Fear and Accountability on the Premed Journey

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PMY 463: Fear and Accountability on the Premed Journey

Session 463

On IG live today, I chat with students about how to confront their fears surrounding the MCAT, accountability on the premed journey, and more!

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:31] The MCAT Minute

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[02:48] Getting Over Fear

Fear is a powerful factor for all of us when it comes to getting through this process or not getting through this process.

One guest that comes on here is afraid to take the MCAT and it’s holding her back. She’s in a Ph.D. program now and is wondering whether to stop her Ph. D program or apply to medical school. At the end of the day, the MCAT is the thing that is preventing her from pursuing her dream of being a physician. She didn’t just come to this realization that she wanted to be a doctor. She’s known it but she is letting the MCAT control her destiny.

If you are in a similar situation, surround yourself with supportive people who will hold you accountable and not let you get away with stuff. Hopefully, this will help you move forward in this process to get you to go to medical school and become a physician.

[07:11] Not Hearing Back From Schools

Some schools will say your application is complete. Other schools will not say anything. Some schools will say your application is under review. And there are some schools where even at the end of March, April, and May, you will not hear back from schools. And so, you just assume you weren’t good enough.

[07:53] How Schools View Scribing

Q: How is scribing seen in medical schools?

A: Some schools like it, some schools don’t some schools love it. Whenever you ask questions broadly about how do medical schools view this or that, there’s no easy answer to that because every medical school is different. Scribing is great. Some people don’t like it because it’s not passive, but it’s not super interactive either, depending on the situation.

And so, it’s just a matter of applying to medical schools and letting them determine what they’re going to do with it.

[09:09] How to Prepare for the MMI

Q: How do you best prepare for the MMI?

A: Students seem to over-prepare for the MMI the same way students over prepare for CASPer, both created by McMaster University.

'The medical school interview is a communication test. How well can you communicate with your fellow human being?'Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, students come in thinking they have to prove something. And when you come in thinking you have to prove something, you try too hard. And when you try too hard, you could sound like a robot, or that you’re reading from a script. You’d sound like you’re going off of a very formal structure.

A very common method is the STAR method. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. And you use that as a framework when you’re answering questions.

When you communicate in a framework like that, you’re not communicating. You’re just lecturing. The medical school interview is a communication test, not a lecture.

[13:21] How Schools View Updates

Q: Do schools accept updates? 

A: Some schools do, some schools don’t. Some schools that accept updates will only want updates about specific things. Other schools want you to tell them anything. Therefore, follow the rules of the school.

The other thing you need to think about is to ask yourself: What is this adding to my application? Think about how sending an update is presenting you compared to the primary and secondary applications you’ve already turned in. And if there isn’t really any that you’ve done much, then don’t do it.

Look at everything through the lens of what it’s going to add to your application. How is it going to change their view? Is there a weakness in my application that I can address in an update?

For instance, you may have gained some clinical experience that you may not have had when you submitted your application. Therefore, you’re sending an update to address a weakness in your application.

'Address weaknesses with those update letters. Don't just bombard people.'Click To Tweet

Medical schools get thousands of applications every cycle. At the end of the day, look at everything you do and ask yourself whether it’s worth bugging them about it. Check if you have a weakness in your application that you could address.

[17:02] Research Hours, Answer Framework, and Updating LORs

Q: If I have to reapply, my pre-health committee isn’t willing to update letters of recommendation. They claim it’s used to solely assess me from college. Being a nontrad, what should I do? Should I still use their letter?

A: It seems useless to use their letter. Instead, just do individual letters. Don’t worry about not having a committee letter.

Q: How will med schools view my first quartile CASPer?

A: Every medical school does something different. Medical schools that want CASPer results may be gathering data and using it as part of their interview process. They could use it to determine who to interview. They may be using it post-interview to determine who they accept.

Q: As a nontrad, is it a detriment to not have research hours? Should I prioritize some research hours before applying? 

A: If you want to do research, try some research. If you don’t want to try research, don’t try some research. That’s it.

Q: If a school’s admissions office teaches using the STAR method during the interview MMI workshop, would you recommend using the method when answering Interview questions? 

A: Personally, I don’t recommend the STAR method because it’s a framework and not a communication skill, but I would if the school is recommending it.

Q: Can you give us an example framework for the “tell us about yourself”question?

A: Frameworks for answering questions don’t allow for natural conversation. But things you need to think about with that question is who are you and what do you do for fun.

[23:49] Proving Academic Capability

Q: Does it look bad if I’m taking classes part-time, and having two jobs? Do ad coms see that as too much?

A: They may see it as too little. Ultimately, part of the equation of academic capability is how much did you challenge yourself? Having two jobs and taking classes part-time is a lot of responsibility. But what will your grades look like when you go to being a full-time student?

