Rapid-Fire Premed Questions Answered With an MCAT Veteran

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PMY 443: Rapid-Fire Premed Questions Answered With an MCAT Veteran

Session 443

Hunter (from Blueprint MCAT and The MCAT Podcast) and I had a great time answering questions from IG premeds! Topics include MCAT, app timeline, GPA, and more!

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.

[03:34] A Little About Hunter

Hunter went to school and graduated with a biochem degree. Then he decided to take a gap year after school and worked at the Arizona Science Center. It was a gap year that turned into two, three, then four years. Wanting to get back into the swing of things, he took a prep course and did really well on the MCAT. Then he realized he actually didn’t want to go to med school and just wanted to keep teaching.

[05:55] Interested in a Specific Specialty

Q: If I’m a pre med already leaning toward a specialty, should I include that in my application or should I keep it broad? 

A: Keep it broad. You are applying to medical school to be a doctor. You’re not applying to medical school to be an orthopedic surgeon, neurosurgeon neurologist, or whatever it is. Every medical school is going to be a little bit different with who they’re looking at and what they want. And so, keep it broad.

[06:36] A Good MCAT Score

Q: What’s usually a good MCAT score for MD schools?

A: The average statistically is 500. And average for the past year for admissions and matriculants is 511. And that’s the hard and fast numbers of people that are getting into med school. That being said, we disagree that those are the numbers you must have in order to get them at school. So make sure to research the schools that you want to go to. Every school has different stats, different averages, etc.

'The MCAT score isn't the only thing that's going to make or break your application but a ton of different things.'Click To Tweet

Your GPA, MCAT, activities, letters of recommendations, personal statement, how you write your activities, how you tell your story, secondary essays, interviews – it’s all part of the process. So you can’t just focus on the MCAT. But it is a big part of the process and a bad MCAT score closes a lot of doors, unfortunately.

And if you want to buckle down and study and prepare for the MCAT to get a decent score, check out Blueprint MCAT. Sign up for a free account and get their free full-length exam, free half-length diagnostic exam, a free study planner, tool and much more.

[09:48] Low GPA But Great Experiences

Q: For a low undergraduate GPA, but almost seven years of healthcare patient care experiences and three years of research, is a postbac advantageous or an SMP?

A: If you don’t even have an upward trend to prove you’re academically capable to be in medical school, that will be a red flag regardless of how great your experiences were.

'A lot of students applying to medical school try to overcome bad stats with great experiences and that almost never works.'Click To Tweet

Your story matters. So assuming you had a low GPA, but you’ve done the work on the back-end to have a great upward trend, then admissions committees will see that. And so, a postbac is probably needed depending on the person’s situation. Again, the story behind the numbers is what matters.

Admissions committees want to see the trajectory of where you are right now in the middle. And if you’re in the middle, and you’re on a downward slope, then that doesn’t look good. They wouldn’t have very much confidence that you’re going to just all of a sudden turn it around.

[12:40] App Update

Q: Can I create an evaluation request after I submit my application?

A: There are very few things that you can change after you submit your application and letters of recommendations are one of them. If you want more information about the application process, grab a copy of The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process.

[14:04] How to Do Better on My 2nd MCAT

Q: Going to be retaking the MCAT in the fall. First try was a 501. How should I go about my second round?

A: This all depends on how you went about it your first time. Because whatever you did the first time you tried it didn’t really work out. And so it’s not saying that you necessarily did something wrong. Maybe it wasn’t your particular method of studying that you did before. Or if you tried doing it on your own, and you were just piecing things then maybe that wasn’t the best way. Maybe you did do some sort of prep course but it just didn’t do it for you or maybe you didn’t take it super seriously.

The broad answer to this is don’t do the same thing twice. Figure out what didn’t didn’t work for you and then pivot and go that way to see if it works or it doesn’t. There are so many different ways to prepare for this exam. Make sure you do some self analysis and some self-reflection.

[16:58] MCAT Score After App Submission

Q: Is your application reviewed by schools based on when it was submitted to AMCAS or is it based on the day your MCAT scores are received? The key part here is my scores won’t come in for two weeks after applications open.

A: The review doesn’t happen even two weeks after applications are open. Schools haven’t gotten your applications yet. AMCAS opens on May 27. Historically, AMCAS doesn’t allow schools to start pulling applications until the third or fourth week of June. Last year, it was July 10 because they pushed it back due to COVID. This year, they said it’s on June 25.

But even two weeks after AMCAS opens and your MCAT score comes in, schools don’t even know who you are yet. So that is not a delay. No worries there.

Also, make sure that when you fill out and submit that application, check that little box that says you’re getting an MCAT score at a later date. The worst thing in the world would be to wait for your MCAT score and then submit it late and then they send it back to you saying you didn’t fill this part on it. It takes them a couple of weeks to scan through everyone’s applications just to check and make those repairs and then it gets sent out to school. So go ahead and submit.

[18:32] Rolling Admissions

Q: Are applications pulled on a first-come, first-served basis?

A: At almost every school, applications are pulled on a first-come, first-served basis called the rolling admissions. It’s something not a lot of students understand that they screw up this whole process. They’ll look at the med school’s deadline and they don’t turn in their application until that date. It’s not like college applications.

Unfortunately, the AAMC and medical schools don’t tell people what rolling admissions is. With that being said, there needs to be more transparency in this process from the application services and from medical schools.

The medical school application process is like a giant game of musical chairs where every round, there’s one less seat. But in musical chairs, there’s always n + 1 people. So only one person loses each round. But in the medical school admissions process, after each round, there’s one less seat. But there’s a thousand more people playing. And then 2,000 more people playing and then 10,000 more people playing.

