This week, I answered many premed and nontrad questions with everything from clinical experience, in-person vs. eShadowing, MCAT prep, LOR, and so much more!
The Premed Playbook: Guide to The Medical School Application Process is now available for pre-order!
When you preorder it, submit your receipts and we’ll get you a PDF copy of it so you can start honing your application. Avoid making mistakes as we see on the Application Renovation, which is my YouTube series where I review students who did not get into medical school.
For more podcast resources to help you with your medical school journey and beyond, check out Meded Media.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:27] The MCAT Minute
This section is sponsored by Blueprint MCAT. If you need to take a late June MCAT, that’s okay as long as you get your application in earlier. If you’re looking for some MCAT Test Prep help go to Blueprint MCAT to sign up for their free account where you can get a half-length diagnostic, full-length, one half-length diagnostic and their amazing study planner tool.
[04:01] Clinical Hours, Being Premend, & Postbac
Q: How would 1100 plus clinical hours with zero research lack of wanting to apply for school?
A: It would look fine. Research is not required.
Q: If I did multiple jobs at my hospital, er tech telemetry tech scribing. Should I list them all out separately?
A: I would list the different jobs separately. It doesn’t matter that they’re all in the same spot.
Q: I’m not a premed student but I want to become a doctor. How does that happen?
A: You become a premed student. You take the classes, listen to Episode One of the pre med years and follow along and sign up for Mappd, a technology platform that I created to help students specifically like you.
Q: Should I take a postbac if I have a GPA under 3.5 cumulative?
A: You have to really dig deep into what’s going on with the GPA so that I can understand better and give you better advice. You really have to dig into the first 10 credits, then the second 10 credits, and third 10 credits. What that trend looks like is very important.“You can't just look at that final GPA and go you need a postbac or you need an SMP or a master's program or whatever.”Click To Tweet
Q: Clinical research coordinator versus medical assistant for gap?
A: Your job is whichever one you want to do.
[06:11] When Taking the MCAT is Too Late
Q: What time would you say is too late to take the MCAT?
A: If you look at taking the MCAT in late June, the time you’ll get your score back is late July. If you look at the timeline of submitting your primary applications when medical schools start to receive those primary applications. And when they send out secondaries and you turn in those secondaries.
And when schools are finally coming back from vacation, at least the admissions committees are taking a deep breath because the application cycle never ends. They’re not getting into applications typically until the very end of July and beginning of August anyway.'A late June MCAT is not going to hurt you if you can still submit your application earlier.'Click To Tweet
The problem is when your MCAT prep gets in the way of everything else. And then your personal statement is worse or it’s delayed. Then your extracurricular activities and descriptions are worse or they’re delayed. And so, your application gets delayed. Then you’re not turning in your application until after you take the MCAT. And that delays everything even more.
Therefore, if you’re going to take a later MCAT in late June, through mid-July, or even late July. That being said, only take the MCAT when you’re ready and don’t rush it.
Q: How long should I plan to study for the MCAT?
A: Three to four months.
[08:05] Opportunities for DOs to Work Overseas
Q: Are DOs able to work for humanitarian organizations overseas?
A: It really depends on what the organization is and the ties that they have with the local governments. Historically, for DOs, there’s a bigger question mark going overseas.
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) is working hard on continually increasing the number of countries that recognize the DO degree as a medical degree. But that may be a hindrance.
[09:01] Clinical Experience
Q: Does volunteering as a trained medical assistant count as clinical experience?
A: Yes. If you’re working as a medical assistant, that’s clinical experience, whether volunteer or paid.
Q: How much leadership experience is preferred?
A: A lot of people apply with no leadership experience.
Q: I am a single mom with two children. I’m a full time RN. I really do not have much time to volunteer. Would the lack of volunteer experience hold me back much? I did a lot of volunteering prior to kids.
A: There’s this kind of exaggeration in the premed world that you have to, say, volunteer at the soup kitchen at least three times a week. Or go work at Habitat for Humanity at least once a week.
