Answering All of Your Burning Premed Questions

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PMY 430: Answering All of Your Burning Premed Questions

Session 430

Today, we talk about declaring minors, starting clubs, MCAT, applications, taking the nurse to doctor path, shadowing, factors in choosing med school, and more!

This episode is sponsored by Blueprint MCAT Prep. 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.

[02:03] Taking Minors

Q: Will a minor affect medical school admissions?

A: It can affect it in the negative. Students who are focused on a minor and then do poorly in their classes because they’re trying to squeeze in too much then it could affect your medical school admissions. But other than that, a minor doesn’t matter at all.

'A lot of students think that a minor is going to help them in one way or another. But it just doesn't.'Click To Tweet

[02:36] Interviews and Activities

Q: Our schools interviewing later due to COVID?

A: Yes, they are.

Q: Could you please share some tips on how to mention the clubs you’ve started in your medical apps without sounding like you’re checking off requirements?

A: There’s always this fear of sounding like you’re asking for a pity party or sounding like you’re listing off requirements. But just tell your story. There’s nothing you need to do when starting an organization in any sort of activity in your school. Just talk about the impact that you had. Talk about how many members you had talked about, how much money you raised, how much money you donated, or whatever that may be.

Q: How worried should I be if I haven’t heard anything from schools at this point?

A: At this point where it’s mid-February, you should be worried even with the delayed COVID cycle.

[03:56] Science Classes

Q: I am a neuroscience major and 90% of my classes do not count as science credits. Unfortunately, I made a C+ in my first gen chem and with normal majors. Normal science majors have a lot more science hours, I have much fewer since all my major hours are not science credits. Should I add on a minor that they’ll have some more science classes to help balance that out and prove a better record? Or do you think my neuro classes can do that?

A: The neuro classes won’t do that because they’re not science. That’s a problem. Going back to the first question that was asked, a minor doesn’t do anything. At the end of the day, it’s just more classes. So just take a couple of extra science classes. Find genetics, statistics, or whatever science class that you will enjoy and do well in.

[05:19] Average Schools to Apply To

Q: How many med schools should a premed apply to?

A: According to the AAMC, the average is 17 for MD schools and 9 for DO schools. So the average of MD and DO schools students apply to is 26. I typically say don’t apply to more than 25 because that’s a lot of schools.

[05:46] Letter of Recommendation

Q: Can one of my science letter of recommendation writers be a professor that teaches a class but they didn’t actually take it? I worked in their lab.

A: Yes.

[05:58] Lowest GPA Score

Q: What is the lowest GPA you’ve seen get into med school?

A: It’s probably around 2.5-2.6. But there’s always a really big asterisk with that, which is that the student did something else to prove academic capability. For instance, they smoked their SMP or a master’s program, or they crushed a ton of credits for undergraduate postbac. But their undergraduate GPA was still very low.

'No matter what the ending point GPA is, there has to be a trendline in there, that shows that you are academically capable of doing well in medical school.'Click To Tweet

[06:53] How to Study Efficiently

Q: How can I study efficiently and effectively?

A:  Check out Thomas Frank’s YouTube channel and look at his older stuff where he has a ton of information on how to study effectively.

[07:25] MCAT Score < 500

Q: If your MCAT score is less than 500, are you likely being screened out for all schools? A: Probably not by all schools, but most schools.

[07:59] Nursing Classes Before Med School

Q: Can you speak to becoming an RN before medical school? Do you recommend it? I have a low SAT.

A: A lot of students go this route but I don’t recommend it. Nursing classes don’t count towards medical school and your prereqs. So you’re spending more time and more money to go down this path.

'If you want to be a physician, then why waste your time going down the path of nursing when those classes don't count?'Click To Tweet

A lot of students do it thinking they can work as a nurse before going to medical school. But it doesn’t make sense to spend more time and more money so that you can make money to go to medical school.

Now, the story is going to be different for nurses who wanted to be a nurse and then realize later they want to go to medical school. That’s an amazing experience because they’re out there practicing and getting tons of clinical experience. Then they go back to school because they realize they want to be a physician now.