“There's so much that they don't tell you so try to get information from anywhere you can.”Click To Tweet

[23:17] When to Start Your Application

Q: Can you explain when we should start our application? Are you able to start it before it opens in May? 

A: First, grab a copy of The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process and you will learn a ton from there. Another resource we have is Mappd, a software that has the whole application simulator built into it now. It’s a great tool you can use to help you along your application journey and keep you on track.

“Don't write inside the application because the applications are notorious for losing information.”Click To Tweet

So don’t write it in the AMCAS application. Instead, write it in Google Docs or Word.

[26:40] MCAT Prep + a Hard Semester

Q: How do you deal with a hard semester and studying for the MCAT?

A: Studying for the MCAT can be a full-time job, if not, at least part-time. It means 10-20 hours a week at a minimum. And so, if you’re dealing with a really hard semester and you’re trying to do the MCAT on top of it, it can beat you down. Therefore, pre-planning is super important. If you can’t, then you’re just knee-deep. Check out Blueprint MCAT to help you with your study plan.

If worse comes to worst and you can’t push back your classes, then push back your MCAT day. Or if you’re taking the practice exam, and you’re not scoring anywhere near where you want, push that back.

'Study planners are super important and have some accountability to keep you there.'Click To Tweet

[29:36] Less Extracurricular Experience

Q: When do you recommend postponing an application in terms of extracurriculars? I have 1000 hours wilderness first responder, but less experience in the front country. 

A: The point of extracurriculars is to prove to yourself, at least from a clinical standpoint, that you understand that you enjoy being around patients. From a shadowing perspective, the point is that you understand the role of a physician and that the life of a physician is not all glamorous. And so, if you only have wilderness first responder stuff, the question is do you understand that you enjoy being around patients?

A wilderness first responder experience is great if you’re responding to people and taking care of them being an EMT. And if you can weave shadowing into your application, that would be great.

A big mistake students make sometimes is they’ll only put medically related activities on the application. And they ignore that they were a manager at Walmart, or that they coached soccer, or did all these other things that really round out who they are. So make sure you add those experiences. Now, in terms of how many hours are needed for shadowing or clinical experience, consistency is very important.

“Lean into what makes you you. Make yourself undeniable.”Click To Tweet

[33:48] MCAT Prep

Q: How do you start studying for the MCAT? It’s overwhelming trying to figure a schedule out.

A: If you go to the AAMC website, they have a document that tells you this is everything that’s on the MCAT. The document is also a couple hundred pages long so it can be too much.

“The MCAT is a mile wide, but it's only an inch deep. So it's basically a little bit of everything from four years of undergraduate science.”Click To Tweet

Hunter advises students to check out Blueprint MCAT. They have a free half-length diagnostic exam as well as a free full-length test. And so if you have no experience with the MCAT at all, and you’ve never even taken a practice, you don’t know what passages are, don’t dive into the eight-hour one because that’s a big commitment. But you can definitely check that out and just see what the test is like. They also have the Blueprint study planner that you can also take advantage of to help you create a schedule that works for you.

It’s all about efficiency in your prep. It’s all about being efficient on the actual exam. You’ve got to get the most amount of points in the least amount of time.

All that being said, if you don’t have any idea where to start. Start with Blueprint MCAT and then you can make some decisions there. Do some research about your next steps for your personal prep journey. Remember, every student’s prep journey is a little bit different. And there’s a lot of introspection that needs to happen.

[37:58] EMT for Clinical Experience

Q: Is becoming an EMT a good move to gain clinical experience? 

A: Yes, if EMT sounds exciting to you. But if the thought of it makes you want to puke but you think it will look good on your application, then please don’t force yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. Go find other clinical experience to put on your application that you’re going to be more excited about.

[40:10]  Blueprint’s Pricing Plans and Options

Blueprint has free resources available as well as monthly payment plans depending on what you’re going for. They also have a live online course. Blueprint has monthly payment plans around $300-$400 a month, depending on what you’re going for. They also have a 12-month access plan, and if you break it down, it’s around $200 a month.

[45:46] Timeline for App Review

Q: When do schools start to review full applications, including secondaries?

A: When you look at the timeline, you can submit the AMCAS application on May 27 and June 25 is the first day that schools can start pulling applications from AMCAS. Most often, they don’t screen for secondaries. And so, most students don’t pre-write secondaries. They start pounding away on secondaries, and turn them around within a week or two.

However, I strongly advise students to prewrite secondaries. Go to secondaryapps.com to get access to an entire secondary essay database.

Anyway, you’re looking at mid-July until medical schools have primary applications and secondary applications. They also look at whether you have your MCAT score, your letters of recommendations. Those are the four things needed to review an application.

Now, if you have an MCAT score, but you’ve marked that you’re taking it again, or that you’ve already taken it, but the score hasn’t been released yet, then they’ll wait on that. Historically, the standard is they’ll sit on your application and wait to review it.

For AACOMAS, it’s a little bit earlier because you can submit earlier. AACOMAS applications are available to medical schools about a week or so before AMCAS. And so, there’s a little bit of activity before.

“The far majority of schools are not discerning what their secondaries are.”Click To Tweet

Interestingly, medical schools send secondaries to everyone because it all comes down to money. They don’t care if you have a 2.0 and a 478 on your MCAT. They will send you a secondary and assume you’re smart enough, whether you have horrendous stats, or have typos in your personal statement, or whatever..

To have an idea of how much you will be spending on your application, check out the Medical School Application Cost Estimator. Also, look at this savings app called digit.co. You plug it into your bank account, and it has some fancy machine learning AI that can automate savings for you.


Meded Media

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Blueprint MCAT

Blueprint’s live online course

AAMC materials

Blueprint’s Study Planner

The MCAT Podcast

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application Process


Medical School Application Cost Estimator