Michael was rejected 4x before he was finally accepted to medical school. What was he doing wrong and what did he change that finally got him accepted?
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[01:52] Getting Acceptance on His 5th Try
Michael finally got an acceptance after his fifth time applying. His mindset was to not give any medical schools a reason not to give him a shot. And now that he got accepted, he feels validated for all the hard work he has done.'When you do the right things, success should take care of itself.'Click To Tweet
[03:24] The 1st Application
In his first two applications, Michael was practically doing the mistakes I always caution students against. His personal statement was basically just a rehash of his resume.
His recommendation letters were from professors where he was one person out of 100. All he was was just an A in their class. They didn’t really know him personally. His MCAT score was pretty atrocious. This was going back to the old MCAT. He had taken it twice at this point and got a 23 (which is around 495 in the new MCAT scoring system) both times.
He really didn’t know what he was doing. He also struggled to reach out for help in undergrad. Then his GPA was 3.3. So all of those things combined were the reason he wasn’t successful.
At this point, he didn’t get any interviews from anyone, which was obviously expected.'A lot of students are applying without any of the information necessary to make their application strong.'Click To Tweet
Unfortunately, too, a lot of students go through the process with such naivety. And especially if they don’t have the resources to apply to medical schools five times, they just give up after one or two cycles. Because from a financial standpoint, they just can’t keep doing it.
And those are amazing physicians we’re losing because the information wasn’t available for them to put together a strong application, to begin with.
Michaels admits he was very resistant to seeking out help at that point, hence his 3.3 GPA. He struggled in his first semester in undergrad and had no idea how to study. But he never went to see his professor. Then when it came to seeking out his pre-health advisor, he just didn’t do it until it was too late. He just kept pushing back the dates of his first application and the main reason was he was unwilling to seek out help.
[09:16] His 2nd Application
Michael admits he changed nothing on his second application. He had about two years of working under his belt as a teacher and coach in High School. So this was added to his application. He also got involved in some volunteer opportunities through the school he teaches at. But other than that, there wasn’t anything else that he added.
He took the MCAT again (his third time) and got a 504, which was a 10-point increase from the last time. However, he wasn’t consistent with his extracurricular activities after college as well. And he realized his sole focus was on getting a good MCAT score when he really should have been focusing on the entire application.'The rest of your application really matters and not enough people pay attention to that.'Click To Tweet
[11:31] A Big Jump in the MCAT Score
Michael used AAMC materials and took a third-party prep course in college. He recommends really getting used to the way the AAMC asks questions. Additionally, he teaches Physics and Chemistry so it was definitely a good way for him to learn.'The best way to learn something is by teaching it.'Click To Tweet
[12:57] Applying the 3rd Time
In his third application cycle, Michael got one interview which was an MMI and he thought it went well. But what it still came down to was why he hasn’t had any recent clinical experience since college. It didn’t really matter how good his interview was or how well he crafted his essays. This was only his assumption because they didn’t offer any feedback. So he based this on what was told to him by another school he applied to. In fact, they suggested he get a Master’s or a Special Master’s to show he was academically qualified and to obviously get more shadowing and clinical experience.
It’s not like there’s a checklist and they want you to have a certain number of hours. Schools just want to make sure that you know what you’re getting into.'You are trying to apply to a profession and you want to do this thing for the rest of your life. If your actions do not reflect that then there's a huge disconnect.'Click To Tweet
Having no acceptance the third time around was devastating for Michael. Although during the interview, he really felt he belonged. He was devastated because he knew it was going to take more work.
[18:26] From a Financial Perspective
Michael paid for his college and had done a very good job of paying back his loans. He would teach summer school courses to save some money too. So he thinks that if you work full-time, it’s very doable from a financial perspective. When he went to get his master’s and you’re not working full-time, it’s kind of give-and-take.
He was able to do the things he needed to do by quitting his job and going for a master’s and being a full-time student again. But he basically blew five years’ worth of savings to get his master’s and apply again. It does suck but he just viewed this as an investment in something he had always dreamed about doing.
[20:12] What He Did Between 3rd and 4th Application
Another mistake Michael says he made for his fourth application was that he was hoping could send an update of his grades after his semester of SMP (Special Master’s Program). He thought it was enough to get a shot from some schools. Then his new hours with shadowing and clinical volunteer work were not enough either.