If you’re going to tell me that, you are going to go and work as a nurse and save up $300,000, so you don’t have to take any loans. Again, I don’t think that logically makes any sense. You are putting off making 150,000-$300,000 a year so that you can make $75,000 a year and save. I understand there’s fear. But if you actually sit down and do the math, you’re actually doing more harm than good by going that route.

[11:24] Choosing a School Based on Cost

Q: How much should cost factor in when choosing a medical school?

A: In choosing a school, the tuition costs should come in dead last. Think big picture here. If you were to limit your school list, because school number two has $20,000 more a year in tuition than school one, and you won’t apply to school 2, but you will apply to school 1.

But school number 2 is going to be the best fit for you. You’re going to get in the first time and not need to reapply. It’s going to open up a lot of doors for you and your career. So that extra $80,000 in your tuition will be made back in no time.

'The only time that I like to think about tuition is when you have multiple acceptances.'Click To Tweet

[14:21] Averaging MCAT Scores?

Q: Considering that some schools average your MCAT scores when retaken, should you be concerned when retaking the MCAT?

A: No, I don’t know any schools that average your MCAT when you retake it. Most will look at your most recent, some will super score. But I don’t know of any schools off the top of my head that average your MCAT.

[14:49] Prereqs and GPA Update

Q: What’s your opinion on prereqs at community college?

A: If you get to do it, it’s fine. It’s not ideal, but it’s okay if you need to.

Q: Would you recommend asking medical schools that are rolling to hold off on reviewing your application in order to receive first-semester graduate school grades posted around December?

A: Most medical schools have rolling admissions so you can ask them to do whatever you want, but they likely won’t listen. This is why I don’t like applying to medical schools and then hoping to send an update on transcripts.

Usually, I recommend that you should only apply when you have the GPA that you want. And not apply, and hope that you can send an update with a GPA that you’re hoping will work well.

[15:50] More Questions

Q: I’m planning on volunteering at a hospital in Mexico next summer. And my aunt is a physician there. Should I mention on my app that my aunt is a physician there?

A: You don’t need to.

Q: Do upper-division courses like histology count as prereqs.

A: Prereqs are prereqs. You need a year of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, English for the most part. So histology, unless you’re counting that as a biology class, you probably already have biology, that counts as the prereq.

Q: What types of clinical experience should we get from medical school?

A: You should just get what you can get and what you’re passionate about and what looks good. You want to prove that you like clinical experience and to prove that you like being around patients. But don’t do it for the schools themselves.

'Don't do things for your medical school application, you need to do things for you to prove that you want to be a physician.'Click To Tweet

Q: Any advice for seniors in high school who want to get into premed and medical school?

A: Learn how to be a good student and have fun.

Q: Do you have any experience with students applying for medical school in Ireland?

A: I do and I don’t recommend it.

[17:41] When to Study for the MCAT

Q: I’m in the last year of my postbac program, so when is the best time to begin studying for the MCAT?

A: When studying for the MCAT, let’s hypothetically say you want to start medical school in August of 2025. That means you are going to take the MCAT at the beginning typically of 2024 so that you can apply in June of 2024 and start medical school in August of 2025.

“A lot of students don't understand the length of the application cycle and they don't understand that you apply a year plus before when you actually want to start medical school.”Click To Tweet

Most students study for three to four months. But you really have to understand yourself and understand how much time you have. You have to understand what other responsibilities you have if you’re working full time, if you have family, or if you’re still in classes full-time. All of that stuff plays into it.

[18:52] Clinical Experience, Classes, Etc.

Q: Does athletic training, interning, and working with athletes count as clinical experience?

A: It definitely does.

Q: I took both physics semesters one summer and both organic chemistry semesters the next, is that looked down on?

A:  Medical schools don’t have the time to nitpick whichever classes whether you took both physics at the same time or both chemistry classes at the same time. They don’t have time to think like that. As long as you did well then that’s all that matters.

