Gabby did everything right. She applied early but her MCAT was delayed by COVID. Then she got her score back and she gave up. She was accepted very late!
She also talks about her journey as a first-generation American to medical school struggling with the MCAT but really making a huge transition going from the artistic world as a dancer to then wanting to be a physician.
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.
[01:05] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
A perfect MCAT score isn’t necessary to get into medical school. Now I don’t recommend everyone apply to medical school with the scores that our guest got today. But at the end of the day, they were “good enough” to get into a medical school that saw her potential based on her GPA, and everything else.
When you are worried about what score you need, there’s really no answer for that other than a score that is good enough. But don’t just take that advice and go rest on your laurels and not study for the MCAT thinking the MCAT is a breeze, because it’s not. Study as hard as you can and as much as you can to get as high of a score as you possibly can.
[02:21] Interest in Becoming a Physician
Gabby thought being a doctor was going to be the last thing she would do. But she decided to become one about two years ago.
Gabby was a classical ballet dancer her entire life. She’s now 26 years old and she retired at 23 when she went through an extensive surgery that took her out of her training for six months to a year. Such experience opened her to healthcare along with an accumulation of events.
So she went back to school and volunteered at Grady Memorial Hospital, a level one trauma center in Atlanta. She also volunteered at Emory University Hospital, Johns Creek as a crisis counselor. And she found her love for hearing the stories of patients and being able to use her knowledge to help them. She then worked as a medical assistant at an ENT clinic before she got accepted to medical school.
Gabby was researching all the time in terms of what direction to take with her application and she felt disorganized. So she went back to school to explore different healthcare professions she was interested in. She got into shadowing and made cold calls and emails looking for ways to get into medical school. She looked at admissions websites to make sure her degree was lined up according to plan.
[07:50] Figuring Out Her Career Field
Gabby initially thought she wanted to be a physical therapist. She went into school, thinking it’s what she was going to do. But as she took her classes, she found a deeper love for human anatomy and physiology.
Feeling she was too old to be a doctor, she considered her mom’s suggestion to become a Physician Assistant. So she began her exploration and started volunteering because she had switched to being a pre-PA. And she thought she wanted to be a PA because she liked the responsibility aspect.
Then she ended up shadowing a nurse practitioner, a PA and then a physician. Then she knew after day one that she would want to go to med school because of just the experiences that she had. She talked to them and their different roles and did some comparison of their roles. And having those conversations with each one of them really helped her choose her path.'A lot of people just skip to “I want to be a doctor” when being an NP or being a PA would potentially suit their lifestyle better suit their needs better.'Click To Tweet
[11:10] The Mindset Shift From Dancing to Chemistry
As a professional ballet dancer, the way Gabby approached my classes wasn’t that different from the way she approached her academic courses. You’re there to focus and ask questions. Then once it’s over, you can leave the classroom or dance studio.
But in those moments you’re inside the class, you’re focused. This was the kind of discipline she learned as a dancer. And so, a lot of characteristics that made her an active learner and a strong student came from the dance studios and the teachers she had. And knowing the type of learner she was, she built and manipulated her schedule around it.'Try to know yourself, and don't be overwhelmed by all the other students on how they do it. You should just be concerned about knowing yourself and how you learn.'Click To Tweet
[14:48] A First Gen Med Student
Gabby’s mom is from Cuba, and her dad was from Puerto Rico. Born and raised In Atlanta, Georgia, she’s a first-generation American in her family. Her father did not go to college and no one in his family went to college. So she’s a first-generation college student as well.
Her mom graduated from undergraduate school. She was a public school educator at an elementary school, but there are no physicians in her family. They have a couple of nurses, but no physicians, no PA, no MPs, no PhDs. She was also raised by her mother since her parents divorced when she was 12. Then both of her brothers also had certain disabilities so her mom, a single mother, had to take care of the healthcare bills as well.
[16:58] Getting Experiences
Gabby went on Facebook, and looked up premed groups and there were other groups that you can join to find some shadowing opportunities. At that time she was looking to shadow a PA.