You’re already working full-time as a nurse and that means you’re getting amazing clinical experience. The only other thing I would add on to that is if you could shadow once a month or so, just for a couple hours, Other than that, you’re fine.
Q: Opinion on nursing students pursuing medicine after completing the Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree?
A: It’s like any other student applying to medical school.
Q: Is it worth spending lots of money for online MCAT courses?
A: It depends on the student. I would start with The MCAT Podcast and The MCAT CARS Podcast. These are two podcasts that I do – one with Blueprint MCAT prep with The MCAT Podcast. And I do The MCAT CARS Podcast with Jack Westin. Utilize all the free resources possible and see if it’s worthwhile to you.
[10:48] Taking a Gap Year
Q: Is it worth taking a gap year for volunteer clinical experience?
A: It depends on your specific needs. There are a lot of misconceptions around gap years and whether or not you need to do them.
There are many reasons students need to take a gap year such as if they need to get clinical experience. Others need to focus on the MCAT full-time without any other classwork.“Never take a gap year just because gap years are good. You just need to take a gap year if you need to take a gap year.“Click To Tweet
[11:40] Questions on Clinical Experience, Majors, Transcript, & Credits
Q: Could I put some of my part-time lifeguard job as clinical experiences such as times when I did CPR, first aid, etc?
A: Lifeguarding is clinical experience.
Q: What are the recommended hours of clinical experience?
A: You need enough clinical experience. There is no set number.
Q: Is health science a good premed major in your opinion?
A: Your major does not matter.
Q: I went to school for two years at a junior college and then transferred to university, will this impact my application to medical school?
A: It will impact your application in medical school because you need to request two transcripts instead of one.
Q: If my bachelor degree was in finance with three science credits, do you think my postbac GPA and credits will be weighted much more?
A: No. GPA is GPA. One is not weighted more, other than your science GPA really matters.
Q: Should I put teaching assistant and tutor as two separate extracurricular slots?
A: You can if you want.
Q: Should heavy in-state bias deter out-of-state applicants from applying?
A: I don’t think it should deter. As long as you are informed about heavy in-state bias, and you know that your chances are low to get into that school. But for some reason, you want to apply there, then you should apply. Just know that your chances are low.
I recorded on Application Renovation this morning with a student who applied to 32 schools and 12 of them were public out-of-state schools. And she said she didn’t know any better and just picked schools based on MCAT and GPA.
Q: How much of a red flag is not having a clinical job for three years leading up to applying, but rather your own company that does business worldwide?
A: The red flag to me is lack of clinical experience, not necessarily a lack of clinical job. You can have your own company that does business worldwide and get clinical experience.
[14:20] Shadowing, Filters, & DO Experience Applying to MD School
Q: Would you recommend listing in-person and online shadowing separately?
A: List them together. Just make sure you list out eShadowing or virtual shadowing as a separate line item in the description so that schools can see where that is.
Q: How does one advocate for themselves to add comms to not get filtered out of the screening process?
A: First and foremost, get good grades and a good MCAT score to not get filtered out. Now, there’s really not much else that you can do.“If the school has set filters, those are usually hard numbers.”Click To Tweet
Now a lot of schools will have secondary processes to say they filtered out the first wave of students. But they have someone that goes through those applications to look for the needle in the haystack or to look for that diamond in the rough. But outside of that, there’s probably not a ton you can do.
Q: How does one advocate for themselves to add comms to not get filtered out of the screening process?
A: First and foremost, get good grades and a good MCAT score to not get filtered out. Now, there’s really not much else that you can do.
If the school has set filters, those are usually hard numbers. Now a lot of schools will have secondary processes to say, okay, we filtered out the first wave of students, but we have someone that goes through those applications to look for the needle in the haystack to look for that kind of diamond in the rough so to speak. But outside of that, there’s probably not a ton you can do .
Q: Will having clinical hours from working as an MA at a DO office hinder my opportunities at an MD school?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: How much does GPA trend matter if they’re all decent?
A: It does not.
Q: When do applications need to be turned in for DO and MD schools?
