This week, we’re celebrating 450 episodes! James took the MCAT 5xs and applied 4xs, and got 3 acceptances! How did he overcome pressure and obstacles?
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[03:35] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
What score do you need to take the MCAT? Well, the answer is different for everyone. You can get in with a 505 or a 500. In fact, there are students who get in with a 496. It’s not probably, but it happens.'Remember the MCAT is just one part of your application. You need to make sure that you have as high of a score as possible for you.'Click To Tweet
You will never feel ready to take the MCAT. But at some point, you have to pull the trigger and trust the prep you’re doing, hopefully, Blueprint MCAT is getting you where you need to go.
[05:51] Interest in Becoming a Doctor
James recalls realizing he wanted to become a doctor when he took a trip to Nigeria back when he was in kindergarten. He went back to his parents’ home country of Nigeria and saw the underserved areas and noticed the large gaps between clinics and the patients. It was so hard to get care since it would take a two-hour drive just to get access to health care. Then when he got back to the States, he saw similar underserved areas in the state and he thought he wanted to make a change.
Fast-forward to middle school, he was really good at the sciences. He even recalls his teacher asking him to teach a class because he did really well on an exam.
That being said, he had no direct model. Nobody in his family was a physician. And so he didn’t have anybody within his immediate family or immediate community who could be his mentor along his premed journey. And for him, this made a great impact on his application.
James says figuring things out was more of a trial and error. His dad being his “college advisor,” he obviously wasn’t getting the best advice. He originally majored in Biology. But in retrospect, he says he could have done something else that he loved more. Then when he moved to a different university, he took up chemistry to keep his scholarship.
[10:25] The Decision to Never Give Up
James thinks he lost count as to how many times he applied to medical school. But it could have been four times. The very first time he applied was in 2015. By 2013, he would have matriculated to medical school “in the perfect world.” But he didn’t give up because getting into medicine is what he really wanted.
Knowing what his community looks like and the disparities within his community and as a black man, he knows he could make an impact.
And James is just an example of why you should have a plan B, even though so many people in your life have told you otherwise.
James also took the MCAT five times. And so, the Achilles’ heel within this whole entire application process has been the MCAT. In 2018, he already finished his master’s and did well on it. He took the MCAT for the 2nd and 3rd time and got a poor score.
One reason for what kept him going was his mentorship, for which he met his mentor through an organization called Tour for Diversity in Medicine, a mobile medical school fair. He also happens to be his frat brother and he put in a good word for him. So he applied at a program in the midwest and finally got an interview.
[17:45] Taking a Postbac
James went to two institutions for his undergrad and got an average GPA score. He finished at Texas Southern University with a 3.25 and his graduate GPA was 3.6. When he did his master’s in 2018, he retook his MCAT the fourth time, and the score jumped up six points.
However, he thought that the timing he took the MCAT at the time he applied didn’t work in his favor. His first MCAT was a 482. The second and third MCAT was a 488. Then it jumped up six points to 494 on his fourth take.
Then he got an interview with his 494 MCAT at a DO program on the east coast. But his application was delayed for a month which had to do with his residency.'A month is an eternity in rolling admissions.' Click To Tweet
And so, he interviewed but it wasn’t until the very last day. So he was just interviewing for a weightless spot. He interviewed well, but got waitlisted.
Consequently, he had two options. Either stay back home and teach for another year and study for the MCAT. Or he can put himself in a position where he’s in an environment with other premeds that are working towards the same goal. And the latter was most likely going to help him score better on the MCAT. Hence, he decided to do a postbac. Another thing tied with the postbac was that he was conditionally accepted to that institution.
[21:57] The 5th MCAT!
For his fifth MCAT, he got a 498 MCAT score. So from 482, he got himself to a 488, to 494, and finally a 498.'To do the same thing over and over again and expect to get different results is insanity.'Click To Tweet
James reveals that the key to his MCAT scores improving was that every time he studied for the MCAT, he would try something new and different.
For example, he would use different test prep materials from different companies. He also learned to implement a study schedule eventually. He would also study with a study partner. Another important thing that he did was he would assess how he studied the last time that helped him and what he could have done better. And for the last time he took the MCAT, he was putting himself in a space with other people that had that linear, singular goal.
James’ advice to students is to study like you want to get a perfect score. But the goal of the MCAT is to just get to a score that would get you into a medical school.
[27:12] Giving It His 120% and Advocating for Himself
James says he was at the lowest moment of his life last year. And imagine taking the MCAT five times, and doing a postbac, and spending three years teaching on top of all of that. He has just found himself so far removed from when he started his journey in 2009. It wasn’t the last blow, but he just felt like it took everything out of him.
He just decided to give his 120% each time. He emailed each and every single administrator or a dean he had built a relationship with. He talked about his background and what he has done.
The negative part about COVID was that he didn’t get into med school last year, But the positive part of COVID was that it made the admissions director so amenable to having virtual conversations.
He has also been very involved with the Student National Medical Association, from the local level to the regional and national levels. For him, getting exposure to minority students, doctors and physicians really changed the game. He went to those different conferences and built relationships with different admissions directors. He also reached out to the diversity equity inclusion officers and everyone he thought would help him along the journey towards getting into medical school.'I reached out to everyone and anybody.'Click To Tweet
[33:15] Getting the Acceptance
James harps on the importance of just having the right mentality. His mentor went through his application and just encouraged him to just enjoy the process. He was also reminded that the medical school is not only interviewing him, but he was also interviewing them.'This is the one interview where you're an expert on it. You know yourself. You are an expert on yourself.'Click To Tweet
Another interview tip James wants to tell students is to pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t discount the janitor. Don’t discount anybody at the institution. Treat everybody with the highest respect and the highest regard.
Rejection after rejection, finally, James got three acceptances. It’s just a matter of whether you’re going to keep working at it, or are you just going to give up after you know that first failed MCAT attempt or that first C or D in your course? Are you going to allow that to deter you?
[40:33] Final Words of Wisdom
James thinks the MCAT is just a gatekeeper exam. It keeps people out. It’s about taking a test, not your aptitude, or showing whether or not you can get into a respective professional school.
James believes that standardized tests are a barrier to get to the next level of professional school, especially for minorities who are not exposed early on. And so, you’re going to see that large disparity which we’re seeing now. This is a business, unfortunately.
Finally, James leaves us with some nuggets of wisdom, saying that if you’re meant to be a physician, you’re going to be a physician.Never let anybody deter you for your dream when they didn’t give it to you.