In this TikTok Q&A, students ask about the MCAT, GPA cutoffs, and more. If you aren’t following us yet, check out @medicalschoolhq. Want to work with me in the upcoming cycle? Check out applicationacademy.com!
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:46] Study Tips for the MCAT
Q: Any tips for studying for the MCAT during full-time classes?
A: If you are taking the MCAT while you’re also studying full-time, at the end of the day, something has to give, and usually what gives is all of your free time. You’re going to have to take classes full-time and spend the rest of the time studying for the MCAT. That means you won’t have time for anything else other than some personal care time, exercise, and of course, eating and sleeping. It also means you’re going to have to sacrifice hanging out with your friends and that kind of stuff. A lot of it’s going to just come down to dedication and knowing that you don’t have time for anything else. So you have to be efficient with your time.
[04:07] Immunology Classes
Q: I’m taking immunology as an undergrad this semester. I’ve heard it’s hard. Should I be scared?
A: Every class is going to be different for everyone else.
[04:42] GPA Sucks!
Q: My GPS sucks and I have a couple of C’s. I’m planning to take the MCAT next year.
A: If your GPA sucks, then you have to think about your next steps. Having a couple of C’s isn’t terrible. Having recent C’s makes it a little bit worse.“If your GPA is not good, think about delaying your MCAT so that you can fix your GPA.”Click To Tweet
Think about delaying the MCAT especially if you’re going to be studying for the MCAT while you’re also taking classes. What you don’t want to happen is focus on the MCAT, and then your GPA gets sacrificed because you’re studying for the MCAT. When ultimately, you shouldn’t study for the MCAT yet because you need to work more on your GPA. This means looking at either taking more classes before you graduate and just delaying. Or taking some postbac classes to improve your GPA and to improve your trend.
[06:10] A Medical School Orphan
Q: How do public schools view a student who is from a state without a medical school?
A: They don’t care. Public schools are probably not going to view you any different because you’re coming from a state without a medical school.Most of the schools are set up to train students in their states. So they don’t really care if you’re an orphan out there without a medical school.
There are a few exceptions though. For instance, the University of Colorado School of Medicine has historically had some agreements with some of the states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Some of those states don’t have schools and they’ve had some relationships. The University of Washington famously has the WWAMI Education Program (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) where they take students from those states. They have some special arrangements for those schools. But outside of that, there isn’t much thought given if you’re an orphan.
[07:36] Accelerated Program vs. Traditional Path
Q: I’m a high school senior accepted to a six-year combined BS/DO program. Is this path worth it over traditional?
A: Six years is definitely very accelerated. The only person who can answer if it’s worth it is you. Is this something you know you want to do yet? Is this something that you think you’re going to miss out on a traditional “college life?”
The accelerated programs have some benefits. Basically, if you’ve already been accepted, you won’t have to take the MCAT. Then you can be a little bit more flexible with the classes that you’re taking.
Possibly look into how strict is the combined program in terms of the GPA that you have to keep. And if you do have to get an MCAT score, how high is that MCAT score?
At this point, cherish more time you have in school. Build those relationships and those life experiences than having to rush through the process. But then again, it’s a very personal decision.
[09:43] Pondering on Taking a Gap Year
Q: Should you take a gap year to take the MCAT, or should you take the MCAT, go a little bit slower through this process, work, and go to school?
A: Number one, what is your GPA? And how hard is it going to be for you to maintain your GPA? Think about the bandwidth you have to do all three. What is going to sacrifice the most if you do all three together? If it’s going to be your grades, that’s not good. If it’s going to be your MCAT score, that’s not great. Some people can balance it all. Some people don’t have work to deal with. And so, it’s going to be a decision for you.'A gap year isn't wrong. Delaying to make sure you're setting yourself up for success at every stage is going to be the best thing.'Click To Tweet
Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success at every step of the journey and not necessarily rushing through. Don’t decide to not do a gap year just because it’s going to get you through this process a little bit faster.
[11:39] Applying to an In-State Friendly School
Q: Any advice to get into an in-state friendly school in Colorado when you’re from another state?