A: The applications always open up in the first week of May. For the DO applications, you can turn it in right away. For MD applications, you have to wait until the end of May through beginning of June.'The earlier the better because of rolling admissions.'Click To Tweet
[18:23] SMP, EMT Experience, and MCAT Prep
Q: I’m currently in an SMP and doing very well. I have a 502 MCAT and was thinking about retaking it but looking tough in terms of time and applying as a 502.
A: A 502 is low. A higher score will help. A 502 will definitely close some doors for you. And so if you can retake it, especially after spending a lot of money on an SMP, I would retake it.
Q: I’ve been accepted to a DO program and I’m still waiting to hear from a couple MD programs. How much harder is it to match into residency for a DO?
A: I don’t consider matching for DOs any harder than MDs. You need to put in the hard work, whether you’re an MD or DO to build the relationships and networking, and find the research necessary for whatever you’re trying to match into.“Obviously, there are some biases out there in specific programs and specific parts of the country. But at the end of the day, it's you that's matching – not your degree.”Click To Tweet
Q: Does it look disingenuous if you only have a year of EMT experience before you apply?
A: Most people don’t even have a year so that’s amazing.
Q: Should I apply first thing in June even if I haven’t gotten my MCAT score back?
A: Apply as early as possible – even without your MCAT score. One trick that saves some money is to apply to one school, so that you can get your application in and verified. And then when you get your score back, you can add the other schools. But what you need to do in that process is assume that you’re going to crush the MCAT. Then prewrite your secondaries to all of the schools, or as many as you can that you’re going to add as soon as you get your score back.
Q: How long does an MCAT score last for?
A: Three years.
Q: How do you study for the MCAT and you have a full time job?
A: A full-time job 40 hours there and that’s 168 hours in a week. So you subtract 40 hours from that and you have 128 hours left. And so, study in that period of time.
Q: Would you recommend taking the MCAT in the summer of sophomore or junior year?
A: Take as many of those prerequisites as possible. You can self-teach a class. But it gets harder and harder.
[22:20] Questions on Clinical Experiences
Q: Does volunteering with a needle exchange program count as clinical experience?
A: It depends on what you were doing with the needle exchange program.'Clinical experience is interacting with patients. If you weren't interacting with patients, it's not clinical experience.'Click To Tweet
Q: Is four months of working as a scribe enough clinical hours with hospital volunteer hours as well?
A: That’s better than nothing as long as that’s right before your application. Now, if it was four months three years ago, then that’s a different story.
Q: Will taking vital signs I’m volunteering at the same office I shadow at on other days count as clinical experience?
A: Of course.
Q: Can I go from getting a Bachelor’s in nursing to going straight to applying to medical school?
A: A lot of your nursing classes are not counted as prereqs for medical school, so you’ll likely need to take extra prereqs if you didn’t already.
Q: Should a person look at a match list when deciding between schools?
A: The school does not create a match list, but the students. And so I don’t think you should look at the match list.
Q: Does being a translator count as volunteer experience?
A: It depends on where you’re volunteering. Number one, it’s called interpreter not translators. To translate is written, and to interpret is verbal. Now, volunteer experience can be clinical or non-clinical. And clinical experience can be paid or not.
Q: What is an ideal amount of clinical experience?
A: More than zero.
Q: Would EMT or paramedic experience be good or enough?
A: Good enough if you have only here and there volunteer experience so far. Watch your words because your words matter. Obviously, a paramedic is way above and beyond. EMT is a good clinical experience. Do you want to be one? That’s the question.
Q: How do we get clinical experience with the pandemic?
A: Hospitals are open as well as clinics. You just got to go get a job. And go get vaccinated. That’ll make it easier.
Q: Is running a first aid booth clinical experience?
A: Yes, if you’re actually interacting with patients.
[28:07] Personal Statement, Transcripts, Shadowing, Etc.
Q: What things should I do while studying for the MCAT?
A: Read the book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to The Medical School Application Process. Take practice tests and do practice questions.
Q: 20 years of working clinical experience with 12 years of leadership within those 20 years. How do I post that on activities without looking like a total of 30 years?
