Today, we handle questions from our Instagram Live @medicalschoolhq – all about handling coursework, MCAT prep, the ideal application timeline, understanding rolling admissions, and how you can maximize things over at Mappd!
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.
[00:42] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
October is the time of year when AAMC releases their next availability to schedule the MCAT starting January in the following year. That is no different this year. The only difference is that you have to schedule over two days, depending on where you are in the country. You schedule one day if you’re in one part of the country, and another day if you’re in another part of the country.“Understand that registering for the MCAT early is a good idea.”Click To Tweet
[03:34] Applying in Out of State
Q: If I went to high school in Washington for two years, is that considered tie to a state?
A: It sure is. Washington is a really tough one though. They really like they’re in-state there, and if you’re out-of-state, to have really good MCAT scores.
[05:03] What to Ask Your Interviewer
Q: I’m having interviews coming up. What do you think I should ask my interviewers?
A: One of the best questions I like right now is, “What do you love about this school that not a lot of people know about?” You’re asking an opinion-based question which anyone can answer. You’re asking their opinion, which is talking about themselves. You’re asking something that can’t easily be looked up. And so it’s a win-win for all of those reasons.'The biggest mistake that students make when asking questions about the interviewer is asking very personal questions.'Click To Tweet
That being said, avoid asking personal questions like what brought them to the school. They might not want to be at that school, but it’s the only job they could get. They might not want to be in that location, but their spouse wants to live in that location. Personally, I don’t think it’s not an appropriate question because it’s not helping you learn more about the school.
Again, ask opinion-based questions, not specific questions. Avoid specific questions about the school, about the program, about the curriculum, about when first-year students start to get access to clinical experiences. The interviewers don’t have a lot of that inside knowledge. So don’t waste your opportunities to connect with those types of very specific questions.
[06:44] MCAT Flashcards
Q: I’m so I’m a sophomore right now. I don’t plan on taking the MCAT for a few years yet. But is there anything I can do right now besides paying attention in class to really start getting the content down?
A: Number one is doing well in your classes, not just from a grade perspective, but from the perspective of understanding the material that led to an A.
Blueprint MCAT built a brand new Spaced Repetition platform with 1,600 expertly crafted flashcards as part of their free account so take advantage of that today. They have found that first and second-year students are signing up for the flashcards because they’re easy. It’s not a lot of commitment to start studying for the MCAT. It’s easy and lightweight that you can start flipping through.
[08:32] MD vs. DO
Q: What’s the big difference between DO and MD? Does it make a difference at the end of the day?
A: The big picture is no, it doesn’t matter. You could go to the “worst” medical school in this country, and still become a faculty at Harvard if you want to. It’s very different than law school in this country where if you want to work at the most prestigious law firm in this country, you better go to Harvard, or Yale, or whatever the top 10 law firms are.'No matter what school you go to go to in this country, it will prepare you for whatever career you want.'Click To Tweet
On the micro side of things, there are specific residency programs out there that still have biases towards DOs. But big picture, it’s not an issue at all.
[10:57] Sending Updates and Interest Letters
Q: I have been contacting the schools I applied to and see who accepts updates and who doesn’t and all this fun stuff. I work at a pre-health/pre-law office at UCF. What I’ve heard from the advisors of the office is to send updates three different times, October, December, and February. If someone wants to send one in October, for example, is it appropriate to put it as a resume format? Or is it more like a letter?
A: You could do it with a letter format but make it short and sweet, maybe a paragraph at the most. People are busy, they don’t have a lot of time to read things.
There are a lot of advisors out there who recommend it and try to be strategic around different timelines.
Medical schools have different schedules, timelines, and processes. And so, you can’t generalize the whole process for all medical schools into October, December, and February. At the end of the day, send an update if you have something that is important to say, and don’t if you don’t have anything important to say.
Now, sending them another letter to say you’re still working on your application is nothing more than a letter of interest. It’s not useful at all, it’s only pestering them. Your interest letter is your application itself.
There are some schools that want applicants to communicate with them and that’s perfectly fine. There’s a bell curve and that’s one extreme. On the other side of the spectrum, there are schools that don’t want to be contacted. At the end of the day, there are very specific rules for each medical school.
[16:56] How Mappd Can Help You in Your Journey
Check out Mappd, our technology platform that allows you as a premed or a pre-PA student to track everything you’re doing in your journey. You can track your courses, your MCAT scores, your activities.
