I had a pleasure talking with Ashley, who shared her amazing journey to med school. Ashley was able to enjoy the process and still receive a ton of acceptances!
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.
[01:22] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
I want to talk about the MCAT minutes brought to you by blueprint MCAT you can get all of your MCAT needs. At blueprint mcat.com
One of the most common questions I get is “what score do I need to get in?” Unfortunately, that answer is different for everyone. It depends on who you are and what your total application looks like. It depends on the schools you are applying to, and whether or not they’re willing to give you a chance.
Your MCAT score has to be “good enough,” And where that “good enough” lies is really up to you. Now, obviously, getting in with a poor MCAT score is possible, but not probable.
I was having a conversation recently with a student who’s struggling on her MCAT. And she still has the possibility of getting in because she has an amazing story behind her stats. It’s possible, but it’s not very probable. We’ll help her cross that finish line together. But that line, unfortunately, is not a solid line in the sand. Again, it’s different for everyone.
You can go look at the data that the AAMC puts out. Unfortunately, that’s just AAMC data for people who apply through AMCAS. But the lowest score I’ve seen personally is a 494. It’s not a great score, and not something I would tell anyone to apply with. But they went ahead and did it anyway.
So what score do you need to get in? As good as you can get! That’s always the answer I give students. Get the highest MCAT score that you can get. And if you need help to get the best possible score, go to Blueprint MCAT today.
[04:10] Ashley’s Journey
Ashley says she realized she first wanted to go to medical school around fifth or sixth grade when they did a project in home economics class. Their professor asked them to find a career they’d be interested in. And what popped up on her screen after they took a survey was a cardiothoracic surgeon. She then went home and told his parents she was going to be one.
Then once she got older, she joined a local ambulance center. Ashely says her family has been her biggest support system who has always been with her every step of the way. As she went to college, she didn’t receive too much support and was too scared to tell people she was pregnant. She went to an advisor who advised her to try another track.
She then started a job at the Women’s Health Care Clinic. She was surrounded by a lot of doctors who encouraged her and pushed her forward.
She initially thought she was going to be a biology major but then along the way, she found Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and fell in love with the courses. So she declared herself a gender studies major shortly after.
Gender Studies is not a “typical” prereqs that one would expect to go through undergrad when applying to medical school.
[08:50] Navigating the Waters and Pursuing Gender Studies
She did some of the pre-matriculation requirements like bio, chemistry, etc. She wasn’t juggling everything very well but she had a research mentor who sat her down and assured her that medicine is always going to be there. That’s why she ended up with Gender Studies. Her classes focused on women’s gender, health, society, and reproductive rights. Then she did a postbac fitting in all of the pre-matriculation requirements.'You should really be taking this time to see if there's something that can steal your heart away from medicine, because if there is something, you've got to follow that.'Click To Tweet
So she started off at Emory with chemistry and orgo. Then she had plans to take biology the next summer, but then decided she wanted to study abroad. Aware that those courses will still be there when she gets back anyway, she decided she was going to just do a postbac instead of trying to fit all the sciences into another summer.
Ashley says it’s her timeline and so, even if she compares herself to people, it’s not going to make a difference and it doesn’t do her any good.'The common fear is that when you go and chase those passions, that you are not going to be able to prove to medical schools that you want to be a physician.'Click To Tweet
Ashey thinks Gender Studies is an important major if you’re working with humans in any capacity. You get an understanding of how society works and how these different systems operate around us.
[14:28] Studying for the MCAT and Experience Burnout
Her postbac GPA is a 3.65, which is pretty solid. When it came to taking the MCAT, her core foundation of science was missing because of the gender studies, but she was doing it in postbac.
Ashley says that if she were to go back in time, she could have studied for the MCAT a bit sooner along with her postbac courses.
Once she finished the courses, she started diving into MCAT studying, but that was around the same time that COVID started getting really bad. As a result, her test was pushed back three times until she was able to take it. Ashley got a 510 on the MCAT.
Ashley experienced burnout while studying for the MCAT and she says she would never take sleep for granted ever again as well as having a healthy diet. And even just time away from the computer and socializing with other people are so important. As a result, she was getting a downward trend.
[17:55] Clinical Experience
Pre-COVID, Ashley was able to get clinical experience in Atlanta working at the health clinic for three years, being one of her most meaningful experiences. As a health educator, she helped patients navigate their procedures, birth control, and just different conversations about health. After college, she made some money to save up for her application working as an EMT.
[19:10] Crafting Her Personal Statement
Ashley had so many stories that she found it hard to pick one. So when it came to writing her personal statement, she had four different stories lined out. She wanted to highlight the most concrete aspects of who she is and her love for Gender Studies and social justice.