You could also go to small clinics and ask or ask for any contact number or email address so you can reach them. Luckily, for Gabby, she received affirmative responses from the people she asked to shadow.'Just be who you are and you just tell them upfront that you're genuinely curious and you want some experience.'Click To Tweet
[19:57] How She Thought About Her Timeline
Gabby was a full time student and doing her premed science courses for the last two years. And as she went along, she realized that time is going to go either way. So just do what you’re passionate about, regardless.
When she wanted to pursue dance professionally, it was a very long road. But if you’re passionate about it, if your heart is there, time will go anyway, you should do it. And when she accepted that mentality again, she was no longer afraid of it anymore, and started to enjoy it.
Gabby admits she used to think that being nontraditional was a setback for her. And she believed that even when she was already accepted to medical school. But you have to have that confidence.'There's always this thought that being a nontraditional student is a hindrance, is a negative thing. And it's just quite obvious that it's the opposite once you get on to the other side.'Click To Tweet
There are red flags for nontraditional students, but just being an untraditional student alone is not a red flag. Andall the experiences that you’re bringing to the table are important.
[23:26] Why So Late in the Application Cycle Without Hearing Anything
It was already super late in the application cycle when Gabby heard from the school and she blames it on her MCAT score. She had rewritten her personal statement and had different experiences to add.
Gabby has a 3.79 GPA and graduated with honors and had all the prerequisites. But her MCAT wasn’t great at 494.
Gabby explains she had so much on her plate at that and she could have done much better. The pandemic certainly changed the way she studied because she had to figure so many things out being an online learner now. So when Gabby got her score, she just assumed she had to reapply because she got rejections from all the schools she had applied to.'You have to know yourself and your boundaries and what is feasible for you.'Click To Tweet
[27:34] Her MCAT Study Strategies
Gabby says she rushed her MCAT which she strongly advises against. She knew biochem and physics would be on the MCAT. But she figured out that if she’s taking it while studying, it’s technically studying. She taught herself the amino acids because she withdrew from biochem. It wasn’t impossible, but for her, she knew it wasn’t going to work.'Do not rush. Do it once. Do it right. Do it when you're ready.'Click To Tweet
So her test got pushed to August 12 and then to September 1. Then they had the expedited scoring. It was a five and a half hour test unlike the seven and a half hour test. And so, when she got her score back, she had already submitted the application at that point, knowing it was a complete gamble.
Once she got her score back, she cried for a bit because she was upset but she wasn’t surprised. Then she thought about how she could be doing differently.
[31:08] The Interview Invite and the Acceptance
Then she got an interview invite late April, which was really, really late that she thought what she got was a spam message on her phone. She had two days to prepare for the interview. It was virtual but she still rushed looking for a suit. The interview went well and it was a blind interview.
But for some reason, it did come out during the interview that she had not performed as well as she had hoped on her exam but that she had taken the steps to retake it. She explained how there was a lot on her plate. She was just very authentic about it. Finally, she got an acceptance which felt so surreal for her.
Gabby also mentioned that after her interview, she actually had gotten waitlisted which she assumed would happen if she was interviewed that late. But then she got off the waitlist a week before her MCAT retake.
She basically had three days to decide on whether she was going to reapply and maybe go somewhere else. And that’s a big decision to put down an $800 deposit in three days and make that decision. And so, she got the chance to talk with a few people and those conversations helped her make the decision to get into medical school.
Gabby is going to start orientation in three weeks and she just moved into an apartment. For now she’s still relaxing. But part of her mindset is to work hard now so it’s easier later. Approach every class very diligently and with purpose intentionally. And so that later down the line, she already has a wealth of knowledge on human anatomy and physiology. And that’s because she learned to understand those in her premed courses in undergrad.
[42:57] Final Words of Wisdom
Anything you want is meant for you. Know yourself. For Gabby, the biggest thing for her in her journey has always come back to herself. She encourages other students who are on this same path to trust yourself. Whether you put in the work or you didn’t, you have to be honest with yourself about it.
If you’re going to take an MCAT and you know your practice scores aren’t growing or you’re not doing what you should be doing to prepare, don’t rush it. Just take the time as time will go anyway. Do it once and do it well and do it right.