Surviving to Thriving: Resilience on the Premed Journey

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PMY 459: Surviving to Thriving: Resilience on the Premed Journey

Session 459

Inspired by a profession devoid of people that looked like him, Bryan wanted to change the look of medicine. Now, he’s an M1! After a long five plus year journey of getting into medical school, he can finally call himself a future physician. He is the perfect example of a student who did five MCAT tests, three application cycles, and didn’t give up and go to a plan B.

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.

[01:28] The MCAT Minute

The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.

It’s winding down the MCAT season for 2021 as we’re recording this. And the question that always comes into play at this point is what do you do if you’ve already submitted your application but the MCAT score you just got is not good enough? Should you just squeeze in the final dates of the year here in September? Do you give up on the application cycle? Or should you just take the MCAT in January, and hope that medical schools will look at a January MCAT and potentially invite you for an interview in February or March?

Now, I am always very conservative when it comes to giving people the green light to go ahead and push forward and apply.

If you didn’t get the score you wanted, the question is why. Did you rush? Were you not prepared? Were you rushing just to get in a test for this application cycle? Or is it because you submitted everything and you have this “I need to apply this year” mentality? If so, then it’s just a fallacy of sunk costs.

Unfortunately, miracles are not very common with the MCAT. So I typically don’t recommend trying to rush a final MCAT in September. 

If you are applying to DO schools, they are much more lenient with January MCAT scores than MD schools. So it’s something to potentially look at.

At the end of the day, it’s really up to you as you’re figuring this out. And if you need some more help, or you want to ask questions to the experts, go to Blueprint MCAT. Sign up for a free consultation and maybe they can help guide you on what the best answer is for you.

[05:38] His Interest in Becoming a Doctor

Bryan grew up in a socio economic disadvantaged background area. He didn’t know he wanted to be a doctor immediately. But seeing the things that were impacting his community, growing up around drugs, violence, and incarceration, it made him realize he wanted something more for himself and others.

Then when he was in high school, his mom got ill and there wasn’t anybody that could translate for her because of the language barrier. And so, Bryan saw how there was a lack of people they could identify with in the room.

Thankfully, his mom recovered and improved. But that was the seed that really sparked his interest in healthcare. He wanted to understand why the doctors can’t communicate with his mom. And he wanted to see a change in the system where no one should feel the way he felt before.

[10:27] Seeking Resources to Learn More About Healthcare

Without seeing anybody that looked like him, and wanting to know how to get from this dream to actually solidify it, Bryan applied for this program in their local medical school.

It was an eight-week bootcamp over the summer. They learned about what it means to be a physician, nurse practitioner, nurse, PT, OT, and more. They learned what it takes to be one and they also got to meet some professionals.

When he got to senior high school, he finally knew a little bit more about what it takes, and it made his dream more attainable.

[12:10] The Premed Challenges

Bryan navigated college as a premed studying bioengineering. He realized that what worked for him in high school wasn’t actually going to work at all in college. Then he had to juggle what it meant to be a premed while trying to juggle what it meant to be an engineering student.

Being a first generation, he didn’t have a lot of mentors and leaders that could help guide him. Plus, he was a bit arrogant because he didn’t want to ask for help. And so the reality hit him in the face hard.

As a result, he ended up losing his scholarship because he didn’t meet the GPA requirements. At that point, he started to take his studies a lot more seriously.

He also started to seek out the resources available to he thought he couldn’t seek out. He sought tutoring services and started to go to office hours. He built a network of peers and mentors.

'Eventually, I started to get the gist of learning how to go from surviving college to now thriving.' Click To Tweet

That being said, Bryan thinks the reality of what it meant to be premed didn’t really come until after he graduated college. He didn’t know about the MCAT until then.

[15:10] Delaying the Med School App Process

Bryan was just trying to get by and trying to survive college that he didn’t start thinking about the GPA he needed for medical school. So he graduated college ignorant of what it takes to go through the med school application process.

'You don't really know what it takes to go to medical school until you actually start applying for medical school.'Click To Tweet

In his sophomore and junior year, he focused on just learning how to study and how to be a student, and get his GPA back up. And it wasn’t until he got a good grip on it that he started to take on more extracurriculars that were pre health related. He started joining clubs, doing research and stuff like that. But he still didn’t really understand the extent of how competitive the premed culture was.

Then between junior and senior year, he was trying to build his extracurriculars. He had thought about the MCAT his senior year and did a Kaplan course. But he ended up just dropping the course and not taking the MCAT because he didn’t want to worry about it.

After he graduated college, he realized he should have started thinking about it sooner but he didn’t because he was trying to get through college and stay afloat.

[19:02] Figuring Out the Possibility of Medical School

Out of college, Bryan started working as a pharmacy technician. He thought it was going to be the closest thing to clinical without being licensed in any clinical way. This was before he knew what scribing was, and that it was obviously not clinical experience. But at least, he felt it was closer because it was medical related.