She aligned all of them up and then gave them to people. She then asked for feedback as to which portrayed her best. And this is what she used to craft her personal statement.
Then whatever she didn’t use for her personal statement ended up going into her application in different sections. She made sure she was telling a story throughout and reflecting on all her experiences.'Don't do things to just check them off the box… When you do an activity strictly for your application, it's hard to find that reflection in why you started in the first place.'Click To Tweet
Ashley adds that for every activity she did, she thought about why she did it in the first place, why she stayed there, and what she learned the most or moments that stuck out the most.
Most of her activities were things she wanted to do for a long time for a reason. Understand that every single space you have on your application is so valuable. And even if you’re the most boring person in the world, it’s still not going to be enough space to tell your story and who you are as a person. Don’t think about what other people think is better. Just tell your story and reflect on what was missing in your application and what would fit there.
[23:39] The Challengers in Her Application
Ashely made a pact to herself that she was going all in because she didn’t want to apply again next year, or the year after. And so, she decided to give it her all and that meant that she was doing her best on all those secondary applications. Her primary application has gone through revision after revision after revision.
When she was waiting for interviews, she was showing up to events at medical schools and connecting with people. Her calendar was jam packed for an entire year, whether it was writing, showing up to events, going to interviews, second look events, and just connecting with people. She thinks that was one of the hardest parts in terms of the time and energy.
At the same time, there was a point in the interview season where she didn’t have access to Wi-Fi and she had to get into public coffee shops. She even went to a public park that had Wi-Fi at one point.
Ashley applied to 39 schools and got 21 interview invitations.
Ashley admits the reason she applied to so many schools was that she wasn’t confident in herself being a gender studies major and she didn’t have a 4.0. Her MCAT is good but she doesn’t know how schools are going to see it in the midst of the “Fauci effect.”
In terms of affording to apply to so many schools, a huge part of it was reaching out to people and emailing every school on her list. Since she didn’t qualify for the AAMC fee waiver, she reached out to schools individually and asked if they could waive the fee. As a result, she got at least half of the school’s grant fees waived.
In terms of staying organized, whether it’s emailing about fee waivers, secondary applications, everything was organized in her Excel sheets.
[28:08] Getting Multiple Acceptances
Ashley couldn’t forget her first acceptance and the first person she told about it was her mom and they were just crying. Ashley got 18 acceptances!
Finances were a huge part of her decision-making. What she didn’t know about this cycle was that you get accepted, but then the financial aid packages don’t come until much later in the process.'You get accepted and it's all nice and everything but then the financial aid packages don't come until much later in the process.'Click To Tweet
Once she got her first few offers of full tuition, scholarships, and full rides, she was able to leverage that with places closer to home. And which places that matched her particular requirements. She definitely used the whole bargaining and playing schools off of each other.
With all 18 acceptances, she was able to narrow it down to her top three.
[33:43] Advocating for Yourself vs. Selling Yourself
Ashley approached her whole journey in the way that I try to preach to students. It’s about following your passions, doing what you want to do, letting that story come through in your applications, and not focusing exclusively on what the medical schools want to see.
Ashley pursued her passions. Obviously, you’ve got to be academically capable. You have to have a good enough MCAT score. You have to have some clinical experiences to show it to yourself and to medical schools that you understand what it is you’re doing and why you’re getting into medicine and all that stuff.
She was not someone putting on this facade to make herself stand out or to sell to them that she’s compassionate and empathetic and all these other things. She is not just selling herself throughout the application process.
And then when it comes to picking medical schools and going on these interviews and figuring out what schools you want to go to, a lot of it was self-reflection.
It’s all about making those decisions for yourself, making the right decisions, living the life you want, and to be happy as you’re going through this process. You’re owning it all and you’re not doing it for everyone else.'I'm a human being that's doing medical school, not the other way around. I'm just trying to keep track of who I am.'Click To Tweet
[36:17] Final Words of Wisdom
If you are applying to medical school, don’t just do it halfway. Do it all the way. Give it everything you’ve got because you will learn. The more you put yourself out there, the more you’re going to learn. Ashley learned so much just by talking to students, faculty, deans, and other applicants.'Put yourself out there and give it everything you got.'Click To Tweet
Ashley did everything she wanted to do and did nothing to prove anything to anyone other than to do the things she wanted. Her stats were good enough. But she followed her passions, and it came through in an application. It came through in her interviews. She had the conversations she wanted to have during her interviews because everything in her application was a part of who she was. She wasn’t concerned about what would look better on the application or not.