Q&A Session with Dr. Gray

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PMY 477: Q&A Session with Dr. Gray

Session 477

Today we recap our awesome Friday sessions where I answer questions from premed students like you!

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.

[00:51] The MCAT Minute

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[04:02] Crushing the MCAT

Q: I graduated last year, May 2021. This is currently my gap year. I’m doing a little bit of research in neurology and setting for the MCAT. I’m taking the time to study for the MCAT doing the practice exams. I plan on taking the MCAT in late April and getting my score late May. And if all goes well, then apply in early June.

A: The biggest thing for you is just prepare as if you’re going to crush the MCAT so that your application is ready to go.

[06:22] No Interviews Yet!

Q: If I haven’t had any interviews yet, should I assume I’m not getting any? 

A: If you don’t get any, figure out what went wrong and why you didn’t get any interviews. Also, watch Application Renovation

[07:00] Finding Your Seed

Q: I still don’t know what my seed is. I don’t have any experience because I graduated from high school in 2020. 

A: That would have nothing to do with your seed. In my book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement, I talked about the seed as that moment where you realized it was why you wanted to be a doctor. It’s not a lightbulb moment. But it’s something that prompted you to want to explore medicine.

Keep asking yourself why you’re seeking out such experience and why you had that feeling. There’s almost always something, whether it’s personal, interaction with physicians, or a family member’s experience with physicians. There’s something that exposed you to health care.

At the end of the day, make sure that you’re doing this for you and not for everyone else.

[12:08] Clinical Experience

Q: I’m a gender studies major. So I was thinking of my story of medicine in a feminist perspective. Would working at a Planned Parenthood, considering the context, would it be considered clinical hours?

A: It depends on what you do.

[13:28] Writing Activities and Personal Statement for AMCAs/AACOMAS vs. TMDSAS

Q: I’m a senior and I’m a Texas resident. So I’ll be applying this upcoming cycle and hoping to apply to mostly all the Texas schools. When it comes to their character limits, and AMCAS character limits, do you recommend making a whole new personal statement or just cutting it down? And for the activities too?

A: For the activity section, it has to be completely different from 700 to 300. The statements where you show impact on AMCAS and AACOMAS which you can do in 700 characters, that’s nearly impossible with 300 characters for TMDSAS. And so, you just have to write more direct and more bland, job description stuff for Texas schools.

In terms of personal statements, it’s only 300 characters less so you don’t have to write a whole new personal statement. Just write your personal statement for the 5,300 characters, if you’re going to apply that to AMCAS and AACOMAS schools and then just cut out 300 characters somewhere.

[14:51] Applying to a Safety School

Q: I’m also thinking of taking the MCAT on April 30. And I’ve seen people saying you should apply to a safety school and then once you get your score back. Then you should add other schools. Do you recommend doing that?

A: There’s no safety school for medical school. But if you’re taking the MCAT on April 30, it’s early enough that you don’t have to play that game. You’re going to get your score back that you can still apply within the first week. And that’s perfectly fine so you don’t have to worry about that.

[16:00] Showing Academic Capability

Q: The pandemic hit in the middle of my trend line. And so I had a good freshman year, and then at the beginning of sophomore year, it dips. And then I’m coming up during my senior years. I know trends are very important if you have a lower science GPA, which I do. What part of the application could I address?

A: You don’t need to address that in your application because of your grades. They’re going to see when your grades dropped and they’re going to know that a global pandemic happened. And lots of people’s grades dropped during that time.

'At the end of the day, the goal is to prove academic capability.'Click To Tweet

And so, you just need to show that the GPA was coming up on your third and fourth years so that they don’t have any questions of who you are and what your capabilities are.

[17:35] Looking at Your Last Credit Hours

Q: Since there is a 30-hour rule and 62-hour rule, I was wondering if you know anything particular about the schools. Which schools do that which don’t? How do I find that? I got a 4.0 in my last 40 credit hours.

A: I don’t know which schools will tell you, but you can ask. It’s just part of the game of applying. Depending on the school, some schools will publicize what they have, and some schools won’t. So you just have to roll with it. The only thing that you can control is how well you do.

For people who don’t know what that means, these are schools that will look at your last 32 credit hours versus your total GPA to recalculate what your GPA would be. For instance, the University of Central Florida looks at the last 20 hours of science credit to determine your GPA and your academic ability. Norda College of Osteopathic Medicine, which is one of the newer osteopathic schools, looks at the last 60 credit hours of graduate and undergraduate degrees. And so it’s just going to depend on the school.

You’ve put in the work already with a 4.0 for the last 40 hours. Just cross your fingers and apply to schools. Try to do some research and homework into what schools will look at those hours.

Just know that you’re most likely not going to get a lot of information. And so, you’re just going to have to take a leap of faith.

[21:00] Showing Who You Truly Are

Q: I’m writing up my activities, and I’m trying to decide what would constitute padding my application versus what is necessary to be there? Should I give some examples?

A: If it’s something that you feel is impactful and you’re excited to talk about it during an interview, put it on the application. If you’re just putting it on there to show just something else that you did. And you’re potentially leaving out a hobby or something else that you would rather have on the application.

'Everything on your application should be a reflection of who you are and what you've done.'Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, it’s your story to tell. It’s your 15 spots, and you can do what you want with it. But the best use of those 15 spots is to show who you are.

[23:51] Matriculated in International Medical School

Q: I’m an international student and I did two years of med school back in Europe. In Europe, you go straight from high school to six years of school.

