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Today, we recap an Instagram Live session I had where I had some great conversations with premeds and answered their questions. Join in to hear!
Check out Ask Mappd on Wednesdays at 1 pm ET as we answer questions where our Mappd advising team joins us to answer questions students have regarding the premed process. 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.
[02:40] The MCAT Minute
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[07:29] Changing a D with a Pass
Q: In high school, I wasn’t the best student. And my last year was during the COVID year. And basically, they told us all my grades will be all passes but I have a D on my transcript. But past that first semester, I had a 3.4. And then I have 4.0s the past four semesters. semesters. How big of a deal is that on the transcript?
A: Reach out to the credit granting institution and ask if there’s a way they can change the D to a Pass. If you have any sort of correspondence from the high school that says all of your classes are going to be pass/fail, send that with this email or phone call to the institution and see if they’ll change it to a Pass.'One class cannot make or break an application.'Click To Tweet
Some institutions have a late withdrawal policy. If you’re not aware of that and you left school for some reason, then you’re going to see a lot of Fs on your transcript. Some schools will also look at a request for grades to be changed into Ws. This may not apply in your case, but you can possibly request for it to be changed to a Pass.
Worst case scenario, they say no, and that’s okay. Having that D early on in your academic career stings. But it’s not going to kill you overall.
[11:27] Patient Care Experience
Q: I joined the Navy Reserves, last summer camp. Does my training as a hospital corpsman count towards experience?
A: Your experience as a corpsman will count but your training may not count. Stop stressing. Go enjoy yourself. Make sure you’re doing things for fun.
[13:46] Talking About Diversity
Q: One of Vanderbilt’s secondary questions is – Discuss a time you encountered someone different than you. What did you learn? And what would you do differently? When reading this, I’m thinking of being ethnically different, especially being white myself. I wanted to do something a little different.
I wanted to take the approach of talking about a patient that I encountered at work that was terminally ill. We were very similar. We had a lot in common. But being terminally ill, I couldn’t relate to her in that way. She had a couple of years to live at the time. Do you think that’s too much of a stretch?
A: My general stance is that I do not like medical anecdotes or medical experiences for answering secondary questions unless it’s specifically asking for medical/clinical experiences.
Don’t Force Your Narrative
When you try to give this forced narrative of giving a clinical situation just because you’re applying to medical school, then you’re no longer being yourself. You’re being someone you think they want you to be.'Don't be scared of repetition in terms of general activities, if the activity you're writing about is the best way to answer that specific prompt.'Click To Tweet
Creative Ways to Approach the Diversity Prompt
Going back to the diversity question, ethnicity and race are the easy ones, and you don’t have to do that. There are a lot of ways to think about it – from a political standpoint, socio-economic standpoint, a religious standpoint, etc.
What makes you diverse? How are you going to add to the diversity of the class? You need to expand on that. And if you’re Black, Hispanic, or any race other than White, how has going through life as a racially and ethnically diverse person changed your perspectives, your view on life, and your relationships? How are you going to bring that experience to the class?
How Much is Too Much?
Q: Given my experiences, what makes me diverse in a class is my current job. I’m doing regulatory compliance for Mount Sinai Hospital clinical trials. It’s a very unique role.
There are a lot of clinical research coordinators. And as long as I’ve been in this role the past three years, there aren’t a lot of individuals in regulatory compliance that are going to move on to med school. I talked about this a lot. I have it in my activities. It’s one of my most meaningful, of course. To bring that up again in a diversity essay, I know you said not to be afraid of repetition. But how much is too much here?
A: Answer the question to the best of your ability, period.
[21:30] Where to Gather Info for DO Schools
Q: A lot of MD schools have a strict agenda for accepting in-state students. And all of that is available on MSAR. It seems harder to find that data or those numbers for DO school, do you recommend a place to look?
A: Check out Choose DO Explorer as it’s the equivalent of MSAR. But if you don’t find the information there, the best way is just to go from website to website.
[23:31] Answering a Prompt on Fixing the Application
Q: I was getting up to a question where the prompt asks: If you were to make your application better, what would you fix?
I got a W in my first semester. But after that, I retook the class and I did better. So I don’t know if that necessarily counts as making my application better. With regards to clinical experience, research, and shadowing, I have plenty of hours. I’ve taken a gap year to work on all these things. So what would you recommend? I can leave it blank, but I don’t want to leave it blank.
A: Don’t leave anything blank unless it states otherwise. Just tell the truth about having taken a gap year to make sure your hours are good, not just focusing on total hours, but being able to get the experience.
Keep it short. You just need a sentence or two if you really do not need to answer the question. You don’t have to bring up the W because it’s not a concern.
[27:18] Last-Minute Interview Advice
Q: I have an interview in 30 minutes at ACOM in Alabama. I just wanted to hop on here and just ask for any last-minute interview advice. I have your book and I have read a lot of stuff. But I just wanted to see if you have any last insight. I’m living in Oregon and have been trying to prepare for the question – “why the big move to Alabama”? I’ve read about their mission, and their research experience, but in terms of the location specifically, and not what the school values.
A: Bring it back to the school. Tell them that it’s the school that drew you there and here’s why.
