Today, I’m doing the Instagram Q&A where I mainly talk about why don’t think it’s possible to stand out on an application and why I don’t think that should be your goal of applying to medical school. And if you haven’t yet, follow us on Instagram @medicalschoolhq
For more podcast resources to help you along your journey to medical school and beyond, check out Meded Media. And help you even further on your premed journey, I highly recommend that you join Mappd, a new technology platform that I have co-founded to help you navigate your premed journey with confidence.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[00:53] Shadowing Hours vs. Clinical Hours
Q: Is it bad to have more shadowing hours (600) than clinical hours?
A: It’s important to have shadowing. But at the end of the day, shadowing is basically useless because all you’re doing is hanging out with the doctor, watching what’s going on.'Shadowing is very important and it's useless. It's at the very opposite ends of the spectrum.'Click To Tweet
It doesn’t look bad that you have more shadowing hours than clinical hours. But I would question why you’re spending more time shadowing. Now, there are so many variables that go into that. Maybe you just had easier access to get shadowing because of friends or family or whatever and you had a harder time getting clinical experience. But continue to get as much clinical experience as you can.
[01:58] Wanting to Be a Plastic Surgeon
Q: I’m in the 11th grade. And I want to be a plastic surgeon can you give me some tips?
A: Go follow Dr. Ricky Brown on TikTok and Instagram. He is a plastic surgeon and I just had him on the Specialty Stories podcast. But at this stage of the game, your goal is to learn how to be a good student and explore all of your passions. So go do that and don’t worry about plastic surgery right now.
[02:28] Nursing Then Med School
Q: I’m a nursing student and I’m doing everything I can do to get into medical school. Do I have a chance of getting into medical school?
A: Yes, you do.
Q: What’s your opinion on completing a nursing degree before entering medical school?
A: I think it’s useless. A lot of students will do it because they think it provides a good clinical experience. And sure you’re doing some clinical stuff in nursing school. But a lot of the classes you’re taking don’t even count for premed prereqs.“There's no point in going to nursing school if you know you want to be a physician.”Click To Tweet
And so if you’re going to have to repeat a lot of classes to a postbac, whatever it is, it’s just not worth it. Unless you’re already in nursing school to be a nurse and then you just had this epiphany that you want to go to medical school. Then in that case, just finish nursing school unless it makes more sense timewise or financially, to stop going to nursing school and finish with something else.
[03:36] Preparing for the MCAT Too Early?
Q: Is it ever too early to start getting ready for the MCAT?
A: The best way to prepare for the MCAT is to do well in your classes. As you go through this process and when you’re in your freshman chemistry class, you may think it’s useless. But the skills that you learn and you take with you as you go forward are going to help you with the MCAT.
It’s not necessarily every small thing that you learn in your chemistry class. But it’s the overall process of integrating information and learning new information. The more you can do that, the better you’ll do on your MCAT.
[04:28] MMI Tips
Q: What are tips on doing well in the MMI?
A: I’m on the faculty here at the University of Colorado teaching first and second-year students communication and it’s part of the foundations of doctoring course. It’s a communications course where there’s a small group of me and then standardized patients. The medical students go through this process of interacting with that standardized patient, learning how to take a history and learning how to communicate. And that skill where you are basically pretending to be real is a skill. It’s a skill that is hard to come by. But it’s a skill that you practice and you learn.
It’s the same thing with the multiple mini interviews or the MMI. A lot of these scenarios in the actor-based ones specifically, are the ones where you need to pretend to be real. And students have a real hard time with that. The more you can treat the scenario like real life, the better you will do.'Your goal as someone who is interviewing is to communicate who you are and communicate the thought process behind your answers.'Click To Tweet
Students who struggle the most are the ones who are trying to sell themselves at every turn, whether it’s a regular interview or an MMI. so make sure to just be yourself, answer the question, and get your thought process down.
[07:11] PA Clinical Experience
Q: I’m applying to PA school but how, when, and where would you explain the lack of clinical hours due to my family and work obligations?
A: I understand that PA school is a lot harder in terms of clinical experience and having the required clinical experience to even apply. But do check out some of the PA school-specific accounts and ask them. Or reach out to some of the PA schools directly to see if they have very strict cut-offs for their clinical experiences.
[07:58] Shortcutting Undergrad
Q: I am a freshman in college, but I have enough hours to be considered a sophomore. I’m scared because I am not in extracurriculars nor have I volunteer experience.
A: I’m not a huge fan of shortcutting the four years of undergrad because the whole process is there to get you acclimated to being a good student and add on to your experiences.
When you shortcut it and try to squeeze it into three years, a lot of times, students are shooting themselves in the foot because they’re trying to fit stuff in where there’s no room.
From a financial standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. And if that’s one of the reasons you’re doing it, then great. Just take a gap year afterward and don’t apply during the “normal” timeframe. And just plan on applying during a gap year.
[09:14] What to Major In
Q: Should I pursue a BS MD?
A: I don’t know, should you? That’s not my decision. That’s up to you.
Q: I know I can do any major but I like biology and public health. Which major do you believe will help me better for the MCAT?
A: Either one major in whatever you want.
[09:26] The Best Experience
Q: What is the best experience to get when applying to medical school?
A: Do what you want to do. Take the classes you want to take. Major in whatever you want to major in. All of that stuff doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, doing well on the MCAT comes down to you preparing for the MCAT. Have a good solid foundation of the sciences and a good, solid foundation of critical thinking and reasoning skills. But a specific major doesn’t give you that.
[10:12] Community College Courses
Q: Thoughts on adding high school clinical volunteering on AMCAS?
A: The rule of thumb is anything after high school goes on the application and nothing before.
