What would you do if you were faced with $100,000 in SMP debt? But you also understand that your upward trend is powerful, and it’s probably good enough to get you into your dream school? That’s what our guest was faced with. Learn more about Mustafa’s journey today!
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[02:24] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
In today’s episode, Mustafa talks about the power of active learning if you haven’t yet figured out that mnemonics and study tools are so important for the MCAT.
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[03:18] Interest in Becoming a Doctor
Mustafa recalls how his mom navigated a lot of health issues during his high school years. He also saw how that led to her feeling a lack of empowerment. And this was the seed for him that made him want to go to medical school. Although he has this deep love for basketball, he knew it was probably not going to pan out. So his plan B was medicine, which was the only thing that actually piques his interest.
There wasn’t a single doctor in their family. Working in the service industry since he was a teenager, Mustafa has always felt so far away from medicine. Heading into college, all he knew was that he had to get good grades and he had to take the MCAT. And when college came, he felt like he had been hit by a ton of bricks. In other words, he wasn’t prepared for the rigors of college.
[07:39] The Science to Learning
Struggling in college, Mustafa had to take summer school and took cognitive neuroscience. It was the first time he learned the difference between active learning and passive learning. And it was also the first time anyone had ever taught him that there’s a whole science to learning.
From that point on the following two years, the worst grade Mustafa ever got was an A-minus.'We all have this beautiful God-given intelligence, but it needs to be cared for and needs to be nurtured in a very specific way.'Click To Tweet
Looking back, he’s very grateful for the experience because it turned him into the person he is now. It has made him more empathetic because he was able to understand what others were also going through.
Mustafa worked at the restaurant all throughout college and he had another part-time job at the university library. And so, he was juggling those two jobs plus school. But as a premed, you have to do basic science research, even if you don’t like it. You have to go to all the clubs and clubs on campus.
It was a lot to juggle, but when you have the right study tools, it makes everything a little bit easier. When you’re able to manage everything a little bit better, you’re able to manage your stress. More importantly, having done that self-reflection made it a bit easier.
[12:29] Why He Didn’t Do the SMP
Back then, Mustafa was considering doing an SMP to prove to the schools that he was academically capable. Although his GPA was 3.98 in his last two years of coursework, he still wasn’t sure because his overall GPA wasn’t where he wanted it to be.
But after consulting me regarding it, I advised him to take the MCAT instead, apply, and see what happens. That’s what he did and he’s happy he didn’t end up with a massive debt had he taken an SMP that he didn’t even need.
This is a common thought process among students because they think they’re not good enough and so they have to do more to prove their worth to schools.
Ultimately, Mustafa applied with a 3.47 cumulative GPA. As a result, his decision to not take the SMP just freed up his mental bandwidth. He was able to focus on just the MCAT. He didn’t have to juggle SMP and MCAT prep.
In his application, he gave a little bit of context about what was going on those first three years. He used it as a strength which showed his resilience and that he was able to get through with it.
He specifically talked about this in a lot of the secondaries, for which he had mentioned it briefly in the personal statement. People told him he shouldn’t have done it since the grades are blinded for some schools. But it was important to him since it was part of his story. It was right for him and so that was what he had done.
[19:56] Juggling Clinical Experience and Shadowing
Mustafa was volunteering at a senior-run free clinic at his school. He volunteered there for about four years, all throughout his time during undergrad. It was difficult to juggle, as it was another added layer of time commitment.
This goes back to what he said earlier; that once he was able to figure out school, he excelled both in school and his activities.'Once I figured out school, I was able to not only excel in school but also excel in my volunteer activities and grow in those roles and take on different leadership roles.'Click To Tweet
[21:43] The Interview Trail
Mustafa ended up getting three interviews and in those three, not once did his GPA come up. Instead, they talked about his journey, his experiences, and why he wanted to go into medicine. He was also asked about his favorite since he listed he loved reading books as one of his hobbies. He realized listing his hobby made him a lot more “human” in the eyes of the admissions committee.
In preparing for the interview, Mustafa did a lot of practice questions and as many mock interviews as he could. He also followed a lecture on YouTube by Professor Kevin Ahern.
In the end, Mustafa got two acceptances. In terms of specialty, he is leaning towards Pediatrics. That being said, he is keeping an open mind going into medical school.'We put a lot of pressure on ourselves and a lot of expectations. And sometimes it's just best to let go.'Click To Tweet
[29:01] Final Words of Wisdom
Mustafa wishes to tell students who are also on this path to try to get as good of an opinion as they can. Give them the full story and the full context of everything and then see what they tell you. Lean on what they say because most of the time they know more than you.
Mustafa didn’t give up even though it took five years to finish his undergrad. He didn’t waste money doing an SMP and made it to medical school. If you would like some help in understanding your grades again, get access to Mappd Pro for just $90.