Q: Would you say you need to naturally have super steady hands for surgery?

A: No, you can learn that kind of stuff. You don’t need to have super steady hands and you can work on that.

Q: I have really good extracurriculars, but no shadowing or volunteer hours.

A: Let’s just work on some language here. Usually, when students say they have zero volunteer hours, they mean clinical. Now, clinical can be paid or volunteer.

Now, if you don’t have shadowing and no clinical experience, that’s usually a recipe for disaster. How are you going to tell me in a personal statement or in an interview that you want to be a physician? In that case, do not apply to medical school and go get those experiences. Work on your reasoning as to why you want to be a physician because of those experiences. And then apply to medical school.

“It's a red flag not to have any experience being around physicians and patients.”Click To Tweet

[21:09] Postbac Classes

Q: I have an average GPA and already graduated undergrad. I need over 60 postbac classes, is it unreasonable?

A: Why do you need 60 postbac classes? Nothing is unreasonable. It’s just that it’s a lot of money to pay for those. But it’s not unreasonable at the end of the day.

Q: Will becoming a CNA at high school help for medical school applications.

A: Again, don’t do things to look good on an application. Do things to gain experiences that you think will enrich your life. You need experiences to explain why you want to be a physician and that’s where clinical experience and shadowing come from.

“The general rule of thumb is that things you do in high school don't go in your application.”Click To Tweet

[22:30] Am I Ready to Apply with a 3.99 GPA?

Q: I plan on going applying to med school next year. Currently, I have a 3.99 GPA. I’ll get my orgos out of the way and I’m planning on taking physics over the summer. I have 80 hours of shadowing with a cardiologist, 100 plus hours of nonclinical volunteering, so Red Cross, etc. And currently, I am in contact with a clinic in order to do clinical volunteering as well. Do you think I’m ready for taking it to the next step? I’ll take the MCAT next year and apply in 2022.

A: It sounds like you got the plan worked out. You’re headed in a positive direction so you just keep doing what you’re doing.

[24:55] Transcript and Shadowing Opportunities

Q: Will it look bad if my biology and lab are combined and just listed as Bio 1 on my transcript?

A: Every school is going to be a little bit different when it comes to how schools are going to be listed on the transcript. And medical schools understand and can see those differences.

Q: As a community college student who’s about to transfer to Davis with two majors, is it good for me to have less experience? Because there’s not a lot of shadowing opportunities around where I live.

A: Well, there’s not a lot of opportunities right now anyway because of COVID. It’s good that you have what you have, but it was a long time ago. It was between high school and college, or at least at the very beginning of college. By the time you apply to medical school, those would be years ago. So you need new stuff, too. Just continue to keep looking out for things and opportunities.

”Be a good student, get the experiences being around patients and physicians. Get out there and get it done.”Click To Tweet

[28:03] Community College to a Four-Year University

Q: What’s your advice for transfer students especially, what science classes to focus on? Because it’s a lot different than community college to go to a four-year university?

A: It’s not a lot different. There’s always this stigma that community college is easier than a university. It may be that there’s a little bit more material covered. But at the end of the day, it’s the same.

There may be more that’s expected of you and just from a workload perspective. But guess what? That same difference between community college and the university is going to be amplified 1000 times between the university and medical school. So at the end of the day, you’re constantly adjusting and course-correcting. And you have to constantly check in with yourself.

'It's not a one size fits all, no matter where you are.'Click To Tweet

[30:44] Improving CARS Score and Update to Medical Schools

Q: What are some ways you can increase your CARS score on the MCAT?

A: Check out The MCAT CARS Podcast. Start from there.

Q: I applied this year and had an interview in October the school meets again in March to make their decision. I already wrote a letter of intent in November. Should I send an update letter?

A: If you think there is something that an update will address any sort of deficiencies in your application, go ahead. But if there’s nothing that you feel you’re deficient in then an update won’t necessarily help you.


Meded Media

Blueprint MCAT Prep

Thomas Frank’s YouTube channel

The MCAT CARS Podcast