Alejandro almost gave up on his journey but ended up with multiple acceptances – and finally accepted to his DREAM med school (and having a full ride!). Let’s chat about his journey and what inspired him to keep going.
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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[00:53] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
If you need to retake your MCAT, you have to have a plan in place. If you take it in early January or March of the year you’re going to apply, then you get your score back and you still have time to retake it. Ideally, you’re taking it by the end of June and that’s the best-case scenario. You can take it later but just be careful.
If you’re confident about getting a good score, apply to one school, and then submit your application. Then take the MCAT and get your score back. Hopefully, you did well then you can add the other schools you want to apply to on to your application. Applying by the end of June is not going to significantly delay your application, if at all.
The first thing you need to do though is figuring out why you need to retake and why you didn’t get the score you want and go from there.
If you want some help with your MCAT prep, go sign up for a free account over at Blueprint MCAT and get access to a free study planner tool, which will help you with your retake. Get their free half-length diagnostic, a free full-length test, as well as their amazing new spaced repetition flashcard platform.
[03:54] Interest in Becoming a Physician
Alejandro says he had always wanted to be a physician since elementary school. He remembers seeing a cow heart that their science instructor brought into the class being the coolest thing in the world. And so, very early on, he was drawn into being a cardiothoracic surgeon which later shifted to wanting to get into primary care.
Alejandro explains he actually started at a community college before going to a four-year university. And he didn’t do well. Part of the reason was poor study habits and he was also going through some health issues at the beginning of community college. Eventually, he came to his senses that he needs to do something to change his study habits.
Then when he was in sixth grade, his father got hospitalized for nine months due to pancreatitis. The doctors didn’t believe their dad didn’t really drink and it left his mom feeling demoralized for not being heard. And so, part of his inspiration is to become a doctor to make sure his patients are heard.
[07:52] Premed Struggles
Alejandro’s GPA at community college during his first couple of years was around 2.3. He compared himself to other people which made him think of giving up. Good thing he didn’t!
What motivated him to keep going was that he didn’t want to wake up 15-20 years in the future and not be doing something he was in love with.'I always was under the impression that you have to be a perfect student to get into medical school, which we know now isn't the case.'Click To Tweet
[11:01] What He Did to Fix His Study Habits
One of the first things he did to fix his study habits was to surround himself with people who could be a positive reinforcement of his study habits. And so, he surrounded himself with people who were also struggling and wanted to do better, and help lift one another up so they can succeed to the best of their ability.
In that first semester, Alejandro got a 3.0. Although it’s not great, he started improving fairly quickly. Alejandro stresses that just because you switched your study habits doesn’t mean that you’re going to see results right away.'We all learn a different way. We all have different study habits. So it's just finding what works for you, and what doesn't work for you and adjusting to that.'Click To Tweet
Alejandro tried different things and found that not everything worked for him. He admits how it can be demoralizing to be putting in so much work, and just not being happy with the results. But the most important thing is to move forward whenever we have setbacks in life. It’s more of how we react that matters most when certain things happen.
[14:39] Transitioning From Community College to University Classes
For Alejandro, his community college to university transition was much easier than the high school to community college transition. And it had to do with the support system because he was surrounded by people who wanted to see him succeed.
[16:58] The Medical School Application Process
Alejandro gathered resources from his fellow premed students. He also did some internet browsing, only that you have to be careful not to go down the rabbit hole since you might find things that are both good and bad.
Alejandro admits he went into it not knowing everything about it. He didn’t know about Casper until right after he submitted his primary. But he did as much research as he could and talk to as many people as he could regarding what goes into that primary application. Then he just slowly worked towards that goal of getting a complete application.
Alejandro adds that all the things you need to do can be really overwhelming but you just set small goals so you can see your progress and feel better about each progress as you work towards your goal.
[19:03] Taking the MCAT Twice & What He Did Differently
Alejandro took the MCAT twice and the first time he took it, he simply went through the practice tests. He didn’t even review his test and go over the reasoning as to why he got the question right or wrong.
The second time he took the MCAT, he did a thorough review of the questions he missed. He looked into the flaw behind his logical reasoning and he also looked into resources he could use to better improve on a subject area.'When you're studying for the MCAT, you want to make sure that you're really honest with yourself... you want to especially focus on things that you know you're weak on.'Click To Tweet
Another thing he didn’t notice at the beginning was he kept reviewing stuff he was already good at to just make himself feel better.