A: For out-of-state public schools, be sure to look at the MSAR to see how out-of-state friendly they are. There’s really nothing you can do outside of trying to highlight your ties to the state.
[12:52] When You Need to Take a Postbac
Q: When would a student need to take a postbac?
A: There are two types of postbac. One is a career changer postbac. For example, you were a history major, you didn’t take any sciences in college, and you’ve been out in the workforce. Now, you want to go to medical school. So you go to the postbac and take the classes you need to take your science classes and go on from there.
The other type of postbac is to prove academic capability and improve your academics moving forward. There’s really no hard GPA cutoff. But for instance, students with a GPA of 3.5 and below may not look very good. That being said, your trends will give much better data where the graph is showing semester by semester and year by year.'Looking at your trend will help you determine what you should do and where you should go.'Click To Tweet
At the end of the day, you have to look at all of your history and data. Are you academically capable? Have you proven yourself to be academically capable to do well in medical school?
[14:44] Questions on Clinical Experience
Q: Would you consider scribing at a volunteer clinic as clinical experience?
A: Yes, I would.
Q: Is clinical experience absolutely imperative if someone has great stats and research publications?
A: Absolutely imperative? Then no. Students get into medical school every year with great stats and research publications. However, I highly recommend getting clinical experience.'Clinical experience helps you formulate why you want to be a physician.'Click To Tweet
Being around patients proves to yourself that this is what you want. Remember, this is for you, not for the medical schools.
Having great stats doesn’t mean you should be a physician. Just because you have research experience doesn’t mean you should be a physician. You have to be around patients, take care of them, and see what that relationship is like. See what those duties are. Look at what it does to you emotionally and that’s what proves to you that this is what you want.
Then you take those thoughts, emotions, and feelings to write a great personal statement and talk about why you want to be a physician. If you don’t have those experiences.
A lot of times, students who didn’t have any clinical experience don’t get in because they just don’t know why they want to be a physician. They can’t formulate in their head or on a piece of paper, for their personal statement, why they want to be a physician.
[16:49] GPA Concerns
Q: My advisor told me to take human anatomy to apply to my science GPA, which is not part of my degree.
A: You can definitely take more classes to boost your GPA.
Q: If you have a 2.9 science after a postbac, should you continue taking classes?
A: My typical threshold is a 3.0. But sometimes the math just doesn’t work and you’ve just got to roll with it and hope it’s enough.
[17:39] Recommendations for Secondaries
Q: Biggest recommendations for secondaries?
A: Respect them and do them early. Ideally, the timeline is to take the MCAT as early as possible, March or April at the latest. Then work on your personal statement and your extracurriculars now.
So by the time the MCAT rolls around, you’re basically done with your primary application. Then you can then shift your focus to your secondary applications. You can start looking at the schools you’re applying to. Then start looking at the secondaries they have historically asked in the past, and start pre-writing those. Check out secondaryapps.com!
And then when the secondaries are actually released to you. You have the essays already written. So if you have to tweak some things, if they change the question, the added question, etc. you can tweak those. But still, you’re still able to get them back relatively quickly.
However, a lot of students just give up on the process. They deal with the secondaries when they come in. And then they’re just bombarded with secondaries, and that’s not good. Because then they’ll give up because they can’t handle it.
If you are applying this cycle, check out Application Academy where we’ll work together through the whole process.
[19:42] Canadian Undergraduate Applying to U.S. Medical Schools
Q: If you’re applying to U.S. medical schools as a Canadian undergraduate, is your university ranking important?
A: No. The university ranking even for U.S. schools is not important.
[20:05] Finishing a Four-Year Degree in Five Years
Q: How do medical schools look at finishing a four-year degree in five years due to a gap or part-time semesters?
A: Be careful if the majority of your stuff is part-time. But if you just did one semester part-time, then there’s less of an issue there. Five years versus four years isn’t a huge deal. If it’s like seven or eight years instead of four, then there’s an issue.“A lot of schools will ask if you've had any gaps in your schooling, and you'll have to explain why so just be prepared to explain it.”Click To Tweet
[21:05] Applying to Texas Schools as an Out-of-State Applicant
Q: Would you recommend TMDSAS for an out-of-state applicant with parents retiring in Texas?
