle Illinois College of Medicine is an engineering-based medical school in Illinois. I’ve had them on the podcast a few times. But just Google AAMC course classification or AACOMAS or AMCAS course classification, AACOMAS course classification, or TMDSAS course classification. And just look at how those work. But usually, those are not considered science courses.
[31:40] The Goal GPA
Q: What’s the goal for GPA?
A: As high as possible. I had on the podcast Dean Rivera, the Director of Admissions at NYU. He’s been on the podcast three or four times. Please check it out.'Everyone is going to have a different story. So this is where you separate yourself from everyone else.'Click To Tweet
Understand that your target GPA is going to be different based on where you’re starting from. So if you started off poorly and undergrad, your goal GPA is going to be much lower than someone who’s been getting 4.0’s in freshman year, sophomore year, Junior, etc.
Rather, think more about your trend. Have as high of a trend as possible – meaning two semesters, three semesters, or five semesters. And get as high as a 4.0 as possible. So that means your final GPA may only be a 3.2 if you started off very poorly, but that trend shows that you’ve turned it around.
[35:38] Applying to Caribbean Medical Schools'You should not go to a Caribbean medical school until you have to go to Caribbean medical school.'Click To Tweet
Caribbean medical schools, or any international medical schools, Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, wherever there are medical schools that market to U.S. students or Canadian students as well. For any of those schools, you are considered an international medical graduate, assuming you go and you graduate.
The one misconception about international schools, especially Caribbean schools, is that they are easier than U.S. medical schools. And a lot of students think it’s going to be a vacation being able to hang out on an island for two years. But it’s not any easier because you have to work harder. You have to do better than if you were at a U.S. school.
As an international medical graduate, you are considered less than the U.S. graduates, unfortunately. And with that, there’s something else that is changing in the next couple years with USMLE Step 1 going pass fail.
Step 1 has been a big chance for International Medical graduates to prove themselves and to stand out but that is now going away.
Caribbean medical schools are good for students who have horrible GPAs, have really good trends, but their GPA is just too low. They had to overcome too much from a class standpoint that they likely will never get into medical school because their GPA is just too low. But they’ve proven to themselves that they can do well in school.
If you have proven that you can do well in classes now, but you struggled a ton early on and your grades will never get up to an acceptable range for medical schools, then a Caribbean medical school is right for you. If you have great grades, but for some reason, the MCAT does not click with you. If you’re an ESL student, and you just can’t figure out the MCAT, the Caribbean might be right for you. Any international medical school is usually more flexible with the MCAT.
[41:06] The Big Announcement!
I have a new service called the Application Academy as I’m switching more to a group coaching model to where we’re hosting office hours, probably two to three hours a week, over a couple days. So that if you’re not there one day, you can catch me another day live. Those office hours will be recorded. They’ll be released as a private podcast, so that if you love listening to podcasts, you can catch all those Q and A’s as well. You could submit your questions if you can’t make it live. I’ll be answering all questions that come.
One of the biggest things that I have found through this process is that students are using me for more of that accountability. And now you’re going to have a whole cohort of students who are going through this process with you. So you can all help each other with personal statements, with extracurricular activities, etc.
We will have a private Facebook group that you can all hang out in. I want to make this the best group ever. Everyone will get access to our mock interview platform and access to Mappd so you can track everything.
My normal rate is $375 for a 45-minute call and $500 an hour. And I’m going to make this a nine-month program for $500 total. And so we’ll have all the office hours, all the presentations, access to Mappd, access to the anytime mock interview platform. Indeed, this is going to be the best way. This is a one-to-many experience. Again, this will be $500 for nine months or four payments of $125.
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