Today is your day. Today, you are going to impress. You have worked so hard to get to this point. You deserve to be here. You have prepared. Well, you are ready. Take a breath. Stand tall. Be confident. Smile, relax, and have fun. You got this!
[30:39] Preparing for a Re-Application
Q: I’m applying this cycle. It’s my first cycle. As far as my application goes, I’m honestly pretty proud of my GPA and my activities. I’ve done a pretty good job. I think my storytelling is good, all that stuff. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement.
My MCAT score is my downfall of the application. So thinking ahead, if I were to reapply, that’s the first thing I would want to do, I’d want to retake the MCAT. What do you think I should start worrying about having to reapply? My concern is if I wait too long, and then I don’t have time to reapply? And then I end up waiting two years.
A: There’s worrying about reapplying and preparing for an MCAT retake. Those two are separate. You can start preparing for an MCAT retake today. There’s no harm in that other than the pain of studying. But preparing for a re-application is just continuing to live your life.
Life Goes On
Unfortunately, what a lot of students do is they think they can just stop doing all of these stupid things they’ve been doing because they already submitted the application. That sort of mentality comes through in an application.'Preparing for re-application is just continuing all the things that you've been enjoying, and the things you've been passionate about already.'Click To Tweet
Now, the biggest things to fix to prepare for would be things like a grade repair. If so, then you have to do a postbac. Or do you need an MCAT retake? Those are really the two biggest things to prepare.
When to Study for the MCAT Again
Q: When do you think I should plan to study for the MCAT again?
A: Everything comes down to self-reflection. What did you do the first time? Where do you think you fell short? Were you prepared in terms of your full-length exams being where you wanted them to be – consistently?
How do you improve? If you just self-studied, then maybe you need a course or maybe you need a tutor. Maybe you just need a strong study group. Those are questions that you just have to answer for yourself based on reflecting back on what you did the first time.
[36:24] Will Schools Scour the Internet for You?
Q: How much weight do schools play in social media?
A: I don’t think it happens. That’s not to say that it can’t happen. But nobody got time for that.
[38:51] The Working Premed Mom
Q: My time is limited. And I’m worried that I’m not doing enough. I’m in my junior year of undergrad, I’m non-traditional. I’m just older and I’m about 27. And I’m worried that working part-time as an MA and being a mom and volunteering at the free clinic aren’t enough. Do I need more activities?
A: Don’t worry if you’re working part-time as an MA. That’s more than a lot of what students are doing without having a baby and being a mom and everything else.'As a nontraditional student, schools are aware that you have other responsibilities outside of going to school, getting good grades, and doing activities.' Click To Tweet
Q: Do you know of any inspiration, any other accounts that I can follow that support for parents and premeds?
A: A few of them on top of my head are @blessherhealth and @ssg.to.mdphd.
[42:33] SMP vs. Postbac
Q: I’m currently about to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in environmental science. I’m looking into doing the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program (EMDP2) in the Navy. If not, I’m going to do a postbac but I wanted to know how you would differentiate between a postbac and an SMP, and picking which to do? I’m a career changer. So I need those core classes and I need some MCAT.
A: You need your core classes so an SMP is not right for you. If you don’t have the prereqs already under your belt, you’re going to need those prereqs.'An SMP does not make up for the fact that you don't have the prereqs. SMPs are really good for grade enhancers, not necessarily career changers.'Click To Tweet
[46:09] You Can Major in Anything!
Q: I majored in Business Management, but I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. And I also love business. Is it going to look bad on my application to say I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. But I did not major in anything science-related?
A: As a premed student, you can major in anything. You just need your prereqs. That’s one year of chemistry, one year of biology, one year of o-chem. You need a semester of biochem, a year of physics, and a year of Psychology and Sociology. Those are the prereqs that you need to have a solid foundation for the MCAT and that most schools will want to see.“As a premed student, you can major in anything. You just need your prereqs.”Click To Tweet
That being said, you can major in business, in Spanish, in underwater basket weaving, and do your prereqs, and you’ll be fine, assuming you get good grades.
[48:44] Too Little Clinical Experience
Q: A lot of the activities that I do are non science-related. Do you think it would be a problem if I only have shadowing and then clinical experience? Those are the only two activities that are medical.
A: That’s all most people have. As a premed, you can do any activity you like. But you also need to prove to yourself that being a doctor is what you really want. And so, that’s why you also need those clinical experiences, the volunteering, and the shadowing to prove to yourself that you know what you’re getting into. You’ve got to test your hypothesis.
[52:58] Qualms About Not Being Able to Shadow
Q: I don’t think I can shadow next year. I’m taking upper-level biochem courses and then studying for the MCAT.
A: You don’t have to shadow for 20 hours a week. Even doing it one hour a month will add up. Just go get hours. Do what works, don’t shoot for a number.
[55:50] Skipping the Sales Pitch
Q: What do I do so my answer to the diversity question doesn’t end up being a sales pitch?
A: There are 100 ways to reflect on a situation without having to talk about your skills and traits you’ve learned. I can’t tell you how to reflect. The reflection is what this meant to you. Think about how this has helped you grow.