When you’re studying for the MCAT, you want to make sure that you’re really honest with yourself. Go over both the things that you know well to brush up on them a bit more. But you also want to especially focus on things that you know you’re weak on. Because you don’t want to be surprised on the actual MCAT day, and then you’re asked a whole passage on things that you didn’t really study.
[21:29] Do What Works for You!
Alejandro is a great example of someone who has taken something proven to work. Along with that process is his intentionality to make both his grades and his MCAT work.
Too many students take other students’ testimonies on some sites as gospel and apply them to their own lives. Then they end up not doing well. You need to understand that when you read those things, look for nuggets of information that you think would work well for you. Steal that little bit of inspiration and go do your own thing. Don’t just copy what someone else did because it worked for them.'Just because someone studies a certain way, doesn't mean that it's going to work for you.'Click To Tweet
[26:26] Submitting His Primary Application
Alejandro submitted his primary to one school. Then he got his MCAT score back and he wasn’t happy with it. So he didn’t even bother finishing his application. And there was less stress around MCAT and the application because he wasn’t trying to retake and get his application in because his first test was the prior application cycle.
In fact, I was very much against this whole “one school” game that students do where they’re going to submit their primary and add one school.
Alejandro got his application in and verified by early to mid-August, and then he got his first interview invite. He felt validated because he had already thought of his next steps if he didn’t get an interview this year. And so, when he got his first interview invite, he was just elated.
[29:01] The Story Behind the Numbers
From a 2.3 GPA at the community college, he got it up to a 3.2 in the four-year university. He transferred with a bunch of units so it wasn’t as high as he would have liked. Alejandro also did a postbac and ended up getting an MPH because he wanted to pursue an MPH, which was the only reason he did it.
Having upped his GPA gave schools the confidence that Alejandro was academically capable.
But to go from a 2.3 to near 4.0s so you could end up with a 3.2 is fantastic! This gives schools the confidence that you have figured out what you are struggling with. You are academically capable of doing well in medical school, and there’s no doubt that you will be able to do well in medical school. Then they will look at everything else.
A holistic review is not having a crappy GPA and thinking your experiences will save you.“A holistic review is after you've proven you can pass medical school. You need to at least meet some minimums and every admissions committee is going to have those minimums.”Click To Tweet
[32:50] His Interview Experience
Alejandro had an asynchronous interview, where the school had people record a question. Then he had to record himself answering back.
He wasn’t happy with that interview. But just like what he did with anything in the past, he tried to spin it in a positive way. And he told himself he could do better and thought of ways to maximize his chances. And so, he had more interview prep done and he was recording himself talking to a webcam, which is important if you’re doing virtual interviews.
Just a side note, I don’t recommend you look at the camera. It’s understandable that you want to simulate a real environment as much as possible and so you stare at the camera so that the person on the other end can see that you’re looking them in the eyes. But you’re missing out on facial expressions and human connection because you’re not looking at their face.
What you can do potentially is move your camera up as high as possible towards the webcam so that you can still look at them and make your eyes much closer to the camera.
[35:57] The Power of Positive Feedback
Without giving up, Alejandro figured out how to improve his study habits and overcome his 2.3 GPA. He found a way to overcome not preparing for the MCAT the right way. And he did better on the MCAT the next time around. He figured out a way to overcome a poor start to his interview season, and he did better.
Notice how each step along the way, Alejandro was giving himself positive feedback.
Alejandro adds that there are probably going to be moments in this journey where things don’t go the way that you want them to. That’s a completely normal part of this process. But if this is something that you really want to do, then you’ll find a way to improve your application so you can go on to become a physician.“Don't give up because things do get better. Just try to put in the work if you can, so that you maximize your chances of accomplishing your dream.”Click To Tweet
[41:13] Final Words of Wisdom
Alejandro got a scholarship to his dream school. Finally, he wishes to tell students who are in this process that it’s okay to slow down and have fun outside of this whole process. Build those memories with your loved ones. It’s not a race, and you will get there too.'If you feel like you need to, it's okay to slow down. Medical schools will still be there.'Click To Tweet