A: List them separately. You have one listed as 20 years working for clinical experience. And then you have one activity that’s 12 years that you list as leadership and talk about that. The dates for those activities will overlap so it makes sense.
Just make sure that you subtract leadership hours from your clinical experience hours, so that you’re not double dipping.
Q: Can I talk about a specific specialty that I love on my personal statement?
A: I wouldn’t recommend it. Check out The Premed Playbook: Guide to The Medical School Personal Statement.
Q: Are international students Canadian assessed differently than US residents for medical schools?
A: There’s a difference between international students and Canadian students for some schools. Some schools will look at Canadian students as out-of-state residents, and not international students.
Q: When should I order transcripts?
A: TMDSAS is telling you when to submit your transcript now. But for the other application services, you have to wait until they open up first.
Q: How do I talk about a job shadowing experience?
A: Shadowing, in general, is very passive. And so especially if you have multiple shadowing experiences, just list them all in one activity.
Q: Is an online degree looked down upon for medical school?
A: You have to go to the MSAR for each individual medical school. A lot of medical schools aren’t going to want an online degree, unfortunately.
Q: Can you elaborate on sending transcripts to DO versus MD schools?
A: There’s no difference. You just send them to different places once you open up your application. And again, this is all laid out in my book as well. Once you open up your application, the application will have you print out a transcript request form. That’s all you need to know.
Q: Should I retake prereq science courses if I got a B-?
A: Not necessarily.
[33:57] The Premed Playbooks
All of my premed playbooks are different. My first book was The Premed Playbook: Guide to The Medical School Interview, which is all about the interview process.
My second book was The Premed Playbook: Guide to The MCAT. It’s a very abbreviated short, easy read, just for people beginning. If you’re a student who has no clue what the MCAT is, this is a good book for you. It is not an MCAT prep book.
My third book was The Premed Playbook: Guide to The Medical School Personal Statement, which is all about the personal statement.
And then my fourth book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to The Medical School Application Process is all about the application process. So it talks about MCAT, GPA, clinical experiences, and how to write your activity descriptions. It talks about disadvantaged essays, institutional action essays, and their examples. It also talks about the different categories of experiences for all the application services.
It talks about the personal statement, interviews, and examples of the secondary essays – the whole application process.
[36:22] Self-Reflection is Very Important
Q: I live in Minnesota but my parents have a house and Florida Keys? Would this be a good reason to apply to schools there or no?
A: Just because your parents have a house there doesn’t mean you have ties to the state. If you go there every summer, then great. That means you have some better ties.
Q: How long ago is too long since a nontrad has taken required undergraduate courses?
A: It really depends on the school. I talked to a physical therapist recently who had been at a school for 20 years, took the MCAT, applied to medical school and got in without retaking any of her classes. So it really just depends.
Q: What are my thoughts on three-year MD programs?
A: I think medical school should be five years.
Q: How do you suggest students talk about wanting to be a physician scientists and doing research without schools thinking they should do a PhD instead?
A: I don’t think you should talk about that. The goal with the personal statement is, here’s why I want to be a doctor, not here’s why I want to do research as a physician. You can talk about research in your activities list instead.
Q: I’m going to take a gap year after an unsuccessful cycle. I’m deciding between being an EMT and doing a master’s in clinical research. Do you have any comments?
A: Why did you have an unsuccessful cycle to begin with? And the new book will have kind of that reflection chapter where you go through the application. Where did you miss out? And it’s really hard to look at an application, especially after you’ve been rejected because it hurts.'Too many students don't reflect on their own application, and they jump straight to what will look better moving forward?'Click To Tweet
You have to be self-aware and reflect on your own specific situation. Do you need better grades? Then you should think about taking more classes. And then we can get into – should it be an undergraduate postbac or an SMP or a master’s in clinical research.
Too many students are doing an SMP with a 3.0 GPA and a 498 MCAT score. But you don’t need an SMP, you need an MCAT tutor. Why spend $50,000 on an SMP when you could have spent five grand on an MCAT tutor? Again, you have to think about your specific situation.