The question is whether you’re able to maintain your GPA, keep your grades up, and not burn out because medical school is hard. You’re not going to be able to work in medical school. You’re going to be taking classes and studying all the time. And so,

'Part of the academic capability equation is how rigorous were your courses to get the GPA that you have.'Click To Tweet

[25:15] Preparing for Med School App Process

Q: I’m a sophomore at community college, what should I be doing to prepare for medical school admissions process?

A: Be a very good student, continue to hone your study skills, and hone your time management skills, your self-care routines, all of that stuff. And when you transfer to a four-year university for your degree, make sure you keep your grades up.

Make sure that your study skills are set. And once you think you’re good there, then start adding stuff – shadowing, clinical experience, research, etc.

[27:08] Tell Me About Yourself

Q: I have my first interview in two weeks. I had my first mock interview two days ago and definitely got a lot of the kinks out of the way. But I definitely think my personality didn’t come off as well on my “tell me about yourself question.” My interview is asynchronous so there’s not even an interviewer. I’m just talking to myself and I’ve got to work with that. I just need a framework.

A: You don’t need a framework. What you need are bullet points of the things you want to talk about.Framework-thinking is not communication.

Personally, for me, things to think about are who are you and what you do for fun. I don’t care where you went to school. I don’t care what you majored in. I have that in the application. I don’t need the sales pitch about how you’re a businessman and how you’re going to be better because you’re a businessman.

'Don't try to stand out… Relax. You don't need to try to shine every single corner of your application.'Click To Tweet

Talking about how you are, not selling who you are, allows them to connect to you as a human being. Instead of being lectured to about how you think being a business major is going to help you stand out and help you change healthcare.

Don’t try to sell yourself. The far majority of students are trying to do that, and as an interviewer, they don’t want to hear it anymore.

Even with an asynchronous interview, treat it the same. Because the person at the other end of that asynchronous interview is going to do the same exact thing to go. They would wish they could talk to you more. And that’s the draw.

At the end of the day, this is just a communication test to get to know who you are. And even though it’s asynchronous, you want to try to be as personable as possible.

[37:48] Overcoming Fear of Taking the MCAT

Q: I am the Ph.D. person who’s you know, is struggling because every day I wish I was in med school. But what I really realized is that I love research and I love asking questions related to medicine or to disease. And so I realized that when we do the research on which is structural biology, I feel very apart from the patients and real life.

Should I just look for an MD/Ph.D. program that I can use or reapply again? Or should I just stay here? At my school, they don’t have an MD/Ph.D., and even if they do, they don’t accept international students.

I don’t want to waste time changing programs knowing that I’m already a Ph.D. But that could be an option. Or dropping the Ph.D. and getting a Master’s and still do some research for the next two years and then apply next cycle for 2023?

A: When I asked her why she didn’t apply to MD school the first time, she said she had a good job offer in public health, which she decided to take.

She was also working full-time and didn’t think she had the discipline to study for the MCAT. 

She says her dream is 70% with patients and 30% research that connects her to patients. And you don’t even need a Ph.D. to do that to have that life. So if you find yourself in the same situation as this student, my advice is to leave what you’re doing, go crush the MCAT, and apply to medical school next year.

I talked to a lot of international students and typically what they say is if you can get a job related to your degree and if the job sponsors you, you can stay in the country for a little bit longer.

Three years out of undergrad, our student ended up canceling taking the MCAT a few times all because of fear. 

[45:39] MCAT Studying Tips to Slowly Let Go of Fear

Start studying for 10 minutes a day, and then make it 20 after a week, and then make it 30. Trust that you are smart enough to do this. And if you go and take the MCAT and get a really bad score, that’s just feedback that whatever you were doing didn’t work. If you’re already telling yourself that it doesn’t work without actually understanding it, then you’re really going to do poorly.

Get an accountability partner and work towards a goal of taking the MCAT so you can apply to medical school. Ultimately, you have to learn how to trust yourself.

[50:24] Dealing with 4.0 GPA and 502 MCAT

Q: My GPA is 4.0 but I have a really bad MCAT score of 502. I really messed up on the CARS section. I always also mentioned this in my application as well. I’ve been watching your YouTube videos so in my application, I used that a lot. I’ve completed all my secondaries on July 31. I haven’t heard anything back from any schools yet. Is that normal?

A: The MCAT score is scaring medical schools for now. 502 is not a great score, but it’s also not horrible.

When I asked him about other possible red flags, he said there wasn’t any that he could think of. In fact, he was having more clinical experience. And so, he could just update his activities on his application. He could also send updates to other schools to help them understand what he’s doing, and hopefully, show them that he is continuing to get clinical experience.

Potentially, he could still get an interview and acceptance for DO schools this cycle if he takes the January MCAT. A lot of DO schools are very friendly to January MCAT and that would save him a lot of pain and suffering.

'Our brain can only hold so much information at one time and you're filling it with self-doubt… and you’re blocking yourself from doing well.'Click To Tweet


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