A: If they’re already in Texas, maybe. But if the plan is that they’re going to retire in Texas, I probably wouldn’t unless you already have strong ties to Texas.
TMDSAS is the application service for Texas. Texas has a state law where the TMDSAS schools (all public schools, both MD and DO schools in Texas) are not allowed to accept more than 10% of their class from out-of-state applicants.
If you want to go to Texas medical school because they’re cheap and you don’t have any significant ties to Texas, you’re probably wasting money. That being said, it’s relatively cheap since you only have to pay a one-time fee for all schools. But the essays are different. You’re given 300 characters for your extracurricular descriptions and 5000 characters for your personal statement. So there are lots of differences that make it a headache. And if you don’t have significant ties, I would probably be careful.
[22:36] A 3.5 GPA
Q: Is a 3.5 good GPA? If not, would you recommend taking extra science classes?
A: 3.5 isn’t horrible. But we don’t know what that really means because the trend is really important. A 3.5 just in general isn’t a horrible GPA. But obviously more classes and a higher GPA is better. It really depends on what those other semesters look like even before senior year.
[23:26] Getting Clinical Experience Certification
Q: Do you have any recommendations for a clinical experience that isn’t super hard to get into or certified since right now it’s nearly impossible with COVID?
A: This actually depends on what state you’re in. To be a medical assistant, you can get on the job training and be a medical assistant. So look at your state laws and requirements for being a medical assistant.
There are obviously some different things like being a patient transporter, which is a little bit of a weaker clinical experience. But you’re going to need that training. Hospice is probably the one that I recommend the most which doesn’t need a lot of training. There’s going to be a little training, obviously, but you don’t need any sort of certification or anything for that.
[25:02] Postbac and a Master’s
Q: Would a Master’s following a postbac be overkill with 3.8 postbac GPA?
A: It depends on what the full picture looks like. If you did poorly in your postbac, then you may need a Master’s. But usually, it’s one or the other and not both. So you don’t need a postbac and a Master’s, especially if you’ve been killing your postbac with a 3.8 GPA.
[25:42] Is Taking the MCAT in July Too Late?
Q: I’m going to study for the MCAT this summer. Is July too late to take it and apply the cycle?
A: I typically do not recommend taking the MCAT in July and applying this cycle. Whether it’s too late depends on when you are able to submit your application. If you have to take it in July, I would recommend still applying in June or May depending on the application cycle you’re doing.
Just imagine applying in May or June, studying for the MCAT then taking it in July. Then you get your score back in August. And hopefully, you’re pre-writing the secondary essays and turn those around as well.
Studying for the MCAT gets in the way of doing everything you need to do to prepare for the application process. That includes writing your essays, getting transcripts, asking for letters of recommendation, writing your extracurricular descriptions, and the secondary essays. And so, usually what happens is you take the MCAT late. You apply late. And now, you have a little bit of a double doozy.
[27:32] Scribing and Taking a Gap Year
Q: Would being an ER scribe be considered as clinical experience?
Q: Thoughts on gap years?
A: Gap years are great if you need a gap year. If you don’t need a gap year, don’t take a gap year. If you don’t want to take a gap year don’t take a gap year.'Don't take a gap year just because you think it's going to help on your application. Take a gap year if you need to and if you want to.'Click To Tweet
[27:56] Would a Master’s Get You Into Med School?
Q: Would a Master’s lead to a higher acceptance chance compared to an undergraduate?
A: If you’re struggling with your academics, then doing a Master’s or a postbac proves academic capability. However, the one thing to keep in mind is that with a Master’s, it needs to be something “hard sciences. So something like an MPH won’t count for doing well and proving you are academically capable.“A Master's is good for you if you need to prove academic capability.”Click To Tweet
[29:11] Getting into Medical School
Q: What’s the feeling like when you finally get in?
A: It feels very joyous, and then frightening because then you realize your life is going to change. And all of the horror stories you hear like drinking from a firehose are completely true and everything changes. But medical school was a blast. I had lots of fun in medical school as well as in residency.