Q: Do I have to take classes at a four-year university if I already have my BSN needed to boost my GPA? Or can it be a community college?
A: Check out Mappd.tv and watch the Ask the Dean episodes over there. Or you can subscribe to the podcast. That’s a live stream that I do with Dr. Scott Wright. He’s the former director of admissions at UT Southwestern and former executive director at TMDSAS. So Scott has this range of optimal, acceptable, and not acceptable and he puts community college depending on some variables. And a community college, for him, is not optimal, but it’s acceptable. I don’t like that level of thinking because community college is cheaper for a lot of students, if not all students. And so it has a ton of benefits for students.
Where the potential issue comes in is if you’re trying to boost your GPA. What is the story behind it all? If you really struggled at a four-year university, and then you go to community college, and you do well, what potentially is the story there? Are you a better student just because it’s a community college? And if you go to medical school, are you going to go to struggle? Or if you go back to a four-year university and take other classes, are you going to struggle? So there are some potential issues with that.
But for the most part, the big picture is that you’re perfectly fine. There are just some other questions that come into that.
[12:13] MCAT Prep and Scores
Q: How do you advise students for overcoming MCAT anxiety for prep and test-taking?
Q: How important are section scores on the MCAT?
A: It really depends on the school at the end of the day. A lot of students focus on balance when it comes to MCAT scores. And I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as how students make it out to be. Again talking with Dr. Scott Wright from Ask the Dean Podcast, there’s more focus on the total score and not the section scores in general.
[14:14] Finding a Mentor
Q: What’s the best way to get a mentor in medicine?
A: Finding a mentor is hard for a lot of reasons. For one, physicians are very busy people. And you have this desire to take up more of their time which is what you’re asking from them at the end of the day.
That being said, find mentors who are close to where you are. That means it’s close to where you do your clinical experience or your shadowing. Just open up those conversations and say, “Hey, do you mind if I email you some questions?”
But you have to understand that physicians are very busy. And if they say no, or if they don’t get back to you, when you do email them, just keep trying and do the best you can.
[15:13] What to Do 6 Months Before Medical School
Q: What to do in six months before starting medical school?
A: There’s really nothing to do. If you ask most physicians, even most medical students, they’ll tell you don’t do anything.'Your life is going to completely change once you get into medical school. There's really nothing you can do to prepare for the intensity that is coming.'Click To Tweet
Sure, you can go buy a biochemistry book. You can go look at the curriculum and get all the books early and start learning. But it’s not until you get to medical school and you see that syllabus and the volume of information that you have to learn that it actually hits you how different medical school is.
On that note, I recommend you buy an anatomy coloring book and just start learning anatomy in-depth if you haven’t yet because that’s a completely different language. It is a very visual field. You’re in there dissecting, doing all that stuff. So I would potentially do that if you didn’t take anatomy during undergrad.
[16:51] Audited Class on the Transcript and Institutional Actions
Q: Is it okay to have an audited class on my transcript?
A: It’s okay to have it on there. It doesn’t mean anything.
Q: I’ve been institutional action on my record for cheating, but not at all how it seems. Will I get into medical school?
A: The macro answer is yes. There are plenty of students with institutional actions for cheating, for alcohol in the dorms, misdemeanors on their application, for DUI, etc. as long as you own up to it. My biggest concern is when you say “but it’s not what it seems.”
My concern, however, is that you’re not going to write a description for the institutional action. Write something that will give insight to the admissions committee that you’ve reflected on the experience, you’ve learned from it, and you’ve moved on. But it sounds like you’re trying to go down the path that it wasn’t your fault, or it’s not what it seems in your description.'Own up to the mistake and not try to pass it off as something that it's not.'Click To Tweet
[18:16] Premed Courses and Scribing
Q: I want to be a medical technologist before going to medical school, would it just be a waste of time?
A: Your journey is unique to you. If you want to be a medical technologist because you want to be a medical technologist, then go be a medical technologist. Don’t do it if you’re doing it just because you think it’s going to help you get into medical school.
Q: Would political science minor be good for premed?
A: Minors and majors do not matter for your application.
Q: Should I do scribing?
A: If you want to scribe then scribe. If you don’t, then do something else. What’s important is getting clinical experience and shadowing.
[21:21] Standing Out in Medical School Application'Standing out is not important in a medical school application. All that the medical schools want to know is who you are and who you're not.”Click To Tweet
Standing out is something students try to do in their medical school application, and they usually fail miserably. How are you going to stand out in a medical school application? Are you going to have more clinical experience or more research than everyone else? Or you going to have more shadowing or a higher MCAT score than everyone else? Are you going to have a higher GPA than everyone else? How else is there to stand out?
Are you going to have the most unique experience in the world? It’s been done. Unless you’ve cured cancer, then you’re not unique. If you’re a nontraditional student, you’re not unique. There are lots of non traditional students out there applying. So do not try to stand out on your medical school application. Everything’s been done. All that the medical schools want to know is who you are and who you’re not.
Show the admissions committee how your experiences have been impactful to you and how you have been impactful to them. It’s not about bing the fastest typer as a scirbe. I’ts about how your job as a scribe prepared you well to be a team player and as a physician.
There’s a huge difference between telling me what a scribe does and showing them who you are. Go watch some of my my video, I have a YouTube video about how to write extracurricular descriptions.
Another mistake is that so many students in their application tell the interviewer everything that they think that person wants to know. Telling the reviewer all of these things in your application means nothing. At the end of the day, they don’t know who you are.
So don’t even try to stand out. Be YOU!
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The Premed Years Podcast Episode 337: How to Overcome Test Anxiety and Take Back Control
Follow Dr. David Puder on Instagram.
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