Where I grew up in a village, Science Education was literally zero so I got like zero education in science. When I went to med school, even though I was trying really hard, and I had good grades, I found it really hard. I didn’t want to just get the white coat without deep understanding.

So I decided to come to the states and I’m doing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. And I’m a junior. I have some shadowing hours and doing research for now. I do have a lot of activities that are extracurriculars that I just enjoy doing.

Which part can I address that I did two years of med school because I think that was a big experience for me to be around patients in a clinic?

A: On the application, you’ll mark yes that you’ve matriculated to medical school before. It will be obvious that you started medical school in another country. And then you can just put that clinical experience that you’ve got while you were in medical school on your application as clinical experience.

[27:07] Applying Broadly

Q: Is there a different approach to just applying to everywhere as much as possible? How can I think about things in a way where I’m really looking for a fit, instead of just applying mindlessly to everything as much as possible?

A: I think it’s a waste of time and money if you’re going to be applying to as many schools as you want. Unfortunately, that’s the mentality that’s happening now because it has to do with residency applications.

Medical students are just so afraid of not matching that they’re basically just applying to every single residency program for their specialty. Instead of looking at different programs and locations and other things and picking wisely.

'At the end of the day, medical schools are not just looking for your stats. They're truly looking at who you are and how you're going to be a fit for their class in addition to their community.' Click To Tweet

[29:49] Visiting Schools Before Applying

Q: Do you recommend visiting the schools before applying?

A: The whole school visit thing is not really a med school thing. It’s an undergraduate thing.

[30:17] Working on Your Primary App

Q: I started studying for the MCAT like two days after Christmas and I’ve been doing it ever since. I was planning on taking the MCAT in June, but it seems like that’s kind of late for this application cycle. I was wondering if I should postpone it to next year?

A: A June MCAT doesn’t really hurt you in terms of application timing, if you can work on your personal statement, your extracurriculars, letters of rec, and all that stuff. Don’t wait for the application to open. You should be working on that now.

[32:04] Applying to One School Game

You could apply to one school game where you get in your application, apply to one school, get your MCAT score back. The trick with that is that you should assume you’re going to get a good score, so that you can work on your secondaries after your primary.

And when you get your score back, then you can put in those 10 other schools. But you’ve already actually worked on those 10 secondaries. Once you add those extra schools, it’s very likely that you’ll get those secondaries back within a couple of days.

[34:04] Look at the Upward Trend

Q: I have a 3.3 GPA. Should I think about doing a postbac?

A: A 3.3 is not good enough for med schools. But if your third and fourth years are like 3.8 and 3.9, then that’s not bad. Again, look at the upward trend. However, if it’s a 3.3 every year, then you have some work to do for your GPA.

'Grade repair always comes first, assuming you need it.'Click To Tweet

[04:27] Clinical Experience and MCAT Expiration

Q: I was planning on applying this cycle until I watched a lot of your videos, and I realized that I was not ready. I want to put my best foot forward when it comes to something like this. That entails getting more clinical hours and shadowing hours, which I don’t have right now. But my stats are good. I’ve taken the MCAT. I graduate this Spring, and I will apply next June.

I was talking to my pre-health advisor and he told me that it would be good to take classes during that time before I applied. Do you think I should prioritize that if my GPA is already high (3.95 GPA).

A: You don’t need to prioritize your classes if your GPA is good. In fact, you don’t need to take classes. There’s a general rule of thumb where you need to show that you’re still interested in academics but it doesn’t work for everyone. Why do you need to take more classes when you just need experience?

Q: I took the MCAT in July 2021 and I would be applying in June 2023. So would that significantly affect?

A: A two-year gap between MCAT and application is fine for most schools. Check out the MSAR now, and just assume your MCAT is July 2020. See what the medical schools say in terms of if you’re applying this coming cycle, and whether they would accept it. And the math just moves forward a year. So you could see if there would be any schools that you may be interested in that may cause an issue with.

'There's zero reason why an MCAT should expire.'Click To Tweet

[45:28] Reaching Out to Med School

Q: I’ve heard from a lot of schools. I have two acceptances and turned down eight interview invites. I’ve heard from every school except for my top choice. I have done some shadowing with an alumni. And he wrote a letter to his friend who’s the assistant dean endorsing me as a candidate. (Taylor was a part of the Application Academy last cycle and it helped!)

Then I decided to reach out, email her and say, I’ve received a couple of sentences, but it’s my top choice. But she retired in January. Should I send another email to someone else in the admissions office? Or is that going to come off as desperate?

A: You have two acceptances so you’re not desperate at all. What it shows is that you want to go there. And so, there’s nothing wrong with sending them another email. Just rehash it and say why you want to go there and talk about the person you shadowed.

[51:19] Choosing a Med School

Q: I’ve had five acceptances so far. And I don’t know whether I should decide to go for the prestige of the school, versus the school that ranks lower, even though I like the school. But then in my head, Step 1 is pass/fail now. I have a feeling that the reputation of the school might play a role there.

A: The weight of Step 1 and residency applications is just going to move to Step 2 because it’s still scored for some reason.

The prestige of the school may matter a little bit more. But when you look at surveys of residency program directors the school is not that high in terms of what they’re looking for.

'Don't go to a great school, go to a school that will make you great.'Click To Tweet

Go where you will be a good fit, where you feel like you will be supported the most. You’ll get the education anyway.


Meded Media

Application Academy

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement

Blueprint and Sketchy MCAT

Blueprint MCAT

Application Renovation