Along with a custom roadmap, you get custom algorithmic feedback. It tells you if your trends are not looking great and what to do. Or if the system sees that you’re applying six months or eight months before your the application cycle and you don’t have any clinical experience, we tell you why it may not be a good idea. So not only is Mappd a tracking platform, but it’s also a feedback and advising platform.
[18:57] Taking O Chem at a Community College
Q: Do medical schools care if you take courses like organic chemistry at a community college?
A: The bigger question is why are you taking courses at a community college? Everything in life is a matter of perception. What is the perception of you taking classes at community college?
Well, the perception is that you are avoiding potentially taking O. Chem at your four-year university, and that looks bad. That’s assuming you’re at a four-year university while you’re taking your class in community college.
Starting at community college and finishing it at a four-year university, then you take some of your prereqs at community college, that’s fine. Whereas when you are in a four-year university, and you’re jumping to a community college to take courses, that looks sketchy. So you just have to be careful with that.
[20:28] MCAT Material and Premed Degrees
Q: Do trade school classes count in the AMCAS GPA?
A: Look at the AMCAS instruction manual. But typically if you receive a grade and you receive a transcript, then it goes in your application.
Q: For budgeting purposes, would I be safe and assuming if I purchased the Blueprint MCAT then I wouldn’t need to get any other materials?
A: That’s a decent assumption. But the AAMC material is always a must. But if you purchase the Blueprint material, then you get the AAMC material for free. Just make sure whatever you’re getting from Blueprint includes the AAMC material, and then you’re good to go.“The AAMC material is always a must.”Click To Tweet
Q: Thoughts on biomedical sciences as a premed degree.
A: Premed degrees do not matter. What you major in does not matter.
Q: When you hear back from interviews, does it come in waves or cycles or anything?
A: It depends on the school. The far majority of schools in the U.S. use rolling admissions, meaning they’re constantly looking at applications coming in. They’re constantly evaluating those applications to invite people for interviews. So it just depends on the school.
The bigger question is how are they reviewing applications and in what order are they reviewing applications. If you have mid to lower stats (3.6 GPA and 505 MCAT), historically, your interview invites are going to come a little bit later in the cycle.
Medical schools are fighting over the 4.0/528 students, and then they fight over the 3.9/525 students, and then they fight over the 3.8/520 students. And so all of the medical schools, for the most part, are trying to get the best of the best.
Unfortunately, stats matter to medical schools, because stats are included in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. It’s a big giant game. And so, if you have lower stats, then it’s just a waiting game and you just have to be patient.
[25:05] Understanding Rolling Admissions
Understand that as we’re recording this on September 24, it’s still pretty early in this process. That being said, if people are applying on October 15, they’ve already failed. There are still people out there that think based on deadlines because that’s how college admissions work.
For college, if you get your application in by the deadline, it’s fine. You are going to be considered like everyone else. For medical school admissions, because of rolling admissions, if you apply by the deadline, you’re way behind the eight ball. There are some schools out there that may hold some spots for those last-minute applications. But it’s not likely at that point.
[28:34] Health Informatics for Dual Program?
Q: Is Health Informatics master’s a good choice for the dual program in to medical school?
A: If you’re trying to use it to get into medical school then it’s probably not a good Master’s to help you get into medical school. Assuming you need it to prove academic capability, it would need to be some sort of Master’s in hard sciences, unfortunately, or just a standard postbac.
[30:16] Struggling to Find In-Person Shadowing
Q: I cannot find in-person shadowing. I will be in the process of applying in 2022. Is this fine?
A: You’re not the only one out there. The pandemic has affected in-person shadowing throughout the country. There are pockets out there where some physicians are allowing shadowing.
But for the most part, it’s going to be hard to come by and medical schools know that. You’re not the only one again out there who is struggling with this. So just get as much virtual shadowing as possible.
Check out eShadowing.com which happens on Monday nights at 8pm. Eastern. You don’t have to show up live, but you get the rest of the week to watch the session. Then you have to complete a quiz to get credit for that session to go towards shadowing hours. Then you could put it on your application as shadowing hours.
[31:16] Hard Sciences, Clinical Hours, & Mappd!
Q: Is computer science considered hard science?
A: I wouldn’t consider computer science as hard science. Medical school means medical stuff like biology, chemistry, etc.
Q: Is there an ideal amount of patient contact hours?
A: There is none. But you should get some and be consistent with it. Try as hard as possible.
Q: Can Mappd also calculate the GPA that med schools will be able to see?