Some schools don’t even take an update letter, so it actually doesn’t matter. It’s different for TMDSAS because they let you update your grades and they’ll push it out to all the schools.
So the fourth application cycle came by and he didn’t get any interviews. But he was able to get a shadowing experience the summer before he started his SMP. He was able to shadow a family medicine doctor so he got to see cardiology, orthopedics, urology, and oncology. Then he also started volunteering with hospice again, which was what he had done in college for volunteer experience as well.
[24:18] Taking the SMP and Changing His Learning Style
Michael took the SMP based on the advice of the admissions representative that he talked to. He was told that he really needed a Master’s to prove that he could handle medical school. He was also told that it didn’t really matter where he went as long as did well to help his application. So part of his thought process of choosing which program to go to was more on proximity to his home.
In terms of his studying style, he recalls reading the book called Make It Stick, before he entered the SMP. It discusses ineffective study strategies, which happened to be the most common and popular study strategies like rereading chapters, highlighting, and taking notes. It talks about space repetition and changing up the variety of your studying. So he implemented a lot of those strategies into his master’s program and that made a huge difference.
Michael also realized the importance of having great mentorship. Implementing really effective study strategies and being willing to go ask for help and to go to study groups really helped him do very well in his SMP. As opposed to when he was in college when he struggled academically. Also, at this point, he had taken the MCAT again and got a 506.'Go seek help. There's no need to suffer in silence.'Click To Tweet
[28:38] Applying the 4th Time
Michael was focused on staying in Texas and TMDSAS is relatively cheap to apply to. He was gearing up for his fifth MCAT attempt and he was supposed to take it in March of 2020. And it got canceled three times before he was able to take it in July.
So other than the MCAT, everything was basically ready to go. He had been working on his personal statement since February. He had great letters of recommendation, this time from the people who knew him well. And he took some time to write his activity descriptions. So he submitted before his fifth MCAT came back.'If I need to apply 10 times to get in, I'm going to do it, because I know this is what I want to do. I just know in my heart of hearts that this is what I want to do.'Click To Tweet
Michael was also very lucky to have supportive family and friends and no one gave him any negative feedback.
[33:09] Applying the 5th Time
Michael crushed his SMP, his shadowing, and he was getting clinical experience. He was doing everything His first interview invite came in late August. So it wasn’t necessarily in the first wave because things got pushed back because of COVID. And his MCAT score didn’t come back until July. He took it in June and his score came back in July. For him, the hardest part was really just out of his hands at that point.
So he had gotten nine interviews. It was a huge change from one interview back in the day. His MCAT this time is a 515. So he crushed his MCAT and his SMP. He was putting together a better story. And so he thought it was just an amalgamation of all the things that really led him to success. Michael was proud to be able to put together the most complete application that he could. He didn’t have any blind spots. Everything was just great.'Put together the most complete application.'Click To Tweet
What led to a great MCAT score was the fact the test got pushed back three times so it gave him more time to prepare. Plus, he was teaching physics, chemistry, and biology so it helped a lot with the MCAT. He didn’t have to spend that much time reviewing things like kinematic equations or Newton’s laws, because he knew them.
During his master’s, he helped out in a research lab and a lot of his grad courses required reviewing scientific articles, and that helped in terms of reading dense passages. So all of those things together really contributed to his vast improvement on the MCAT.'A lot of people mistakenly think being a reapplicant is a red flag.'Click To Tweet
[38:53] The Interview Experience and the Acceptance
Most of his interviewers just wanted to have a conversation. They were very interested in his time teaching and as a baseball coach. They just wanted to get to know him that he really didn’t have to explain himself a whole lot in terms of why he struggled in undergrad.'Do the little things right and winning takes care of itself.'Click To Tweet
Michael did all the little things right this time and the application took care of itself. He feels very validated for all his hard work paying off.
[40:56] Final Words of Wisdom
Again, Michael recommends reading the book, Make It Stick. Second, find little victories on the way. Some hiccups along the road are just a push to show you what you’re capable of. And Michael says that if he can do it as someone who really struggled in undergrad, with his first semester GPA of 2.5 and a 23 on his first two MCAT attempts, then really anyone can.'Even if it's just a small improvement, just keep going.'Click To Tweet
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown
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