Then he started volunteering at three hospitals. He made sure that every single second of his time from that point forward, was dedicated to exposing himself. Towards the end of 2015, he would split his time between working and volunteering at different hospitals.

'I started volunteering at three hospitals. I made sure that every single second of my time from that point forward was dedicated to exposing myself.'Click To Tweet

Then in 2016, he had a job opportunity as a medical assistant in a clinical setting, specifically, ophthalmology. He also got a job as a scribe in the ER. And so for the beginning of 2016 up until October 2016, he just dedicated himself to working and exposing himself to the clinical setting nonstop.

[24:40] Doing Master’s for Grade Repair

Learning about the profession in a clinical setting while trying to prepare himself for the MCAT the second time around, he was also retaking some of the classes he didn’t do well on.

He did it online while working two jobs. And so as he prepared for his second MCAT, he thought he was doing the classes anyway and he was working in a clinical setting. He also didn’t take a practice exam more than once. So when he took the MCAT, he got a 490.

He also applied to a special master’s program with a linkage to medical school and he felt lucky he got the chance to be interviewed even if he didn’t get in. He also ended up applying to a master’s that doesn’t have a linkage.

As he applied to master programs, there were still programs that required him to have a certain GPA that he didn’t have because he had a 2.9 cumulative, and he had to take the GRE.

[33:28] Lack of Representation in Medicine

'As a bioengineering student and premed, I started to notice that the representation of people in my class who looked like me was lower and lower.' Click To Tweet

Part of his motivation to push forward is having that representation because there weren’t a lot of people that look like him. 

In fact, Bryan says the only time he ever saw people that looked like him was after hours when it was just security guards, or people who work in maintenance or custodial work. And this gave him the dose of inspiration that he needed. It reminded him of why he was there.

It gave him the extra push that he needed from studying all day and being in the lab late at night. And to see those people that look like him, and also telling him they have children, or nieces or nephews that wanted to pursue college or wanting to pursue science or medicine. It just gave him the motivation to push through it.

[38:13] Getting Rejected the First Time

After he finished his graduate coursework, through the entirety of 2017, he had to dedicate his time to finishing his research at the lab bench. He pursued another job because during graduate school, he had quit his job as an MA, but kept his job as a scribe.

In graduate school, he was still working as a scribe. But when he finished graduate school in 2018, he got another job at the university.

'Going into my third attempt at the MCAT, I needed to seek professional help.'Click To Tweet

He knew he had to invest in himself and so he did one-on-one coaching with me and he sought Blueprint MCAT’s services to put together a plan for him.

He knew he shouldn’t just be talking about his job as a scribe, for example. But really telling those specific moments in these experiences that drove him to reaffirm that he wanted to be a physician.

[40:54] Taking the MCAT the Third Time and Getting the Interview Invite

Bryan took his third MCAT attempt pretty late in the cycle, which goes against all the advice I say to apply early and take the test early. Bryan had already submitted his application so he just had to wait for the score to come back. And he had put three schools on his application, two of which were his state schools, and one of which was in the Midwest.

Unfortunately, Bryan was only able to go up two points from 490 to 492. And that was super crushing for him because I had worked so hard throughout the summer to do the best I could. And he was scoring in a 500 range on the practice exams.

After he got his MCAT score back, even if he wasn’t that happy about it, he finally got his first invite to interview for a medical school in the Midwest. And it’s one of the few schools that didn’t require secondary.

He didn’t get the acceptance but he still felt privileged for getting the interview invite. It was the motivation he needed that he could still pursue his dreams.

[45:55] What He Did Differently the 4th Time Taking the MCAT and the 2nd Time Applying

Now going into his second cycle, and his fourth MCAT attempt, he decided to just self-study. He bought all the resources he needed. He also got some feedback after his interview about his weaknesses. And he was advised to just retake the MCAT, and so he did.

So he resubmitted his application for a second time, and took the MCAT fourth time around, and he got a 497. It wasn’t the greatest but he was happy to have increased five points.

'As I went to my second cycle, I made sure that I really researched the schools that are going to help me become who I needed to become, not who I want to become.' Click To Tweet

Bryan had an understanding that the school that he wanted to apply to, was the place that he needed to go to become who he needed to become.

He also advocated for himself by attending the UC Davis Conference where he got to network with a lot of admissions committee people. He knew he had to put a face to the name on the application. He had to show them that he was more than what he was on paper.

Finally, he got the acceptance he had worked hard for. Bryan says you have to be reflective and introspective with how every single cycle had turned out. Also, those interviews gave him a little doses that he needed to remind himself that he was worthy and it was worth it.

[55:02] Final Words of Wisdom

For everybody who’s facing a similar battle, Bryan encourages students to learn to fall in love with the journey, and the process and not so much in the end result of the accomplishment.

Bryan feels so grateful for all the things that happened the way they did, because had that not happened, he wouldn’t be who he is today, the student that he wants to be, and the physician he’s wanting to be.

If you’re looking for some help on yours, go to and my team and I will gladly help you with anything you need in your med school journey.


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