A: Yes, that’s one of the favorite features of maps. We have lots of bells and whistles. But students love being able to see how Mappd works and how it calculates GPAs based on how each individual application service calculates GPAs.
Q: I just graduated with a BSc in Biochem last April and currently working as a med lab tech. I have had the chance to swab patients for COVID testing. Can this count as patient hours?
Q: How can I have a one on one conversation with you?
A: Go to Mappd.com to see different advising options there.
[36:38] App Timeline for Medical School 2023
Q: If I want to start medical school in 2023, when is the ideal timeline to take the MCAT and apply?
A: Mappd has a roadmap that’s in beta which exactly answers this question. And so, from 2019 to 2023, you should be focusing on academic success. That’s important. Focus on volunteering and clinical experience across those four years, as well as shadowing. So focus on all of these little pieces a lot of people don’t know about. Around August of 2021 through April of 2022, start gathering all of your experiences.
If you aren’t using Mappd to gather all those experiences, start writing down your thoughts and ideas. Start your MCAT prep around October 2021 and take the MCAT between January 2022 and March 2022. This is the ideal timeline. The later that you take it, the harder it is because it’s still delaying your application. Primary applications open up in May of 2022.'The application cycle opens in May and ends when medical school starts the following year.'Click To Tweet
[39:27] In-Person vs. Virtual Interviews
Q: Have you heard anything regarding how medical schools have been conducting interviews for this cycle in-person or online? If so, what do you personally think they will go with for next cycle?
A: The far majority of schools are doing it virtually. There are some schools just like there were some schools last year doing in-person interviews. But I think in-person interviews will likely come back more mainstream next year. My hope is that there will be virtual options because it is a lot more affordable for students.
[40:25] How to Answer Why DO?
Q: I was wondering how you could talk about why osteopathic medicine. But I haven’t had a lot of exposure to DOs. I’ve talked to one and I feel like that’s a question that will probably come up. I have an upcoming interview with a DO. I don’t have strong experience with DO in general.
A: Unfortunately, a lot of times for a lot of students, it comes down to what you’ve researched versus what you’ve seen in person, or what you have been able to talk to students about. That being said, do your research as much as possible.
Then during the interview, avoid the cliches like you really want to be an osteopathic physician because of the holistic philosophy. Don’t use buzzwords like that. Break it down. What does that mean to you? How have you seen the potential impact that an osteopathic physician may have?
Maybe with OMM, even though you haven’t seen it or experienced it, how can you tie it into your life? Were you an athlete? Did you get massages? Did you see an athletic trainer who manipulated you in some ways? Maybe they’re not specifically a DO, but they still did soft tissue manipulation and you saw the benefit of that.“Be able to tie things into your own experiences you can lean onto to help support your reasons for why you're interested in osteopathic medicine without just spitting out holistic philosophy.”Click To Tweet
[42:34] Handling MMI
Q: I have an MMI interview also coming up and I’ve heard different things about how to prepare. I’ve read your book, and I’m torn between practicing a lot of questions because I want to be just more conversational.
A: At the end of the day, it’s a conversation, just like a traditional interview. It’s just a little bit more forced in this kind of weird scenario that they may put you in. But at the end of the day, it’s just a conversation about that scenario.
The MMI, as opposed to a more traditional interview, is a lot more about showing your work. Meaning, tell me your thought process behind everything that you’re telling me. That’s where you get points.
Practicing questions can get very tedious over time. And what you end up doing is forcing yourself typically into frameworks to answer questions, which is very forced.“Do a mock MMI just so you understand the process.”Click To Tweet
As an interviewer, it comes across as very forced and fake instead of that conversation. And so I typically tell students to do a mock MMI just so you understand the process. What is the timing of two minutes or three minutes depending on the school to read the scenario? What does it feel like to walk into a room and introduce yourself? Either it’s an actor-based scenario or an interview-based scenario interview. So how do you introduce yourself in different ways? Then be able to jump into this conversation about the scenario.
So have that level of practice and understand the process of the test. And then you don’t need any more practice.
Then let the interviewer respond with a potential follow-up question. A lot of times what they’re doing is their heads are down, then looking at you and looking down and looking at you. That’s because they have a rubric on how to score the MMI with you. That’s how they score the MMI.
Actually, it’s to your benefit, because it’s removing subjectivity out of the conversation, and allowing every student who goes through that station to be scored the same way.
[47:47] MCAT Prep Materials
Q: What materials do you recommend for studying for the MCAT?